The short, flip answer is "repeatedly, and well."
The (much) longer answer:
In many ways I've ALWAYS been polyamorous. However, I was a naif in the semantic forest of twisted meanings that is sexuality and human interaction in the 1970's world of Long Island, NY. Toss in my irish catholicism: as lapsed as I was as I reached adulthood, there are some things that are hard as HELL to un-learn -- like blushing when discussing things I've done in the presence of a film crew and director. Hell, there wasn't even a WORD for what I was, just a negative: Non-monogamous. A word laden with negatives such as "cheater", "faithless", and the most ironic barb of all:
The ugly truth was that I WASN'T avoiding committed relationships. If I stare long and hard enough at my relationship history, the one problem I had was committing to too much. Throw in the sense of guilt that the church merely assisted in cementing, as the public education system had taken their techniques and achieved results that the pope can only weep for their ruthlessly brutal efficiency at instilling shame, and combine it with the perpetually dysfunctional reality that was the suburban white trash lifestyle (before AND since!), and thus produce someone who gleefully joins in the cycle-o-fun of domestic abuse and self-destructive self loathing.
Or it runs offset head on into someone with too much intelligence and empathy to successfully reconcile the trash. The public school system pretty much panicked when I was dropped into it's waiting maw -- I had the temerity to kick, scream, and question. I was a "problem", and when they could no longer foist the mental retardation label onto me, they tried "emotionally disturbed". Coming from a "broken home" only gave them a hook they could hang that picture on, ignoring the fact that all the issues I had pre-dated any awareness of a problem with my Mother's marriage. Hell, one of the most traumatic events of my childhood was my mother's revelation that the surprise overnight visit to my grandparents in Queens was due to the incipient dissolution of matrimony -- I was so clueless about what was coming I practically stopped breathing from the panic attack (which is the only way I can describe it) over the news. I was 8, and already about to be expelled from school for my "behavioral difficulties", but obviously there was sub-conscious damage to my under-developed psyche.
Let me put this in better perspective: This was 1971. People never want to think that the time they're living in is less than enlightened, but let's face it: By definition any future point will be more accepting, if not outright tolerant, of any given fringe position. Stonewall was in 1969, only 2 years (and less than 10 miles) from where I lay literally gasping for air. If memory serves, it had only been 4 years since the Supreme Court had tossed out laws banning inter-racial marriage.
A mere 12 years later I would sit in wonder and amazement as two children, themselves from a divorced home, peer-counseled a third child who was going through, at pretty much the same age, what I was experiencing at that moment. I never heard the "it's not your fault" from someone other than my mother (who is, by her very position, biased) or useless school counselors (whom I had developed the beginnings of a serious, and justifiable, mis-trust). Along the way I saw how bad relationships could be, but was confused what a GOOD relationship was supposed to look like. I had read the most misogynistic view-points of sexual dynamics* both low-brow and "official". I had no clear models to draw from, and although Heinlein had some good ideas** I couldn't draw a connection between science fiction, literary fantasy, and personal fact. What no book could do was help me to integrate what I clearly wanted into my life, nor give me the permission to want and achieve those things free from sometimes crippling guilt and shame. That, I'm afraid, would be up to life.
But then I fell in with a group of people at SUNY Purchase that gave me a glimpse of possibility. I'm sure I was a pain in their collective asses in many ways, but to their credit they allowed be to bask in the glow of what I could be. I backtracked, and horribly, as my collegiate career drew to a close, and I tried to follow The Script™. You know, that false document that so many of us are coached on -- white picket fences, 2.5 kids, the putting away of childish things...
I thought that my sexuality was a choice, and that I could choose to be monogamous, straight, cut my hair, get a job, and settle down. That process ended with me broken and shaking at my failures, and not even living on the same coast.
That last is important, because removing myself from the same stage as everything I ever knew gave me a chance to try something different. At first, I almost fell back into the same pattern of trying to force myself into the same role, but in a different place. Fortunately, the world of Electronic Bulletin Boards began to connect me with more people who shared my philosophies, followed by amateur networks, and finally -- the internet. I began to do better at defining myself, and meeting bunnybutt helped me to find the courage to speak and develop that more.
18 months ago my marriage to Michele officially ended. I know I haven't mentioned it here, nor have I gone into many details. One of the weaknesses I've found in blogging is that it tends to be TOO immediate at times. It's way too easy to avoid context, or to allow the emotional state of the moment to overwhelm the whole point of recording the moment in the first place. Add to it the overtly public nature of blogging, wind up incurring the wrath of people who you thought understood you, and the hyperdrama that was my life, and I copped out. Big time.
If you've somehow managed to keep up with this circuitous trek toward the fuller answer, BRAVO! You're a braver soul than I was. Yet all of this ties together: I'm so god-damned public because I know, with absolute certainty, that there are people who are trapped in a form of interpersonal dysphoric disorder, mis-typecast by a society determined to reshape those square pegs by any means. I hope that someone reads this, and goes "Christ, if he managed to figure out how to get everything he wanted without access to the internet until he was 27****, imagine what I can do!". Or, to quote the recently departed George Carlin:
Human beings are kind of interesting from birth until they reach the age of a year and a half. Then they are boring until they reach fifty. By that time they're either completely defeated and fucked up, which makes them interesting again, or they've learned how to beat the game, and that makes them interesting too.(Insert long sigh here as I miss one of the greatest truth tellers of our time. No wonder the government and tradmedia hated him.)
For the longest time I would have placed myself in the former category. Now, I'm awakening to the very real possibility that, through incredible luck (which I'm certain I inherited from Mom, along with ADHD and her hips) and a mind so open that you can find free range cattle roaming through the back neurons, that I may have made it to the latter, far more exclusive group.
In terms of my personal journey, one of my mistakes has been to not let certain things take their time and develop on their own. Faith is the third ingrediant. However you find yours, you need to have faith. I can think of every failed attempt to find that dynamic, that solid core (NOT perfect -- that's a fool's game where you lose trying to win), and I can wince, shiver in self-disgust, and think it means that my dreams are impossible -- or I can keeping talking, keep exploring and discovering. Michele had a big hand in that too, which makes the dynamics behind the breakup all the harder to swallow. That is another post that I'm not ready to write yet.
grr_rob was part of the attempt. Roni was another. Both failed, but the end result was I was with Roni, and I started the process all over again. steelmagnoliaca and bunjee were both unconscious earlier attempts to establish something with Roni, but they both were relationships I started in the context of being married to Michele -- and both relationships ultimately suffered for it. I often ponder where things would have gone if I had been with Roni, but that's a pretty pointless exercise. Audra and Eileen also were very strong contenders for luring me into a group dynamic, except Audra was even more self-involved with herselves then Chris ever was.
dragonwitchling was the first of those failed triad attempts in many ways, and in as many ways the most important. While Chris managed to bur her bridges with Roni and Michele, I tried to maintain a relationship with her. I suspect that, in many ways, Chris realizes that she's still too bound up with her own demons to own her desires. Which could explain the bizarre nature of how she pretty much picked up a virginal (at least physically!) 20 year old during one of our hiatuses and wound up practically shoving us together. While Erika has her own opinion on this, it was clear to me from the start that Chris really loved her, but in pretty much the same way she loved me and Roni -- which is to say she had no idea what to DO with that emotional connection. The contortions I watched that woman go through to somehow make her bisexuality and polyamorous nature mere phases, or "things" that were done to satisfy the desires of others (read: the horny and out of control male/Yohannon) still make my head hurt. No wonder she's going to be a lawyer.
Love, to me, is a miracle. Every time it happened to me, right up to the present, I felt like I had somehow been given a set of loaded dice. "What... AGAIN?!" became so frequent that I resisted the bolt when it came to Roni, as did she. We know how that turned out. Erika I had assumed was primary to Chris, so I initially thought that we could become great friends, even lovers. When we fell in love and realized it was mutual and potent, and Chris was clearly beginning to pull away (despite my clumsy attempts to keep them together), I tried seeing if Roni and Erika would get along.
They didn't, though it confused the hell out of me. For two years I felt like I was dating yet ANOTHER multiple dissociative -- Erika was an entirely different person with me than with Roni. At best she could manage a smile and a wave whenever Roni was with us, which made Roni (and me) nuts. For two years, as my relationship with both women solidified, I became increasingly certain that I would never be able to reconcile the two, at least to the point that I could even maintain separate relationships with them.
That all changed in June of 2007, when I learned what was really happening.
Apparently Chris had taken it upon herself to "warn" Erika that, among other things, that Roni didn't approve of my other relationships, and that her bisexuality and polyamory were both traits she took on for my benefit. This made any comments on my part to the contrary instantly null and void, as I was clueless to Roni's true feelings.
Except Chris moved to Chicago for her law degree, burning her bridges with Erika and, to a large degree, with me. Erika and I spent a lot more one on one time with one another, which finally resulted in her confessing to me what Chris had told her. It really was like finding a key -- things happened relatively quickly after that point.
I was able to explain Erika's behavior in a way that Roni could immediately and completely relate to -- Chris' self-centered perspective was part of Roni's frustrations with their relationship, and when Roni withdrew from contact, Chris had interpreted it in the most generous terms possibly -- to Chris, that is. Of course, I find it amusing that Chris, who would herself protest that her bisexuality was pretty much a function of the situations she found herself in, would attribute Roni's withdrawal to confirmation of Roni's heterosexuality -- although that seemed more a projection onto Roni from Chris. That it was Chris who initiated with Erika, with no prompting on my part whatsoever (we weren't even e-mailing at that point), was not germane.
Once I had partly prepped Roni, Erika and Roni had their first real conversation. It was in the hallway between the two bedrooms, it lasted perhaps 10 minutes, but they ended it with a hug that lingered for a lot longer than mere "let bygones by bygones" would allow for. Over the next couple of days I learned that Roni had always thought Erika was hot, and that Erika felt the same about Roni, for quite some time. We literally had our first threesome within the week.
Here I actually showed some signs of intelligence by letting things take their course, by not forcing things, and letting Roni take the lead. And that's where it turns into the biggest cosmic joke on me of all:
It's all working out marvelously.
With the false obstacles removed, they were clearly (and still are) quite smitten with one another. I always knew they had a lot in common, which made the long silence on Erika's part all the more crazy making. I would have my little day dreams, much as I already did, but I wasn't going to push, and Roni kept surprising me more and more.
While I think we were acknowledging to one another that we were a threesome, then a triad, it wasn't until today that all three of us sat down and clearly and unequivocally said "We're a triad. We're family. We will share a household. There are obstacles and there's still some time before we can make that real, but it will be real", all with Roni taking the lead.
You best believe I knock on wood everytime I even THINK that everything is going to be alright. But damned if it won't. And I'm blogging about it because I refuse to slip back into that fucking closet, nor will I spare the feelings of people who might think me somehow disloyal to the ghosts of relationships strangled and buried in shallow graves in their backyards.
I could be happy, flaws and mistakes and all, with Roni and Erika. Most importantly, they can be happy with ME, with all of my eccentricities and other relationships, as well as with each other.
On that hopeful note, I end my vacation and go to bed -- 8 AM is only 6 hours away as it stands, and I think I've bored you all enough for now.
* I once saw this "National Lampoon" bit about how men could get more blow jobs by eating a woman out, then surreptitiously swinging about to dangle his manhood in their face, all in hopes that their partner would suck it out of guilt. Shit like that, combined with the "women give head to avoid sex", and other sex negative stereotyping, had me convinced that no one could enjoy sucking cock as much as I WANTED to eat pussy... or suck cock, for that matter. I know, I know, the freaking hypocrisy. I still can't orgasm from oral sex easily, though now at least I can enjoy receiving it almost as much as giving it.
** Thanks to that copy of "Stranger in a Strange Land" that somehow found it's way into my High School's library -- I was 13 and desperate for a sign that I wasn't doomed to sexual confusion... at least, not any more sexual confusion than I already was. A year later a copy of "Delta of Venus" would REALLY open my eyes -- in many ways that book was like a condensed "alt.sex.stories" hierarchy, capturing pretty much every major perversion, including several of my own.
*** I realized recently that I was also a victim of being ahead of the curve, yet again. 5 years ago, people were still pretty much only dimly, if at all, aware of blogging and what it was. The people who WERE blogging were members of a very tight little group, relatively speaking -- so much so that even just referring to people by their first names was considered an invasion of privacy on a grand scale. Even with our outrageous public spectacles, relatively local to our home addresses, could somehow be wrapped in an illusion of anonymity that has become impossible to maintain. The irony is that anonymity is actually greater as the vast sea of blogging has grown. Hell, take a look at my member number (340322) compared to the latest members of LiveJournal (somewhere in the 15000000 range, I believe -- I know that theljstaff user is member number 13549668) -- or roughly the equivalent of New York STATE's population compared to a modest sized city.
**** Technically I first accessed the internet in 1978, but didn't really take advantage of it until 1989. Since USENET newsgroups weren't around until the mid-80's, my take is I didn't miss too much.