I write a lot about relationships on Minka Guides. The ins and outs of polyamory. The intersection of sex, sexuality and gender identity. The quest of connecting with yourself. Yet, I rarely write about my relationships, especially the juicy ‘how it started and ended’ details. That’s something that’s just for my partners and me (and, let’s face it, a bunch of our reliable, detail-hungry friends) to know about.
However, I would like to tell you about one particular partner – with their permission, of course. Here’s the rather long, quite funny, life-changing story of how my first time using the dating app Feeld helped me connect with Zane (they/them).
I remember the first time someone told me about Feeld. It was at a house party during the early hours of a Sunday morning in 2019. I was in the kitchen chatting with a friend of a friend, who (because she’s Scottish and I’m not that imaginative) we’ll call Bonnie. Having exited a decade-long relationship earlier that year, I’d quickly learnt that people only had one of two questions for me now, depending on their current relationship status. Those who were coupled up wanted to know why my marriage had ended. Yet, unpartnered people wanted entirely different details: what dating apps was I on?
Bonnie was in the latter camp, and she listened intently while I ummed and ahhed about polyamory Facebook groups before levelling with me. “You have to get on Feeld. That’s where all the hot guys are.” And even though Bonnie’s penchant for men who look like lumberjacks differed wildly from my gender-diverse tastes, I decided in my inebriated state to download Feeld and create a profile then and there.
The months since my ex and I had broken up managed to be both busy and spectacularly awful. I’d rebounded my way through not one but two brief NRE-fuelled affairs that had unfortunately resulted in me hurting one and being spectacularly hurt by the other. So, now I was resolved only to have eyes for people deeply committed to polyamory. As it turned out, this was one of the markets that Feeld catered to (alongside a mix of queer, kinky and other exciting folks).
A few days after the party, I decided to open up the app and try some swiping. I was sitting at home, doing my usual procrastination routine, where I pretended I didn’t have writing to, well, write. I looked with curiosity at the endless stream of faces on Feeld, until suddenly up popped Zane.
My immediate response was to squeal and drop my phone, before gingerly picking it up and confirming that it was indeed the person that I feared it was. Terrified that I was somehow going to press a button (because, in this case, any button would be the wrong one), I carefully placed my phone on my desk before running downstairs to discuss this dilemma with my housemates.
Unwanted office crush
I first met Zane through work in late 2016. Brexit was suddenly real; Trump would soon be elected, and my world was turning upside down. Recently, I confessed to my spouse that I didn’t think I was cut out for monogamy, and we were taking a prolonged deliberation period to consider our options. I’d also embarked on a career change, which was how I found myself interning at 35.
On the first day of this three-month placement, I’d come to work wrapped in a fluffy pink scarf and was delighted when it became a conversation starter at the end of the day. My new workmates gathered around to ask about its unusual structure and texture (you need to see it to understand) when a voice said in my left ear, “Can I touch it?”
Turning around, I discovered that the really hot person from the office was speaking to me and squeaked out something like, “Sure.” And that, my friends, was about pretty much all I said to Zane for the following months.
You see, this was a highly inconvenient time for me to have an office crush. There I was, in a not-open but maybe soon-to-be-open relationship, trying to get my foot on the rung of a new career ladder without screwing it up. And here was this smouldering South African with eyes that looked right through you as if they knew what underwear you were wearing. How the hell was I going to handle this?
Sensibly, I resolved to avoid Zane at all costs, which was obviously easier said than done. No matter where I sat in the office, I was hyper-aware of their presence. If our paths so much as crossed, be it accidental eye contact in a meeting or, God forbid, they asked me to do some actual work, my immediate response was to rush to the office bathrooms and masturbate furiously.
But thankfully, we had very few interactions throughout that winter, aside from two that remain burned in my mind. The first happened in a pub when the office gathered for a lunchtime pint. Somehow, we were the last two to order drinks, forcing an unwanted conversation. I mentioned something about my spouse, and Zane revealed that they were about to get married before casually noting that they were exploring polyamory.
Understandably, this news sent me into a monumental spiral. How on earth could they also be polyamorous? And how was I even meant to function around them now that I knew this? I felt like the desire must have been radiating off me and that clearly I was horribly embarrassing myself. As it turns out, the opposite was true. Zane later confirmed that my response to them generally had the glacial quality of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, to the point that they were sure I hated them. God bless my resting bitch face.
Yet, they must have sensed some vibe because a few weeks later, we arrived at that hallowed institution: the office Christmas party. There was the usual mix of too much alcohol, awkward conversation and festive attire. Still managing to swerve Zane while maintaining a constant awareness of their location, I took to the dancefloor with my usual merry abandon. It wasn’t long before I felt their eyes on me, which I simultaneously longed for but knew was a bad idea.
To this day, I can still remember the wildfire their attention lit in me. It was a strangely intoxicating sensation to dance in public while feeling intensely aroused. Zane seemed so at ease as they observed me while I felt myself moving ever closer to a reckless tipping point. In a moment of clarity, I exited the party early and took my pulsating body out into the chilly December night, away from any danger.
I left that work placement a few weeks later. Walking out of those offices on my last day, I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief, grateful that I would never have to be in the same room as Zane again.
Learning how to connect
Flash forward three years, and here Zane was on Feeld. On my phone. Someone I could tangibly engage with. So, naturally, I went into a complete meltdown. My housemates, Ruby and Blossom, who thankfully are also polyamorous, listened with amusement as I blurted out the long, horny tale of my former workplace crush. What on earth was I to do? I still radiated with embarrassment about the whole experience.
As I was new to dating apps, my housemates had to point out the obvious. Zane didn’t have Majestic (Feeld’s premium membership), which meant they would never know if I liked them – unless they liked me back. I had nothing to lose. Nervously, I hit the heart button on their profile and a second later, Feeld congratulated me on connecting with them. That’s right, Zane had already liked my profile.
The news that my long-burning attraction was returned flooded me with joy and confidence. I fired off a “Hello stranger” intro message and, within minutes, received a joyous response from Zane, who confirmed they’d hoped we would connect on Feeld. We casually made plans to meet for a drink the following evening.
The first date
When I arrived at the empty cocktail bar near my house, Zane was nervously pacing around, which mirrored my own state of heightened anxiety. Yet, they broke out into a huge grin and enveloped me in an even greater hug when they saw me. We sat down to finally have an actual conversation after all these years.
As it turned out, Zane had also recently ended their marriage and, like me, was making their first proper steps into owning their polyamorous identity. We compared notes on navigating this journey in our mid-to-late thirties while quickly sipping drinks, hoping they would ease the palpable tension between us.
When Zane asked if they could kiss me, I melted into them, finally surrendering myself to the desire I’d tried to hold at arm’s length a few years before. I didn’t waste any time suggesting that they come back to mine, and what followed was what we now refer to as “the night we had all the sex.”
After Zane left the following morning, I sent Bonnie an enthusiastic voice note, thanking her for encouraging me to download Feeld. You can hear the hilarious contrast of the sleepless daze and dopamine high in my voice, a time capsule of my excitement.
I’ve often wondered how Zane and I would have connected without Feeld. Our paths would have eventually crossed in London’s polyam community. Still, without this direct confirmation via the app that my crush was returned, I likely would have continued to avoid them, and they would have continued to think I hated them. For a while, at least.
So, I’m grateful that my first time using Feeld resulted in a transformative connection. The app has remained an essential tool for connecting with non-monogamous folks wherever I travel. In fact, when I meet interesting folks who have never heard of it, I’m renowned for asking them, “Why aren’t you on Feeld?”
Where are we now?
So what has happened to Zane and me since 2019? Well, (deep breath)… two divorces, two recalibrated gender identities, seven other relationships, three mindbending lockdowns, one ethical porno, 12 months spent in separate countries, and two de-escalations.
After navigating through that first brutal lockdown in 2020, Zane and I initially decided to de-escalate our relationship, opting to be friends with benefits instead. It took us the next six months to realise that we’d actually continued having a relationship in all but name. So we re-upped our commitment to each other in early 2021.
But then I went travelling, and during those long months apart, I realised how tightly I’d been holding onto the label of ‘partner’ because, without it, I thought I’d lose all the love and dedication we’d developed for each other. Not a surprising assumption, as that happened after all my monogamous relationships.
But this time was different. I knew our connection could continue to thrive, even without a label to make it official. So, while we haven’t been partners for a year now, Zane remains incredibly important to me. When I wrote about chosen family last Christmas, they were among the handful of people I held in my heart as I discussed the difference between logical and biological family.
That’s why, for me, our connection has been life-changing. Not just because it was a lightning bolt of sexual chemistry. Not just because the timing of our journies aligned. Not just because this is a funny story that I enjoy telling. But because I was lucky to make it through those first few difficult years of polyamory with someone amazing by my side and, as a result, learnt how to dismantle what I’d been told friendships, relationships and love should look like and find a way of connecting that worked for me.
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