One potato, two potato, three potatoes more...men? That's enough for a side dish, but what about the main course? In this letter, we hear from a gal who has two tasty men, but she doesn't know whether to call it quits or keep adding to her plate.
Dear Sweet & Low,
I’m in a conundrum of decision-making gone awry. I have two men in my life that love me, care for me, and adore me in different ways. They want different things from me and bring out different personalities in me. If this sounds confusing, living it is confusion to the ninth power. If one were to ask me a year ago if I would be juggling mates, I’d repel such a question as being too time-consuming. Now, fourteen months into the arrangement, I have never felt more alive, or more unsure of what it is I’m doing. There is constant struggle to balance what I want with what they want, because frankly, it was my idea.
I’m not a compulsive person. I’m methodical and practical. I’ve played by the rules until my 30th birthday when it hit me: my three-year relationship with my primary partner was lovely, filled with security and contentment, but something was missing. I thought this was a natural progression of long-term commitment. We both agreed if the situation lost its appeal, we’d be upfront and part as friends. We were never firey, passionate lovers. Our attraction came from friendship that coalesced into sexual exploration that was friendly and playful. Both of us were deep into our careers and didn’t see ourselves being the type that craves marriage, children, and the "couple's package." We love what we do, the freedom of our relationship, and have often praised our ability to go with the flow. Seeing the strife and conflict in too many of our married friends, we thought we’d skip that part and focus on the freedom of being who we want to be without asking the other to change.
I don’t like the label of swinger. I like the company and attention of other men, but when it comes to sexual intimacy, I was wild enough in my 20s to know that having one or two select partners will be more satisfying than a string of encounters for the thrill of it. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to have sex with other men and women but don't feel the need. My partner is the same way. If we were attracted to other people, we shared it. The need to be “bad” faded like a craving for a sweet treat.
Doesn’t all of this sound wonderful? It does to me as I write it, and I can’t believe I have anything to complain about. My 20s felt like I had no idea what I wanted sexually, and I tried what was available. I didn’t want monogamy, I didn’t want polyamory, and I didn’t want to abstain until the “real thing” came along. My 30s feel much different. I’m grounded. I think I know what I want sexually and emotionally. Sex is gratifying and fun. I say all of this knowing that I haven’t discussed the fantasy, the reason I have more than one man.
Deep breath. I love that I have my freedom, my own career, and plenty of space to treat myself with loving kindness. But I still have a fantasy involving a stable full of men, each unique in how they please and are pleased by me. Is this because I don’t have children? Am I afraid of commitment to one partner? Or is it a fear of being abandoned by one so why not have five or six? I don’t think so. The only fear I can identify is that of being with one man and only one man for the rest of my life. Making him the ONE AND ONLY feels like a trap. I think I would demand so much from him and him from me, we’d stop being ourselves in an effort to please each other. I saw this in my parents’ relationship—they’re now divorced and remarried—and I’ve seen this in every fairy tale of my childhood. As happy as that dream might seem, it has always felt like a lie.
In honor of that feeling, I found a man who is the opposite of my partner. I was transparent and clear about my intentions. My partner and I have talked about our insecurities. They stem from wanting to be special, and ENOUGH for the other. We agreed we needed to test the theory until it didn’t hold such power over our ability to love and rise above that need. We were already enough, whole without anyone else feeding or assuaging that fear. My partner has moments when he hates that I want to be with another man, but I don’t baby him through this feeling, and it passes. He has as much right to feel how he feels as I do.
Now for the dynamics. My partner and I are equally driven, but when it comes to emotional conflict and sexual impetus, I call the shots. I like being in charge, and my partner wants to be submissive in this way. He’s such a take-charge man in every other area of his life, this makes sense, and I get off having that power over him. With my new lover, it’s the opposite. I am submissive to him emotionally and sexually. I love giving him that power. This was the balance I needed to feel stable and thrive.
The strangest thing about this lifestyle is, no one abuses their power. I was open-minded but thought it would be short-lived. One of us would get tired of it or feel neglected, discarded, or disempowered. But that hasn’t happened. We’re even talking of meeting together for dinner once a week, schedules permitting.
Everyone is getting what they want, and it’s unnerving me! Can I keep this up? Surely, I’m missing something. When it starts to feel like a trap, my MO is to gently but effectively disentangle myself. Or add another person into the equation. I’ve asked both men if they wish to have another woman into our mix, but neither seem interested. I’d almost welcome a new set of hands, eyes, ears, and heart to balance the masculine with the feminine, but that’s another level of complexity.
My real question is: When do you know when enough is really enough?
A Stable Full of Men
How rare and exceptionally fluid you are! Congratulations on being so aware and present with your choices, your life, and your intentions. Anyone who understands that this level of self-love is a full-time job will also know that the missteps which occur along the way are opportunites for growth. Making mistakes, owning them, and learning from them is as important as the successes, if not more so. It takes an extreme amount of vulnerability to have the conversations you are having. Being that open and self-empowered has allowed you to attract the same kind of partners. I believe that is because you are attracted to you. You know it’s natural to like yourself, so why would a confident, self-aware man get in the way of that? Confidence that is earned by being honest, fragile, and stubborn can’t be taught, bartered for, or borrowed against. That kind of confidence, fighting your own fight, goes bone deep. Getting to the point in life when you can look in the mirror, see the flaws, the strengths, the WHOLE, and make no automatic judgment, is true power and true surrender.
I could ramble off a list of potential pitfalls, but I’m not going to do that. I bet you’ve already thought of them. You could keep adding to your stable, focusing on transparency and sitting patiently through the insecurities as they come and go, or you could stick with your dudes and be happy as a clam. The only thing that is unchangeable is the fact that things will change. Ten years from now, you will look back at yourself in your 30s and wonder at that person, same as you’re doing now as you reflect on your 20s. It’s possible you’ll want to focus on one man or woman. It’s possible you won’t want to focus on anyone. It’s possible you’ve already decided the relationship you have with yourself deserves the focus, and by doing so, your cup overflows to those around you, whether that be one other or thirty.
What strikes me the most about your story is that you’ve reached the point when it’s okay to say, “Yes, this is enough. I am enough. I can just be. I don’t have to DO anything.” This state of perfection doesn’t last, nor is it supposed to, but you have the tools and resources to weather any storm. Be sure to nurture your healthy habit of evaluating what feels good and what feels off.
Is it such a strange thing to want to give your attention to more than one person? Heck no. By all traditions, that’s been going on as long as humans have formed tribes. Every member of the tribe fulfilled a different role, and the same goes today. Your co-workers fill holes in the team-building department. Your girlfriends fill holes in sympathy and entertainment. Your boyfriends fulfill roles in the quest to better understand the opposite sex. You are the same person at the core with all of them, but can be with them in different ways. We are a lovely bunch of magnets and polarities, giving and taking.
Everyone brings with them a mix of masculine and feminine energy. Those who attract you exude an energy cocktail that’s in alignment with what you need to give or take in a positive way. The exchange is easy and joyful. Those who repel you demand energy you’re lacking, and this often feels negative, depleting, and abrasive. When we view it on this level, it’s not necessary to take attraction and repulsion in a personal way, and the need to judge someone as good or bad isn’t the automatic reaction. If you don’t take it personally, you don’t give away power, and you don’t feel emotionally unstable. Easy, right?
So let’s talk about the fantasy. If you are feeling uncertain, the fantasy is as much the Answer as it is the Question.
A stable of men. I’m assuming you’re thinking about different shapes, sizes, and colors of manhood, like prized stallions. Would you keep a sickly horse in this stable? Maybe! If you’re feeling like mothering someone, why not? If he’s providing you the opportunity to understand sacrifice and patience, sure. Are you thinking about a wild, young, and untrained buck who doesn’t care about being kind or compassionate? Cool. Maybe you’ve been taking things too seriously, trying hard to be proper, responsible, and caring. Are you thinking about an older, wiser, consistent stallion known for his ability to inspire deep, insightful feelings and thoughts? Maybe you need attention on an intellectual level that only comes from someone who has seen his share of stables and instinctively has the training to take you up the hard paths with as little effort as possible.
My point is, you get variety. You ain’t getting bored with a stable of different energies. The stallions might show off, vying for your attention, but I doubt you see them setting that stable on fire. There’s conflict, but it’s natural conflict of stallions wanting to be in the prime of their experience.
Some stallions you may want to ride more than others. You can have a favorite, but it’s fine if that favorite changes once in awhile. They are meant to answer deeper questions you have about your sexual dynamics. Nowhere in this fantasy does it say you have to give everything to all of them at one time, which I think is the point. In fantasy land, it's freedom. Time is not an issue, nor is micromanaging emotions. In reality, too much of anything, like chocolate cake, is going to play havoc with your stability. If you were to collect more men for the purposes of sexual exploration, romance, and partnership, it's going to take more time and attention to maintain a loving balance. Sure, you could push the limits, but what's wrong with just having them as friends?
Now let’s talk about the power. Are you afraid of having this kind of power? Results show you have this power, but can you handle it? If you have lived in a society that promotes selflessness as a positive trait in a woman, you’re going to feel conflicted about being in a position that is predominantly a male role. You own the stable. You’re the leader. It’s yours to use or abuse. That’s a heady feeling. Sexy. You can pick and choose, and you don’t have to feel bad about neglecting the egos that demand you make them the “one and only.” If such an ego presents itself, you turn it out to pasture. No harm, no foul.
If you hear this type of questioning: “How are these guys okay with sharing you? Don’t they have any self-respect?” That's their projection, possibly their insecurities, that limit their vision. Some people want one horse, and they are partners on the trail. They ride the fields, herd the cattle, and roam the mountains together. Good for them! They may not care to live at the ranch with other horses to distract them, but what they think and feel about your stable is not your business.
It would be easy to project a future where taking care of all these stallions becomes more work than it does play. The only way to avoid this dreaded irony is to stay present. Stay grateful. Stay transparent. Give as much as you take. Take as much as you give. If it all goes to shit, can you stay present and learn? Can you continue to ask the hard questions when the power and control start unraveling into chaos and confusion? Because that’s another state of perfection.
“No one person is supposed to fulfill all wants and desires.” This idea is old, but it seems to gain traction with those who have tried the "one and only" route but end up feeling trapped. If you are in agreement with that statement, great, but this philosophy simply gives allowance to know others as intimately as you'd like. You had one person, and you could have made that enough. But this begs the question, "Did you really have him?" Did you live in a bubble, completely cut off from all other energies? No. Not unless you were hill people in the Siberian tundra. Even the idea of the “one person” is an exaggerated truth.
On paper, all of that sounds New Age AS FUCK. If you can pull that off day-in and day-out, more power to you. Maybe you should be writing a book. There are people who very much want a road map to this arrangement. It's easy to sit back and say, "Sure, you can have as many men as you like. All you have to do is will it into existence. You're only limited by the hours in the day." That is the fantasy, right? Holding that idea in your head makes you feel good, and why wouldn't it? It's a break from the reality.
Polyamory seems to be trending. I have no idea if it will last, or if it will succumb to the big picture and cycle through the various stages. Right now, it's something "new and exciting," i.e. tolerated and more acceptable. Heaven knows, it ain't new. Some notable figures who have embraced it had a variety of partners that fit different needs, at least in their own minds: Picasso, Charles Dickens, Anais Nin, and every courtesan known to man. Do all parties consent and love the lifestyle? Who knows? Probably not. As humans, we are notoriously petty, selfish, ego-centric, and vain when it comes to living within certain illusions. We remember what we want to remember and project what best suits our needs at that moment. Polyamory has every chance of becoming a scapegoat for a future depression, an economic collapse, the outbreak of a plague, or pretty much anything on a macro level that affects the whole. How we love to ignore history, unless it's the parts we like, which often fall under the category of heroic, risky, larger-than-life, and horrifically villainous.
If we stand a chance at evolving into a species that can love--without using sex and attention as the primary bartering tool--that means taking it step by step on a micro level. It will be the every day moments of the kindness and compassion that save the day. Doubtless, it won't get the media coverage it deserves.
Being upfront about the fantasy and the reality means going into every situation with your eyes open. Take the hits where they fall, try not to take it personally, and enjoy the fuck out of the ride. And if you haven’t already, invest in a really good saddle. You never know where the ride will take you, but you’ll be a damn good horsewoman who understands that everything has its season.
BOOK REVIEW TIME!!!
Winner of the Nobel Prize, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town Macondo, through the history of the Buendia family.
Ignore the Book Club stamp if the suggestion ruffles your feathers. This is straight-forward story-telling genius. Like a grandfather explaining his lineage to anyone who will listen, these are the tales of a life lived through success and failure. There are no scapegoats, excuses, or delusions. It's simply LIFE in all of it's crazy glory. Read it before going to sleep. It will color your subconscious with the promise of when you are old and have stories to tell that no one would believe unless they were there---and they wish they were.
If you like this content, please share it, subscribe, but above all, comment and question. Always. Never stop questioning what you hear. We are seekers. Dear Sweet & Low's mission is to provide a ray of sunshine to anyone who has been told they were wrong, bad, evil, strange, or sick because of what they like. We provide a space to share with those who will not judge them. If you have a fantasy you would like decoded, email us.