When I first started dating my master, he was with Someone Else.
I know, this isn’t your typical fairy tale, but it’s mine. I hope you listen, because it’s difficult to make this short. Anyway. Let me tell you about her.
Someone- in every typical, measurable societal standard- more “valuable” to him than myself. Someone I saw as beautiful, confident, and powerful. Someone I looked up to, and placed myself, naturally I believed, below.
She got more of his time. More of his attention. He loved her more. Her needs were more important to him than mine. Her priorities were his priorities. He spent his vacations with her, his holidays with her, everything. Everything about him was hers. She had everything I’d been taught I should want– and, moreover, she made it clear it would never be mine.
For better or worse, I didn’t expect anything different.
I believed theirs to be the model open relationship, as this had always been my experience in the past. The “primary couple” was most important. Any other relationships were just fun, extra. I expected to get spoiled by them, or at least one of them. I wouldn’t have any responsibilities. I wouldn’t have to put aside my vacation days to share with them. I wouldn’t have to listen to their bad days. That was what they had their partner for. If I didn’t get this, I would leave. After all, what else was there for me?
Oh, he floated ideas about a triad between me, her, and him— which would allow us all to be, more or less, equally important to each other. But he knew that meant she and I would have to get along. I think, even then, he knew HE barely got along with her and wasn’t going to force her on me. My point is I want it to be crystal clear I had no reason to suspect I might have more; this was not a matter of, “Well, I’ll be okay with this for NOW, because I will have more in FUTURE.” Nope. What I have with him today is completely not what I ever imagined.
I wasn’t even THE girlfriend.
Sometimes the person makes a point of saying, “I have a wife and a girlfriend.” They see that as the model, the primary+1.
Not in my case. I wasn’t second best, heck, I wasn’t even third best. I probably came…fourth or fifth in his priorities? Even though, even back then, I could tell he had feelings for me. Feelings that did not mean any less, for my lack of “status” in his life. After all, I had my life that came before him, too.
He had a few girlfriends, at the time. More accurately, he had a regular play partner in the cities he traveled to for work. I was his local play partner. I guess I should have felt awful. Some days I did– but I wonder how much of that was me. How much of it was societal pressure that wanted me to feel bad. That pushed me to only want what they told me to want.
“Well, okay, you were just the girlfriend, but you probably had something else special. Like, you were the freaky, kinky playmate offering him things that nobody else did?”
By about six months in, yes, I had become his definitive Kinky Playmate. I was the first, and only, woman who had submitted to him. I was his travel companion. His confidante. Whereas, she was his wife. The woman who accompanied him to special events, raised his family, shared his bed at night (sometimes). We were now Different.
But for that six months, I was nothing but a much lesser version of the relationship he had with Her. He never lied to me, but he never sugar coated our relationship.
So, you might ask, why did you stay?
Fair question. And I do have answers. But the answer that rises to the top of my mind is, “Because why should I have left?” The truth is that I felt good around him. He made me feel special, in a way that none of my previous boyfriends (and sort of girlfriends) had done. I didn’t want to go, because I didn’t have a reason to go.
I didn’t care what my friends said. My poly friends told me, “You should feel just as important as she is, you’re also his partner.” My vanilla friends said the opposite; I should feel bad for being less than her and I should find someone who would put me first. I brushed all of it aside. Because, as he said to me one evening, “Who is in this room?” I answered, “You and me.” That’s all that matters, he said. I lay there, questioning this and myself, but in my heart I believed him. Or at least I wanted to believe him. Something told me it was the right thing to do.
It helped, I think, that, for a while, it was just him and me. That I had time with him, before I met any poly folk. At first, there was nobody was telling me I should feel just as important as the wife. Sure, I had vanilla people telling me how miserable I should be. But these same people also happened to be in pretty miserable relationships. I wondered who they were really trying to convince was being treated well. And for myself? I wasn’t sure if I felt special, but I didn’t care, because I thought I was his really good friend, not competition to her. (Okay, not always true, some days I did feel down. But never down enough to actually leave.)
I didn’t need sugary words. I needed to hear the truth.
I needed to know that I could handle my reality. That sometimes, I’m in the same role as one of their other partners, and it’s not as strong of a role, but that doesn’t make me any less valuable as a person.
We’re not taught this life skill, to find uniqueness in ourselves, rather than our roles. Oh, we’re told it. Stupid memes that tell us we’re beautiful and unique. But we’re also taught we need to be someone’s True Love. That message hits us far more often. We say we respect the workers, but it is easier to gain respect when you can attach a “the” to your title. “I’m the CTO.” “I’m the owner.” “The” is better than “a.”
(Perhaps you’ve already learned this lesson somewhere. If so, I am glad for you. Or maybe you’ve learned this, but have not thought to apply it to romantic situations. Personally, I find life lessons are useful in any context; I’ll frequently draw on experiences in my non romantic life to help me with my romantic dilemmas and vice versa. Not sure how to handle your metamour sleeping overnight at your home? Well, how would you handle it if your boyfriend’s cousin and their girlfriend were staying the night?)
I learned something in our relationship that none of my others had taught me.
As our relationship evolved, so did I. I realized I could be happy either way. With him as one of my few, close friends, OR as one of my many wonderful, but more distant, acquaintances. Or as anything at all, because while our time together might have been limited or constrained (no vacations, no expectations of time with his or our friends, none of what you might expect in a Romantic Relationship), it was quality.
It’s true that today we’re connected as closely two people can be. But there are other people in my life with whom I have not grown that close. And yet they are still important to me, and they will always be someone with whom I will share my time. If he had gone that way, just another friend, he would still be my friend. Do you know how rare deep, lasting, and intimate friendship is in this world?
Sometimes you are not their One True Love. Or even their Super Best Most Closest Friend.
Sometimes you are “just that friend.” It is your choice how to perceive this. You can let the jealousy eat you up. Or you can realize your own specialness and be glad you can share it with them— as you recognize their specialness and are grateful for the exposure. You can step up and earn your own place. The choice is always yours (and sometimes the other person won’t step up with you, and you’ve got to figure out if you just want to let it go).
I can’t promise it’ll turn out well every time. Putting that trust in someone to treat you well, without the promises. Hoping they won’t disappoint you. Sometimes I’ll even enter an intimate, romantic relationship with someone, and it turns out this person has no place for me. That I will never, ever have any real importance. That they have no intention of capturing my mind, but merely toying with my body. They are just another girlfriend collector.
But so life goes. Sometimes people use me. Sometimes I use them. I try, because I wish to be considerate, to ensure I have consent to use people for fun. But misunderstandings happen. Still, at BEST, I find these sorts of relationships boring and disposable. They serve a purpose, but rarely turn out “well” for me. They are just…something to pass the time.
Some days I wonder what my life would be like if it had gone differently.
If I had been simply a fun toy for him to spend time with. Or if I had been another of many of his friends, always there, but never in any particular capacity.
Because, you see, yes, I had become Different than her. Great, right? That’s the goal? I guess, but also bear in mind that he and she had a super unhealthy relationship.
Suppose that he and his wife already shared a deep, bonded M/s relationship? Suppose they did everything together that I would want to do with him— but he wanted to do those things with me, too? Suppose he and she had, in fact, been good for each other?
Truth be told, I SHOULD have been the Lite version of her. She shouldn’t have just been the Wife. The person on his arm to give him respectability. She should have been his friend, his confidante, even his Submissive. (Now I’m not saying all wives need to submit, but somewhere out there is a Wife that submits to her Husband, and also there’s a submissive Girlfriend. It’s just an option.) And she’d have years between them that I could not, and would not want, to compete. And it would be beautiful. And it would not make me any less beautiful myself.
Suppose I continued to be just the Relationship “Lite” version of his wife. That no matter how our relationship had grown, I would not have been unique or special. Would it have been enough to be Me?
…suppose my life had gone down another path?
Let me revisit the first six months, year, whatever it might have been. I don’t remember exactly. Before I’d developed a single special role. Before I started traveling with him as his sexy secretary and emotional confidante.
Let’s imagine that, instead of her and I diverging into very different paths, we’d instead gone along the same trajectory. Both of us continuing to build and deepen our own relationships with him.
I thought about this, because I love to overthink. What if I’d become, oh, his rope bunny…and so had she? What if every step forward I took, she took the same one? Or, “worse,” if she had taken the initiative and I had merely followed in her footsteps. It’s reasonable that she, like me, would have similar interests. He did take interest in us both. It stands to reason he might even- gasp!- have a type (one day she and I showed up at the same even in the same outfit. I found it hilarious).
Were that the case, I wouldn’t be able to tell myself, “Well, she’s his wife, but I’m his rope bunny.” Or, “She’s the one he goes on vacations with most of the time, but I’m the one he travels abroad with on special occasions.” Instead it might go like this, “She’s his wife, and I’m…the person that is at a stage far, far lower on the totem pole.”
Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, it doesn’t make me unhappy imagining that life. I didn’t want to be the one providing love and comfort to the guy in a sexless, loveless relationship. I imagined a world, in fact, where she and he were in a wonderful relationship and she and I were friends. In my dreams, she smiled at me.
…if I were not in a unique role today, would that mean I meant nothing?
I was in a weird place, romantically speaking. I didn’t want the responsibility of being loved. I actually enjoyed the relative, pressure free position I held of NOT being as loved and needed. But I think it was more than that that got me through that particular trouble. And it taught me so much.
I didn’t ever think I needed him to feel special. I was already incredibly special just being able to handle the kind of life I had. I knew I had something amazing to offer anyone lucky enough to share my life. Not arrogance, but a simple acceptance of myself (this, of course, an attitude I wish I had every second of every day; some days I feel completely worthless).
I’m absolutely important and special and unique to him- now. I wasn’t then. And I didn’t need some stupid pat on the head and false sweet words to soothe me. I’m a little, some days, but I’m not a child.
The truth is I am always special– but not because of Him.
I am -almost- always confident in my self worth. I am always living my life- with or without my partners by my side, but hopefully with them!
I’m not defined by who I’m dating, so it doesn’t matter how important or unimportant I might be to them, but how important they are to ME. Sometimes, luckily, it goes both ways. Sometimes it matches up so perfectly it’s mind blowing. Sometimes we figure out a way to carve out a role with each other. But sometimes we do not.
There are people in your life that you, I pray, are lucky enough to one day meet.
People like him. It doesn’t matter the Role you hold with them. It doesn’t matter how Significant the Role. This person possesses the ability to make you feel incredible and special and valued, even within the short time you are able to spend with them. And within the limited context (no vacations, no regular date nights, but still whatever you’ve got with them is quality).
Oh, I know that sounds crazy. The girlfriend on the side feels special? But I didn’t see myself as the side piece, however others might have seen me, or, for that matter, still see me. I saw, and see, myself as one of his most special friends, among many. Someone who he trusts and confides in. Someone he trusts enough to be naked in front of– and I don’t mean just in bed.
And every single time I meet someone who reminds me of him, in this way, I take them under my wing and cling to them like my life depended on it. Because one day it might. I trust them with my life. And, truth be told, there aren’t many people like this. So if you meet one, please, hold on to them.
Always, I have myself and my life. That is where I find my happiness.
I think I’ve said enough for now.
Just think about it, please.
After all, how many people do you, or I, have the time and energy to be their most important person (or among their most important persons)?
Remember, above all, that you might not be Most important, but you are still Important!
(Note, there are many, many cases where each person grows to be just as important as anyone else in the relationship. Where everyone does, in fact, have unique roles. I may write on this later. For now, I want to acknowledge this kind of relationship, because it is so rarely talked about, and, in my experience, far more common!)