Are three boyfriends better than one when it comes to borderline personality disorder? Writer Frankie Falls explores how her relationship setup supported her symptoms.
Lockdown was undeniably the worst yet most obvious time in which to have an actual breakdown. So, we all decided to have one; me, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s boyfriend and his non-binary partner. Some of us had more than one. What can I say? We’re a greedy bunch.
I went first, getting in there early with ten years of poorly patched-up depression, anxiety and anger management issues which eventually resulted in a laggardly Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) diagnosis in 2017. As lockdown began, a complete upheaval of the rigid routine I’d latterly clung to was shoving me swiftly into a fiery spiral of anxiety and despair.
Then Gabe thought he’d have a go. Gabe is the newest of my longer-term partners. In March 2020, Gabe was new to the scene, new to polyamorous dating, and new to rescuing his mental well-being from the bin.
Lockdown, as I’m sure it did for many people, hastened what was still a fairly fledgling relationship. We quickly decided to shack-up in my precarious houseshare in order to have someone to reliably binge Netflix with over the ensuing months of leaving the house only to make the weekly pilgrimage to our nearest Lidl.
Having two people, each struggling with their own unique mental health difficulties, sharing a room, a single kitchen cupboard (it was one of those houseshares) and an Amazon Prime account was not without its challenges. There were definitely arguments and impasses as we both attempted to keep going when we just couldn’t keep going.
But, in flagrant disregard for our destructive behaviours of the past, lockdown also proved to be an apt time to begin addressing those festering chasms in our psyches. Very tentatively, Gabe and I started to build up new coping mechanisms. We managed to find ‘pay what you can afford’ therapy, and started attending regular Zoom sessions where we would pour out our respective hearts out to our respective therapists over bourbons and dodgy wifi. Gabe sampled a series of the NHS’s finest antidepressants and we began to play the will-they-won’t-they lottery of which ones we might be able to have sex on. We even tried to eat nice food, sleep during regular hours and occasionally exercise.
Having never planned to live with a partner, I unexpectedly but gratefully had the support of someone who was literally always there. My fierce independence was momentarily shelved as I suddenly had someone with whom to share the important things in life: responsibilities, bills, the finale of RuPaul’s Drag’s Race.
Of course, the other partners had to be told. Long before Gabe, and, mediumly before that, there was Sal and Rowan.
How do you tell one partner you’re moving in with another? How do you tell someone who you’d normally wake up in warm and pleasant tangles with at least once a week that you’re making efforts to continue doing that with someone else, not them? The conversation could go one of two ways.
For me, it went both: Rowan understood. Sal did not.
Lockdown proved too much for some relationships. As well as Sal and I breaking up, one of Rowan’s relationships with one of their other partners came to end. Gabe lost a close member of their family to the virus. There were some very low times during the time where we were unable to see our loved ones.
And through crying fits, grey moments in graveyards and dejected evenings swearing that things would never be better again, I’m so glad I had my partners and my partners’ partners to be some sort of modern found-family. To be an incredible support network.
When you’re dating enough people to field your own bobsleigh team you can simultaneously date someone who pulls you into the fixes of yoga and someone else who believes in the restorative power of ordering the largest possible takeaway from the local fish and chip shop. You have different people to talk to when you know this is too difficult or personal a topic for another, when you’ve had an oddly intense argument with one partner about instant coffee or you’re worried about another partner not answering your calls.
Lockdown has definitely been a challenge for balancing poly and sanity. A lot of scheduling goes into making sure there’s never a clash between one person’s online therapy sessions, another’s frisky phone dates and two metamours starting a pretentious Netflix Party film club. Our greatest fix was creating an all-partners Friday night online games session. Where you could quietly spend three hours just trying to build the longest road or you could seek comfort from whoever’s managed to log on about your work insecurities, your frustrating parents, your inability to get out of bed that week. Being polyamorous during this time has meant I’ve always have someone to turn to, even when someone else is exhausted, working, or struggling with their own issues.
Now, as we’ve escaped a third lockdown and the country is slowly returning to normality, Gabe and I have decided to keep living together. The house share inevitably crumbled to dust, but we made more concrete steps than I ever thought possible for myself, and now have a flat and a cat together. But as well as this, I’m also so excited to start seeing new partners in-person again, having only had video calls as a connection to others for so long. So we can give and receive in close quarters that comfort we had to adapt to something distanced for our strange times. And hey, now we can all start going on some new dates again, to induct some new ethically non-monogamous people into our weird and wonderful fold.