Long-term readers of this blog will remember how, for over a year, Lucy dated a non-monogamous man named Charlie. It was a whirlwind of great sex, heightened emotions, fun times, frustrations, anxiety and pain, until it eventually ended when Lucy decided that as much as she liked Charlie, she couldn’t deal with the fact that he was married and had sex with other women.
If you missed all that, it might be a good idea to catch up first. The best place to start is Mr Non-Monogamous, Part 1 – The Unexpected Date. Buckle up, it’s a turbulent ride and some of it contains a hefty amount of smut.
Lucy told Charlie about this blog fairly early on in their relationship, and always hoped that one day he might be prepared to write his side of the story. And now, finally, enough water has passed under the bridge that he is.
So here is Charlie’s Story.
NOTE: What follows is the entirely unedited work of the author. Lucy simply asked Charlie to explain what it was like for him to be in a relationship with a monogamous woman, and this is what he wanted to say.
Like many sensible grown-ups who find themselves at the natural end-point of a romantic or sexual relationship, but still really like each other as humans, Lucy and I remained friends after we split up last year. Why wouldn’t we? The relationship didn’t go south because we stopped enjoying each other’s company, nor was there some huge fight that left this irreconcilable rift between us. We simply ran out of road – and that’s fine.
There was also the matter of her blog. I knew from the beginning that Lucy was a dating blogger, and that at some point she’d write about the time we spent together: the dates, the arguments, the sex, the feelings. When the time came, we even agreed a sensible approach to the publishing process: she sent me drafts of each post, I added a few comments, asked for this detail here and that description there to be rewritten or removed, and where Lucy really didn’t want to change something, we usually found a workable compromise. As a result, nothing that went onto her blog came as a surprise – except when it came to the comments, both on the posts themselves and on Twitter.
After a few weeks of watching people speculate about my motives, dissect my every word (those reported on the blog, at least), condemn my lifestyle, and generally turn me into a bit of a pantomime villain (or just another fuck boy), I began to doubt the truth behind that old Oscar Wilde quote: I really was much happier NOT being talked about.
Lucy was adamant that sharing our story would shine a positive and necessary light on non-monogamy. “Look,” she’d say. “All these people are actually reading and thinking about poly for the first time, and they’re getting to see all the good bits, as well as the complications.”
I wasn’t so sure. It was only much later though, after our relationship had ended, that I realised why that was the case – and what the implications were for my future dating decisions. But we’ll come back to that later…
…because we should probably start at the beginning! What first attracted me to the gorgeous, funny, clever, energetic, driven, and creative Lucy? Gosh, that is a tough one.
You lot obviously know Lucy the award-winning blogger, but I’ll confess at this stage that when I first read it, I wasn’t a massive fan of her blog. To me, her dating stories felt a little too snarky, a little too cutting, and often pretty dismissive of body types that didn’t conform to a particular beauty standard (they’re short, they’re fat, oh no!). Oddly though, that actually made me want to get to know her better, rather than putting me off. I wanted to find out what made her tick, and how much of the Lucy character – about whom I was decidedly ambivalent – was ‘real’.
So we chatted and we flirted. We met-cute in a bar I knew near Shepherd’s Bush, and snogged in a dark corner. You know about those bits. You’ve seen the screenshots and read all about the inner conflict raging within Lucy at the time. Take the plunge with a *gasp* almost-married man, or run away before everything got too scary. Tough call.
What I’m sure you can guess is that for me the decision to pursue something with Lucy was much easier – at least at first. As with a lot of poly relationships, the only thing that gave me real pause for thought was the logistics of it all. On a good day, we still lived over an hour away from each other by public transport, so right at the outer edges of the distance I was typically willing to travel for regular sex. I had a full-time job that already took up a lot of my time, a home life that wasn’t exactly quiet either, and one other partner who I saw a couple of times a month. Did I really have time for something new?
Of course for some people, you make time. And my word, Lucy is some person. Right from the start, we had the kind of easy chemistry that I’d only found with a handful of people over the previous 15 years of dating; and one of those is the woman I ultimately married. I found her very easy to talk to, and both generous and thoughtful in how much of herself she offered up in response. In those early day, she was also more relaxed than her alter ego; less brittle, and full of a fizzy, spontaneous sort of energy that I perhaps hadn’t expected.
Given everything we had in common – age, middle-class background, family size, academic record, cultural touchpoints, political views – it made sense that we’d have plenty to talk about, and when, after a few dates, the talking progressed to fucking, it turned out we were incredibly compatible in that department too.
Lucy’s blog series contained many kind comments about my sexual prowess, and I’m relieved to report that I can return every single one with interest. It takes two (or more) to tango, so I’m always reluctant to describe someone as ‘good in bed’ – all I can really say with any certainty is whether they’re good at fucking me – but Lucy ticks just about every box a guy could want (a guy like me, anyway). She’s passionate, enthusiastic, open to new things, GREAT at the whole kissing thing, and no less proficient at using her mouth in other ways. We were an excellent fit, metaphorically and literally.
What gave the sex an extra edge was the set of complex and often difficult feelings that existed between us, especially as the relationship developed. I don’t want to romanticise the broader impact those feelings had – they made us both truly miserable at times, and caused some regrettable and unpleasant arguments – but as soon as we took off our clothes (or, more typically, each other’s), it was like an unspoken agreement suddenly kicked in, and we focused on channelling all that pent-up emotion into the connection between our two bodies. It made for sex that was intense in all the best ways; when you’re both that wired, that present, that thrillingly aware of the other person, you feel every single touch of their fingers on your skin, and every word they breathe and moan into your ear.
So yeah, sex was never a problem. Sadly, plenty of other things were, and while the physical chemistry did an effective job of disguising those fault lines for a long time, shagging will only take you so far. The same goes for nice dinners, stimulating conversations over a bottle of wine, and even genuinely deep feelings for one another. For me, those components are all necessary, if a relationship is to flourish, but not sufficient.
This feels like a good time to circle round to the exam question Lucy set when we first discussed this post: what is it like to date a monogamous woman, as a non-monogamous guy? Because the more time we spent together, the more important a factor her monogamy – and my non-monogamy – became. That sounds like it should be obvious, right? Or certainly not the kind of development that ought to come as a massive shock.
Here’s the thing though. I knew that we wanted different things from a relationship. I knew that Lucy was looking for ‘her own person’. And I knew – I knew – that whatever the connection between us was and wasn’t, it certainly wouldn’t last forever. But just like finding out the ending of a book in advance, and still being surprised by the route the author took to get there, my working assumption that Lucy would simply… find someone else turned out to be far too simplistic (and optimistic) a forecast.
However, it wasn’t entirely irrational. After all, I’ve dated monogamous women before, and that’s pretty much how it always worked out! Why wouldn’t it be the same with Lucy? Well.
To put it as clearly as possible, it was different with Lucy because she never viewed me or our relationship through anything other than a monogamous lens. Other women I’ve dated were more accepting of my ‘poly lifestyle’. They had questions, they sometimes wanted to talk stuff through in order to clarify how it all worked, but at a base level they saw our relationship for what it was: impermanent, fun while it lasted, and – for me at least – part of a bigger picture. They also understood that for it to become anything more, they’d need to embrace everything that came with that.
With Lucy, all those lines got blurred. To my (often immense) frustration, she pushed back against every attempt I made to pull our relationship out of the closed-off compartment into which it had initially slotted. The idea of potentially meeting my wife one day absolutely terrified her. She blocked me on all social media, so she didn’t have to be confronted by the reality of my happy family life, then berated me for flaunting it whenever she decided to torment herself by looking at my feed. What had started as a bit of a joke about the ‘unfairness’ of my marital status (“if only I’d met you first!”) became, in time, a genuine and increasingly awkward lament, as I scrambled to find a more diplomatic way of responding than “well actually, I’m kind of happy with how things worked out.”
To be clear, Lucy never said anything directly disrespectful about either my wife or my other regular partner, and indeed she made it clear on multiple occasions that she admired and respected them both as people. But actions matter more than words, and what took me far too long to get my head round – one that’s just as much on me as it is on her – is that in a whole series of her actions, in some of the things she didn’t say or do, and indeed in the very way she framed our relationship, there was evidence that (to put it bluntly) she wished with all her heart that neither one of them existed. And look, my wife is a lovely, understanding, self-assured person, who (I think and hope) feels utterly secure in our relationship, but even so: “I’m dating someone who wants nothing to do with you and would prefer that you didn’t exist” is a tough sell!
The blog series didn’t help. As I said at the beginning of this post, I was never entirely comfortable with how Lucy wrote about non-monogamy, but until recently I couldn’t really put my finger on the reason for that. I think I now know why it wasn’t obvious at the time. I was so caught up in the individual details of each post – the dialogue, the jokes, the pithy observations, and all the other base ingredients of Lucy’s trademark style – none of which particularly bothered me, that I missed the wider context through which all those things were funnelled. Lucy wanted a monogamous relationship with me, and in the absence of that, she wanted to pretend that the relationship we had was a monogamous one.
Even more problematically, she wanted me to pretend that it was monogamous too. Anything that disrupted or intruded on that fantasy was almost literally too much for her to deal with. All “poly is not for me, but it’s a totally valid lifestyle choice and I respect those who do it” protestations aside, I never sensed that Lucy fundamentally believed it could be right or ethical to fuck another woman’s husband (and then be expected to look them in the eye afterwards). Her brain couldn’t make that leap, however much I and other people told her it was all fine.
As a result, the Charlie posts never explore in any way what our relationship could have looked like. Even allowing for the fact that it wasn’t what she wanted in the long term, when your starting point is “I am monogamous and I don’t want a poly set-up”, you’re never going to get under the skin of why your poly partner (and his partners) think, act, and behave in the ways they do. Nor, for that matter, are you going to shed much light on how the relationship you do have could be better.
And it felt like that shortcoming was reflected in a lot of the conversations she and I had at the time, which again, was as much my fault as hers. Essentially we asked the wrong exam question. Instead of looking for external compromises and trade-offs (“if I do x, I get y”, “if you stop doing this thing, I’ll stop complaining about that other thing”, etc) to maintain the illusion of something that didn’t – and could never – exist, we should’ve flipped it round and looked at where the limits of our relationship lay, given that it was a poly one. Non-monogamy was a fait accompli, the price of admission; if keeping that fact front and centre meant that the most we could ever be was friends with benefits, that’s what we should’ve gone with, rather than shoving it into the background and instead trying to hammer the square peg of her desire to have someone for herself into the round hole of my inability to provide that.
What about those future dating decisions? Would I date someone so profoundly and doggedly monogamous again? In a word: no. Not in the way I tried to date Lucy, anyway. Sex is different – and far less complicated – so I’d still happily consider something more laid-back or casual, but I no longer see how a full-blown relationship with that kind of person could work for me (or my wife). Apart from anything else it would feel fundamentally unbalanced, though while Lucy would no doubt see that as a one-way street, I’d argue that it very much runs both ways.
For all the things I can’t give someone seeking a monogamous partner – from the basics (time and attention) through to the big-ticket items (marriage and kids) – there are important needs of mine that they can’t meet either. Chief among them is the feeling of dating someone who actually wants to be with me, and who sees it as a desirable state of affairs. However much you dress it up, Lucy viewed our relationship as both a symbol and an outcome of her failure to find ‘The One’; as something she was settling for, mainly in order to get laid. I was there in the absence of someone better, and while I was always more than happy to satisfy her carnal needs, I can look back now and see that it’s not a sustainable position to be in.
Ironically, given how often Lucy used to complain about being ‘second-best’, I want to feel like the people I bring into my life as secondary partners will think of me as ‘enough’; that rather than constantly lamenting what they don’t have, they’ll see me as a juicy treat, to be enjoyed as and when circumstances allow. One thing’s for certain: going forward, I will never be anyone’s consolation prize, and I won’t allow the other important people in my life to feel like I’m fencing off a large piece of it from them.
I hope that all makes sense! Full disclosure: Lucy told me I could say lots of mean things about her if I wanted, but honestly, I’m not sure you need a detailed list of her flaws and failings. They’re really no different to mine or yours; or rather, she’s no better or worse a person than most of us, and I’m not interested in providing a character analysis (and certainly not a character assassination). She is who she is, the dynamic between us was what it was, and like most relationships that came before it – and most that will take place in the future – it ended, because that’s just how life goes sometimes.
If you have any questions, please do leave them in the comments section, and I’ll endeavour to answer as many as possible. Lucy has made it clear she’ll screen out anything abusive or unpleasant, so I’d advise anyone thinking along those lines not to waste their breath!