‘I’m polyamorous but my boyfriend isn’t, this is how we manage my relationships with other people’

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Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
  • Jennifer Miller is polyamorous and in a relationship with a man who isn't, but their relationship works perfectly.
  • She identifies as pansexual while her partner is bisexual; however, he isn't in a relationship with anyone else.
  • Her primary partner [James] is her best friend and talks to her about exciting new partners.

This Cape Town woman has an unconventional, non-monogamous relationship with her long-term partner, and they're happy.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jennifer Miller met her partner James, 30, in a bar after matching three years ago on Tinder.

"From the moment we met, I made it clear I was poly and queer," says Jennifer. "He respected this but admitted it was new to him. He's tried it but isn't really into seeing or being intimate with other people/strangers at this stage of his life, but is comfortable with me."

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Jennifer identifies as pansexual, and while James is bisexual, he doesn't currently have any other partners and has no plans to change this any time soon.

For Jennifer, it was always important that her partners know she is polyamorous and sees multiple partners. She is always open and honest about it. "Poly can work within many varieties, different boundaries, and sexualities, but you do bump heads along the way to figure out what's best for you," she says, adding that at first, James would get upset whenever she'd mention her date plans.

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This changed gradually, and they now have specific rules in place so that they are both comfortable. "I explained that being honest about my movements was important, and shaming me would make me feel like I couldn't talk about traveling to Ms. X on Tuesday evening or getting a ride to Mr. Z on Thursday. As a woman in this country, sharing that kind of info is vital for safety," Jennifer shares.

"But through this, I also learned that too many details of my dates beyond that made him uncomfortable. The boundaries or 'rules' are negotiable and should be an open and honest process," she explains.

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Jennifer stopped sleepovers at her secondary partners' places during the hard lockdown, and while this was hard for her, they agreed that they would rather be safe and keep each other safe during the pandemic.

So how does it work with primary and secondary partners? How is time and attention split? Who does Jennifer put first?

"My primary partner is the one with whom my deepest emotional loyalty lies. So, I may be intimate and share the love with my secondaries, but my primary knows that no matter who I'm with - if he needs me, I'll be there. My secondaries also know about him from the start and respect my loyalties to him. This doesn't mean I can't be loyal to my friends, lovers, or family. It just means in my heart there's one person who I consistently prioritise," Jennifer clarifies.

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"The absolute most important thing is for us to keep talking, honestly. Tomorrow, he might decide to try poly, knowing this would mean talking it through first. Tomorrow night I might want to have a last-minute drink with a new date, which I also need to run by him first. We hide nothing, especially not our desires to be loved, receive love from others, or simply the desire to spend the night tucked in together," Jennifer explains.

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Jennifer says she and James don't discuss new dates unless it becomes more than a one-night stand. There are periods where she has to balance her infatuation with a new partner and her commitment to James. "Let's say I've been spending four out of seven days a week seeing my new beau and not seeing my primary, that leaves room for [James] to doubt how much I value him, so I need to manage that. At the same time, my primary is my best friend and the person I want to talk to about exciting new partners. And he holds space for that. I also use him as a springboard for gauging infatuation vs. rose-tinted glasses when it comes to identifying red flags."

Jennifer says she once dated someone who hurt her badly, and James picked up on the red flags, but it was only in talking about the toxic behaviour that he helped Jennifer see that it was not a good relationship. "Hearing out your primary's concerns shows them you value their input, love and genuine care about your wellbeing," she says.

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Jennifer says there is no 'right way to have intimate relationships as long as there's honesty and love. She wants those in monogamous relationships to realise that there's just as much love, communication, and happiness in polyamory. "Mono works for some. Some are poly. Some are asexual, while others are aromantic folks who want nothing to do with relationships. Sex-positivity teaches us that neither is better than the other - what feels best is being true to yourself at every step," she says.

Lastly, Jennifer wants everyone to know: "Vulva-bearing bodies should accept that it is okay and pretty damn marvellous to have a higher sex drive than your partner when you're poly and have consent from your loved one to embrace those desires. We're at the point where my man picks me up from a date and laughs as I grin all the way home. Seeing your person feel emotionally or physically satisfied isn't an insult to you. It's a testament to your confidence in their loyalties to you. No matter how many sexy dates you have."

Do you have an unconventional relationship? Tell us about it here.

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