My husband’s girlfriend is one of my best friends. This is how our family works.
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The chic word for Elizabeth is meta-love, but I prefer “sister wife” or “my husband’s girlfriend”. My husband started dating her about a year ago and she has been one of my best friends ever since. I’ve never been someone in monogamy, and most of my adult relationships have had some level of openness. When I met my spouse – a queer, non-binary person with a disability – eight years ago, he realized that I was not okay with long-term monogamy.
We got married about six months after we met, mostly for health insurance purposes. My husband was a single dad of three, and while I’m sure it sounded reckless, we got along well as a unit of five and knew we would be together for a long time.
Early in our marriage, as we reflected on our new status and suddenly got used to being a parent, we decided to focus on the family we were building. So we’ve agreed to be monogamous for now, but with the understanding that we’re building the foundation for a relationship with a certain level of openness.
Over time we loosened the parameters of our relationship and I dated people on vacation sometimes, but neither of us had the energy to do much more than that. For most of that time, we just agreed that we would see each other before dating someone, but that never happened. We just didn’t have the energy for it.
A few years into our marriage we had another child, which gave us even less energy to date, and I didn’t feel quite in my opinion the sexiest immediately after I was born. ‘a child anyway. So between four kids, my health issues and everything in between, our relationship was (in practice) mostly monogamous (or “monogamous” in Dan Savage’s parlance). Fortunately babies are growing and need a little less care, so over the past couple of years we have had a little more capacity by now.
“A year ago my husband met Elizabeth on Tinder, and I was really happy he was dating and meeting someone he could connect with.”
It’s hard to understand our dynamics without understanding each other, but my partner and I are extremely different people. He’s a lover who always wants to show me love. To be frank, I’m a slut who needs a ton of time alone. We work, and we work well.
Then, a year ago, my husband met Elizabeth on Tinder and I was really excited about their first date. It’s hard for some people to understand, but I was legitimately happy that he went out and met someone he could connect with. He was much newer in polyamory and although he was on board he had just dipped his toe into the dating pool at this point. We love each other so much and have a lot in common, but as two people we cannot meet all of each other’s needs. I really encouraged her to get in touch with someone with similar interests that I didn’t share. The fact that they also have sex sometimes doesn’t seem really relevant to me because it doesn’t change my relationship with him or how we feel about each other. Some people won’t understand this, but we’re both happy with our setup.
I finally met Elizabeth, but I already knew I would love her from what my husband had told me. One of the things that makes polyamory work for us is that my husband has impeccable taste. Elizabeth looks a lot like me; we are both intelligent and stubborn and loud. As a person very attached to polyamory, Elizabeth also values direct communication. If you want the secret to our relationship, it’s that either of us can say (usually me), “I need some time alone” or “I feel neglected, I need more. time with [my husband]And not only does she know it has nothing to do with how I feel for her, but it’s also what I need.
Over the past year, Elizabeth has become a part of our family and I consider her a sister. Like my husband and I, she is also gay with a disability, and she understands who we are as a family and what our life is like.
By the time our children met her, they had known for some time that we were polyamorous. However, Elizabeth was the first partner of us who was serious enough to introduce the kids. She and I don’t have a romantic relationship, and you’d probably be really disappointed to find out how little sex is going on here (four kids, remember?). Elizabeth typically spends a night or two with us every week in the spare bedroom alone, as we’ve created rules for when the kids are at home so they don’t disrupt their routine.
“It doesn’t really seem relevant to me that they also have sex sometimes, because it doesn’t change my relationship with him or how we feel about each other.”
I really love Elizabeth as a member of our family, but I still feel jealous at times. There are definitely times the two hang out when I wish I could hang out with my husband, but those times are rare. I actually spend more time alone with him than before because now Elizabeth can (and does) watch the children so that we can go out on a date or for a weekend. Time and energy are limited and there is sometimes tension because there is never enough, but we all work together to make sure that the three of us have what we need.
Like any close relationship, there are sometimes conflicts. Especially since Elizabeth spends more time with us and takes on a parenting role, we sometimes do things differently. For example, while I agree with our 5 year old who has snacks when he wants; when she cooks dinner, she doesn’t (naturally) want him to ruin her appetite.
Things like this are pretty easy to figure out – when she’s cooking something he has to wait to eat, otherwise snacking is fine. The hardest part is noticing and recognizing the different approaches and coming up with a solution that works for us. It helps that Elizabeth respects the fact that we are parents, and I always try to remember that she has the best interests of the children in mind.
Different things work for different people, and I really don’t care what other people are doing and I don’t think other people should care what we do. Polyamory is no escape route, and it certainly takes work that monogamy doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if that dynamic isn’t right for you right now or any other time. We will continue to take it day to day but for now my relationship with my husband and his girlfriend Elizabeth is working for my family. And that’s all that matters.
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