I sobbed throughout my girlfriend’s wedding. I cried as I sat between two of their best friends during the ceremony. I cried as I stood behind them on the chancel and handed them the ring so they could slide it onto their wife’s finger and read their vows.
I cried, not because I was upset, but because I was so impossibly happy.
In the months leading up to the wedding, the expectation from the monogamous people in my life was that I would be jealous my girlfriend was getting married to someone else.
While not always explicitly stated, I could hear their confusion when they asked: “How are you feeling about the wedding?”
‘Compersion’ is a term used most often by non-monogamous people, and it describes the joy you have in your partner’s joy.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never felt jealous of my girlfriend’s relationship with their now-wife – it’s a misconception that people who practice non-monogamy never feel jealousy, most of us do.
But I’ve never experienced more compersion than in the run-up to their wedding. I felt nothing but happiness.
Perhaps it helps that I have no interest in getting married. The only time I ever thought about my wedding was in the wake of realising that I was queer. I would sit in the church I still attended most weeks with my parents and imagine a wedding I’d never be able to have there.
In those fantasies, I was always wearing a suit – weddings, my younger self knew, were an acceptable time for a queer woman to wear a suit.
On reflection, those fantasies were more about wanting to be allowed to wear a suit than a desire to get married. I was craving masculinity, not marriage.
I bought a suit for their wedding, of course. I probably spent more than I should have on it, but as I’m not planning on getting married myself, being my girlfriend’s best man might be the most important wedding in my life. I felt so powerful wearing it, so proud to be playing a role in their wedding.
My favourite aspect of polyamory is the freedom it gives me to build relationships that work for me and the people I’m dating and having sex with.
I practice solo polyamory, which I define as being my own primary partner. I want many kinds of relationships and kinds of love and intimacy in my life, but I also don’t want to live with a partner or build my life around someone else.
Even though my first date with my girlfriend happened before their first date with their now-wife, Alex, our relationships are very different – and while it’s taken me a while to get to this point, I no longer compare myself to them.
My girlfriend and Alex are ‘nesting partners’ – another polyamory term, describing a relationship where the people in it are building a life around each other. They own a house together. They’ve just adopted a cat.
Despite knowing that I didn’t want any of this, despite loving the relationship I do have with my girlfriend, I still felt jealous when they first mentioned they’d discussed marriage with Alex.
I knew marriage wasn’t something I wanted, but I couldn’t stop a small part of myself from asking why they didn’t want to marry me. I’ve had to learn to hold space for those emotions, ones that I know aren’t rational but are still how I feel in the moment.
It’s especially hard when the expectation is that you “should” be jealous – or sad, or angry – if your partner is marrying someone else.
I felt the same disconnect between my initial emotions and how I really, really felt when my girlfriend confirmed that while I was staying at theirs the night before the wedding, they were going to be sleeping in bed with Alex rather than sharing the spare room with me.
It was a completely reasonable boundary, but I still felt hurt.
The secret to managing emotions like this – or at least how I do it – is by talking to my girlfriend. I told them how I was feeling, caveating that I knew it wasn’t rational, and we agreed that we’d find at least half an hour to be intimate together that evening. Not to have sex, necessarily, but to talk and cuddle and affirm that our relationship is also important.
I don’t think I’d have been able to navigate all the little moments of jealousy that arose if I’d been expected to act like I was only their best man and not their boyfriend.
But it was important to both of them that they didn’t hide, that they were happily polyamorous even though they were getting married.
I didn’t have to hold myself back from kissing my girlfriend, even on their wedding day. It felt like tearing up the cis-hetero-patriarchal script for how relationships “should” look and using it as confetti.
The only time jealousy really hit me throughout the day was during my girlfriend’s father’s speech.
He talked about welcoming Alex to his family, and it clicked that he’d never say the same words about me. While I know my relationship with my girlfriend isn’t ‘lesser’ than their relationship with Alex, I suddenly realised that other people probably wouldn’t understand that.
I know I don’t need everyone to understand my relationship. The people who matter get it, even if most people don’t. (Neither my family nor Alex’s do.)
But for just a second, my tears were sad rather than happy as I came to terms with the fact that people will probably assume that Alex is more important to them than I am.
Our relationships are not more or less important; they are just different. My girlfriend and I will never exchange rings as part of a wedding ceremony, but we exchanged rings 10 months before their wedding, on the third anniversary of our first date.
I didn’t want to marry them, but we both wanted a symbol of our commitment and love. They wear the ring I gave them most days. They wore it on their wedding day – a sign that I am part of their life, and their marriage will not change that.
Not that I needed one – I’ve never felt so secure in our relationship or sure of their love for me.
Our relationship might not be recognised by the state, but our genders aren’t officially recognised either. It doesn’t make them any less real, or our relationship any less important.
They are the person I love more than anyone in the world – and on their wedding day, I got to stand next to them and hand them the ring they married their wife with.
There might be people who aren’t able to imagine why that would make me happy, but personally, I never imagined I could be this happy.