How I ended up in a ménage à quatre: I found the perfect man but there was just one hitch – he had a girlfriend, who also had another boyfriend…

Fabian was a half-Roman, half-English Zac Efron-lookalike, tall, dark and handsome with light, ocean-like eyes.

We met in the French Alps over the breakfast buffet in a luxury chalet hotel. He told me he felt our ‘spark’ immediately. I did, too.

The sex was like nothing I’d experienced before. It was natural, playful and sensual. It felt intimate and deep. Healing, in fact. After years of disappointing dates, and even more disappointing sex, I’d finally found it: a man who understood how important emotional intimacy was. A man who knew what a woman needs, in the bedroom and out of it.

Someone capable of deep connection and not just on the hunt for an ego boost.

I texted my friends back home: ‘So much sex in the last 12 hours’… I feel like a shiny new toy’. They likened me to Emily In Paris, calling him Gabriel, the charismatic leading man.

Rosalind Moody met Fabian over the breakfast buffet in a luxury chalet hotel when she flew to France on holiday with a friend 

There was just one hitch: my lover was in an open relationship. Not only did he have a partner — a French woman we’ll call Marie — but she also had another boyfriend.

My perfect man was not just part of a ménage à trois, but now — with me in it too — a ménage à quatre. Before meeting Fabian, if you’d have asked me if I was interested in polyamory — the belief that you can love more than one person at a time — I would have said no way. When I saw people in open relationships on dating apps, I always swiped left. I did not want to share my beloved with anyone.

Yet my attempts at traditional dating hadn’t been going well. At 29, I was a go-getter — I owned my own flat and had a fulfilling job editing the UK’s leading magazine on spirituality and wellness — but my love life had always been lacking.

The truth was, in my early to mid-20s, I’d been through a phase of what I now call ‘chaos dating’, when I’d had such low self-esteem, I’d said yes to any date, with almost any man. Naively, in my quest for validation, I slept with lots of them too, only to then be ghosted or treated like an afterthought.

After one of many first dates with unreliable men had turned into a one-night stand, something inside me snapped. I felt numb, emotionally unfulfilled and hazy in the booze fog. I knew that I had to abstain from dating for a while, then slowly and carefully come back to it, like reintroducing foods on an allergy diet.

My break from dating lasted an entire year. Then I flew to France on holiday with a friend… and met Fabian (not his real name).

Our eyes really did meet over the croissants, but there was another set of eyes on both of us — those of his girlfriend Marie. Remarkably, she encouraged him to flirt with me before suggesting a group of us go on a night out. I backed off at first, but then I thought ‘when in Rome…’

It was on this night out that I bumped into Marie in the loos, drunkenly insisting I had to talk to her. With a knowing smile, she knew what about. She’d tell me later how much she appreciated me coming to her first.

As we came out of the ladies toilets, she put my hand in Fabian’s and gave us both her blessing, then made herself scarce. That night, Fabian and I ended up in my chalet room. It could so easily have felt like one of my damaging one-night stands, but it didn’t. Fabian was different. I knew I wasn’t betraying his girlfriend’s trust and, at the end of an intense week, he and I parted ways as friends.

It was Marie who, on saying goodbye, insisted I come out to see them in Rome, where they both lived. But I wasn’t sold. It felt odd to be invited by her, to spend time as the three of us. I felt I’d explored this new territory, with its altered rules and uneasy freedoms, adequately enough in a week. But that wasn’t the end of it.

A few weeks later, Fabian sent me a message to say he had feelings for me. When I saw his name flash on to my screen, I felt my heart beat faster.

Why not be open to dating in a different way? Indeed, if I was going to do this, why stop at dipping my toe in? Why not dive in fully, and see how much I could open up my heart to the idea? On dating apps, I rewrote my profile from single to what’s called ‘solo poly’, or single but dating many people at once.

It’s not an uncommon move these days. On the dating apps I use — Feeld, Bumble and Hinge — there’s a far higher proportion of profiles now set to what’s called ‘ethical non-monogamy’ (ENM) than there was even five years ago.

Indeed, Feeld, which calls itself ‘the progressive dating app’, largely caters to ENM customers and reports a 300 per cent growth across some parts of Britain in the past year.

Last year, a YouGov poll found that 10 per cent of us would be open to some form of polyamory. Most interestingly, 90 per cent of ENM profiles I see now strictly rule out one-night stands. They want dates, casual fun and to foster real connections, whether it’s with or without their long-term partner. It can all feel a little odd, even to a Millennial like me.

One man I met after meeting Fabian was not just poly, but ‘poly-saturated’, meaning he had lots of partners in different states of intimacy and emotional closeness. Among others, he had a casual ‘friend with benefits’ and was also in what’s known as a ‘situationship’ with his ex, meaning a relationship with her that lacked clear definition or commitment.

Now he was shopping around for a primary partner, which was how we matched. I liked him despite his long list of other women — he was respectful and confident — but he didn’t feel as safe as Fabian. It felt like he was on an ego trip, and he probably was.

I was discovering that being ENM doesn’t always feel natural. Ironically, I was too distracted by my long- distance love with Fabian to want to take things further with others. And when I admitted my situation to men I met in real life, rather than online, they seemed put off by it. In fact, I got used to a look of shock crossing people’s faces when I told them.

A YouGov poll found that 10 per cent of us would be open to some form of polyamory

A YouGov poll found that 10 per cent of us would be open to some form of polyamory

‘Brave’ is the word friends used; ‘stupid’ was the epithet preferred by my Baby Boomer mum. I told her it was just a phase I was going through and not to worry.

Perhaps I should have listened to her more closely. The fact is, she saw something I didn’t. Though I knew I had no real future with Fabian, I was also kidding myself that I was enjoying the novelty of polyamory. I didn’t think I’d get hurt, but Mum knew better and she was right.

After three months of long-distance polyamory, I realised this world was not right for me permanently. One of the deciding moments was in a piazza in Rome when Fabian all-too-casually mentioned that Marie would allow him to have children with someone else. Alarm bells rang. Though he wasn’t offering to father my child in so many words, reality slapped me round the face.

In that moment, I realised I wanted some things to stay traditional, for the security I ultimately craved. I wanted my own partner and family in the future, not to share him, and it, with someone else.

Still, it was Fabian who ended it. After three months, having avoided me perhaps in favour of a new woman, I woke up to a text dumping me. I had planned on ending it respectfully on a video call. I was surprised at how cowardly he was and later cried bitterly for how I’d been cast out.

I don’t see the months I spent with him as a waste, however. The time I spent exploring open relationships and polyamory has taught me some of the biggest lessons of my life. It helped me grow strong and self-assured — exactly the kind of qualities you need to commit to a serious monogamous partnership.

Now, I’ve turned those lessons into a book called The Spark. They apply to all relationships, whether or not you are interested in polyamory. So read on for my top tips to healthy love — however you decide you want it.

Stop comparing yourself to others 

When I saw Fab’s partner, I was intimidated. She had the sexuality of a glowing Amazonian goddess and I could not see why he would want me when he had someone like her. But he did want me. I offered him the classic pear-shaped English rose option. A different dish, but no less delicious.

You don’t need to be a supermodel to be hot, you just have to bring your personality and difference to the table.

Don’t compare yourself to your partner’s exes!

Understand patterns in relationships

Being in a poly relationship will bring up insecurities and fears. By addressing these, you can better understand your patterns in relationships.

I learned that I am both anxious and avoidant.

I can feel ‘clingy’, needing constant reassurance out of fear of rejection, and at the same time, I need space from a partner for fear of being overcrowded!

Both these behaviours can stymie relationships.

Rosalind admits that the time she spent exploring open relationships and polyamory taught her some of the biggest lessons of her life

Rosalind admits that the time she spent exploring open relationships and polyamory taught her some of the biggest lessons of her life

Talk about it with your partner. With someone kind and patient, you can learn to move through the impulse either to cling or run away and have a more secure relationship.

Talk about your jealous feelings

You don’t have to be in a polyamorous relationship to feel jealous. Your partner might have a close platonic relationship with a friend or relative that also makes you a little green with envy.

But jealousy doesn’t have to be cataclysmic. The trick is to be able to articulate it in a non-confrontational way.

A simple ‘I’m struggling with…’ is all you need to begin the conversation. And talking about it will help the feeling dissipate.

Self-love affirmations, such as ‘I choose myself’ and ‘I am worthy of the love I want’, are also helpful and became the soundtrack to my more panicky moments during my polyamory experiment.

Honesty about what you want in love

Yes, I was jealous of the partnership Fabian had with Marie, and especially the fact that they loved and respected each other, but also knew when they needed healthy time apart. ‘Why can’t I have what they have?’ I would ask myself.

But the truth is, I didn’t want what they had, or not the poly part of it anyway. In fact, by being in an open relationship with them, I grew to realise that what I did want was a dependable monogamous partner.

Don’t expect your partner to be psychic

Being in a polyamorous relationship involves levels of communicating I’d never experienced before. We had honest, sometimes awkward, conversations and texts. We had regular check-ins about how we were all feeling, and, while it felt strange at first, I grew to love it.

I now know that in any future relationship, I want this kind of communication.

In my ‘chaos dating’ years, nothing was said out loud, and I didn’t dare suggest a chat, because I feared it would be the end of the connection.

I expected people to be psychic (though in truth, I was just with the wrong men).

To improve communication in a long-term relationship, I recommend apps such as Agape, which ask both partners one conversation-starting question a day — some funny, some designed to show vulnerability — and then reveal each other’s answer.

Everything is up for negotiation

Polyamory showed me that you can set your own rules. There is no one set way of doing things.

‘Conscious dating’ means talking about what works and doesn’t work for you, whether a relationship is monogamous or polyamorous.

How long will you tolerate a message going unread? Who gets to choose where you go out for dinner or away on holiday?

As long as the three Cs are there — consent, commitment and connection — there can be flexibility elsewhere.

Sex is all about your connection

Sex, I learnt from Fabian, is pure joy, and not a mechanical act or chore we do as women. It is also not a rush to orgasm. It’s a way to connect. With the right person, sex can be like therapy.

Fabian had worked through any insecurities about his body and his words of affirmation and encouragement made way for me to feel more comfortable and confident in my own skin.

Listen carefully to your body

Ask yourself these two questions to help you decide if a relationship needs change: Does this person help you grow? Can you build something amazing together?

Think about the answers rationally, but also feel them in your body. Gut instinct is real. After three months with Fabian, my stress insomnia and anxiety-induced lack of appetite were telling me ‘no’ to both these questions, where at the start of our liaison I said ‘yes’.

  • The Spark: Sex, Love And Spirituality In A Toxic Dating World (£16.99, September Publishing) is out now. See or @rosalindmoody.