The day after I was chatting with both B and C on Facebook, I left for Bloomington, my home before Chicago, to visit one half of the couple I’ve been dating for a few years: Theo and Isha. And I find it poignant as I sort through my feelings of what it would mean to start dating this new couple, that I’m reflecting on it in the company of Theo, who I don’t get to see very often since I moved away. Even long distance, his and his wife’s presence in my life remains important.
Deciding to date a couple is a unique commitment and has unique risks. For instance, I’m afraid that if one of the relationships fails, it will mean the end to the other relationship.
Between us, there are four relationships to maintain, and I rely on the two of them to keep their own relationship healthy in order to have healthy relationships with them. I try to be sensitive to providing similar amounts of attention to both of them. Theo and Isha are not overly sensitive about this, thankfully. They are considerate of each other, and I find they think about fairly sharing me.
I’ve also learned to accept that our relationships are all very different. We work better separately than we do as a threesome. They tend to visit me separately in Chicago, a chance to be independent from each other, and a chance to be with me as individuals. I’ve never been with a couple that refused to date me separately, and I don’t think I would.
Bottom line: it can be a lot of work, more is likely to go wrong, and it has to be worth it. For me, Theo and Isha has been and continues to be worth the effort.
Isha is traveling for a year with the Buddhist organization she’s a part of while Theo finishes his doctorate program. The house feels empty without her, and Theo is lonely. I feel useful, being able to fill the house in her absence for a couple of days.
My ability to fill in the gaps of what another person can’t provide is one of the things I love about non-monogamy in general. Along the same lines, I don’t feel the pressure to be all things to someone. When I date people who have anchor partners, they tend to expect less of me.
But, to me, the biggest benefit about dating a couple is that I get be a part of something greater than a single relationship, and there’s something very special about that. It’s like an intimate peak into the lives of two people. I’ve learned that I like being their “third wheel.” I like being included in their teeth-brushing ritual. I like comparing the books and pictures on their own sides of the bed. I like being able to remind them of why they love each other.
The Chicago couple are new to dating others. They’re not sure what it will mean to them or how they want to do it. And I’m very aware that if I date them, it will be very different than dating Isha and Theo.
This both makes me nervous and excites me. I briefly dated two other couples, as well as dipped my toe into swinging. It more often falls apart than it works out.
For one thing, I worry about adding more people into my life than I have time for. Thankfully, no one has high expectations of me, nor I them. Frankly, if I lived in the same town as Theo and Isha, I probably wouldn’t attempt it.
I’ve been thinking about how I don’t want an anchor partner of my own right now while I start this whole writing career. I don’t have a lot to give anyone. So dating a couple that has low commitment expectations is sort of perfect. We’ll see how it goes.