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On the Couch

July 19, 2012

Something I occasionally run into with my monogamous friends is what seems to be a reaction of pity when I mention certain details of my life. Which is strange for me, of course, because I’ve consented to all those details, and in fact many of them were my idea. They work for me, and I’m happy. But some of them look really weird to other people.

One of them is that when A’s partners come over, I sleep on the couch while they sleep in our bed with A. This is a logistical necessity: one of A’s partners lives out of town, and the other lives with her partner and his grown-up daughter in a two-bedroom apartment with limited room for sleepovers. We have two bedrooms, but a housemate who lives in the second. So either we all share the bed, or one of us sleeps in the living room. I’ve occasionally shared the bed with M and A, and A used to, sometimes, with me and T (always for sleeping, never sex—for the record, I’ve never had a threesome). When that works, it’s absolutely wonderful. But M and I had some conflict a year or two ago, and I stopped being comfortable in the bed with her. We’re past the conflict, but haven’t yet re-established that level of comfort. So when she visits, I sleep on the couch.

This arrangement originated for my benefit, when I was seeing T, who lived four hours away, and A had no other partners. It took awhile for A to become comfortable with it, and in the meantime, T and I got pretty creative with parks, the back of his car, and being really really quiet in the living room. Which was fun while it lasted, but it was also a huge relief when we were finally able to start sleeping in the bedroom.

So I remember being really happy the first time M came to visit. I gleefully texted T, “It’s my turn to sleep on the couch!” I was so happy to be able to give back what A had given me over the preceding months. Now, it’s just normal.

I guess in some way it seems to my monogamous friends like I’m being displaced from my territory: the bedroom is usually a private, intimate place, so letting another women have sex and sleep there with my partner may seem more invasive, somehow, than just being okay with her having sex with my partner. (Also, while my partners aren’t mine, my bedroom certainly is.) And being banished to the couch is something that usually happens to a partner who’s on the losing end of a fight. But personally, I have no negative associations with it. In fact, I’m grateful to be able to make that little concession to A. And it is a really comfortable couch.

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