Author Jack Ladd shares his experience of polyamory.
Polyamory. To some it’s confusing and stressful. To others it’s taboo: a sordid notion eating away at the fabric of society.
To more enlightened others, a poly life is merely a means of exploring and challenging traditional perspectives.
For me, when I met Damon and Ryan, a happily married, open couple of fourteen years, it started as the latter. Then we became more than I could have ever imagined.
We crossed paths at Tropical Fruits, an annual NYE festival in Lismore, NSW, and hit it off immediately. With such great chemistry between us, and always being one for adventure, I wanted to see if the rumours were true.
Could three work? If I liked two men the same, and they me, why not? Three’s the magic number, right?
Not that polyamory is limited to three: there’s a myriad of poly relationships. But, what followed in the year-and-a-bit I learned what it means to love more than one, I experienced the sweetest irony I’ve yet to know.
Being the third, joining an established couple, inspired inescapable yet wonderful monogamous yearnings of my own.
As a teenager, I believed in what I liked to call monogamy. That, if my boyfriend let alone kissed someone else, our relationship must have been meaningless. And the thought of him sleeping with another man made my blood boil vicious.
Unsurprisingly these relationships didn’t last, fizzling out like candle flame: bright, hot but finite. Jealously smothered by naïve miscommunication.
Damon and Ryan helped me push past these constraints. I saw, through their kindness and understanding and years of combined learning, that real bonds are stronger than fits of misplaced, often drunken emotion.
I realised through them that we are human and need strong connections, but not all of us are love birds. Sometimes we are bears and sometimes we are monkeys, but if we are honest and fair to each other, then it’s possible to nest in peace anywhere.
Tenuous metaphors about shagging around aside, in the early days, we screwed like rabbits. For the first month the sex was phenomenal. Spit-roasting, double penetration, sweaty night after sweaty day.
Then came group sex. Friends of mine or friends of theirs invited for dinner and then dessert. Odd numbers preferred, thanks to Damon, who accurately informed me it prevents us from “coupling off”. Always safe. Always fun.
But, by month four, the tide of hedonism gently receding, we tired of the crowds. We wanted to be together. Sleep and wake, eat and play. Hit the beach and explore sizzling Australian streets. Wine, dine and dance. Laugh until our abs hurt.
Just the three of us. Love replacing lust.
We lived in Sydney, but none of us were Australian. They knew what it meant to need a support network when your family’s thousands of miles away. Through their advice and stories and insight, they embodied my brothers, sisters, parents and friends, all rolled into a shining example of how a couple can make it work.
Our ages were stepped in nines – 24, 33 and 42 – and sometimes it was obvious. Sometimes it wasn’t.
Sometimes Ryan and I, both from the UK, would affectionately mock Damon, 18 years my senior, over his incessant American optimism. And sometimes he and I would tease Ryan over his cleaning OCD. Us reclined, sipping negronis, him fretting with a yellow rag.
Mostly, however, they were Ryan and Damon. Sparkling individuals yet one entity. Two men who had built a stunningly complex life for each other. A life that allowed them to adapt to each other’s needs far beyond the expected norm.
Simply put, thanks to them, I realised what I wanted for myself.
My own partner in crime to walk through time with. Someone to build memories and to plan a future with. Someone who, if we both wanted and could, would enjoy our own twenty-something in a field some hot summer’s day some time.
Eventually, Damon, Ryan and I ended. Long story short, my Australian visa eventually sent me home after many glorious years Down Under. It was hard, but the pain meant coming to terms with the growing need in my heart, so it was worth it.
To this day, we’re still the best of friends, and thanks to them I learned that while polyamory may sound confusing, at least for me, it made everything come into the sweetest focus.
Jack Ladd is an author. His book ‘Oscar Down Under’ was a finalist in the 2017 Rainbow Awards for Best Gay Book and Best Debut Fiction and is described as a searingly honest articulation of a sexualised generation. You can order the book on Amazon now.