I very rarely talk specifically about polyamory in any kind of reflective or guiding how-to sense. I’m much more given to reflecting and speaking my own truths and ideas around love, connection, intimacy and care as a general ‘for everyone’ concept. Today however, my thoughts are specifically poly, and reflective about my own experience of poly. I am also fairly certain that even though for me this is about poly, that it is likely some of what I’m reflecting on may well be useful outside of a poly context.
I’m writing this the day after my boyfriend’s birthday. His fiancé, Fox, and I are enjoying a quiet day after the rush and busy excitement of yesterday. I’m reflecting because this weekend has been blissful for and between all of us. In particular, I’m feeling deeply moved by my connection with Fox because we’ve spent the week collaborating on his birthday present for his fiancé, my boyfriend. When Fox first asked me about ideas for Ral’s birthday, I wasn’t quite sure what to suggest – I’m one of those people who either has the ‘perfect’ idea, or none at all. I am often dismayed that there never seems to be any in-between. And then I remembered that Fox is not a cook and will often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid cooking. So when I suggested that he make Ral a birthday cake, he immediately seized upon the idea as an unlikely but perfect gift because it’s a gift of time, dedication and challenging the self to do something special for someone else.
Earlier this week, Fox sent me a link to a recipe for Fig Cake with Caramel Sauce saying that he wanted to do this cake because he wanted “to do something way beyond [his] ability for comedic value”. Looking at the recipe and being familiar with both Fox’s cooking ability, including complete lack of cooking intuition (that sense of cooking by feel), I replied saying that I thought it was well within his ability to do successfully. What Fox lacks in intuition cooking, he makes up for by being able to follow detailed and complex instructions perfectly. I offered to assist with the detailed shopping list (what to look for, where to find it, back up choices if necessary), and the recipe instructions (expanding on the requirements to include specific how-to for things like lining the cake tin, creaming the butter and sugar).
And, while I distracted Ral by going shopping with him, Fox spent a good portion of yesterday shopping for ingredients, and then making his very first cake ever. And he did it perfectly. The cake was an outstanding success! It looked amazing, it was delicious, and even though Ral had guessed Fox might be making him a cake, he was completely surprised at the actual cake and how good it was. Seeing the relief and joy on Fox’s face when the cake turned out not just visually, but in taste too is priceless and I’ll treasure the memory of his expression always.
In our dynamic, Fox is the monogamous partner, Ral is his beloved fiancé. Fox loves me, I know this. I am something a little unable to be explained, more than a friend, something like chosen family, but overall it is ‘Fox-shaped-love’ and beautifully undefined. Over the past two years, Ral and I have spent an incredible amount of energy building a healthy and safe dynamic for Fox as well as ourselves. Fox has put a tremendous amount of energy coming to terms with his partner’s need for non-monogamy and doing so much deliberate self work to come to a point of being able to wholeheartedly support Ral, and his relationship with me. Along the way and quite to his surprise, Fox ended up with a strong connection with me as well. We’ve been nurturing love between each other. We’ve been validating each other’s love and relationships, we’ve been practising good relationship skills – as in, learning them and getting them wrong, improving over time. We’ve found a way to successfully create a sense of monogamous safety for Fox, and in turn Fox has found a way to express his support for our polyamory. This weekend’s experience with the cake is a great example of how the results of all that work look, I think.
I think personally, it is such an expression of polyamory for Fox and I to have collaborated and it makes complete sense to me that I’ve spent the better part of the week working with him to make his birthday present for Ral just right. We’re invested in and involved in each other’s lives, and it’s obvious to us that we want the best for each other. I think that it is often much easier to focus on the negatives and the difficulties in relationships, particularly polyamorous ones. However, I think it is really important to place attention on the good things, the way things work well and consider why. In this case, I think it’s the dedication to nurturing love that shows.
For me, nurturing love involves significant care, compassion and empathy. It’s not just about that sense of being ‘in love’ or ‘falling in love’ with someone, that marvelling and admiration and desire, though nurturing love can also involve these things. In a poly dynamic, where multiples of you are intimately entwined and sharing significant time and space with one another, I think that nurturing love is important to demonstrate not just to the person you love and are involved with, but also to those others immediately surrounding. When you can nurture love beyond the immediacy of your partner, to their partner, or other significant people in their life, I think it shows profound respect for these other connections and their importance. There is a strong sense of safety that comes from this kind of experience of respect, because it comes from demonstrated action and not simply from intentional words – lovely though they are. When respect is present and demonstrated, I truly believe that safety follows and things in relationships, in connection, trust, vulnerability and love are all the better for it.