He Cheated On Me. That's When I Realised I Was Polyamorous

My heart should have been shattered by his infidelity. So why did I feel nothing but pure curiosity?

Growing up, my love life was very much dictated by my parents’ Christian beliefs and values. Dating, I was told, should only be done with the intention of marriage, and sex was an activity that should only exist within marriage. Passion was an alien concept, love portrayed only as a transactional convenience.

So when I finally entered into my first real relationship at 18, I dove in headfirst. It was safe to say that I was head over heels in love and could not picture myself with anyone else – ever. I was so infatuated I deferred my dream university place to move in with him. I had found my life partner at such a young age, why wait for something to interfere with our relationship?

Just a few months after moving in, we decided to take a spontaneous weekend away to Rome. We wandered through the beautifully beige streets of Italy’s capital hand-in-hand, shared plates of spaghetti Lady and the Tramp-style, and had our photo taken in front of the Trevi Fountain. Life was bliss.

When we landed back home, there was a girl waiting for us by the baggage claim. Her eyes were red-raw, her cheeks tear-stained, and her hands shaking as she approached us. My boyfriend tensed when he saw her and, with his hand on my lower back, tried to subtly steer me in a different direction.

But this was to no avail. The girl caught up to us and asked me if I was his girlfriend, before telling me that he had been seeing her at the same time. She attempted to show me screenshots and pictures on her phone, but my boyfriend was pushing her away. With a heartbroken sob, she cried “he told me he loved me” before running away in tears.

My boyfriend turned to me hesitantly, awaiting my reaction. But I had none. My world should have been shattered, my heart broken. I should have felt angry, or sad, or at least disappointed. So why did I feel nothing but pure curiosity?

Instead of interrogations laced with hurt and insecurity, I only had questions: did he love her? Did he love me? Did you love both of us? Did he still want to be with me? Did he want to be with her?

“When he said he was confused because he didn’t know it was possible to love two people at the same time, I suggested to him that he may be polyamorous. It didn’t cross my mind that the same could be said for me.”

He explained that he knew he loved me, but he wasn’t sure if he loved her. When he apologised for cheating and said he was confused because he didn’t know it was possible to love two people at the same time, I suggested to him that he may be polyamorous.

It didn’t cross my mind that the same could be said for me.

The more I looked into polyamory, the more I felt a certain pull. From the way I had been raised the idea should have repulsed me, yet somehow something seemed to awaken inside me and gave me almost a thrill even thinking about it.

But, for the time being, I pushed these thoughts aside. Friends and family told me that my partner couldn’t really love me if he was capable of cheating on me, and that clearly I didn’t love him if I was unaffected by his cheating.

Maybe the former was true, but I had no doubt that I loved him. Now the idea of him seeing someone else didn’t bother me, and I was starting to warm to the idea of seeing other people myself.

We carried on with our monogamous relationship for a few months (after his apologies and promises to not cheat again) but I just couldn’t shake the thoughts of seeing other people. I kept thinking about the excitement of first dates and the passionate exploring of a new lover’s body – paired with the comfort of coming home to the familiarity of your long-term loved one.

Is cheating indicative of someone’s polyamorous nature? Perhaps it is, for some. But for my boyfriend it wasn’t. The key difference between committing adultery and being in a polyamorous relationship is communication and honesty. My boyfriend hadn’t been honest with me and, for that reason, I ended our relationship to explore polyamory.

At first I was unsure how to break into the world of polyamory; it was as if I assumed there would be some whole separate polyamorous community that floated on the outskirts of society. But I soon discovered that this relationship structure wasn’t as taboo as I had expected.

“It’s not that monogamous relationships don’t work for me – I maintain I was happy for the entirety of my relationship – but in the world of polyamory I have truly found myself.”

I opened up to one of my close friends and housemates at the time and, off the back of the conversation, we started having a casual relationship. At first it felt strange to be so open about messaging others, or going on dates with other people but eventually I accepted this change, rid myself of any lingering feelings of guilt, and embraced this new lifestyle.

Embracing, exploring, and experimenting with my polyamorous side changed my life. It felt refreshing to be so autonomous, to allow myself to make as many connections as I’d like, and to have such a strong and repricrocated trust with each partner. Polyamory eradicates the fear, jealousies, and suspicions that inevitably come with monogamous relationships and, without the burden of those emotions, you are able to make life-changing discoveries about yourself and connections with others.

If I had not been cheated on, I may have never discovered I was more suited to a polyamorous relationship. It’s not that monogamous relationships don’t work for me – I maintain I was happy for the entirety of my relationship – but in the world of polyamory I have truly found myself. I am free to experiment while being able to remain independent.

In this highly individualised age, people desire independence and freedom; often sacrificing a relationship in favour of focusing on their career or opting for casual dating where they feel they cannot commit to anyone. Yet, with a polyamorous relationship, I’ve found you can have the best of both worlds.

I am still discovering and navigating what this life of polyamory means for me, and it may not even be a permanent facet of my life.

But, at least for now, it’s right for me.

Roni Elenor is a freelance journalist and student

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