Our transition into polyamory was far from over after Jack decided that it was ok for me and Mike to engage in sexual activities without vaginal sex. In September I met Sebastian, who proved to be far more tempting to me and more challenging to Jack as a result. It was with Sebastian that Jack and I had to learn how to accommodate a lover.
Sebastian and I met at Endless Poly Summer, a week long interactive poly camping experience in West Virginia. Sebastian was from Ecuador. He had dark sparkling eyes, luscious brown skin, and a Spanish accent that he always spoke softly and playfully. I admit I have a weakness for Latin men. Something about their sensuality, warmth, authenticity, and masculinity are incredibly appealing to me. Sebastian had all these qualities, and we also shared similar views on marriage and we both admired relationship anarchy. Sebastian was at camp with his girlfriend Melanie, and at one point he asked to hold hands with me while the three of us were sitting next to each other in a workshop. Jack had decided to sit out on this workshop as well as all further group activities. Later on I asked Sebastian to spend time with me in the “Sensual Temple,” a tent with mattresses and condoms inside where couples could go to explore intimacy at camp. Our partners were hesitant, but we reassured them that it would only be cuddling, no kissing or genital touching.
In the sensual temple, Sebastian and I lay down on the mattress facing each other. I thought that he was very cute and just enjoyed the look in his eyes and being near him. He asked me questions about my life and touched my face and hands, but made no attempts to go any further. He told me he was married and had a twelve year old son, and they opened their marriage years ago when she had an affair. Instead of feeling hurt, he said that he felt happy for her, and the two of them got along better. He didn’t start dating himself until two years ago when he met Melanie. We had mutual friends, including Mike from Philadelphia. Sebastian also lived in the Philadelphia area and we made plans to see each other once we finished camp, and hopefully bring our significant others together as well.
On our first date, Sebastian and I went to Morris Arboretum. It was a hot and humid day, the setting sun cast a golden glow over the lush greenery and put halos behind our heads. The sound of children’s laughter echoed throughout the garden like fairy music. Sebastian had tender regard for the trees and blooming things, and if there is anything I love more than a handsome Latin man, it is a handsome Latin man who loves nature. All you have to do to woo me is take me on a hike and adore every leaf and blossom in sight. We explored the tree houses in the arboretum, and lay down in a huge hammock looking up into a deep blue sky speckled by the swaying canopy like a kaleidoscope of shadows. We didn’t kiss, because that was the agreement with my spouse, but he looked into my eyes and swept his hand into my hair like I was the fairest rose. A young man came by and introduced himself as a photographer, and asked if he could take some pictures of us lying in the hammock. Sebastian said, “I would be honored if you would capture this moment I’m having with this beautiful woman.” It was one of the most romantic moments in my life.
Having a relationship with Sebastian proved to be much more difficult than having a relationship with Mike. For one thing, he worked a regular 9-5 job and also commuted more than an hour each way to work. I also lived 45 minutes away in the opposite direction so that it took two hours for him to meet me after work. Unlike with Mike, whom I could get together with during the day when Jack was at work, I had to get together with Sebastian in the evenings or weekends, which significantly raised Jack’s discomfort level. Also unlike Mike, Sebastian lived at home with his wife and child, and we had no privacy in his home. I was frustrated with the fact that Jack allowed me to have more intimacy with Mike but not with Sebastian, because in his mind, Sebastian had not earned his trust like Mike had. Sebastian admitted that he did not have the time nor the handyman skills to connect with Jack the way Mike did. The ways in which he could connect with Jack, such as having dinner with Jack and I in our home, Jack did not want to do.
Despite our limitations, my feelings for Sebastian were at a fevered pitch. I was obsessed with him. The restraint we had to exercise made our interactions even more erotic. It was as if all our longing was transferred to our eyes so that simply gazing at each other was electrifying. The first time I told him that he was allowed to kiss me, he gave me a kiss so enrapturing it felt like I had an orgasm then and there. As we were parting, he pulled me in for another kiss, and another, and another. I felt that his heart was made of melted dark chocolate, an intoxicating sweetness with a texture as smooth as butter. He was not only handsome but he also understood my passion for love, my suffering at being different. He brought me to tears with his appreciation and empathy and quiet intensity. He was the night sky and I was lost wondering among the stars. Going two weeks without seeing him, as I often did due to our limitations, was torturous for me.
Increasing the intimacy in our relationship was problematic not only for Jack but also for Sebastian’s girlfriend, Melanie. She wanted to be involved or at least get to know me. We attempted to set up a dinner for the three of us but failed on more than one attempt because we couldn’t find a time that worked for the three of us and our three partners. Sebastian was unhappy with any restrictions imposed on his relationships, so as his relationship with me progressed, his relationship with Melanie became more tense. I respected the fact that Sebastian had an existing relationship with Melanie, but also felt that Melanie had significant advantages that I did not have. For example, she had a supportive husband, and she owned a vacation home in the Poconos where she would occasionally whisk Sebastian away for a weekend of private quality time. I could only look forward to making out on a couch. I felt that I was competing with so many things in Sebastian’s life and he was not doing anything to make it more equitable for me.
Our problems came to a head over the holiday season. After four months of restraint with Sebastian and talking with Jack, he still repeatedly refused to allow us to consummate our relationship. Fed up with waiting for our partners and for Sebastian to make conditions more favorable, I gained access to a hotel room near Sebastian’s home so that he and I could spend private time together after work. Sebastian and I were supposed to meet up around 6:30, but due to an unexpected work obligation, he did not show up until 8:30. Even though my intention was to just be intimate together, we had sex. I returned home by 10:30. When Jack asked me where I had been I told him that after four months of adhering to his rules I was tired of waiting to get his approval to become intimate with Sebastian, that this was likely a one time occurrence because I wouldn’t have the opportunity of a private room again, and that I could do so much to accommodate him but in the end it was still my choice what I wanted to do with my body.
Conscious of the fact that I had made a very bold move for Sebastian, I expected that he would appreciate it and support me. Therefore, I was very hurt that he did not reach out to me after this event. A few days later, he left for vacation with his family for two weeks. When he came back he came down with a cold. He did not call over the holidays even to see how I was doing. Later I learned that after he told his girlfriend about the incident she was very upset and he felt guilty about it, which made it hard for him to talk to me. When we finally had a conversation in the third week of January, he did not feel that I had any right to be upset because I was the one who wanted to have sex, he gave me what I wanted, and beyond that he had no obligations. To me it felt that he did not honor the most basic obligation of relationships, which is gratitude when someone does something nice for you. Even in conventional relationships, the worst thing that a lover could experience is to have sex with her partner for the first time and then not hear from him for weeks. In our situation where so much was at stake, his negligence was inexcusable.
My relationship with Sebastian ended shortly after because he was unable to acknowledge his role in the damage he did to our relationship and unwilling to make up for it. To go from such intense love and passion to such utter disgust and disappointment was almost comical. All of our other problems with logistics and being the third and conflicts with my husband and his girlfriend all contributed to the relationship being a poster child for an poly relationship gone wrong.
It took some time for Jack and I to feel reconcile. While I regretted not being more transparent with Jack, I was sadder that I had to force our relationship open, despite attempting for more than half a year to get him to go there on his own, and the outcome was still upsetting. Instead of waiting for him to give permission, becoming more and more frustrated that it wasn’t given, and then breaking rules, I should have foreseen that rules must have an expiration and need be renegotiated periodically. After a reasonable amount of time for both partners to adjust to a new love interest, barring circumstances such as an STD or mental illness, there needs to be a way for both partners to move forward. I would have also established a relationship with Melanie much earlier. Jack realized that setting rules does not protect him from getting hurt, but that he had to do the difficult work of taking responsibility for his own emotions and communicating his needs to me. Ultimately the only control that he had was over his own reactions. He could ask for help, but he could not run other people’s lives (indefinitely) for his own comfort.
In the end, it was Melanie who helped me make some sense of it all. After finally getting together by ourselves after attempts to get everyone together failed, she gave me deep insights into Sebastian that helped me understand why our relationship ended the way it did. She related to me experiences in his childhood that made him feel unlovable and fearful of rejection. She described her struggles to communicate with him and getting her needs met in their relationship. For her, loving Sebastian was an exercise in spiritual growth, a lesson in teaching someone else how to love. For me, I did not have the patience or the resources to teach him, and it was important for me that my lover was an equal partner in the relationship. It was such a relief to me to speak with someone who understood me in this matter as much as she did. We parted as friends and gave each other blessings to have the relationships that would make us feel fulfilled.
Photo: The Secret Garden. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. 1993.