A Letter to My Partners

How I found the truth in the cliché “you can’t help who you fall in love with”



Dear Ryan and Sam,

I can’t think of anything more public than telling you both that I love you in this forum—unless the three of us were on a Jumbotron in a stadium somewhere and broadcast on national television. But that’s not the only reason I am writing. After all, most of the people close to me know you both and know how I feel. But it makes me smile to write it now, and it underscores the last two years with you both. It’s something I didn’t think was possible, and I have deep respect for those things that, despite my once feeling they were impossible, come to be.

I hesitated to write what you are about to read. In discussing this idea-turned-assignment with my editor, I listed a litany of things I most certainly did not want this to be. No polemic, no defense, no soapbox, hopefully. It wasn’t an editorial meeting as much as a navigation of my defensive posturing. (Most writers are excited to tell you what their stories might be—not everything they won’t!) When it came time to commit these words to my computer screen, however, I realized preaching is simply a thing I cannot do. What I really wanted to write was a love letter.

When I first met you, Ryan, seven years ago, I wasn’t look- ing for anything in particular. I was enjoying being single. I was skeptical of my ability to peel some scabs off my heart. I didn’t think anyone would really affect me in any meaning- ful way—or that I had it in me to give anything back. And yet, a Craigslist meeting morphed into something extraordinary. I knew I had to reconsider some self-imposed obstacles the first night I walked into your apartment and saw the books and things you’d collected in your travels through Africa, listened to you animatedly tell stories I wanted to know more about, saw your brilliant smile, and especially when you leaned in to kiss me.

Five years later, Sam, you walked into our house one evening (bless the Internet!) and I knew I was potentially in trouble again—good trouble. I knew it because of your intellect, your humor, your handsome face. This was the kind of trouble I’d only experienced once before. I saw Ryan experience it, too, this time. We knew there was a palpable attraction between the three of us, that we were intrigued by, interested in, and enjoyed each other.

What I came to learn in those first six or seven months, when we got together every week or two, was that I reveled in seeing the two of you side by side, naked or clothed, listening to you talk, hearing you laugh. I remember Ryan and I talking during the summer, right after Sam had come back from a month abroad. We were sitting on our deck, having a drink and asking each other, “What is this?” We weren’t sure, but we were discovering that we indeed had this ability to open up our own partnership to someone else, conventions be damned. Who’s to tell you that your love life—the ways your heart, brain, and other body parts react to another person or people— should fit into a box created by an advertising company or capitalism? We are going to draw our own map, I thought. I certainly wasn’t about to regard myself as “just like everyone else,” as so many people in articles on polyamorous relationships take pains to proclaim. Nor was I about to get on the bandwagon about marriage—a right that, sure, everyone should have access to, but to me sounds more like a state-sponsored economic policy than anything about love.

I marveled that I was talking to my boyfriend of so many years about this, that I didn’t feel a surge of jealousy, even that I was confused. But I also decided to engage in the challenge and excitement of it. When I began telling friends about the three of us—at this point still framing it as casual yet enriching—some of them thought it was awesome, some seemed confused, some told me it was “advanced gay” (funny for a moment, but ultimately meaningless), and some only said, “Well, good for you.” No one was mean about it. No one shunned me.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2012 that I really gained a deeper understanding of our relationship. When all three of us went to dinner (our “gay date,” as we called it) to celebrate Sam’s successful completion of a big project, I snapped photos of the two of you eating ice cream we’d gotten at the local donut shop. I began to look at those photos daily. They made me smile. When Ryan and I went on vacation, we were happy know- ing that you, Sam, were in our house, sleeping in our bed. We talked on the streets of Berlin and Paris about you, imagining you wrapped in our comforters. We wanted to be there with you, but we also couldn’t wait to share the tale of our trip and how we had missed you. And throughout it all there was the talking: “Is this working for you?” “Does it matter if it’s not defined?” “I like seeing the two of you together—I like all of us together.” “I’m willing to see where this goes.” “Are you free next Friday night?”

The proverbial deal-sealer, for me at least, was the December night we had dinner at the house. Sam made latkes for Hanukkah. The three of us sat by candlelight in the dining room, enjoying ourselves, this homemade food, this ritual, and the pure pleasure and intimacy of the moment. This wasn’t simply camaraderie or fraternity with a helping of sex; this was its own thing entirely.

Illustration by Hadley Hooper