Adventure Girl ponders the perils of wanting it all
‘So, you’re poly?’
‘Um. I am?’
I consider myself a free agent. I like to see more than one person, ongoing but casually, and not always just for sex. Having one F-Buddy, or FB (someone I see primarily for sex) I am okay with and I enjoy, but what about my other needs? I like to go out and do things with people, go on dates. I want lovers I can also hang out with, without being exclusive necessarily, but each having a secure place with one another.
It is more than F-buddies, but not quite an Open Relationship. It is non-exclusive friendship, companionship, romance, affection, sex, honesty and respect, in as large or as small a measure as is required.
In some ways this feels like having my cake and eating it, or at least, looking for something that doesn’t exist. I’m yet to meet someone who I want all those things from in a bundle. Moreover, expecting one person to meet all of those needs seems like a very big ask.
To counter this, I have been trying to get my needs met from multiple partners, where the rules of each engagement are the rules we define ourselves.
The problem is, sometimes the rules I want to define do my partners’ heads in.
Take ‘Steve’, a guy who I had met first for sex, but who I began to hang out with, to date. He wasn’t like anyone I have ever seen, and I enjoyed that. But one night, early on, I went over to his house for dinner, and for one reason or another, we didn’t end up having sex. I was actually okay with this; he wasn’t.
‘This is supposed to be about sex,’ he said.
Through my drunken muddled filter, what I heard was, ‘You’re for sex, and nothing more. Hanging out is a means to get you into bed. Those are the rules of our engagement.’ Back onto the Porn Pile for me.
Never mind that we enjoyed each other’s company. Never mind that we provided each other with companionship and affection, even a little bit of romance. In Steve’s mind if we were hanging out, but not having sex, we must be in a Relationship, and he wasn’t up for that.
Through my tears all I could think was, that’s not what I’m asking for, not even what I want. Why can’t we hang out and if there’s sex, that’s great, and if there’s not, so be it? That’s not a Relationship, is it? Nothing has to change.
But it did. We never recovered from that night. A couple of confused text messages, and we were virtual strangers once again.
It hurt more, I think, because it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
Earlier that year, I had been spending a lot of time with a particular FB, ‘John’. John and I were spending so much time together in fact, that it felt like we were having an affair rather than just meeting for sex. It wasn’t like a Relationship, because all of our time was spent in the realm of the bedroom, but despite spending three, sometimes four nights a week together, I felt invisible.
In the dark we talked. I counselled John through an unrequited passion, learned about his past, his work, his dreams. He listened to me – to a point. Always, there was a barrier, a place he pushed back: what to him was the Relationship Line.
Tired of butting up against the wall, seeing something on the other side I thought would benefit us both, I suggested we go out sometimes, do things socially. Because in becoming John’s sex partner I had lost his friendship. The sex was good, but I had originally been attracted to him for his mind, not his cock. John told me he was getting all his needs met – similar to me, he was mixing and matching among the people in his life – only someone else had the piece I wanted. I wasn’t asking for him to be a boyfriend or to even like me in that way. I just wanted a chance to get to know him as a person, outside of the bedroom, and see if that glimpse that had been there in the beginning had more substance behind the wall.
At this suggestion, John freaked out. We took a little break, to think about what each of us wanted. Only while I tried to breathe, to think, he began to call. He wanted to meet for coffee, he wanted to chat, to hear about my day; he wanted to make me dinner, lunch. This isn’t what I had signed up for. It felt like he was trying not to date me, but to act like a boyfriend. It was horrible, not because I didn’t enjoy our interactions but because I knew his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t want to see himself as the guy who puts the girl on the Porn Pile, but that’s exactly where he wanted me: the only place left in his life after the other spots were taken.
I felt more invisible than ever.
We quickly agreed it wasn’t working, and tried to get back to the way things had been. We never really did. The pieces that he had been giving me, the adoration, the affection, were withheld for fear that I would ‘get the wrong idea.’ I struggled to express my needs in a way that made sense to him until all I could feel was the unspoken between us: not his, but mine. The gap in the bed as his back faced me – I was expected to be the Big Spoon – was filled with my stifled silence.
Add to this John told me he thought he might be ready to start dating again – but that he didn’t want to date me. His last relationship had begun under similar circumstances, and he didn’t want to go there again. I was very much on the Porn Pile, and that’s where I would stay.
Eventually we ended things. It was very painful. Not because I had wanted more from him, but because he hadn’t wanted more from me. Because he had had to try to want more.
I could see the double-standard inherent in this, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Meanwhile I met another FB, ‘Adam’. Better than the first in some respects, because it was very clear to me that the rules of our engagement started and finished with sex. We would meet for ‘sessions’ and were open about seeing other people. I was openly on the Porn Pile, but so was he.
I remember one night Adam told me he had a penchant for falling for the wrong people. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t fall for you,’ he quickly added.
‘Should I be insulted?’ I asked with a teasing smile.
I laughed off his gaff, and never asked him what he meant. Instead I clung to those words, so that every time he showed signs of caring or affection for me, I could tell myself, ‘Just the cock, thanks!’ and continue to search elsewhere for my other needs.
But the more people I encounter, the more apparent it becomes that unless I am signing up for a Relationship, my partners want sex from me and nothing more. Like Steve, dates are a means to get my knickers off, not to spend time together.
Will I ever get off the Porn Pile?
I also realise this is total hypocrisy, because I am yet to meet someone I haven’t put on that pile myself, someone I want more from, someone I don’t portion off behind my own Relationship Line wall.
Part of the difficulty is that I’m not even sure how to describe the rules of the type of engagement I am looking for without setting off alarm bells. Because if I tell my partner I want more than ‘just sex’, they assume I must also want a primary Relationship.
In the rules of my engagement there is openness and honesty. Of course it hurts to know that you are shared, but on some level jealousy is a part of most relationships. It is much easier to cast your jealousies aside when you know in advance that you are shared, and they are shared, and you can keep your expectations in check. At least, it is for me.
Is this in-between grey space the realm of Polyamoury?
Perhaps if I give it this label my partners will be able to understand, to not freak out, and maybe I will have a chance at the kind of engagements I am seeking without being discarded onto the Porn Pile, because someone who is prepared to date and sleep with multiple partners must be good for sex and nothing more. Or perhaps I will end up staring at one half eaten plate after another.