On March 15, the day before California governor Gavin Newsom announced shelter-in-place orders for California, my partner of nearly five years left me and our life for someone else.
When a long-term relationship you never want to end, ends, no one tells you how to move through it. I wondered if there was a word for “knowing it is dead but living in denial,” because that was still the feeling I woke up with daily for nine months after that fateful week in spring.
What made my relationship unique was that I was polyamorous, so that “someone else” wasn’t a stranger; it was someone I had welcomed whole-heartedly into my life. In my 12 years of being non-monogamous, I had faced nearly all the ups and downs that come with choosing this lifestyle. Navigating polyamory can be simultaneously beautiful and uncomfortable.
My partner and I had an open relationship for almost all our years together, but in the last year, we made the switch from a standard open relationship to full-blown polyamory, meaning we supported each other in falling in love with other people. My primary partner was resistant when we made this switch but capitulated out of love and fear of losing me.
Before Covid-19 took hold, my “polycule” had a rotating six to seven people in it. I had two partners ― my life partner and a newer relationship that was fast developing, sparked from a friendship. And they each had dates of their own, some casual, others in a more serious capacity, and sometimes those people had dates, too. With polyamory, you must make the best of your dates’ choices, and I would be lying if I said it was always easy.
In non-monogamy, so often, you run up against the dilemma of “ideals vs. practice.” In theory, a relationship style that is all about love sounds like a beautiful path to take. But in practice, especially when you’re gay and everyone has abandonment triggers, the reality can unfold quite differently.
Despite my years of study, I did not have road...