How many is too many?

I recently answered a formspring question from EssinEm

How many partners do you currently have, and how many would you say tips the scales towards too many?

And here’s how I answered

I currently have two partners, Roxy and my wife. At two different points in the past two years, I’ve had three serious relationships concurrently. That’s too many for me, though it took me a while to admit to that. I should probably say that I have 4 serious relationships right now, because I have to count my two daughters. I take parenting and partnering very seriously and when I had a third romantic partner, I was unable to give her the attention and time she deserved.

So I’d have to say that time and energy availability tips the scales for me. If I weren’t a parent, I might be able to maintain another relationship, but since that is my reality, I’m sticking with the 4 women I currently have in my life.

Now, if you’ve been following along from home, you may realize that I’m saying something here, without saying actually saying it.  And, yes, it’s sad but true, Amber and I have broken up.

It happened a while ago, around the end of October.  Neither of us has been eager to write about this, but then, we didn’t really want to break up anyway.  So why did we?  I’ll tell you.

I think there’s a certain amount of optimism and confidence needed to claim polyamory as your preferred relationship model. As it happens, I have both in large quantities, along with enthusiasm. What I do not have in large enough quantities, however, is time and energy. Amber and I went through several rounds of resetting expectations, talking about assumptions and needs, and trying to keep the relationship alive and healthy. Each time I earnestly tried to live up to both her expectations and mine but, in the end, I had to admit failure.

It was a painful realization to come to.  Even though we weren’t face to face during that conversation, we were just on the other side of each other’s monitors.   She was probing, asking hard questions.  I was wishing I could find any answer besides the truth.  So I paused, searched myself and realized I had to be honest, I had to hurt her and myself and stop dragging this moment out any longer.    She expressed anger and disappointment, I was feeling sad and disappointed, and angry with myself.  It was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me”.  I’d bitten off more than I could chew, I’d started a brand new serious relationship on the cusp of my second child’s birth. The enormity of my stupidity weighed me down like a diver’s belt.

And so I’ve come to the realization that I can love more people than I can maintain deep relationships with.  I still love Amber, I’m still attracted to her, but I finally fessed up to the facts:  I couldn’t be in a committed relationship with her.   She had the time and energy for me, but I’m not able to be consistent about the time and energy I give to her, and that’s not fair.

Breaking up sucks.  Breaking up with someone I love, respect and really enjoy was very, very difficult.  Since then we’ve been working on our friendship, figuring out the right amount of flirting and salacious suggestions.  Trying to keep a fun, playful friendship going without hurting each other.    We’ve seen each other once since then, she and Emmett stopped by on their way back from Seattle.  It was a good visit, and the attraction is still there between us.   It was hard to see her and hard to say goodbye, but would have been harder if we hadn’t broken up.   If we hadn’t broken up, the space between us would have been filled with unmet expectations and broken promises.

We’ve been careful not to close too many doors with respect to the future.   There may be future opportunities for us to play and beat on each other.  We certainly want to continue with our friendship and, now that they’re a mere two hours away from me in Portland, visiting each other is more of a possibility.

So there you have it.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, about the difference between what I can imagine and what I can actually do.  I’m really, really glad Amber and I were able to salvage our friendship.

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7 Responses to How many is too many?

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