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I played this board game recently. One of those really complicated ones that came with two rule books: the “read this first” book and the “actually contains all the rules” book. It also came with a default “I don’t want to look up the freaking rule” rule: in instances of doubt, choose the answer that will make the game harder (and therefore longer).

***

For the past few months I’ve been dating someone who’s poly. Because splitting up with A and leaving the house I thought we would be in for the next twenty years wasn’t hard enough. Because being financially responsible for two households while trying to find a new job that doesn’t require me to travel 1-2 weeks a month wasn’t enough of a challenge. Because sometimes the universe hands you something, something wonderful and precious and rare, and the only possible response is to say thank you.

Poly is hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It means letting go of most of my social programming, letting go of things imprinted so deeply they seem like fundamental truth. Having multiple, loving relationships makes sense to me in a way that monogamy never has. The reality of a lover who has a wife he’s committed to and in love with is something else entirely.

***

They’re in Australia for a few weeks, my lover and his wife. The week they get back I have to travel for work. The week after that I have Z, making it somewhere between five and six weeks before we see each other again.

I’m terrified of losing him. I’m terrified that the space apart will make him realize what a terrible idea it is to be involved with someone going through a divorce. That the pheromone high will wear off. That the mono archetype will assert itself, that he’ll have enough time with his wife in the next few weeks that he won’t need or want anyone else. That he’ll drift away from me, maybe without even meaning to, so that by the time he comes back there’s nothing left.

***

I tried to end it before he went. Tried to get ahead of the fear and the jealousy by making a break up my decision instead of something inevitable that would happen to me. Tried to tell him not to talk to me while he was gone so that when my phone didn’t light up it was because I’d told him not to instead of because he was having too much fun to say hello.

It didn’t stick. Instead of a clean break I have a lover in the other side of the world and a whole host of insecurities.

***

It’s easy to believe he doesn’t really love me, that I’m just some bright and shiny thing, that distance and time will fade it, that he will come back cold and distant and done. It’s easy to believe that a few weeks with his wife will have him questioning why he around want anything else.

It’s much harder to believe that this is real. That I am loved regardless of time and distance. That I’m not going to be set aside in favor of the real relationship.

***

I am trying to make the harder choice. The one that will prolong the game. It is the most difficult thing I have ever done.