The Perils of Poly


The Perils of PolyAt one of the meet and greet parties I started branching out into over the winter, I attended a party where I met this wonderful woman. There was more than just a click for me at any rate, she was smart, funny, self-aware, and not afraid to try new things. I asked her if she would meet me at other events and she agreed. We attended another play party, not at my club, and while we didn’t exactly ignore the other participants, I lost myself in her attentions. We played by ourselves off in a corner that seemed private enough for us, and cuddled and talked for most of the night afterward. I eventually asked her if she would accompany me to my club on a certain date she would be in town and she agreed.

I blocked that night out on the calendar with thick brick walls around it to make sure nothing would interfere.

The weekend began to approach, and even though we had written a bit during the week, there seemed a gap, a space between us that I couldn’t quite understand. I had checked in at midweek to make sure everything was ok, and she said yes, just a very busy week, and a difficult one at work. I was torn between giving her the space I was inferring she wanted, and giving her the support that I felt she needed. I decided space was probably for the best, against my own inclinations.

By Friday afternoon I was ready to leave work, excited about the weekend, and some sexy time with my wonderful play partner. I sent a brief playful text, asking her where she would like to meet when disaster struck…she was really sorry but she was unable to attend this weekend.

Well… that changes things.

I replied as kindly as I knew how, saying no worries, take whatever time you need, anything I can do to help…

I am sure I am not the first person this has happened to, and perhaps some of my readers can relate to their own late cancellations. It was more than 24 hours ahead of the party, and life does happen, but it took the wind right out of my sails. I had REALLY been looking forward to this, and my expectations were way off the charts. Now I would have to do this on my own.

When I go to a party or my club, alone, as a single male, I need to talk myself up a bit. I need to be positive, confident, empathetic, the best parts of me projected outward. I cannot be sullen, silent, afraid, and shy or the party or whatever will not work. I cannot expect people to come up to me; I have to be ready to make the first moves. That sort of confidence I could now feel leaking out of me like a balloon.


Another internet friend was considering coming with her boyfriend, and this night at my club only comes to the club about once every 8 weeks or so. I resolved that I would not cancel; that I would keep moving forward, even though this brings my price of admission up since I would not be attending as a couple.

I won’t bore people with the details of the evening; let’s just say I was not at my best. Instead of playing jazz I was playing by rote, telling the same stories, pushing too hard in some ways to override my lack of confidence, holding back in other ways. I had a hard time reading from the boyfriend to determine if another partner was even welcome. In any case, the couples I met with were far more interested in playing with each other than including a third, which is fine, but doesn’t really do anything for me.

I left sad and tired and the next day received a text from my original lady friend, saying that she was going to focus on unmarried men moving forward.

I haven’t had a breakup in 25 years; in all honesty I think I have forgotten how to do it.

Most of my play relationships have been casual affairs at the least. I have not, until recently allowed myself to feel a deeper emotional connection to my play partners, and this was my first. I liked this woman. Now it had gone badly, not so from much of anything I had done (I think, I am still not sure) but more from time availability, and distance, and life. Life sucks.

I reeled, I obsessed, I even sent a rather inappropriate text to some I was just getting to know, because I had no grounding point. I was adrift on the emotional tides, and storm warning were flying.

I asked is it worth it? Is connecting with people and opening yourself up to all this hurt worthwhile? A few days of despair, questioning why I considered poly or even swinging in the first place and sanity slowly returned.

I do have a lifestyle mentor and she told me you feel what you feel, but all relationships have a beginning, middle and an end. This one ended before you wanted it to. That happens. You just need to move on; easy…when you know how.

The first advice I have for anyone in a similar situation is just this… wait out the storm a while. Emotions are mostly temporary states and forty eight hours of perspective might seem like a long time. If you think you are going to reach out, or lash out, just wait a while and be sure of what you are doing. Slowly the rough seas of my mind began to settle. I profusely apologized and explained to my new friend about my situation, and she forgave me with smiles and hugs. Now, with the benefit of a little hindsight, I can advise anyone in a similar situation…

You are going to get hurt. You cannot expect to connect with people without this happening. If you are unable to deal, enter counseling first. You need to be able to say goodbye if you are going to say hello; anything less and you are inviting trouble, not just for yourself, but whatever lives you touch. Anyone who is single and dating mostly understands this, or at least hasn’t forgotten it. Some of us that haven’t played the field in a long while, need reminding.

I have said goodbye to my original lady friend, I am saying hello to some newcomers to my life. The road goes ever… ever on, and I try to walk it as best I can.


The Salmon is exploring swinging and poly as a married single. Married for over 20 years, he and his love explore non-monogamy together and in different ways.


  1. Salmon: There is a very interest TED talk about this attachment thing by Helen Fisher. She discusses the chemistry of attachment, love and lust and the neurochemistry behind this. It is insightful how these emotions effect us as individuals and as a species.


  2. The Salmon on

    Bill, Thank you for sharing this, I didn’t know about this particular Ted Talk. It is funny how we usually consider love and loss strictly through an emotional lens. We, or at least I, tend to forget there is a physiological framework the emotions are built upon. “Just cheer up” or “you will get over it” doesn’t really address the issue.

    I have had some time since writing this to come to terms with the situation. I am doing much better now, but I usually write in the moment to capture my thoughts and emotions. Again thank you for reaching out, and I hope to write more soon.

  3. Thank you for posting this. I’ve recently gone through a poly break-up. It definitely “ended before you wanted it to.” You have given my much food for thought as I move on and move forward. “You need to be able to say goodbye if you are going to say hello” This one I thought I knew, but how easily I forgot….

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