One chilly morning right before the new year, I grabbed my laptop and sat in my cozy pajamas, waiting for the video chat to prompt. Moments later, I was joined by Effy and Laura and the first official meeting of the new Curious Fox team began. A year earlier – almost to the date – I had another video chat with Effy, though this one was quite different. In the midst of preparing to host our family for the holidays, my wife revealed that she was interested in us exploring a non-hierarchical relationship. We had been in the process of opening up our marriage and had consulted with Effy to help us through some difficult conversations. Upon hearing her request to change our hierarchical structure, I promptly announced that Christmas was canceled! No family, no tree, no Christmas Eve dinner, and certainly no gifts – I needed the world to stop in order to deal with (or preferably not deal with) this announcement. While I rattled off all of the Christmas plans that would now clearly be postponed, my wife reached out to Effy and asked for an emergency video session. I could not have known that a year later, I would be videoing with her once more, this time as a member of the Curious Fox team.
Embracing the Evolution
I have identified as non-monogamous my whole life, however I was not in a consensually non-monogamous relationship until my second marriage with my wife. Even though we were open from the beginning, we did not start practicing non-monogamy until four years into our relationship. Despite our shared enthusiasm, the opening up process did not go well. First, our entry into non-monogamous practice unceremoniously began when emotional infidelity crept its way into our relationship. (Yes, there can be cheating in non-monogamy!) Second, we soon realized that our ideas of non-monogamy were very different. While my wife identified as polyamorous and wanted to share her time and life with another partner, I was more comfortable in a hierarchical structure that supported any desire for us to have fun adventures with new and interesting people. (“Open” clearly means different things to different people.)
Over the course of two years, my wife and I worked hard – individually, together, and with Effy – to figure out how we could create a relationship that supported our individual needs and growth, as well as the growth and evolution of us as partners. There was a lot of talking, crying, arguing, laughing, writing, and many, many books, podcasts, and YouTube videos. And slowly over time, in ways that sometimes caught me off guard, I felt myself begin to evolve. I was not evolving into her vision of a polyamorous being or into the perfect representation of a polyamorous relationship anarchist. (There is no right or wrong way to be open, and everyone’s journey is their own). Instead, I slowly began overcoming the fear, doubt, and shame that held me back from exploring all that was possible within myself and my relationship. And after years of work, there were a number of lessons that I learned:
- Never say never. I now am the one who is leading the way in reconstituting our structure to a non-hierarchical construct.
- I don’t need to have all of the answers now to potential future problems. I made the mistake of trying to solve anticipated problems before having the knowledge, experience, or – frankly – emotional maturity to solve those problems. And the truth is, there were times that I was trying to solve problems that never actually arose. I have now decided to believe that future me will be better prepared and empowered to deal with any future concerns.
- Don’t limit myself, my capacity, or my desires. When I put limitations on my wife and my relationship, I was really putting limitations on myself. I underestimated what I was capable of and put a cap on what desires I would allow myself (or my wife) to explore. By recognizing the fear, doubt, and shame that drove those decisions and allowing myself, my partner, and my relationship to be open to growth, I eventually found that I was capable of more love, joy, and evaluation than I realized was possible.
Change is hard. Growth can be painful. And if you put the work in, allow yourself to engage curiously in the journey, and surround yourself with good people, you may turn around one day and find that you are stronger, more joyful, and more authentically you than you ever realized was possible.
Jacqueline Misla, MSW is the Chief Fox of Operations for Curious Fox. She is also a consultant and coach through Jacqueline Misla Consulting, and is the founder of Crafting Your Path, an organization dedicated to helping women push past external expectations and internal criticism to embrace and act on the fullness of who they are.