I’ve always been a cheater. And when I say cheater, I mean chronic cheater. As in ‘my boyfriend is downstairs in the living room and I’m making out with his friend upstairs’ type cheater. Ever since my first relationship in uni, I’ve never been with just one person at any given time. It’s always been a main along with one or two (or three, or four) other interests. I would cheat on my boyfriends over and over again. The side interests always knew I had a boyfriend; the unfortunate boyfriend was always the only one in the dark. I was pretty skilled with keeping things compartmentalised and everything would be fine and dandy until some good Samaritan would take it upon themselves to inform my boyfriend that they saw me walking back to my dorm with some dude at 2am on a Saturday morning. Nabbed with no defence. Whenever I was caught I would always feel really bad about having hurt someone I was so in love with. Then I would convince myself that he deserved better and break up with him. For years I was caught in this cycle of cheat, break up, new relationship; rinse and repeat. Try as I might, I could not stop myself. No matter how strong the feelings of guilt, I would always find myself in side relationships. In my last year in uni I decided I was done hurting guys I loved. I swore to myself that the next relationship I got into would be completely exclusive. I would remain single until I felt ready to stick to monogamy.
I graduated, started NYSC and got a job at a bank. I made friends with one of the regular customers. He was quite a bit older than me but that didn’t stop us from becoming very close friends. I would regularly go to his house after work, have dinner with him and watch TV before going home. One evening while we were chilling on the couch he asked me what was the real reason I didn’t have a boyfriend. I’d been giving the usual funny answers every time he asked but this time he was looking at me intensely like he wanted a serious answer. So I told him the sordid tale of my relationship history and how I was taking a hiatus from dating to sort out my cheating demons. Then he told me something that legit changed my life. He said “Hmm. I don’t think you’re made for monogamy at all. Sounds to me like you’re polyamorous. I know you like to read so I’ll send you a link”.
A few days later he sent me an email with links to some articles about polyamory. Simply put, polyamory is ethical non-monogamy. It is a kind of relationship where one explores multiple romantic interests with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. As I read more and more about it, the more it clicked that THIS WAS ME. It’s like when you read a horoscope and you suspect it’s bogus but you find yourself agreeing with what it says about you anyway. It was like reading the results of a Myers-Briggs personality test. I realised that this was who I was, who I had always been.
I came to understand that I didn’t have to feel ashamed for needing emotional intimacy from more than one person at a time. I came to see that ‘cheating’ isn’t actually cheating if there is mutual understanding and neither party involved feels betrayed. Most important of all I came to realise that my sexual and emotional needs did not make me a bad person; what was bad was getting into a relationship with a monogamous person and expecting them to tolerate my side interests.
A common misconception is that the point of polyamory is to have indiscriminate sex with many different people. Yes, sex with multiple partners is often involved but that is hardly the point. Polyamorous relationships are relationships like any other, built on emotional intimacy, companionship and trust. Physical intimacy may or may not be part of the picture, and contrary to popular opinion we are not all sex-crazed.
Take my relationship with Bayo, for example. Bayo is one of three partners I’m currently dating. We met at a conference where he struck up a conversation with me about my afro. He was witty and smart and we became really good friends. After a month he asked me out officially. When I told him that I was non-monogamous and that he would be my second boyfriend, he was surprised at first but then he decided he was cool with it. Even though we live in the same neighbourhood, we see each other like every other weekend and despite how often I am at his house, Bayo and I only have sex once every few weeks. It’s not that we’re not sexually attracted to each other; we just found ourselves having sex less often as the relationship matured. We talk about everything – from how his business, to how I’m shit at navigating office politics. We cook together, go out clubbing, go to the cinema. We’re two people in love, sharing our lives with each other; sex is just a part of it. And it’s the same with my other partners.
I’d like to say that going into this I had doubts and reservations, and I was scared of what people would say, but to be honest all I felt was immense relief. This huge weight of guilt holding me back from having fulfilling relationships had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt incredibly free to be my true self and be truly happy. I didn’t have to lie and hide and cheat and apologise and feel bad anymore. All I had to do was seek out people like me, instead of putting pressure on myself to be monogamous for someone else.
I really hope that sharing my story inspires people who are struggling with monogamy to explore the possibilities of ethical non-monogamy. Our society’s preoccupation with cheating is not surprising because so many people are doing it. It’s a friggin epidemic. I believe it has reached such epidemic proportions because monogamy has been touted as the only way to have a relationship in the modern world. Monogamy is fine, and kudos to people who choose it and stick to it; but people should also know that there are other options out there. If you find yourself always cheating on your partner (emotionally and sexually) maybe it’s time to reevaluate whether monogamy is really your thing.
I’ll admit that writing this post also has a self-serving element to it. I’m secretly hoping to meet other polyamorous folk on here. After all, the best way to meet people like you is to put your real self out there. So this is me putting myself out there, hoping to meet you awesome poly people in the comments section
This Post first appeared on TheNakedConvos.com