The Exquisite Nuances Of Having Multiple Partners

Polyamory is never about dating more people.

Three puzzle pieces and legs Aleksandr Zotov, Kaspars Grinvalds, Shannon Fagan | Canva 

When my five-year relationship ended, I confirmed that I was polyamorous. It’s more natural for me to love and commit to several partners instead of one.

It’s a feeling I’ve always suspected from an early age, even before I met my then-ex. But it was in our third year together, while in college, that I decided to explore things.

She was unsure about the idea at first. But eventually, she agreed to try it out. Our friends were, expectedly, indignant about this.


“Why did you allow him to do that?!” they screamed at her.

“She’s such a great woman! Isn’t she enough for you?!” they screamed, even louder, at me.

But polyamory is never a matter of “enough.” It’s not even about having more. To me, it’s a “relationship orientation.”

Like, if there are gay and straight people; there are also monogamous and non-monogamous folks. It operates on a spectrum and forms a core of who you are and how your feelings work.

Back in college, I tried very hard to explain how I felt. But most of my friends only gave me confused stares or jokes about converting to Islam. “So you can have multiple wives,” they said, even when I explained that marriage or religion had nothing to do with it.


I couldn’t blame them though. We’re bombarded by social cues and messages that claim romantic happiness can only be found in 18th-century-style nuclear marriages.

Google, Reddit, and books like The Ethical Slut were my only empathetic confidants, my only avenues for advice and understanding. It was especially isolating since I didn’t personally know anyone whose feelings worked as mine did, at the time. As far as I was concerned, I was the sole weirdo in my city who thought it was possible to ethically have multiple partners, without being a Muslim or a Mormon.

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Anyway, since we loved each other, my 5-year ex and I ignored our friends and proceeded with our experimentation.


As I grew closer to other women, I realized that my feelings for my girlfriend never changed. Instead, it felt more like I was growing as a person. I was learning a lot from different partners and I could channel this growth to my existing relationship, which grew further as a result and fed it back to the cycle.

In comparison, my five-year ex didn’t entertain other people. “You are enough for me,” she said. I should’ve seen that as a red flag.



Then she met a guy at a bar, became intimate with him, and suddenly, all her feelings for me were gone. Like water transferred from one glass to another.


Years later, at a cafe, a close friend asked me, “How do your feelings work?”

I showed him three empty glasses. I told him I had three glasses inside me. I didn’t know if I had more but, so far, I’d found three. I poured water into each glass. I told him the water was kind of like my emotions, my love, whatever.

When I meet a very special girl, she is assigned a specific glass. And when I become intimate with another person, the glass assigned to her is untouched. That’s hers alone. My feelings never transfer.

It took the pain of losing my five-year ex to another guy for me to realize that not all people are like that with their feelings. Most people can only transfer feelings from one glass to another.


They can only have The One.

“But isn’t that tiring? Wouldn’t having multiple ‘genuine’ partners divide your attention and emotional investment too much?” my friend asked.

I agreed that it would divide my time and attention.

“But managing time and attention for different girls is a whole other matter,” I replied. “That’s something everyone has to work and agree on in the relationship.

As for emotional investment, no. I don’t feel tired at all. Instead, I feel more fulfilled. Because the other glasses in me aren’t left to stale away, unused.”

Over time, I realized that my first attempt at polyamory was a disaster from the beginning. My five-year ex is innately monogamous. Things would never work out if she had to change that part of herself just to accommodate me.


I met a special girl in the middle of 2020. We dated for some time. And after much thought, I decided to come clean.

“I’m polyamorous,” I told her one night. “I like what we have. But my experience taught me that I shouldn’t be with strictly monogamous people. Otherwise, we’ll both end up in great and terrible pain.”

She said she thought she was monogamous. But it’s because she never considered that she could have a genuine, intimate relationship that isn’t monogamy. She liked me, she said. She even rejected two traditionally-inclined suitors who each wanted to become exclusive with her. So we gave it a try.

But all the time, I was wary of committing the same mistake.


We agreed that we would both try dating other people. And we’d always tell each other everything. Honesty and communication were non-negotiable.

We took it slowly. We started with a few send-off kisses with other partners. Then gauged our feelings. Were we both okay with it? The answer was a confident “Yes!”

Then I got farther with a certain woman. After that woman left my hotel room, I called my partner. I figured I had to make a forthcoming disclosure right at that moment. I asked my partner to come over, then I spilled the beans. To my surprise, she got angry and she cried.



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Then it hit me: Was I forcing another innately monogamous person to accommodate me? Am I repeating my mistake?

“I’m not angry with what you did,” she said later, after making me explain my thought process behind calling her late at night to a hotel room I’d booked for a different woman. (She’d become my closest confidant, and I simply couldn’t wait to tell her).

“Just at the execution.”

I wasn’t sure if I was hearing it right.

“I shouldn’t have told you about it here? That’s what you’re not okay with? You’re okay with me going farther with another woman?”

She looked at me and sighed.

“We have to lay some ground rules. First, don’t call me on the same day that you’re doing ANYTHING intimate with a different woman.”


I nodded eagerly, making a mental note to have more tact next time. I asked if we had any other rules because I’d be elated to oblige.

She shook her head and smiled.

“We’ll figure out the rest as we go.”

Later, I thought about my five-year ex. It took me more than a year and a half to move on from the breakup. I could risk getting devastated like that again if things don’t go well. If my present partner meets someone she connects with on a deeper level — will her feelings for me change? Transferred, like water from one glass to another?

But that’s just the thing with relationships. There are always risks.

I guess that’s something constant in every relationship, monogamous or not. Until we try and do our best, we won’t know if we’re doomed to break up miserably.


Three years later, that “rule” of not contacting each other on the same day we’re dating someone else has largely been disregarded. As she said back in 2020, we figured out the rest as we went. There were a bunch of tactless mistakes committed on both sides. But as our polycule — or network of partners involved — grew, we began to understand and accommodate each other better. Our comfort levels expanded as well.

Presently, my partner has two other partners aside from me. I’m also dating one of her partners (so we have a throuple-ish dynamic). And I have another partner who is unconnected to my other partners because their personalities are very different; though they all know each other.



Also, everyone in the polycule has been together for quite some time now, with some being together longer than others.


My relationships have tided me over during times of crisis, like when I was hospitalized back in 2021 and had to be taken care of, and I did the same when a partner underwent a medical emergency last year, etc. We’ve seen our little share of ups and downs and, so far, we’re all still here.

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From my experience, polyamorous setups are largely free-flowing.

Our polycule operates in a way that the priority is the individual, not the relationship. For example, if any of us have to move to a different city or country for a better career — then that move is supported. Even if that means leaving one’s partner/s behind.


So things like uprooting one’s career to accommodate a partner are not entertained.

We stay together not because we need each other, but because we choose each other. And we make that choice every day, for as long as we want.

Whether monogamous or non-monogamous, I think that’s one of the best ways to love someone.

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John Pucay is an author from Baguio City, Philippines. His novel on 2020s dating and sex, Karinderya Love Songs, received positive reviews on BookTok and Booksta. He blogs about relationships, polyamory, running, and life.