“I’m Polyamorous, There’s a Painful Side People Don’t See”
Article By Rodrigo Perez-Vega
~ JANUARY 2023 ~
I came out as polyamorous in 2017, but throughout my life I had found the concept of monogamy difficult to comprehend.
That meant that before I discovered I could pursue multiple romantic connections in a non-destructive manner, I did so in a non-ethical way, by cheating on partners, which obviously is not positive for any relationship.
In 2016, I was married, but had an affair. Afterwards, I went through a period of introspection; thinking about why I was unfaithful and how I felt about relationships. And, through therapy, I was exposed to other forms of relationships, including polyamory.
I came to the conclusion that if everyone involved was in agreement, polyamory would be a healthier way of fulfilling my need to connect with more than one person at a time in a romantic way, without being destructive to my existing relationships.
My ex-wife and I later split, but my current partner, with whom I live and have a child, is also polyamorous. We are both able to pursue other relationships, which I think works best for both of our needs.
Sometimes I am not dating anyone aside from my nesting partner, however other times I may be seeing one to three other people. The reality of the situation is that I am a parent, teach and research about digital marketing, and run my own business, so time tends to be the main constraint in meeting other people.
Right now, I am dating two other people alongside my partner; one of whom I see once a week and the other once a month. I usually form connections with people who are themselves in open or polyamorous relationships, but in the past I have been involved with single people, who I have met through work or friends and developed a connection with.
That connection could be sexual or emotional, but what I like about having multiple relationships is the ability to get to know various people and connect with them. For me, that aspect of polyamory is very important and I find it very fulfilling.
While I don’t think polyamory is mainstream, there has been much more representation of it in popular media in recent years, for example television programs on Netflix about multiple-person relationships.
My close group of friends know about my relationship orientation and so are not shocked; some of them are actually polyamorous themselves. To other people, I tend to mention it casually.
Often, they don’t know how to ask for more information, so they just say: “Okay, that’s fine.”
Difficulties dating as a polyamorous person
I feel it’s hard to date as a polyamorous person, because it’s not the norm. A lot of people prefer a monogamous relationship, which then can make it more difficult to make connections. For this reason, I have been exposed to a lot of rejection.
I have experienced many situations where I am attracted to someone and the feeling has not been reciprocated, and I believe it likely happens to me more than a person seeking a monogamous relationship. Polyamorous relationships do not align with the relationship goals of many people I have encountered, and this can be for many reasons such as wanting to “settle down” and have the Labrador and the kids, or maybe some feel uncomfortable with the idea of loving someone that also loves someone else. I try to be very open on what I can offer in a relationship, and I bring the aspect of polyamory very early on in the conversation to make sure people are aware of how I like building relationships with others.
Rodrigo Perez-Vega (left) and his nesting partner. Image: Rodrigo Perez-Vega
In the past, I have been rejected multiple times in a year. It was especially tough when I came out as polyamorous and had the opportunity to connect with other people in my personal network.
For example, after revealing I was polyamorous I had been very attracted to a woman in my circle of friends and initially I thought she was interested in me, but it turned out she wasn’t and that left me feeling hurt. There had been lots of exchanged messages, but it turned out she did not see our relationship as romantic.
I have a very active social life and see my friends multiple times a week, so because she was in that circle it was hard to manage. It was painful for me, so I had to put some distance there for a number of weeks. I stopped meeting up with that group for a while and unfollowed her on social media, which helped me manage those feelings. Two years later, I have overcome those emotions. I often see this person and no longer feel the same way.
Lessons polyamory has taught me
Being polyamorous has taught me how to manage the very intense feelings that come when falling in love. It’s what makes falling in love so special, but I’m also aware that once you have found someone, this feeling can co-exist as new people cross your path.
Some people refer to this feeling as “new relationship energy”, which means there is a lot of excitement when you meet someone new. You wonder whether they like you or the relationship will go anywhere, you want to learn more about them.
But if you experience that while in an existing relationship, it’s important to also consider your current partner and their feelings. Over time, I have personally become more aware that those feelings are just a natural chemical reaction to connecting with someone new. Often, you will feel excited—but it’s just a phase relationships go through.
When I am rejected by someone now, I am very lucky because I can share those feelings with my nesting partner. In the same way your close friends would give you support, I get the same thing from my partner. We have both been in a situation where we were interested in other people, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. At least we still have each other to show empathy and support.
As a polyamorous person, the most common reason for rejection is people not being interested in exploring a relationship with someone who is romantically involved with other people. After that, I believe it’s the same as monogamous relationships; maybe someone you like just doesn’t see you as a romantic partner and so they’re not interested.
When dealing with rejection, taking some distance from a person really works for me. I never try to shut off feelings like sadness; those feelings help me gain closure. I try to keep busy and find comfort in doing things like going to basketball or soccer clubs with my kids, being with my friends or going dancing. I believe that with age, you understand that you won’t always like everyone and not everyone will like you, so it’s not the end of the world if someone isn’t attracted to you.
To me, being sad about love or attraction not being reciprocated doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I consider it to be evidence that those feelings existed and that I really cared for a specific person. I believe it’s part of falling in love; often there’s excitement, but there’s also grief and sadness. To me, that’s evidence of how important that person was to you, even if that person didn’t feel the same.
Rodrigo Perez-Vega PhD, 38, from Reading, England is an academic researching new applications of technology for consumers, writer, and entrepreneur. He co-founded Instant Counselling and Pro-EAP, an online counselling platform with UK-based therapists available 24/7. He is also the co-author of the book Essentials of Digital Marketing.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Newsweek editor, Monica Greep.
A version of this article originally appeared here on newsweek.com