Dear Straight People,
Meet 34-year old Paul Ng, arguably the only Singaporean who is publicly openly about his three-way relationship.
Together with his boyfriends James and Ian for 8 and 5 years respectively, Paul has very kindly agreed to this interview where we bombard him with some of our burning questions regarding a three-way relationship!
STARTING A THREE-WAY RELATIONSHIP
1. What made you consider going polyamorous?
They both complement me differently in terms of personality and approach so in that respect, this arrangement satisfies a large part of my needs and wants.
On a practical level, there’s a greater distribution and sharing of resources and labour – e.g. car and/or home ownership. There’s one more person to consult, bounce ideas with, share in joys and sorrows intimately. There’s definitely a lot more fun.
On an intellectual level, it invites all parties to question traditional relational expectations and constantly negotiate boundaries and desires. You come out being more critically aware of why you are in such a relationship and that just enriches your experience of love, making you cherish what you have even more.
2. How did you get James to agree to this arrangement? What about Ian?
James has always been the sort of person who’s open to trying out new things. While there was some hesitation at the outset, it wasn’t something a sensible discussion couldn’t fix.
Ian was led by his affection for me and was also willing to give this a go. I think the common thread is that all three of us were also motivated by affection and curiosity.
3. What were some of the challenges you faced when the three of you first became a throuple?
The triangulation compels you to be more attuned to the complex dynamics that come with being in a three-way relationship.
In the beginning, James felt insecure, and that required me to let him know that my feelings for him hadn’t changed and won’t be changing just because Ian’s now in the picture.
Ian on the other hand felt out of place. There are established nuances in the communication between James and me that might sometimes unwittingly estrange Ian. So I had to constantly be cognizant when the three of us are together and sometimes invite Ian into our conversations.
BEING IN A THREE WAY RELATIONSHIP
4. Is there pressure on you to love both James and Ian equally?
One of the common questions I get asked a lot is if I practise favouritism.
It isn’t favouritism per se but there’ll definitely be some form of privilege for one over the other in the beginning. It’s only fair to the one you’ve been with significantly longer. It could be things like choping dates or even something superficial like gifts expenditure – spending how much on whom. For me, this isn’t an exercise in preference but decorum. In the early part of the relationship, deference should be due to James. This was my principle.
However, the ultimate goal is always the achievement of equilibrium. So we worked towards that. Time, as they say, is a great equaliser. And here we are, many years later, both equal to me.
5. If this relationship were to fail, whether it’s with one or both of them, will you still pursue a polyamorous relationship after?
The older I get the more I learn to look after my well-being – spiritually, emotionally, psychologically; I find joy, solace and edification in things like books, the company of friends, or just a variety of hobbies or work that enrich the self. My priority shifts.
Searching for a partner(s) and then building the nascent relationship(s) from the ground up requires a lot of effort. Just thinking about it now makes me tired. What I have now, because it is stable, demands very little of me so I can focus on cultivating the other parts of me.
So if it were to end with one or both, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to look for another relationship. The overarching romantic theme for me isn’t rigidly polyamorous. It’s more about being flexible and honest about my desires and feelings, and if those guide me in the way of polyamory so be it, if not, that’s fine too.
RESPONSE TO A THREE WAY RELATIONSHIP
6. How has the response to your three-way relationship been like so far?
So far, it’s mostly been quite positive.
My entire extended family seems to have accepted my relationship with the both of them. James and Ian get invited for weddings, CNY meals and some family events. When one is absent, my aunts and uncles always ask why he couldn’t make it. So I think that’s a strong implicit acceptance on their part.
My friends don’t make too much of a fuss about it. And most strangers who speak to me on the apps are mostly curious or encouraging.
7. What do you say to people who argue that a three way relationship is just an excuse for lust?
This is one of the assumptions that people have of our relationship – that we’re perpetually engaged in threesomes. Once, someone asked if we competed to see who’s better in bed. I found this extremely bewildering.
I suspect this sentiment is borne out of an inability to conceive of anything other than the conventional – which is ironic considering that being gay is the exception in this heteronormative society. To an extent, for some people, I suppose it is also projected desire.
To be clear then, if the motivation had been lust then obviously this would have been destined to fail – but it hasn’t. I initiated a triangulation of the primary relationship because I felt that the three-way arrangement would be a stronger one for all of us.
8. What is the biggest misconception that people have about your relationship?
The one common question I often get is ‘how does it work’ which suggests that the fundamental workings of our relationship is so meaningfully different from conventional ones that it needs to be clarified.
To me, this is the biggest misconception. Essentially speaking, there is very little that is different in terms of what makes a relationship successful. The cornerstones of honesty, openness and need for constant communication that make conventional relationships work the are the very same ones that make ours work.
A common refrain is ‘Wow, that’s so cool/interesting/fascinating.‘ Except it really isn’t that cool/interesting/fascinating. I reckon our motivations, problems, desires, the mechanisms we try to come up with to make the relationship work aren’t that divergent from everyone else’s.
9. What advice would you give someone considering a polyamorous relationship?
A couple of years ago, I was involved with another guy. To James and Ian, this probably appeared like a protracted fling but perhaps subconsciously for me, I was testing to see if the relationship could be expanded further.
It couldn’t. Resource wise – in terms of time and energy – I was strapped. There were many other matters I needed to take into account: my need for personal room and time, temporal/logistical limitations, caring for my ambitions and my partners’ etc. I wouldn’t have been able to love all properly and still have time for myself had I endeavoured to expand the relationship.
This was a particularly instructive experience because it taught me that it isn’t just the amorphous idea of love that governs a relationship. It would be a mistake to think that that alone were sufficient. Clearly, to have a successful, working relationship, one needs to be aware of our real limitations as well.
So be aware of your motivations and limitations. Don’t do it because you crave company, are in a relationship slump or think it’s cool. Do it not just because you have fallen in love, but because you know the addition will strengthen the relationship rather than weaken it.
Begin only when your primary relationship is already strong and secure. Commit, be honest, always communicate, be receptive to changes, negotiate constructively, evolve.
10. Is there anything else you like to add?
That all relationships require work.
Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, be committed to solving a problem together – there’s always a way out, a solution – if a solution requires you to get out of your comfort zone, give it a go, you never know, that might be your moment of positive transformation, of growth.
The quintessence is to be considerate, compassionate and overall loving and committed to making the relationship work. Always be mindful of why you are in a relationship. A relationship is not a crutch for your insecurities or an excuse to live out your romantic fantasies. It is about enriching the other person(s) with whom you’re building a life with.
Interview by Sean Foo – www.instagram.com/mrseanfoo
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Paul Ng for sharing his story with us.
If you would like to keep up to date with how Paul is doing, you can connect with Paul on Instagram via @porkbellyandrice
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