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Navigating Polyamory In NYC Is One Hell Of A Ride

Polyamory was never talked about in my home. I grew up in a Black and religious household in the South where the only focus was tradition’s acceptability. Much to my family’s horror (but definitely not their surprise), I spent my college years familiarizing them with my bisexuality and non-monogamous lifestyle. Despite being their teacher, I was still getting a crash course in this world myself. I had no fucking clue how to navigate an open relationship, much less have a thriving and healthy one. But I believe in learning from past faults and embarrassing myself publicly for others to heed my experience. That builds character, right? 

As much as I wished my polyamory journey began with my current girlfriend, another feverish bisexual, it started briefly with my ex-boyfriend a few years ago. As my first long-term partner, he had so much traditional love for me. However, things changed when I moved to the tri-state area with the miserable hope of going to graduate school. I was 1,000 miles away and deeply craving the love and attention of women. Although I came out in college, I didn’t foster an active queer community that pushed me into dating as much as lust. Don’t get me wrong, a few women captured my heart, but I never put energy into making things more substantial. I realized I needed that space to pursue more than my hetero-bullshit mindset. This led to a mature conversation with my boyfriend at the time about wandering eyes and incomplete desires. Foolishly, we dove into non-monogamy without rules or boundaries, and our communication was “mid” at best. The result was mistrust (him of me), disinterest (me of him), and a breakdown of our relationship’s foundation. Our final straw came shortly after I met my current girlfriend. Something about her energy and touch really put a grip on me. And he could see that.

My ex-boyfriend then called me one fateful morning and asked me to choose: Either our relationship had to be monogamous, or we would break up. I didn’t even hesitate  — I chose freedom. While he immediately regretted giving me an ultimatum, I moved on to make space for my new life to unfold. 

I wish the love between me and my current girlfriend was lesbionic enough to say we drove off into the sunset with our U-Haul, but that would be so far from the truth. Rather, a slow burn (for her) is the best way to describe it. The road to our somewhat virtuous open relationship was a tumultuous climb, and unraveling her came with new fantasies and desires, deepening a connection derivative of healing from pain and trauma. And, of course, it came with sex.  

I’ve never been afraid of exploring the wild side that pleasure has to offer. My girlfriend was thrilled by this, often feeling boxed in by past partners and unable to explore the depths of her lust. First on our list of exploration was introducing other women into our bedroom. We wanted to dip our toes in and see how wet we could get. 

One of our first experiences adding people into our growing bedroom happened purely by chance and horror. We met another queer women couple who had been interested in my girlfriend’s music. The friendship (keyword) was instant the first time we hung out together. There was a kinship, proximity, and evident desire to do couple activities together, which was fine and dandy… until the dinner parties started. Somehow, they always wanted to play “drink truth or dare,” leading to us getting a little *too* personal about our lives. For instance, they were extremely curious about what we did in the bedroom — down to the type of dildo we used and who was strapping up. Although we were nervous at first, we gave up the goods, because, you know, we love a little mess. 


The more dinner parties we had, the more explicit and direct the conversations became until, before I knew it, I blinked, and we were all naked in my bedroom. Important note: During our messy chats, we did discuss the sexual parameters of our interests. And the “masc” presenting partner made it immensely clear that they weren’t attracted to my girlfriend, and any sex would be with our own partners but together (if you get my drift). 

At first, it all felt smooth, sexy. I was next to another (somewhat) attractive couple and enjoying the heat of my own girlfriend. I was lost in the taste of her skin until I felt a bump on my back. I ignored it and tried to keep going. Straddling my girlfriend and tracing her with my tongue, I felt another push on my back and butt. Now annoyed that someone was disturbing my bubble, I shoved myself into my bed corner and held my girlfriend for dear life. Suddenly, two bustling “unaware” bodies smashed into me with their sweaty butts near my breathing space. I felt like I was drowning — not in a traumatic way, but more like when you get lost crowd surfing. I became the bottom of a sweaty polyamorous sandwich when we were a normal distance apart five minutes ago. 

My girlfriend rescued me, pulling my arms to the safety of the floor as we cracked up the whole way down. We tried to resume, but I kept catching them watching us out of the corner of their eyes. It began to feel like we had entered a competition we never signed up for. Each of our kisses was met with an even louder, exaggerated moan or groan from them, and every act became more and more unhinged.

TBH, the whole thing was beyond comedy and just squashed our libido. My GF and I decided to step out to recap how everything went horribly wrong. 

Between our laughs were soft forehead kisses, reminding us of the joy we found in each other. We were just thankful that our sex hadn’t become a performance and that we still felt the realness in every touch. 

two women in bed
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Relieved when the couple packed up and left, I was reminded of why we experiment with others and open ourselves up (in more ways than one) to the possibility of excitement and embarrassment. I’m reminded why she’s my chosen nesting partner. Despite the discomfort we had just experienced, I learned what mattered most was that we were together and explored deeply what we wanted and didn’t in pleasure. I learned that attraction has to be for my girlfriend and me, or we will continue to bumble through feelings of insecurity and awkwardness. It taught us the unpredictability of adding others into our equation and relinquishing expectations. We can’t expect everyone to have the same boundaries as us or even to respect our boundaries. All we can do is trust in each other and our undeniable connection. If this indicated where our polyamorous relationship was headed, I knew it’d be a hell of a ride.

Nyla Stanford
Nyla Stanford
Nyla Stanford is a psychological researcher turned thoughtful fashion and lifestyle writer, convinced she knows the nuances of life and surviving NYC. You can catch her either rambling on about the laziness of a two-piece set or her partner of the week. Follow her on Instagram @eclectice_sweetie for good ideas on what to wear.