Though she’s new to poly lifestyles and still adjusting to the terminology, one might call Heidel’s living arrangement a poly-fidelitous closed triad, though she prefers to just call it her pride. Prior to discovering poly lingo, that’s what she called her family: a pride of lions. Heidel’s pride consists of one other beautiful woman, one gorgeous man, three sons, two stepsons, a step-baby on the way, one very, very old pitbull named Jones, two snakes, a bunch of lizards and toads, and one ham-eating Eastern box turtle named Gary. Heidel writes from Central California.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

A Year and a Day

The ancient Celts had a tradition in which they would marry for a year and a day. Each year, they would revisit their vows at an annual gathering (usually Beltane in May). If the relationship wasn’t working out, they’d call it. I always liked that idea. It wasn’t as permanent as modern marriage institutions are.

Our pride, or triad, is nearing its one-year anniversary. Usually about this time in a relationship I start to realize it’s in a decline. Not so with this one. Remarkably, I feel that our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. Sure, we’ve hit a few major snags, but we’ve overcome them. Usually if I hit a snag, I’ll mark it down on a list to use later during the divorce proceeding.

So what’s different this time? How have I been able to overcome these problems? How is it that after a whole year I’m looking forward to the next year and the year after that? Did I somehow morph into a Pollyanna?

I think the answer to those questions is that I’ve learned how to navigate this relationship – I’ve learned how to give and take, to negotiate, to change my personal values to better match those of the entire pride. Please don’t mistake that to mean I’ve devalued myself. Rather, I’ve learned to incorporate the pride’s needs into my own.

As an example, early in our relationship I had a bad habit of mocking the Lioness for what I perceived to be a submissive attitude toward the Lion. If he told her he didn’t think it was a good idea for to do a thing, she wouldn’t do it, no questions asked. I couldn’t believe she’d let a man tell her what to do. I never considered myself a feminist, but I certainly had a hang up when it came to being bossed around by a guy. I had married two submissive men prior to this relationship for that very reason. Obviously, the fact that I was twice-divorced proved that something wasn’t working for me.

My mocking, dismissive behavior bothered and upset my partners. It took several days of discussion to realize that I was dismissing the Lion’s suggestions – mistaking them for orders – simply because he was the dominant male in the room. It took some convincing, but I realized that not everything he said had an ulterior motive or was meant to control me. I had to learn to trust that he was genuinely concerned about me and my safety – any directives he gave me or the Lioness were in this regard. Sadly, had I realized earlier that I had a habit of subconsciously belittling and dismissing male figureheads in my life, my earlier relationships might have had a chance.

In order to change some fundamental issues in my life that were causing problems in our pride’s relationship, I had to take stock of my values. I had a bad habit of living for myself. I was a single mother fresh out of a couple of unhealthy relationships, ready to assert my independence. I wasn’t exactly looking for another long-term relationship. Besides, even in long-term relationships I had a habit of remaining fiercely independent. Married twice, I never took my husbands’ last names. I always kept a separate checking account. I always had my own car, my own job and an escape plan.

A year ago, I suddenly found myself madly in love with two people I’d known for many years. I swooned, fell head over heels, the whole deal. Suddenly, for the first time, I found someone (in a surprising twist I actually found two someones) I wanted to share everything with. Heck, I was even willing to consider taking someone else’s name. Everything I considered permanently important – my independence, pursuing my career rather than paying attention to my family – disappeared in the light of NRE. It took a while for that NRE to fade some, but when it did I wasn’t left with the core of a relationship, as would have previously been the case. Instead, I was left with two very loving people who were watching me expectantly. Would I continue to pursue my individual goals and desires above all else? Or would I take the pride into consideration? Would I try to merge my goals, my values, with that of the pride?

For the Lion and Lioness, it was easy. They had merged their goals and life plans long ago. And many of those goals and plans did not include me. At first, that startled and frightened me. But when I expressed interest in those goals, and when I presented some goals of my own that included the entire pride, their goals and plans began to shift as well. Before we all knew it, we were making family plans that included everyone. Plans for the pride. Plans for us.

We’re still a young pride, still trying to figure out our place in the world and our place with each other. But our values have shifted. Before, it was them and me. Their family and my family. Their ideas and my ideas. The excitement now is realizing how much that has changed. The Lion and I had lunch at a brewery the other day. We were talking to a couple at the table next to us and the Lion mentioned something about my youngest son. He called him “our son.” It was a very subtle gesture, but it meant the world to me.

I’d never thought I’d say this, but I’m looking forward to another year and a day with my pride. Here’s to another 366 days.

Heidel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Heidel ; September 25, 2007


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