when the box doesn’t fit.

So here I am living my red, white and blue life in the Pacific Northwest. Just me, my two dogs, my husband, my boyfriend, my girlfriend, and my girlfriend’s husband / also my boyfriend (because they’re kind of a package deal and he’s also amazing, so no complaints). 


My life wasn’t always so free and full of limitless love. Not hardly. So how did I get here? Perhaps it all started when I recognized I’d outgrown the box society handed me to live in. You all know the one, right? The easily defined, therefore easily understood, box of heterosexual monogamy that seems to make people comfortable? 


Growing up in a conservative religious household I had bought into monogamy early on in life. Like many of us, I couldn’t even imagine an alternative. My first kiss was at age 17 with my first boyfriend, whom I was certain would be my last. We dated from high school straight into college, married quite young and planned our life of monogamous bliss. 


Fast forward 6 years. Still happily married, but somehow struggling — hard — with a feeling of claustrophobia in this seemingly infinitesimal box I’d now found myself in. 


It may seem trivial to some, but for a while going out with friends on the weekend was when this invisible box felt the most palpable. While crazy about my husband whom I love, respect, deeply admire actually, and feel quite honored to share this life with — I have this need to be seen as an individual, a person with my own thoughts, dreams, ideas. Being a woman in 21st century USA I didn’t think that was too radical a desire or expectation, but I’ve found I’m not alone in my experience of feeling boxed-in and very much like an object when I go out into the world as a married person and attempt to interact with other humans as an individual. 


Now to preface, I’m someone who finds little value in small talk. I’m the girl who has deep conversations with strangers because on some intrinsic level, perhaps, my being holds the belief that real, raw, honest interactions are the only ones worth having. I’m not interested in sitting at a bar and only hearing about “what you do for a living” or what your favorite drink is. I want to really see you. I want to know who you are, how you think, what brings you joy, how you see the world and what has shaped that perspective. Now that’s a conversation worth having. When I’m engaging with someone I’m looking to learn from a life experience different from my own. I find it to be a great way to broaden one’s mind, grow, and learn.

 
Unfortunately I’ve found time and time again, in the majority of interactions I’m faced with, it quickly becomes clear the new shiny person across from me isn’t interested in hearing about my unique perspective on life or sharing theirs. At least not without first determining who I belong to. While they may not phrase it exactly like this, in reality they’re asking “Who do you belong to? Do you belong to a partner? Do you belong to children?” And really those questions are just them trying to answer for themselves their real question of “Can you belong to me?” … whether they’re looking for a long term partner, or maybe just to see if you can belong to them for a night. If I was straight forward, which is my preference, and said I was happily married and just enjoying a night out I got quite the mix of responses, ranging from confusion to anger. They often seemed offended in some way. I’ve had people, men in particular, shame me for not being at home on the couch with my man on a Saturday night, tell me antiquated things like “a good woman belongs at home”, and some even berated me and told me it was “f***ed up” that I would go out to a bar or club without my partner. There was often a correlation with the length of time they’d interacted with me and the level of anger in their response. My intention being that of enjoying the present interaction, and not on a desire or expectation of possible future interaction with this person, I didn’t feel as though my time was being wasted. One might surmise from angry responses that some people didn’t feel the same. 


To be fair, I don’t think this is a gendered issue. While I’ve experienced this as a woman, I know there are men who experience the same thing… the “are you single / can you belong to me” type questioning and perhaps get disgusted looks, or worse, if they express that they’re in a relationship and are just looking to go out, meet some new people and maybe have an interesting conversation over a drink or two. Perhaps people don’t believe that stated intention, or perhaps we’ve all just been programmed to look for “the one”. We’re supposed to search high and low for “the one”, get married, buy a house with a white picked fence, have approximately 2.5 children… and if you’re taking up space at the bar and you’ve already found someone, and you’re no longer looking for “the one”, then the answer is “thank you, next”. You’re no longer viewed as a beautiful human being with unique thoughts and valuable perspective to be gleaned from. You’re now just an object that’s “taken”. You belong to someone else, and are therefore a waste of time. Right? Well, maybe not to the estimated 13 to 15 million of us who are polyamorous in the United States, but what do we know… 


What I can say with certainty is that feeling as though I’m viewed as an object that is owned in some way, rather than a lovely individual worth having a conversation with — that feeling weighed unusually heavy on me about 3 years ago. Reflecting and identifying why that feeling ate at the core of my soul became a catalyst for discovering a new life… a new way to connect to the world and the people in it… that now works much better for me.


With the hope that my journey may in some way help you along on your own, I’m really excited to be sharing my story with you. 

Until next time,

A girl gone poly