This is how we do it: ‘I believe in polyamory in theory - but I’m not sure I’m enjoying it in practice’

<span>Illustration: Ryan Gillett/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Ryan Gillett/The Guardian

Maeve, 34

‘In my head Tom’s other partners are perfect, and will whisk him away from me’

Tom and I have been together for five years, but for the past two we have been having sex with other people. It started with a drunken threesome. The “guest star” was a mutual female friend of ours, so the experience felt safe and loving. One minute we were on our sofa playing a drinking game, and the next no one had their pants on. The three of us remain friends to this day.

After that, Tom and I set up a joint dating profile and started inviting strangers to join us in the bedroom. I tend to worry a lot in bed – about my body, and whether I’m even any good at sex – but during threesomes I feel strangely confident. What I like about it is seeing myself through a stranger’s eyes: as someone enviably self-assured and dominant. Often, I’ll stand at the foot of the bed and direct Tom and the other woman, like a sexy conductor.

Like any relationship, polyamory has its ups and downs; I suppose I’m just in a down-phase

Eight months ago, we started going out on dates alone. That is more challenging, because Tom is now in relationships with two other women, whereas I often find myself struggling to get a date. We live together, and it’s conflicting having him climb back into bed for a cuddle after he’s been out with another partner. Tom is more affectionate with me after seeing another woman, so in some ways it brings us closer. But in my head his other partners are perfect beings with perky bottoms and breasts, who will whisk Tom away from me.

Tom tells me I’m his priority and we can go back to monogamy any time I like. But in his previous monogamous relationships he felt unfulfilled – and I don’t want him to be unhappy.

I believe in polyamory – in theory at least – as I think it’s a more grown-up way of conducting a relationship. But I sometimes doubt whether I’m enjoying it in practice. Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs; I suppose I’m just in a down phase. I’m hoping I’ll feel more confident about myself once I’m also seeing someone on the side. So the hunt is on: I’m spend every waking moment online, scrolling for dates.


Tom, 30

Any minute now, some swarthy rugby player is going to pop up on her phone screen, and seduce her

Maeve is my “nesting partner” – which means we share a home – but we are polyamorous. We’ll often spend an afternoon in our living room, flicking through dating profiles on our phones. She’ll show me her potential dates and I’ll show her mine. In previous relationships, I felt ashamed of my desire to sleep with people other than my girlfriend, but now dating other people is like a fun, shared hobby.

At the moment, there are tensions because I am seeing two other women, whereas Maeve has had a string of bad dates. She has started to compare herself with my other partners, which is spiking her body insecurities. But to me, it’s obvious that she’s just going through a dry patch. Maeve is intimidatingly beautiful. The first time I met her I felt too shy to speak. Any minute now, some swarthy rugby player is going to pop up on her phone and seduce her.

Monogamy doesn’t make you immune to jealousy or insecurity: you just can’t properly air those feelings

I experience insecurity too: I regularly panic that Maeve will meet someone with an enormous penis, and start thinking that I’m a shit shag. But monogamy doesn’t make you immune to jealousy or insecurity: you just can’t air those feelings, because you’re both trying to maintain the fiction that you don’t fancy other people.

The other week, Maeve had a one-night stand and I made her tell me every dirty detail. Her desire for this other man actually started to turn me on. It made me see her as a sexy, mysterious stranger all over again.

We’ve implemented a weekly Sunday night check-in, where we talk about how polyamory is going. If Maeve is still unhappy in a few months, we’ll go back to monogamy. She is my priority and I see her as my future wife. But I think that will be hard. It’s like we’ve opened Pandora’s box: how do we go back to pretending we only want to have sex with each other?

Would you and your partner like to share the story, anonymously, of your sex life?