Late last year, Laurie Penny wrote an article about having been polyamourous for almost a decade. A friend of mine linked to in the other day and I was shocked, in a way, to realize that so have I.
This June. June 5th, to be exact. My personal polyversary.
And this has me thinking about a few things.
First: Why June Fifth?
And Second: Why am I still so bad at this?
With a third, follow-up question of: Okay, but what have I actually learned on this adventure so far?
 
Naturally, I decided to write about it and, equally naturally, I decided to write about these super-personal, more-than-a-little-vulnerable topics in a very public way by broadcasting my thoughts to the internet. LJ-generation for the win, I guess?
 
So.
“Why June Fifth”, which, if nothing else, is simpler or maybe just more topical given #metoo and #timesup.
June fifth because that was the day I asked my then-husband for an open marriage (in a letter, because I was terrified), and he said no. Very nearly walked out before I got home, without telling me the marriage was over.
It’s the official – not in the legal sense, just in the “what we told the relatives” sense – reason for why we got divorced.
 
And I guess, right this second, I want to talk about my divorce – or the breakdown of my first marriage, or something along those lines – before I get into the other stuff about polyamoury, because the reasons behind “Why am I still so bad at this” are pretty tangled up with – among other things – how that first marriage went down.
 
I married a guy who told me, on our third date or so, that he though people who wanted to get abortions should have to get approval from some sort of governing body.
You know, like back in the bad old days that are absolutely not very long gone at all.
I was so sure that he was just clueless. After all, I’d been clueless, right? I’d been pro-life back in grade eight, why would a dude in his late 20s be any more capable of empathy than I’d been before I hit puberty? I was sure, in my “I’m TAing women’s studies for the first time” way, that this progressive dude would smarten up if I could just tell him why that line of thinking was bullshit, y’know, using the exact right words.
 
I married a guy who sexually assaulted me in his parents’ basement, and many times there-after, because I didn’t believe him the first time he told me who he was. (Uh. “I went through with the marriage because I didn’t believe him the first time”. Not “he sexually assaulted me because I didn’t believe him the first time”. To be clear). I was so sure that he was just clueless, that he would smarten up if I could just tell him that I wanted him to stop [touching me like that], y’know, using the exact right words.
 
I married that guy because I was in love with him, but also because I had already passed the age where my mother – who bless her probably-didn’t-mean-to-be-cruel heart, had once told me she was astonished that I thought I’d ever get married[1] – had married my dad, and also because I hadn’t had enough dating experience to know that NRE is a thing and it follows certain patterns like “the wanting to fuck constantly” lets up at least a little bit at the three month mark, or “you will probably have your first significant fight around 9-10 months in”, or “You might want to hold off on making any legal or (theoretically) permanent decisions until after the 2-year mark, because that’s how long the merging/infatuation/NRE stage can last, if things are going really well”… and so thought that this relationship, which had managed to make it past the three-month mark (the point at which my very few previous relationships had both fallen apart), was The One.
 
I married a guy who turned out to be controlling, isolating, petulant, and periodically sexually violent. A guy who not-so-subtly threatened to sabotage our method of birth control. A guy who treated the suggestion that he actually participate in the raising of his own hypothetical children as a demand that he “babysit all the time” and who told me that, if I didn’t let him get me pregnant, that he’d have to conclude that his marriage to me had been a waste of time.
 
Ten years later, I still don’t know how much of that was him being an abuser versus how much of that was him being a run-of-the-mill straight, cis, white guy from a slightly-wealthier-than-my-own (cis, white, comfortably middle class) background who due to those intersections, had never had to consider other people’s wants or needs as anything but an inconvenience to be worked around or a favour to be magnanimously granted (or not). And I don’t know how much of it was me, either.
Sometimes I wonder how he felt, when the woman who had been so visibly, actively in love with him got distant and silent and turned in on herself, if he was just as bad at talking about the growing gulf between us as I was. Sometimes I wonder if he noticed. Sometimes I wonder why the ever-loving fuck I give a shit. But I do.
 
That’s why I keep talking about it. Because it’s really easy to bury myself in “What if it was me?” or “Was it really that bad?” and I have to keep my head above water.
 
The stories I tell about my divorce aren’t always the same. Sometimes I say “he left me”, which he did. Sometimes I say “we decided to end our marriage because it wasn’t doing either of us any good”, which is true, we did. And sometimes I say that left my husband.
I didn’t leave my husband.
I wasn’t even able to consider leaving my husband until I landed a more-than-minimum-wage temp-job and was able to get out of the part-time retail situation that meant I was economically dependent on my him. The thought of losing the only person who, here-to-fore, had loved me[2] enough to stick around, was utterly terrifying when my whole head was basically one big ball of shame, fear-of-abandonment, self-loathing, and scarcity. I’m not even the one who walked out the door.
What I mean is that I asked for what I wanted and needed and, for once, instead of waiting for him to “get it” and become the husband I wished he had been, I stuck by what I wanted and needed, even though the price was watching him walk away.
 
He walked away on June fifth, ten years ago this year. It took me a week to start getting angry and start naming myself for what I am.
 
 
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] I think I was in about grade six. It was the very early 1990s. Like, early enough that the RCMP was still keeping tabs on suspected-to-be-gay public servants in case they became a matter of national security. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure my mom already knew that her oldest daughter was a homo, and was probably trying to suggest that there were other options available and that marriage was not the be-all-end-all of womanly life. However, being a little kid – and one who was getting pretty hurt, pretty daily, by her peers – what I heard was that my own mother was astonished that I thought anyone would ever love me. Marrying someone as some kind of a “Ha! So there!” to a third party is… not a good reason to get married. But I can’t deny that it’s wound up in that mix somewhere.
 
[2] Even if how he went about loving me was pretty shitty.