Mr Non-Monogamous, Part 14 – Charlie’s Story

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!

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17 Comments

  1. 10th October 2020 / 9:19 am

    Well, isn’t that a bloody good and fascinating read!

    I’m really glad you’re both in a place to be looking back on things and understanding how they got to the stage they ended up at, as well as being able to see the good and not get it lost amongst the usual breakup pain which focuses only on the bad. It sounds like you both went into it for the right reasons, but we’re always going to be on near parallel tracks which led fractionally in different directions so could never either meet nor run together forever.

    Good luck, Charlie. I hope you do find future relationships with all the good bits of that you had with Lucy without the bad, though I also suspect that’s beyond a long shot as Lucy is one in a million!

  2. Alan
    10th October 2020 / 10:00 am

    Wow!

    What a great and openly honest blog that I personally have been itching to read since Lucy announced it a couple of weeks back. My full respect Charlie, being so open especially with the last couple of paragraphs as I really don’t think enough people take that view of * we are not all perfect so why fall out with people*.

    Thanks Charlie for your side and all the best for the future.

  3. Catherine
    10th October 2020 / 11:07 am

    I am glad Charlie has had the opportunity to write this piece. I had been his partner for a little over six years when this blog series started and I found the whole series incredibly painful to read. I found the occasional ‘fuck boy’ narrative painful and seeing someone you care about taken down on a weekly basis by the Twitter masses was hugely upsetting. For those of us in happy fulfilling non-monogamous relationships it’s an incredibly fulfilling enriching relationship structure that is far from selfish. It was hard to see someone you care and your own lifestyle torn down so frequently. I don’t think there was enough thought put into how this blog series would hurt those close to Charlie.

    I also want to respond to the person on Twitter who wanted to know about the impact Charlie’s lifestyle has on his partners. This question is framed as if his partners are being made to do something/unwillingly put up with for the sake of being with him. I am also non-monogamous and I too have other partners, some of whom Charlie met. I am also good friends with Charlie’s wife and was at their wedding. Non-monogamy is not something that is done to women by men, it is a relationship structure that makes many people very happy.

    • 10th October 2020 / 11:48 pm

      To be honest Lucy never ever thought Charlie was a tuck boy ,she really loved him from what I read.Am NOT sure why you and Charlie were hurt.

      Let’s also agree that this lifestyle is NOT for her and she admitted to that hence letting go of him even thou she really enjoyed him in which ever way.

      I sensed a bit of arrogance in Charlie’s side of the story,whilst I only felt love from Lucy’s side.I maybe was hoping for Charlie to tell how he felt about Lucy,how their relationship was and and.But that his truth and that’s how he wants to tell.

      All the best in your journey,and let me apologize for Lucy since you and Charlie are so hurt.

      I really want Lucy to find the one, she sound like such a cool person.

      • Mel
        11th October 2020 / 11:36 pm

        Lucy referred to Charlie as a fuck boy in the first three posts of the series, then another time as a greedy slut. She was also worried about whether he would hit on her friends, which had similar implications. I think that would be quite hurtful to hear about your partner!

        Fundamentally, Lucy and Charlie want to live their lives in different ways, and that’s neither of their faults. I really want Lucy to find The One as well!

  4. Anonymous
    10th October 2020 / 12:50 pm

    Well Charlie, you’ve done yourself proud with this post. A fascinating insight into how you thing and what fulfils you and it does not work with a monogamous person.
    It’s obvious you were very close to Lucy and still wish the best for her.

    The one area you didn’t touch on is “how do you select one person to be your wife”? While having your ex at your wedding is somewhat common – having a current lover is not – especially when know to you partner

    I wish you the best – the world is finally growing out of the “one man & woman only forever” practice into one of “loving relationships”

    Posts like this show that polyamory has no intent to hurt rather to love & enjoy

    Thanks

    • Charlie
      12th October 2020 / 12:40 pm

      Thank you for the nice comments! As for your question, I suppose I’d probably want to turn it back around and ask how *anyone* ‘selects’ one person to marry? I actually don’t think it’s any more complicated an equation if you’re non-monogamous than it is if you’re monogamous – all the same considerations apply, you’re just selecting from a rather smaller pool of potential soulmates (given that they need to be at least comfortable with a more flexible relationship structure). I knew very early on that my wife was someone I wanted to be with for a long, long time, and while I could rattle off a bunch of the reasons for that here, I’m not sure I need to, because tbh they’re no more exotic than those a dozen other people might give for experiencing a similar realisation about their spouses/life partners! Does that make sense?

  5. Hollie
    10th October 2020 / 8:43 pm

    Great post! As a non-monogamous person I read this whole series with interest, and it was definitely the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ elements that made me the most uncomfortable. I really like my partners to meet each other, and I like to meet my metas, too! Apart from it just being cool to meet my people’s people and vice versa, it really helps to ensure that everyone is on board with the dynamic and no one is kicking the can on dealing with the reality of the situation. So far, I’ve never encountered a situation where a person was vehemently against meeting a meta for a reason that I found healthy. I like the emphasis on actions speaking louder than words – this is certainly my experience!

  6. Anonymous
    10th October 2020 / 9:08 pm

    Its a great read, really interesting and he writes very well, Charlie comes out of it well which surprised me, i thought he’d come out of it badly, brave & very interesting piece

  7. Tina
    11th October 2020 / 12:35 am

    Wow…from Charlie’s perspective, I finally see how a poly person views a relationship with a non poly and the inevitable struggle of two people wanting the same thing but on different terms. Emotional connections, great sex and the feeling of caring for another is amazing. The problem is that secretly one wants more than the other can give, so the non poly person creates this monogamous relationship that really only exists when they are together. Not that the poly person is not in the moment enjoying that “mono” time because they are the priority, the center, the only person receiving this attention. But that stops for the poly person when they leave. It doesn’t stop for the moon person. It’s unfortunate for Lucy because all her “feels” were real and Charlie fulfilled her desires (emotionally and sexually) while he was in her bubble of love. It sucks to realize that you are just one of 3, 4 or however many, that compete with this person’s time and affection. It does drain you constantly thinking about it but then…what can you do…when he is feeding your mind, body and brain the love drug that you crave. Best of luck to you Lucy. Charlie, thanks for being upfront and honest from the beginning but you knew she was getting deeper than you wanted and you continued to play the game because it felt good to you to be desired on that level.

  8. Anonymous
    11th October 2020 / 11:34 pm

    Great read! I was utterly baffled by why anyone as set on meeting the ‘One’ as Lucy was, would agree to a relationship with a polyamorous man. But I’ve also been baffled by Lucy’s desire to fit a whole bunch of monogamous but unsuitable relationship partners into her vision of the ‘One’. The ex, Brad, YC too – all seem to follow the pattern of showing/telling Lucy they aren’t available in the way she wants, and yet she invests so much emotionally and time wise in them. Despite sensing/knowing they aren’t all in. Then is inevitably disappointed when they leave. Charlie was probably the only one who at least tried to meet some emotional needs.

    I feel Charlie has always been honest about his intentions and actually put up with Lucy’s demands and upset more than most – would anyone tolerate regular criticism and arguments about your life choices, or avoid the people closest to you? I’m not sure Lucy would tolerate that in a relationship either.

    There needs to be responsibility and accountability on both sides in a relationship to walk away when it’s not meeting their needs. Am glad both have. I wish you both well in your new chapter.

  9. Meryl Williams
    13th October 2020 / 7:18 am

    This relationship and the way you have explored and explained it is of great value to the collective conversation about sex and relationships. I commend you both for allowing your readers to travel with you. Charlie, your point about being a consolation rather than a welcome treat is, for me, an insight I had not considered. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have learned a lot.

  10. 14th October 2020 / 9:14 am

    Thank you for sharing this, Charlie!

  11. Anonymous
    15th October 2020 / 8:56 am

    A question for Charlie…

    I have to admit I’m completely intrigued by this lifestyle.

    Did you love Lucy?

    Is there a hierarchy of loves? So you just love your wife the most and Lucy and your other partner less? I find it difficult to understand how you can rank people/relationships that you love. Why do you only see your other partner once a month and do you think you love her too? And do the secondaries have rankings or are they both at the same level in your heart ?

    Has your wife ever had another partner while she’s been with you?

    • Anonypoly
      16th October 2020 / 8:02 pm

      You love your sibling and your aunt and your cousin and your best mate etc, and you could probably put them in an order if anyone asked you to – but no one would ask you to, because no one doubts you can love and care for more than one person non-romantically.

      Can’t speak for Charlie, but often it’s logistics that dictate how often I see my secondary partners – travel, work, other parts of life – and that’s true for various poly folk I know too.

    • Charlie
      20th October 2020 / 11:39 am

      Hi, thanks for your questions! ‘Anonypoly’ has already answered the ones about ranking/hierarchy – to their response, I’d add simply that love is not a pie, where you hand out a finite number of equal slices and then you’re done. We love in countless different ways, and with an intensity that can shift and vary by person/situation – that’s always been true and always will be. Yes, I loved Lucy, and yes, I loved my other secondary partner too. In either case, did that love conform to some narrow romantic ideal? Probably not, especially given that it wasn’t exclusive to either of them. But it was love nonetheless.

      And my wife has had other sexual partners since we’ve been together, but not dating/romantic ones. Not yet, anyway.

  12. Krystyna
    20th October 2020 / 1:58 am

    OH MY GOD I never dreamed this post would one day exist! The Charlie series was like crack cocaine to read but also completely infuriating as a poly person. The thing that infuriated me the most was that Lucy kept acting like she was powerless, and Charlie was being mean to her, when he was upfront with her about everything from the beginning. She even knew he was non-monogamous before they went on their first date.

    She’s not just monogamous, she’s *uber* monogamous. Their worldviews are totally different. The idea that he might love her is useless because he can’t be her monogamous partner. Never mind that she’s had no luck finding that monogamous partner, so maybe it would be nice to have someone in your life that loves you…But ultimately it wouldn’t work, not because of the mono-poly divide inherently, but because Lucy made it such that Charlie couldn’t be himself, couldn’t be open, had to silo off his life. Him getting married threw her into fits — how can you be close to someone who is upset about your happiness?

    I imagine the sexual connection must have been pretty powerful to stick around that long…I certainly wouldn’t have (like many poly women, I’m bisexual). She’s so deeply insecure, and she throws it in his face constantly. She takes almost zero responsibility for her own emotions, and shows almost no willingness to compromise. She has a monogamous worldview and paints his relationship model/choices as bad/wrong. But given that he found someone to marry him, maybe he actually knows a thing or two when it comes to building a sustainable and healthy relationship.

    And she broke up with him via text! They’d had a relationship for a year, and she broke up with him over text. Wtf. How is that adult behavior? Somehow she thought because he was in a nonmonogamous relationship, he no longer had feelings like everyone else, or was worthy of the common courtesy she’d show anyone else.

    All due respect to Charlie, who obviously cared about her, but as someone who’s read every post since the Charlies series and beyond… Lucy doesn’t seem to possess the relationship skills needed for a monogamous relationship, let alone a poly one.

    Anyway, I’m glad to finally hear Charlie’s side of the story, and that he was exactly the kind of reasonable poly person I always thought he was.

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Names and some minor details have been changed to protect the innocent. And sometimes the guilty.
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