I grew up in Sydney, Australia in quite a masculine environment. I had always known that I was bisexual, but I only had relationships with men and I remembering feeling quite repressed. I felt stifled in a way that didn't allow me to express my sexuality openly.
It wasn't until I left Australia and moved to Whistler in Canada when I was 19 that I felt able to be a little bit more open. Then, when I emigrated to London in 2009, I really began to feel free. I think I hit an age—I was around 29—where I thought: I know I'm bisexual and I know I desire women; I need to go online and see if I can find somebody. I have always had incredibly strong bonds with women, but when I travelled overseas, I was able to begin exploring those bonds in a sexual way.
At that time, people used websites like Craigslist or Gumtree to meet potential partners, because dating apps didn't exist. I wanted to try to find a couple because I was used to having sex with men and I desired women. I thought perhaps it would be easier for me if a situation involved both sexes. But I wasn't aware of polyamory as a concept at all. I don't think many people were aware of it then.
I soon found an ad from a couple who were married and looking for a girl to hang out with sexually and socialize with. It wasn't necessarily meant to be a one off hook-up. I met this couple for drinks and we hit it off immediately; there was very clear chemistry straight away. We decided we would meet up again, and when we did, we had sex. It was pretty amazing actually. It was perhaps the first time where I had felt complete, sexually.
But the chemistry was just as emotional as it was sexual. When I say I felt completely whole, a lot of that comes from the emotional side; it comes from feeling like I was being heard and felt. The connection between the three of us was wonderful and I saw them again and again.
Around this time, I was sort of dating another guy, but not really that interested because the chemistry between the married couple and myself was so intense. About three months into dating the couple, this other man wanted to take me on a date from London to New York. I remember thinking it was a slightly bonkers suggestion, but sounded fun. And, I was free to do what I wanted, so I went away with him. But while on the trip, I found I was talking to the couple on the phone all the time, and we were all upset. We realized: OK, this is real. All three of us, myself and the couple, had a moment where we understood the relationship was more serious. I think that happens a lot at around the three month point.
I came back from New York and the relationship with the couple developed. We always thought it would run its course after a little while, but we ended up being together for three and a half years. It was great and incredibly intense. We did go to some play parties together, but we didn't sleep with anyone else unless we did so as a trio. Within the relationship, sometimes I would sleep with just the wife and sometimes just the husband, but mostly it was all three of us. And there was never any jealousy. The word polyamory comes from the Greek word for "many" and Latin word for "love" and I believe you're meant to feel safe and secure within that arrangement of many loves.
But with polyamory, like with any relationship, you have to have very clear boundaries and clear communication. Breakdown of relationships happens, often, because of problems with communication and boundaries. In hindsight, I think this couple's marriage had started to break down and the husband did then cheat on his wife and myself. At the time the whole situation was devastating. In my mind, I was the girlfriend and they were married, so it was meant to be me who left. But I'm still very good friends with both of them and the wife and I actually stayed together and went into my second polyamorous relationship.
She and I realized very quickly that, both being bisexual, we still desired men. Internet dating had just begun and suddenly it became a whole lot easier to find men who were interested in a polyamorous relationship. We were the main partners in the relationship, but we had three different males lovers for six to eight months each, with a few trials and errors in between. It was hard to find someone who accepted the situation and understood that we were the primary couple and not be drawn to one of us over the other. A lot of people, because of the traditional construct of a relationship, would be drawn to one particular woman.
But around three and a half years later, at the age of 36, I was going through a stage of my life where I had taken a complete u-turn in my career and decided that I wanted a "traditional" relationship. I wanted to get married and have a more conventional life. I was also at an age where I began getting a lot of questions: "Oh! You're not married?" or "You don't have kids, do you want kids?" I felt a lot of societal pressure.
So, I left my polyamorous relationship and changed my career. I tried having conventional relationships with a few men, but it didn't work out. I felt stifled and trapped in those relationships and didn't feel the completeness I feel when I'm able to experience men and women at the same time.
I'm 41 now and I still sleep with men and women. I've even started a dating app geared towards open-mindedness in relationships. I did have another long term polyamorous relationship with a man that ended earlier in 2021. We would also bring women into our relationship and he really understood that it was about love and completeness. We split up for very different reasons and we're still a little bit in limbo about the relationship. But I have remained good friends with him and all of my ex partners.
I've never had any judgement or nastiness about my sexuality from my family. My mom is quite accepting, as is my sister. I don't discuss my relationships with my brother, he's quite conservative in that way; I'm his little sister and I think he doesn't want to think about me being open sexually. My father is much the same, he definitely knows I am polyamorous and bisexual but he always described my long term female partner as just a "really good friend." It's just his way of communicating.
I'm not really in touch with friends I grew up with in Australia, but all of my friends here in London over the past 12 years have been incredibly accepting. From my perspective, polyamory is 100 percent more accepted than it was when I first embarked on a polyamorous relationship. There are now very distinct definitions that go with polyamory, monogamous relationships or swinging, for example, and more acceptance has come with that. Obviously I am judging that on my scope of experience, and I live in London. Of course, there are areas of the world where it is very different and non-traditional relationships and sexuality are not embraced as openly.
I think that's part of why myself and my business partner created a dating platform for open-minded people; to embrace sexuality. I felt so repressed for so long. It took a long time to be open about my bisexuality and feel comfortable communicating that I like sex.
You will always have critics. I talk about my open sexuality but I am also very sensitive. Nobody wants to be judged or criticized for being themselves, especially when you're not hurting anybody. But I think society is changing and having more conversations about these subjects is driving that.
Of course, this year has been painful as I have experienced a break up. I'm quite a passionate, emotional person so I feel things, but I don't regret anything. I am happy with all the choices I have made in life.
Gillian Myhill is co-founder of dating app BARE dating. You can find out more at bare.dating.com Myhill lives and works in London. You can follow her on Instagram @baredating. Or on Twitter @gillianmyhill .
All views expressed in this article are the author's own.
As told to Jenny Haward.