I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through my tears. I called my girlfriend and said I needed to tell her something important. I’d be over in an hour, I said. I hung up, wiped the tears away and drove to her apartment.

I had just cheated on her — no more than six hours earlier — and my 17-year-old self couldn’t handle the guilt. I had to tell her.

She was my first girlfriend, and I loved her the way you can only love your first: unconditionally, naively and with sheer optimism.

When I told her I cheated, she laughed. She said she figured I would cheat at some point. That’s what boys my age do. As long as I didn’t love anyone else, then it didn’t matter to her. She knew I loved her, and physical contact with someone else didn’t change that.

I was dumbstruck. I made it clear to her that my response would not be the same if she cheated on me. I would see it as betrayal.

The second time I cheated on her, I broke up with her. I knew something about the relationship wasn’t fulfilling me if I cheated on her … twice.

After that relationship, I moved from one monogamous relationship to the next. After my breakup with another girlfriend when I was 23, I embraced my bisexuality — and my outlook on relationships changed.

The thought of being in another monogamous relationship was enough to make me feel nauseated. I worried I would cheat again and let another partner down. Once I identified as bisexual, I no longer felt the need to abide by traditional, heteronormative measures that define what a “good” relationship is “supposed” to look like. I also began to realize that, like my sexuality, my relationship style could also be fluid.

I avoided labeling my relationships and did my best to avoid any talks that could lead to monogamy. I made it clear to my partners that, while we’re dating, I was still dating other people, too, and I wanted my partners to date other people as well. Still, two guys asked me to be monogamous. I told both of them I couldn’t, bringing one of them to tears.

That’s when I realized that dating in this gray area doesn’t do anyone justice. It just hurts folks even more.

Then, unexpectedly, I met Jason, who told me he was polyamorous — meaning that he dated and was open to loving more than one person simultaneously. And he was honest with all his partners about it. I was fascinated. After getting to know him and polyamory better, I came to the conclusion that dating Jason would be ideal. I could be open about my feelings, date other people, but still have a real relationship. I could be committed without being monogamous. It sounded like a win-win.

Still, I knew polyamory wouldn’t just be an excuse to cheat. I knew it would require work, honesty and communication to engage in this type of ethically non-monogamous relationship with Jason. But I wanted to give it a shot.

So we dated. It was fabulous. I moved in with him and his wife last September, and it’s been a wonderful experience. I was able to keep a sense of independence and freedom, while at the same time have a meaningful relationship.

Recently, however, Jason and I broke up. I’m moving to New York in June, and we both realized that our relationship had become more of a friendship. While this worked for me, he wanted a love where you lose yourself in the other person. Not just any other person, but me.

I haven’t and couldn’t give him that because I am still figuring out who I am. I can’t lose myself in another person. So we decided that a friendship was the better route. I still live with him (and his wife) and will do so until I move to New York. Sure, there’s some tension, but all things considered, it’s not that bad.

So I’m single again. I’ve been a cheater. I’ve been monogamous. I’ve dated casually, avoiding labels (and commitment), and I’ve been polyamorous. At each point in my life, I’ve engaged in the relationship style that I needed. That I thought was best for me.

I might not be polyamorous forever. I could find myself in an open relationship, where we sleep with other people but don’t get into relationships with several people. Or I may go back to a monogamous relationship once I’ve met the “right person.” Or I may stop dating altogether.

I don’t know what the future holds. However, I do know that being sexually fluid has changed my mind-set about what kind of relationship might be best for me. I’ve learned that I’m not simply monogamous or polyamorous. I’m not a cheater or faithful. I’m all of it. These various facets of my identity don’t contradict one another. Rather, they simply come out at different points in my life.


Things I’m afraid to ask my therapist

What if we thought of monogamy as a spectrum?

I’m 90 percent honest with my boyfriend. The 10 percent lying is why we work.