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How Shaun became polyamorous

On this page, I intend to tell my story of how I discovered polyamory and how I decided to pursue this lifestyle. I intend to be honest but to not use real names unless I am sure that the person named would not care.

I’ll start early, and work towards the present. I hope that this story will be of interest to people, as I think it will be interesting for me to be an archaeologist of my own past in order to continue my path of self-discovery.

Part one: College

I was dating a wonderful girl named Erin. We had been together for two years and I was really in love with her. In fact, I still do after all of these years. In the beginning of my Junior year, a new girl, a freshman, started to hang out with people in our group. She was beautiful, brilliant, and I was transfixed almost instantly by her.

Now, rather than hide this and approach Lauren behind my girlfriend’s back as many might do, I talked to Erin about this. She took it well at first, and after a while I started to spend a lot of time with this new girl, Lauren. The three of us started to spend a lot of time together, and we all got along.

None of us had ever heard of polyamory. Lauren knew I was with Erin, and that I was sleeping with her, but I was not yet sleeping with Lauren who was a virgin at the time. But we all were friends and I cared for both of them. After a while, Lauren and I were curious about this progressing situation. It was shortly after this discussion that we discovered a polyamory website, and we were instantly attracted to the idea.

And then there are mistakes. Polyamory was not an idea that everyone accepts, especially at first. After a while Erin was no longer comfortable with the arrangement, and so I broke up with her and stayed with Lauren. Now, in the long run I stayed with the wrong girl, as Lauren ended up doing things that effected my financially, emotionally, etc. We were engaged after I graduated college and things got progressively worse.

I discovered that i missed Erin, but she would not take me back. I also discovered that Lauren was manipulating me and others around me, and that she never actually liked Erin in the first place but pretended to for some reason that escapes me.

And in the end I left Lauren and moved back home for a while. I became depressed by a terrible relationship that I didn’t pull out of for years.

That was my first experience with anything remotely like polyamory, and it would be many years before I went down that path again.

Part Two: Background

I have always felt a little different about these things. I have always wondered why people force themselves into seemingly unnatural and arbitrary circumstances. I have always wondered why people are so concerned with conformity and normality.

I started being interested in girls when I was in middle school. Who knows when it actually happened, but it was likely around 6th grade when I was listening to horridly bad music that the girls I knew liked as well. Who knows why pre-teens and teenagers do anything they do, but I did things to get attention from women.

It was clear to me that I liked more than one girl at a time. It was clear to me that almost everyone had at least one interest, whether that interest was some early form of sexual interest or not. I am not sure if I ever thought specifically about why people chose to be with one person for some particular reason or not, but I certainly felt some odd tension in knowing that while I like two girls, if I wanted to be with one this might ultimately mean not being with the other.

The current generation seems to not have this problem. And I wonder if maybe I was too naive to not have seen the same in my own generation, but I think that maybe the trend towards lack of monogamy among teenagers now might be somewhat new, or at least an expansion on the theme as compared to 15 years ago.

Nonetheless, I grew up thinking that monogamy was normal, and any desires I would have to be with more than one girl was fantasy or cheating. And so for many years, including the few years after college and what I experienced there, I was monogamous. OK, I made the attempt at monogamy, just like most other people.

I had girlfriends, one at a time, and when I would meet other girls I would either feel like I had to restrain my desire, practice serial monogamy, or to cheat. Now, I was not the kind of person that would cheat often. In fact, I can only think of two times that I did so. And I knew that it was something that was done regularly by many people. Eventually I discovered, and this blows my mind even now, that cheating is generally more acceptable than polyamory. that is, the failed attempt at monogamy is more socially acceptable than the genuine and honest practice of non-monogamy.

Think about that. This is absurd, and yet it makes sense in some perverse sort of way. It was when I began to realize this that I started to think again about being polyamorous years after college. And that will lead into part three.

Part Three: My late 20′s

Several years ago I met a great girl named Jacque. She’s beautiful, smart, and bisexual. But she didn’t know that at the time, even though I could tell. We started dating, she moved to Philadelphia to be with me, and we were together for some time in a monogamous relationship. My friends liked her, I loved her, and yet there was a nagging in the back of my mind.

Somewhere along the line, we started talking about polyamory. I had not had any polyamorous relationships since college, and she had no experience with it at all. After a couple of stabs of relationships that ended up not working out, I eventually ran into a girl who I went to high school with; she was a few years behind me and someone I never remember speaking to back then. She was bisexual and polyamorous. I asked her out for drinks, and she said yes.

Her name was Rachel. She was quite amazing and we had instant chemistry. We went out a few times and, after talking to both of them about it I decided to introduce them to each other. They hit it off instantly. They liked each other as much as I liked both of them, and so before I could even wrap my mind around the idea, we were one of those elusive triads, a pretty stable one too. At least at first.

We were all dating each other. We wold go out together, stay in together sleep together in the same bed…we were having a great time. But Rachel had an ex. She was with him for many years. He wanted to try and get back together, but he was not willing to share her with me. (he was willing to share her with Jacque). She decided to go for it. She broke p with me, I was quite unhappy, and as a result of this I ended up ruining the possibility of remaining friends with Rachel. Jacque is still friends with her to this day.

Bottom line; I reacted badly. I had everything I wanted in life and I lost it. Not only did I lose Rachel, but in my greedy desire to gain back what I had lost in that triad situation, I tried to replace Rachel with another girl, Kelli. Now, I really liked Kelli. I eventually actually grew to love her too, but Jacque didn’t like her as much. We tried to make it work, but eventually it lead to Jacque leaving and the resulting depression of the whole situation to lose Kelli as well.

I was single. I was alone. I had to make some changes in my life. I took a close look at how I behaved over the previous months, and I realized that I was still feeling very insecure, even while I was with Jacque and Rachel. I realized that if I were to be successful in any relationship, whether it was monogamous or polyamorous, I would have to deal with my own insecurities. Had I been more comfortable with my fears, communicated better, and had been able to step back and look at what I was thinking better, I still might be friends with Rachel. It is my loss, and I wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again.

I would have to be willing to share my feelings more readily. I would have to be forward and honest about everything. I would have to communicate at levels of intimacy with the people in my life in ways that I was not comfortable. I would have to charge head-first into my fears. I would have to dig deep into my mind to find the things that scared me so that I wold not ever find myself surprised by a fear I was not aware of. This is a perpetual process.

Eventually I met Nicole. When I met her I told her I was polyamorous. I told her that if we were going to become involved, this would be part of my life. I’d done monogamy, it was not what I wanted, and I wanted to be poly. She had never heard of it. And yet she was willing to give it a try. And it was this that began a more mature and more experienced try at polyamory.

Part Four: Early 30′s

I’ve been putting this section off for some time for good reason.  When I started writing this section, I was involved in a great relationship with a great girl that I was really in love with.  I had had some experience with polyamory and I had decided to be open with this part of myself from the beginning any time I met someone I was interested in.

So, around April of 2008 I was at an FSGP meeting when a girl, Nicole, I had not seen before attended.  I introduced myself, we talked briefly, and I liked her.  Over time, I saw her more and eventually we started dating.  She was awesome; smart, successful, funny, and I was really attracted to her instantly.  She found out about my being polyamorous the first night we met, and she was interested in learning what it was, and eventually she was willinng to date me even while I was still with another girl (Jacque).

Eventually, that previous relationship petered out (as I expected, actually), and I was just with her.  We were quite happy together and I was happy to build up a relationship with her for a little while, so I did not pursue any other relationships.  But over time I began to spend some time with a girl who is also involved with FSGP, and when we both went to the 2008 AAI convention in Long Beach, CA I talked with Nicole about the possibility of us hooking up at the convention.  She said it was fine, so long as I was safe.

And so we did.  And to our surprise, we clicked really well, and I strarted dating the other girl.  The fact that both of them were bisexual meant that they could also explore some things that they both had wanted to do with girls, and so we had a triad for a while. We had a great time for a bit, and we were all happy…or so I thought.

Here’s the problem.  Nicole didn’t know that a relationship would grow out of our hooking up at the convention.  Nicole was not happy about the arrangement.  That initself would have been fine, except Nicole never told me so.  She just hoped, quietly, that the other relationship would fade and things could go back to the way they were.

When that didn’t happen, Nicole started treating the other girl pretty badly until she no longer even wanted to hang out with us, and eventually the relationship did fade amicably.  I’m still pretty close with the other girl, and we’ll remain friends.

We talked about what had gone wrong with that situation.  I told Nicole that she needs to communicate with me better, and she said she’d try.  She concluded that maybe it was just that she didn’t like the other girl, and maybe it would be better if it were with someone she actually liked.

And so once again we were just the two of us.  Things were great again, for a while.  Then out of nowhere I meet this totally awesome girl.  I liked her instantly, and Nicole did too.  This girl, let’s call her Joanna, is not bisexual so the nature of the relationship was different.  But they got along extremely well, and so despite not looking to meet anyone, I started dating Joanna after a little while.

The three of us spent lots of time together; we watched Babylon 5 (we’re nerds), made and ate dinner together, went out together, they both came with me to parties…it was awesome.  I was beginning to feel like I was one of the luckiest people in the world.  I had two great girls who I loved and you really liked each other and we had similar interests.

Then one day back in June of 2009, out of nowhere, Nicole breaks up with me.  She says she doesn’t love me anymore, that she’s felt this way for a while, and she is releived to tell me.  She didn’t really trust me (or anyone), was still having trouble communicating with me, and I had noticed her becoming a little distant and less affectionate (and I tried to talk with her about that), but I didn’t expect the break up.  It hit me hard–very hard, in fact–and I was really depressed about it.  The biggest issue was that I was living with Nicole still, and that made for a very difficult situation.  Nicole, at first, recognized that she handled the way she broke up with me badly, said I did everything right and that she felt bad.  But she also treated me pretty badly after that, which just made it more difficult.

After a couple of weeks, I was still very upset.  Nicole was pulling away, I was really hurt, and I lost my temper.  I was feeling rejected, unloved, and I missed her.  I acted inappropriately, she pushed me away, and I yelled, screamed, pushed her, scared her, and she (rightly) kicked me out of the house.

I was distraught.  I had hurt someone I loved, ruined what was left of our friendship, and she will now not see me or allow me in the house except to get my stuff out whenever I get my own place.  I don’t have anywhere to put them yet, so they remain there as of right now.  I’m homeless, staying with Joanna some nights and a friend’s house another, but I have little income and can’t afford much right now.

I recognize that I am responsible, and I feel terrible.  At the same time I miss Nicole severely, and wish I could take it back.  I can’t.  The relationship is over.  I hurt daily, and I will carry this for the rest of my life.  Nicole still talks to Joanna, she still wants to remain close to my friends (which I’m OK with, for the most part), but I cannot expect to gain her trust back.  It sucks.

And so I’m still polyamorous.  Right now, I’m focused on my relationship with Joanna, and we have agreed to not date any other people for now.   We’ll re-evaluate our relationship once I’ve settled into a new life.  I was trying to build a life with Nicole.  It’s all gone now.  I have to build anew.

I attend polyamory meetups in the area still, but mostly just to keep up relationships with friends there.  They are good people and I learn a lot from them.  I’ll continue to write, grow, and try to learn from my mistakes.

What have I learned from this ordeal?

Communication is essential in relationships, especially polyamory.  I communicated well, except for that very end which I am deeply ashamed of.  She did not communicate well ever during our relationship (although she improved a little over time).  If someone cannot communicate their feelings, fears, etc, they cannot do polyamory well.  They cannot do relationships well in general,but especially not polyamory.

I’ll keep that in mind for future relationships.

BTW, Joanna communicates very well.  I love her for that and for many other things.  I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being with me through this and understanding my pain recently.  I’ll now try and build a strong relationship with her and hope to make her as happy as she makes me.

Who knows what part 5 will contain….

Part 5: Hell in Atlanta with Seana (Joanna)

I have not updated this is ages.  Wow how much has changed.  Well, so much for anonymity.  Joanna was really Seana.  Seana Wood, actually.  She ended up being a nightmare of a person.  We did communicate well, but then when she got a job in Atlanta, asked me to move there with her (I did), and the subsequent shift in location and lifestyle everything went to hell.

Things went badly over time.  She communicated less and less, became distant, and one day after a minor argument she left me (deserted in a city where I knew almost nobody), refused to explain why, then made accusations about me being abusive.  I had never touched her.  What happened with nicole before I was responsible for, and I have never been shy to admit that.  But in this case there was no cause on my part.

Oh, and she gave me an STD.  My guess was she was sleeping with someone else and never told me.  BTW, the STD is gone now, with the help of modern medicine.

Since then I have started a relationship with Ginny.  Things are very good.  Turns out, I can’t date insecure people, and Ginny certainly is not that.  [section redacted, due to personal information being shared while quite angry with that person]

Any further developments will have to come in the form of posts on the blog itself.  I will not update this again.


1. Mary - April 3, 2009

I am interested in hearing about your journey to polyamory as I myself am an atheist and both my husband and I are polyamorous.

2. shaunphilly - April 3, 2009

There. I added a beginning. I’ll add to this little by little,

3. Mary - April 4, 2009

Cool, thanks. Isn’t it funny that the idea of loving more than one person at a time is so foreign to our society?

4. shaunphilly - April 6, 2009

Yes. Considering things like dating more than one person, serial monogamy, affairs, etc it would seem that people would figure out that this mythical ideal of monogamy–probably related to the idea of a soul mate–simply is not true.

I want a world where monogamy is not assumed, but rather chosen if both of the people involved would prefer that.

5. Mary - April 7, 2009

I think that would be an awesome world to live in. However, it’s a long way coming, at least another generation or two and yes, I am being overly optimistic with that prediction. I think one would need to have society stop assuming that you are Christian first and then getting them to stop assuming that one is monogamous would be easier to change.

6. Mary - April 8, 2009

It is mind boggling that it is more acceptable to lie and go behind someone’s back to have an affair than to have and open and honest and caring poly relationship. What does that truly say about religious morals?

7. Mary - May 24, 2009

In need of part four…lol

8. Hedonalia - May 25, 2009

Hi, I liked this a lot. It certainly can be messy, and wonderful. We have made mistakes and gone down dead ends but I would not want it any other way. Things are very good now but it’s important not to get too attached to one unchanging relationship form. Change is inevitable but also a force for good. You might like to see my two channels for nattering on about this: http://twitter.com/hedonalia and http://www.sustainablehedonism.org/blog. Good fortunes!

9. hambydammit - July 7, 2009

Nice article. Refreshingly honest. I’ll be anxiously awaiting part IV

10. shaunphilly - July 30, 2009

Part four is here.

More refreshing honesty. I debated on how honest to be. I made some mistakes, hurt someone I love, and I felt it is important to be honest about that.

I’ll keep plugging along on this ride of life.


11. JulietEcho - August 8, 2009

I agree that communication is by FAR the most important component of any poly relationship. The most important first step is knowing who is comfortable with what. If someone is comfortable being with more than one person but not with sharing them, they need to be upfront. If someone else isn’t comfortable with that situation and wants to be free to start additional relationships, they need to be clear about that.

I’m personally in a relationship with one man who doesn’t mind sharing me, but doesn’t want any other relationships himself, and another man who loves sharing me but would also like to at least casually date other girls. He has known that I have issues with this, and that it might not end well if we eventually try it, and he’s okay with that. It’s not necessary to his happiness, it’s just something he’d like to try if it doesn’t threaten our relationship.

If any of us had different needs, or were hiding feelings and urges, this wouldn’t work. Being completely open and honest about what we want is what brought us together and has kept us together for three years.

Have you considered looking into a quad, with two girls and another guy? Or one lesbian, two bi girls and you? Having another guy in the relationship could be great if you form a friendship, and that way there would be less pressure on you. Being the “pivot” of a triad is the hardest role in polyamory (I know that personally!) as far as stress goes, and maybe that’s something you just aren’t up for, given your past experiences.

12. ShaunPhilly - August 8, 2009

I think I would really enjoy a quad. When I was with my ex and my current gf, I was hoping that my primary would meet a guy or a girl that she wanted to see, but it never happened. Instead, things just went south. I miss her.

Right now, I’m concentrating on my relationship until we are secure, and then we’ll explore options.

13. hambydammit - September 1, 2009

Honesty is like magic. Unfortunately, it’s not the magic most people are looking for. To be honest, I think one of the worst things people do in relationships is look for something. That is, when Bob meets Sue, Bob’s looking for a sexpot who loves to party and wants to be best friends who also have lots of sex. Sue is looking for someone who can be fun but also has a serious, responsible side, and will eventually want to settle down, get married, and have kids.

It’s not that either of them is wrong for wanting a particular thing. It’s that when we try to get one specific thing, we often exclude dozens of other things that we would enjoy. We also tend to succumb to the fallacious belief that because we want something, if we get it, we’ll be happy.

Put another way, when we search for *This One Thing* we are effectively putting blinders on ourselves and giving ourselves only one shot at happiness, when the reality is that most people could be happy in many situations.

Just my two cents.

14. Danielle - September 24, 2009

Hey, I enjoyed reading your story and do wish you lots of luck. It seems you have learned some valuable lessons, and while they have come with pain, they will take you to a better future.

I thought I would add something to this for those who come across the page looking at alternative lifestyles. I am pretty sure I could never be a part of a polyamorous relationship. I understand it and understand how it is for some people. For me I am completely in love with my husband and don’t think I could ever give even a fraction of my heart to another. I am also a jealous type who would have a hard time if he loved another. But that doesn’t mean that I think monogamy is the only way to go. People like exploring outside the box too much and even when that is forbidden it causes issues. While all relationships are difficult and finding the type for you is hard to do, my husband and I enjoy a swing relationship. We hang out with other couples, date them, go to swing parties, and have sex with others. It is fun, enjoyable, and can be done while maintaining a strong relationship. We also have threesomes with single men and women. I am bisexual and he is straight.

I know this doesn’t have anything to do with what you are writing about and some people who are polymorous are against such relationships because most of them don’t have casual sex (they only have sex with people they love), but I thought your readers should know about other options beyond monogamy.

15. Patrick - November 18, 2009

My hero. Seriously. I don’t know any women who would agree to be in such a relationship and you had at least 3 of them.

Considering how people grow and change (as well as their circumstances – may want children in the future) I wonder if such relationships are destined to last or not.

16. A PISSED OF PERSON - April 23, 2010

F*** u dumb ass****
i mean who wastes their lifetime writing on how religion is fake
havent u got any other SHIT to do

17. Onelove - August 27, 2010

My husband had 3 simultaneous girlfriends during times we dated, but all at different physical intimacy levels. Was not easy to handle emotionally for me during that time. I was not willing to be one of a group, but was willing to let love blossom while he worked things out. We’ve been happily together 30 years now. I hope you can find fulfillment and love in your life.

18. Onelove - August 27, 2010

BTW… my husband and I are both atheists, but not sure that has anything to do with love.

19. Bob - July 6, 2011

Man going down is the EASY way…. so I’m not surprised most of you have picked it…. I’ll say this though…. when you’re done here and leaving this world …. don’t pack any flamable items, you guys will have enough trouble anyway.
It’s really easy to mock something that you can’t understand (or don’t want to understand as it will cause problems with your lifestyle). Give the Good News as much time as you give all this poly crap and you might just start understanding. Take care.

20. andy scicluna - December 14, 2011

Damn. all the women you dated were alright with the Polyamory, and only one or two of them weren’t Bi-Sexual. We need to get a drink sometime…

21. Mens Rea - February 11, 2012

I don’t get it, you were (are?) broke and have bipolar and these girls wanted to be with you!? Something must be wrong with them evolutionarily.. Even a midget can see that polyamory = great for your needs but not the girls’. Damn. At least muslims who practice polygamy allow for social mobility, status and inheritance for the women. What do these women get from you!?! They must be very stupid/have low self esteem!! Unless you are hot which I doubt!!! The only men who have a right to be polyamorous are film stars, not those at the bottom of the chain!

22. Ginny - February 11, 2012

Mens Rea,

There are more things on earth than are dreamt of in your hilariously limited philosophy. Real men and women behave in vastly diverse ways, for motivations that do not appear in textbooks of evolutionary psychology. While most of our basic drives can be attributed to evolutionary advantage, human beings most often make everyday decisions not by what will promote their genetic lineage, but by what they think will make them happy.

Being with Shaun makes me happy. I am not looking for a financial provider — I can provide for myself, and prefer to do so. I have been in close relationships with people who prioritized career over pleasure and relationships — I didn’t enjoy that, and I much prefer counting pennies with someone who has the same priorities in life that I do. The work that Shaun has done to manage his mood disorders has made him one of the strongest, wisest, most mature people I have ever met. He encourages me every day to be the best version of myself, while making me feel entirely loved and accepted for who I am. I could not ask for a better lover and companion.

Being polyamorous makes me happy. What’s in it for me? Only the freedom to love whoever I want, in whatever way feels right. Only the opportunity to be fully, radically honest with my partners, and know that they’re doing the same for me. Only the thrill of getting to know new, sexy people without jeopardizing the security of my long-term bonds. The network of partners and friends we’ve built through polyamory is supportive, loving, and endlessly fun. We all look out for each other’s interests, without suspicion or possessiveness. It’s marvellous.

I don’t know if this will do anything to convince you, and I don’t really care. If you go on thinking that only a deeply flawed and inferior woman would choose all of the above joys over a monogamous establishment with a good provider… well, to me that’s just funny.

23. Gina - February 11, 2012

Mens Rea! Hi! How the hell are ya?

So, Ginny said things in a fabulous and respectful way and I’m here to offer a fun, witty, smart ass response.

I have spent all day trying to decide how best to address you’re clearly intelligent and well thought out opinions above. Here are some options I came up with to explain why a woman like me would date a man like Shaun:

1. To offer a hilarious and elaborate explanation of a rare and terrifying disease I am suffering which renders me a idiotic, quivering mass of insecure flesh without of mind of my own. I read an article recently about a fungus that renders ants basically zombies. So based on your assumptions, I am either a useless woman or I have fallen victim to ant zombie fungus. Both are equally plausible. YOU DECIDE.

2. To tell you that I am totes dating him ironically. I am having comical fake vintage t-shirts printed up as we speak. Every hipster in the country will kill for one. Also, my sex life is being sponsored by PBR and fixies. THE SECRET IS OUT!

3. To let you know that my dating of Shaun is actually part of my master’s thesis research. Being unable to think for myself (on account of the zombie fungus), I’m waiting for Shaun to tell me what the thesis is…but I’m going to get an amazing and useless degree because of it!

All of these options were things I discussed with Shaun while we were mocking your post together. So, I guess that’s it…I love Shaun because I can openly mock idiots that say stupid shit on the internet with him and be happy that he is not them. Also, he’s brilliant, hysterical, an amazing communicator, and a loving and committed partner. I know that’s not worth much since he’s not an awesome film star like Gary Busey, but what can you do? Am I right or am I right?

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