A Single Woman’s Experience with Polyamory

By Kendra Holliday | June 26, 2013

A thoughtful guest post from Lisa, a single woman exploring polyamory.

Blonde Woman, by Edouard Manet

Blonde Woman, by Edouard Manet

Throughout my life, I’ve found that I was attracted to more than one person at a time, but society (and my ex-husband) had names for women like me – slut.

After my divorce, I went through a wild, fuckfest phase, and while that taught me a lot about my body and my sexual preferences, it was just that – a phase. Hot, unrestrained sex was amazing, and while sex without relationships can be a real “in the moment rush,” after a while, those types of encounters left me feeling emotionally empty.

I longed for a compromise that didn’t leave me feeling as confined as my monogamous marriage, or one that was so buck wild that I was playing face/name/penis mental matching games. No matter how fabulous the sex is, it’s not a good thing to respond to a text a week after the act with, “Jason who?”

I found the balance when I began exploring polyamory. I had finally found a happy place where I could embrace my inner slut while respecting myself and my partners emotionally. The first time I read the Wiki definition of polyamory, I thought, “That’s me, and I’m not a bad person for feeling this way!”

I like to think of myself as someone who has so much love and sexuality that it overflows to multiple people. Happily, I have found a relationship with a married man who fulfills me both sexually and emotionally. We have mind-blowing sex and a deep, loving, emotional connection, and I fully accept and respect his other lovers. I also have friendships with other men that sometimes include sexual encounters that provide me with the thrill of the occasional one-nighter thrills reminiscent of my past.

While this self-discovery has been enlightening, there have also been pitfalls and definite growing pains as I’ve been stretched emotionally. I liken it to being in a constant state of self discovery and therapy which can be mentally exhausting. I have uncovered more suppressed hurts and emotions than I ever could have imagined and am sometimes reduced to sniveling nights of tissues and chip binges till I come back to my better senses. I am grateful for brutally honest discussions with my lover, wonderful resources, including group meetings, books, and am most thankful for people like Kendra who love without restraint and share their true emotions (good and bad) with all of us so that we might learn from them.

My biggest hurdle has been, as Kendra so aptly named it, “that yucky little twinge.” It’s the one that whispers in my ear, “Your lover is with his wife today; he’s not thinking of you, and oh yeah, he’ll be with her on Christmas morning, not you!”

It has taken a lot of courage and diligence not to give in to that ugly little bastard (sometimes I fail) and remind him that my lover always makes me feel special, makes me feel like I’m the only girl in the world when I’m with him, puts up with my growing pains, pleasures me like I’ve never imagined possible and always encourages me to do what is best for me. That is especially hard for new polys like me that don’t have a primary relationship. When I feel vulnerable, I don’t have the waiting arms of a primary partner there to comfort me.

My dating profile “hints” at my poly lifestyle, but I’ve found if I come right out and directly state it, most single men don’t stick around long enough for an explanation. On the flip side, some poly couples are hesitant to allow singles into their equation because they’ve had bad experiences with drama and many have encountered singles who claimed to be poly then realized they were, in fact, monogamous and in love with the idea that their lover would leave his/her primary relationship in favor of them. This sometimes leaves the single poly with a very narrow dating pool.

All I can do is continue to weigh the comfort/discomfort ratio and ask myself on an ongoing basis, “Is this worth it?” So far, the answer has always been a resounding, “YES!”

Because of my choice to be poly, I have grown more as an individual, benefited immensely from the lovers and friends that I’ve met and gained a loving relationship that I can’t imagine my life without. I encourage anyone who is new to poly to read as much as you can on the subject and its challenges, attend poly group meetings, and above all, communicate with your lovers and take time together to process those feelings no matter how absurd they may seem.

One resource that has helped me with ongoing jealousy challenges is the “Managing Jealousy” article from the More Than Two website. As the article states, “You are responsible for your own actions and for the consequences of those actions; no matter how strongly you may feel threatened or insecure, you still have a choice. Choices which give in to insecurities strengthen them; choices that take a stand against insecurities weaken them . . . Choosing to behave in the ways that a secure and self-confident person behaves takes you closer to being secure and self-confident.”

I look forward to becoming more secure and self-confident, and I am blessed to have friends and lovers that are helping me become a stronger companion who will, in turn, be able to give that overflowing love right back.


Kevin 2013-06-26 07:17:47

As a single guy that wants to be in polyamorous relationships, I’m finding it difficult to navigate relationships with the women out there. The ones that I’m meeting aren’t going for the idea. It’s frustrating. Clearly, I’m looking in the wrong places. Thanx for the read. It’s good to know there are women like you out there. Here’s to finding what we’re looking for!


Algor_Langeaux 2013-06-26 08:02:55

On the subject of being open about polyamory in one’s dating profile, *my* take on it is to be as up-front about poly as humanly possible in my profiles. I think of it as a form of vetting – people that would reject me out of hand because they have a bad knee-jerk reaction to discovering that I am polyamorous would be the sort of person that would not be a good match for me.

While I am quite comfortable helping someone who is curious to talk their way through that initial period of discovery about polyamory, the sort that is coming in closed-minded enough to discount me out of hand because of this are closed minded and not worth investing my time on.

In the end, the biggest commodity in a polyamorous lifestyle is *time* and if I can let a potential partner who would be a waste of my time opt out without taking more of mine, I am only too happy to do that.

Congratulations on finding a relationship style that works for you!


Hester Prynne 2013-06-26 08:56:07

My question is, does his wife know? Because you don’t specify that she does (it’s a pretty glaring omission), I’m guessing she is being deceived and you are participating in that. It doesn’t matter that he has other lovers besides you, you are still responsible for participating.

On the other hand, if he’s told you he’s in a don’t-ask-don’t-tell situation, the chances are extremely high that you are being deceived as well, and he’s put you in a position where you have no way to find out.

Another possibility, given your version here, is that she does know, doesn’t like it, but puts up with it because of her emotional and financial dependence on her husband. Not very nice to contemplate.

Believe me, it’s not that I don’t understand how you feel. I understand through personal experience all too well.

And I understand you are in love and there’s absolutely nothing even your closest friend could say about how uncool and risky all this is that would get you to change course. You’re locked in and think you’re prepared for whatever might happen because you love him and that’s all that matters to you.

However, there really is no way to be prepared for what will probably happen in the end. I know that from personal experience, too.

If I’m incorrect in my assumptions and you’ve met her and she’s personally given you her blessing and assurance that she offers her husband his freedom with joy in her heart, then please excuse my prior comments.

But if all that hasn’t happened, I advise you to find yourself your own primary just as fast as you can, and make sure he’s sympathetic to your dilemma because when the inevitable manure hurricane blindsides you, you’re going to need a lot more support than friends and therapists can provide.


fuzzilla 2013-06-26 09:38:39

It kind of sounds like you wish your married lover were your primary partner, tbh. Is that something that can ever really be reconciled? It’s good that you’re looking for others, but are you truly emotionally open to letting anyone else in with so much tied into this guy?

If you were truly okay with the situation you’d accept that his presence in your life will never be a full meal to meet all your emotional needs, but more like a flask of whiskey or box of bon bons tucked away in your bag. You’d accept that you’re alone, but enjoy knowing there’s sometimes a little something extra for you that makes life a little nicer. (These were the conclusions I reached from my own experiences).


Polynewb 2013-06-26 10:45:43

To address a few of the comments: Hester, thanks for your concern, I did actually end a former relationship with someone that claimed they were in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship for that reason and my dating profile says, “open to alternative relationships providing all parties are aware and in agreement.” As far as my lover’s wife is concerned, yes, I have had lunch with her, she is a COMPLETELY aware, secure woman that has her own lovers as well as a very full life. Their decision to be poly was as a married couple and was entirely mutual. She even checks in with him from time to time making sure he’s being a good boyfriend. Fuzilla, as far as my wishing he were my primary, that is not the case and here’s why it works so wonderfully for us . . . if he were my primary, it would be a far different relationship because we would more than likely be tied financially, and we just happen to have different ideologies as far as that goes. The beauty of these types of relationships is they are just as mentioned above, bonbons, dessert, a special treat. Not more special than any other, just an addition. I have entered into this relationship knowing the boundaries fully. I respect his primary (she’s a saint)and his other lovers! His dating profile clearly states that he is poly, and he is NOT going to leave his wife, (I believe his wife’s profile says the same). He is like my butterfly, he lands on my hand for a time, we enjoy the magical connection, then I release him as he was never meant to be fully mine. Does that mean I cannot love him? NO! I very much love him as my lover, my friend, my confidant and as someone that is there for me unconditionally. Thanks for the feedback, it’s been a real growing experience, and I’m still on the journey.

Peace to all!

P.S. Kevin, get in touch with me and let’s see if we have a connection!


    fuzzilla 2013-06-26 11:18:41

    This is all good to hear. But then why the “he’s with his wife and not thinking of you, and oh yeah, he’ll be with her on Christmas morning, not you!” thoughts? I know feelings “just are” and it’s how you deal with them that counts, but they do strike me as the thoughts/feelings of someone who feels a lack and wants more. Maybe you do want more with someone but not him?


polynewb 2013-06-26 11:50:42

Fuzzilla, you hit the nail on the head; I do want more and that’s precisely why I am looking for my primary. I also failed to mention that I am new to poly so ingrained societal jealousies are part of the growing phase. Those emotions once explored are about my need for love and secu.rity, but not necessarily about my love and security from him in particular. It was a huge growth step for me to differentiate between the two.


jason 2013-06-27 02:20:45

i don’t think men have quite the same stigma attached to being poly (which i am, in theory, but in kind of a dry spell!); there isn’t the “slut” label that’s used to try to control women’s sexuality. but the problem i find for me (and i assume, other men) is that to many women, it just looks like an excuse to be all creepy and sleep with as many women as possible.

i suspect there are also women who might be okay with the idea in principle, but are a little fearful of having to live their lives explaining to friends and family why they aren’t going to settle down with this wonderful guy they keep talking about.

i’d be interested in your thoughts, since i enjoyed your insights in this post.


    polynewb 2013-06-27 07:55:51

    Jason, I’m assuming that you’re married (hence the not able to settle down with you part). I’m probably in a different situation than most single poly women in that I do not live with my children. They are teenage boys that live close by with their father and have no interest in my dating life whatsoever so that part of the explanation equation is taken care of. My lover knows they have no interest in meeting him, and because he and his wife were in a bad breakup with another couple whose children they’d become very attached to went south, he has made the decision going forward to keep his relationships children-free. (He and his wife have no children by choice.)

    As far as being poly, I am out to a few trusted friends and relatives and the rest of my family just assumes that I’m dating this wonderful guy who happens to live a bit of a distance away and isn’t able to be here much. I made it clear to friends and family a long time before I met my lover that I never intend to marry again, so they just assume that we’re casually dating. I do tag him from time to time (with his permission of course) in FB posts, etc. and it clearly states on his profile that he is married so a few people have done the “who’s this guy she keeps mentioning stalking” and figured it out.

    Let me address another part of your post where you said that many women look at this as a man’s excuse to be creepy and just get laid as much as possible by as many woman as he can coherce. I admit, I was one of those women who thought that at first and for good reason. There are many people out there that claim to be poly in order to use that as an excuse to screw a lot of people without feeling bad about themselves but really never intend to become emotionally involved. I quickly learned to spot those people because a true polyamorous man (or woman) gets to know the person before they get to know their body. When my adult daughter outed me via her FB snooping, her first question was isn’t this just the same as being a swinger? I explained to her that most swingers don’t have relationships with their partners. If there wasn’t going to be an emotional connection, I made it clear to my potential poly partners that I was out. That has happened to me more than once.

    My lover tells people, “If you’re going to be a polyamorous man, you’d better be prepared to treat your ladies better than any other man ever would.” And he does. We are in contact daily, he says good morning beautiful every morning and good night lover every night. All in all what I’m saying is that its easy to share when you’re satiated and satisfied both emotionally and physically.

    It’s funny that you asked this question because my mother with whom I live just said, “You and K are becoming quite an item!” I am not out to her because of her conservative nature, so I just said, “I enjoy him immensely, but you know I’m never planning on settling down with just one man ever again.” It satisfied her, and it was afterall, the truth!


      Jason 2013-06-27 14:45:04

      I meant that non-settling down part for men in general. I am technically married, but no longer in anything but a financial and coparenting relationship with my ex, and I do not live with her.

      Yes, I am very interested in the problem of being “out” as poly. For a philosophy about relationships that requires openness and honesty, I find it very ironic that many people, me included because of my job, have to be closeted about it to some extent. And yes, I agree with your lover that being poly (for anyone, but maybe for men especially because of the cultural presumption that they might just be in it for the sexual variety) means always doing your absolute best to treat partners with respect and kindness.


polynewb 2013-06-27 20:11:24

Jason, I can totally relate as I am a teacher so as you might imagine, it is a very conservative profession. Also, like many single polys, I have to be careful that my ex husband doesn’t find out as he would more than likely use it in an attempt to keep me from my children.


    Jason 2013-06-27 20:15:56

    *grin* I’m also a teacher. So yeah, I understand. Luckily my ex is ok with it, though.


      polynewb 2013-06-27 23:24:01

      Well Jason, I’d love to meet you sometime. I wish you all the happiness in finding your “perfect situation!”


        Jason 2013-06-28 04:32:18

        I’d like that…maybe my email address shows up for Kendra? Feel free to send me a note 🙂


polynewb 2013-06-28 08:54:32

Jason, I just emailed her giving her permission to pass my info on to you. Look forward to meeting you and continuing our conversation.


Scarlett 2013-07-13 18:25:23

Reading articles like this gives me peace of mind that I am not alone. It gets really lonely out here with society yelling slut in your face but knowing that you do truly care for two men at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing.


imzadilioness 2013-07-22 07:19:40

Oh the memories. Before I knew the word polyamory thirteen years ago I had no peace and thought I was a commitment phobic crazy person. Now I am clear in the knowledge that I love in multiplies. Great article. Am exploring a possible polyfidelitous relationship with a couple. So far it’s been joyous, frustrating, exhilarating, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For now I still want to keep the option open for dating outside us three, and happily between the both of them my intimacy needs are absolutely getting met. We shall see how it goes, but for now I’m being courted and it feels good. For now I like having my own place and the freedom that goes along with it. But sometimes, when I’m really tired – I have lonely moments long after my lovers have told me goodnight and the hours stretch out seemingly without end… These are the times where I still wish to fall asleep in someone’s arms.
Oh the insanity of N.R.E. – it hasn’t been this way in a long time. What a “problem” to have. I’m a lucky woman.


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