So here’s a thing, in case you didn’t know.
In college, SpouseMan cheated on me.
Twice, in point of fact. Now – those of you who know us now, the gloriously open married couple that we are*, may be rolling your eyes in a “so what?” gesture right now, but remember – we were 18-19-20 at the time! Yes, I’d grown up on Heinlein and had a very “oh HELL no” attitude about anyone being jealous towards ME, but. I’d never even heard of the term polyamory, and “open relationships” were a scandalous thing!
I think what bugged me most in both cases was my own reaction. The first time, I found out from the “other woman” – she was a friend, and thought I ought to know. At the time I was vaguely aware that I ought to be upset, but honestly? I was more tickled at having a “minor indiscretion” that I could tease him about.
The second time, he confessed to me. He’d gone home on winter break/spring break/some break, and had sex with his ex-girlfriend. He made this whole solemn ceremony about sitting me down and contritely confessing and apologizing; the whole time, I was afraid he was going to break up with me, and when I discovered what he was really trying to say I have to admit I literally laughed. It was just such a relief – just that? Really? You made this big deal about sleeping with someone else? Do you still love me, do you still want to be with me? Well okay then!
It was only in retrospect that it occurred to me that normal girls don’t respond to news of their boyfriends cheating in that way.
Honestly, I’m kind of grateful. I might never have realized I was poly otherwise, and I can’t imagine my relationship with SpouseMan if we’d pretended we were both naturally monogamous and that any deviation from that norm was doubleplusungood. We’d probably both be miserable. My lack of reaction, my lack of jealousy, was a pretty clear indicator that I, at least, wasn’t “normal” in that sense – and exploring that, finding a name for it and realizing I wasn’t alone, gave me a framework to help me talk to SpouseMan and work out what we actually wanted the rules of our relationship to be, rather than blithely accepting what society said the rules of a relationship should be. It’s made us both happier and made our relationship stronger.
To tie this into politics (did you really think you were gonna get through an entire blog post without any politics?), this has been in my mind since seeing some of the reactions to Bill Clinton talking about Hillary. I’ve seen a lot of people saying he was insincere in his speech, or saying she should have divorced him or that she only stayed with him for political reasons.
Hear me: I am not saying either of the Clintons are poly, nor that they should be. (Even if they were, it would be political suicide to act on it, so. Moot point.) What I AM saying is that people are complex and complicated creatures. When the man I loved cheated, I forgave him and my love for him never changed, for my own deep and complicated reasons.
I don’t pretend Hillary’s reasons were the SAME as mine. But I have no reason to think they weren’t every bit as deep and complicated and genuine as mine. I am very bristly at people who would judge her for her choices without knowing the ins and outs of her marriage and her relationship with her husband. Of all the things to criticize her on, kindly back way the fuck off of this one.
*Admittedly, at the MOMENT this is more theoretical than anything else. Our child is four; neither of us has the fucking energy**
**My mom reads this blog. Sorry, Mom. I know this is TMI.