'I Began a Polyamorous Relationship In My 40s'

My husband and I met during a work project in the Czech Republic, where I grew up. I liked his sense of humor and we got on really well; within a few months we started dating. From what I was told, and what I believed, he was separated from his wife, but many years later I found out that when we had started dating he was still very much married. Nobody from his other family knew that he was leading a double life abroad with me.

We were together for 22 years in total and married in 1998 after he eventually divorced. We then had a son in 1999. After few years or our life together we went through some very stressful times financially and it was only later that I realized there were so many secrets I didn't know about. The situation became painful and I started realizing there was a complete disconnect between us.

When I left my husband in September 2014, at the age of 44, I had an influx of care, love and attention from both friends and family. One family who knew us both asked me if I wanted to come and live with them until I could set up on my own; I stayed there for 18 months. I did test out Tinder quite early on, but I quickly realised what a mistake it was because I met someone briefly who was very similar to my husband.

Then, in July 2015 an old neighbour found another dating site, OKCupid, and suggested I try it. Creating a detailed dating profile there helped me figure out who I had become and what was important for me, and I decided to select "open relationship" on the site, even though I hadn't experienced one. For the first time, I came across the word polyamory and I was really curious about it.

Up until then, I had known quite a few people who were smart and authentic and who I had huge respect for, yet I was really discombobulated by the fact that they would be unfaithful to the spouses or partners they loved dearly. It was really strange to observe that. One couple in particular who did this continued while other marriages I knew of fell apart. They had been together many years and had a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. I remember thinking, what is the "je ne sais quoi" you have that makes the relationship work?

I realized it would be a test to try to be in an open relationship. I would have to relax, let go and trust in the fact that my partner loved me enough to come back to me, even if they have connections outside the primary relationship.

Through the site, I met a couple who lived in Holland and found out that we had mutual friends, which created an element of trust. In the summer of 2015 we had lots of conversations over Skype and wrote lots of emails to each other. I was interested in them not just because they were polyamorous, but also because they were interested in BDSM. The communication was really intriguing and informative. For my 45th birthday they bought me a ticket from the U.K. to Holland to see them; I was going to stay with the man while his girlfriend went abroad with her other lover.

I did have sex with him, he is a BDSM geek and sent me lots of materials and checklists, looking at what I was curious about and interested in and what my limits were. He was helping me to learn about my boundaries and what I wanted and didn't want. It was an erotic friendship more than anything else, but I very much enjoyed the experiences with him. They really helped me in looking for my next partner.

Beyond that, I had messaged a few people and it was easy to see whether the conversation flowed or not. When I connected with Sasha in August of 2015, nothing felt awkward. He had also indicated that he wanted an open relationship and we were a 99 percent match on the site.

Normally I wouldn't sleep with guys on a first date, but we connected so well that I did end up staying the night. For the next couple of days we couldn't see each other but we chatted about what we wanted from life. Sasha had been in a "don't ask, don't tell" open marriage, but he and his ex were separated at that point and they hadn't broken up over affairs. In fact, they are still friends. He knew that I had never been polyamorous but I wanted to explore open relating.

When we met, Sasha already had a couple of erotic friendships and had also just met a lovely American woman who then became his lover. I got to know her as well and that was something of a test, though not an intentional one. She was lovely and friendly, and was asking whether Sasha and I were in a primary relationship.

That's how we started talking about it a bit more and by November 6, he asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. We spent Christmas together and he gave me keys to his apartment. By Easter, he had asked me to move in with him. It took me a while to agree, because I knew it was a new relationship, but the wonderful thing about it was that there was no lying or hiding. We had, and continue to have, honest, authentic conversations which seemed miles away from what I experienced in my marriage.

Jolly Thompson became polyamorous in her 40s
Jolana 'Jolly' Thompson became polyamorous in her 40s after her 22-year marriage ended. She has been in a polyamorous relationship with a primary partner, Sasha, since 2015. Jolana 'Jolly' Thompson

Everybody imagines that with polyamory you'll have lots of sex, and the two of us do together, but as far as everything else, it's about 85 percent talking and the rest is the sexual part. Sasha encourages me to embrace polyamory, to explore and have fun, and most importantly, to feel empowered. It took me a while, because I was caught up in that "new relationship" energy and smitten with him, but there were people I have known for a while who realized I am not with my husband anymore and over time we would meet up and share intimacy—they were more like erotic friendships.

Sasha and I are very sexual together but both of us also love going to parties. I was always curious about going to sex clubs, but I was also nervous. Sasha suggested we go but at any point in time I could say I wanted to leave. It made me feel safe to dip my toe in and gave me the strength and power to explore. The experience was wonderful and at one party we met a man who became our lover for about six months. He is still a very dear friend of ours.

Outside my relationship with Sasha, I haven't fallen in love yet, apart from maybe once with a woman, which is another aspect of my exploration of polyamory. I started embracing the fact that I am bisexual, which is something I'd never really looked into before. It's been wonderful being able to talk to Sasha openly about it.

We have a female friend who lives close by that we met on a dating site, we embraced her and brought her in for some play. She and her husband have an open relationship, and even now we are still very close friends.

Initially, Sasha was more into the tantric world, but the more I talked to him about BDSM the more he embraced it. Now he's in his element with it. But it's very different from the world shown in Fifty Shades of Grey. The way we embrace BDSM has been extremely healing and empowering for us both.

Sasha and I have now been together for nearly six years, and I am grateful that I became polyamorous in my 40s and didn't wait until I was 70! It feels like I can truly be my authentic self. I have spoken openly to my son and step children about it and I'm learning and talking about polyamory more.

Life is short and now I don't have to hide that I am a sexual being; that I am enjoying being sensual, sexual and having erotic friendships. I don't have to be cheating on my partner, there is another way. It's not always easy, I do have anxiety sometimes when I think of him with someone I consider "better" than me. But that in itself poses the question: what does "better" mean? It's good to sit with those feelings, ask where they are coming from and what triggered me.

Obviously we have boundaries, the main one being sexual health. We are responsible, we are tested regularly and we always know where the other person is. We don't hide phones or laptops from each other.

I have had a realization that you don't find security outside of yourself, it has to be from within. Whether you're married, in a monogamous relationship or in polyamorous relationship, the security won't be coming from those relationships, it will be coming from within. The other person doesn't belong to you. Even if you define your relationship by the words included in some marriage ceremonies: "excluding all others."

Overall, I believe as a society we still have a very puritanical and backward attitude to sex and sexual education. I would love it if my journey could help encourage and empower other women who feel disconnected from their sexuality and sensuality.

Sasha and I would like to grow old disgracefully together. We dance a lot, whether it's in a sex club, at different parties or at home in the kitchen. Somehow, even when we are cross with each other, having a dance together seems to help so much. Even if we can't have sex when we are old, if we can dance, life will be brilliant.

Jolana 'Jolly' Thompson is a photographer living and working in London, England. You can find out more about her work at jollydphoto.com and follow her on Instagram @jollytd.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.