JJ Vincent would like people to know more about what polyamory is, but more importantly, what it isn’t.
In A Basic User’s Guide, Part 1, I talked about how poly relationships are the same as any other relationships, while also being very, very different. In Part 2, let’s look at a few more is & isn’ts, especially when dealing with how relationships change, shift, and end. YMMV
1. Polyamory is not: Expecting them to wait around for you. A poly relationship may be three people, or five, or ten, or three again. There is no one measuring tape or one-size-fits-all rule. But if you are looking for a way to have a line-up of people ready in case this one or that one leaves, a sort of deep roster of ready-to-go lovers, you’d better be sure that everyone knows this, or there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings, and a high possibility of someone going out-of-bounds (cheating, however that’s defined).
2. Polyamory is not: Expecting to wait around for them. If you want to be someone’s primary partner, and you are not willing to wait, or share, then be willing to communicate this, or be prepared for frustration, self-doubt, loneliness, and the temptation to go out-of-bounds.
3. Polyamory is: Knowing that relationships change, but may not break. Just because you’ve been someone’s primary partner doesn’t mean you always will be. Maybe someone else needs them more. Maybe you need someone else more. Maybe someone needs to take a step back and let the others bond, or sort out issues. Maybe distance changes, or there’s a life interruption. If you’re willing to stay in it because you truly care about someone(s) else involved, take a few deep breaths and look at what you can do for yourself while the relationship is shifting, but not broken.
4. Polyamory is: Knowing that parts of a relationship break. So what happens when all three (or four or five) of your are involved with one another and she wants to break up with one or two of you. Rough waters. And some of you live together. This is when all of that communication and sharing that hopefully you’ve been establishing are crucial. Talking about decisions, sorting out the who’s and what’s and where’s, as rationally as possible, is the best you can hope for. Taking sides, teaming up, forming alliances, and acting out in petty ways only serves to hurt more, and potentially damage the relationships that are still intact. Why break up someone else’s good time just because your own has broken?
5. Polyamory is not: Playing an ongoing game of “Look Who’s Moving in Today!”. If you secretly hope that being poly means bringing home a different lover every night, you’d best hope that the rest of the party is on board, or you’re going to be cooking a lot of omelettes for a lot of strangers and wondering what the heck happened. Bringing someone else into a relationship is rarely a “because I said so” proposition. You have to consider how they wil fit into your (plural) lifestyle(s). Do they smoke? Are they vegan, while you and she are all about the beef? Do they have a jealous ex? How do they feel about your cats? Do they want to move in? Do they want her to move in, but not you? Are they a cuddler? Think about all of the things you established with your current mate. Then consider doing that again times two. Or three. Or four. Because whether they live in the next room or across the country, that’s poly reality.
6. Polyamory is: Keeping an open mind…and gut. Someone might be introduced to you that you initially shy away from because they don’t fit your “type”. Or they do, but not your other’s “type”. The temptation to dismiss someone out of hand might be there. But chances are, if they are being introduced, your Other sees something of interest, or value, or worth in them. Listen. Talk. Think. If you say no, it will have been with an open mind. Conversely, listen to your gut. If all your spidey senses tingle, and your gut tightens and the little voice whispers “uh-oh” in your ear, pay attention. You’re responsible for not just your own, but others’ well-being.
7. Polyamory is: The chance to experience people, and yourself, in a whole new way. My guypartner (J) is a deeply processing and analytical person, especially about emotions. I am much less so. Our girlpartner brings this out in him. She allows me to pat and cuddle and care for her in the way that I love to do for a woman (and did for my ex), and is radically different than I do for a guy. She is goofy and silly with us, which we love. J’s departed Platonic Dear Hubby allowed him to be a caretaker in ways that just don’t work for me.
8. Polyamory is not: A game of bragging and brinksmanship. It’s not a way to prove you’re better, more progressive, more open-minded, more mature, more experienced, more sophisticated, more “with it”, cooler than someone else. Partners are not trophys, tools, or pawns, whether it’s one or five. And using them against one another, if you are honest with yourself, well, you know how that’s going to end.
9. Polyamory is: Being ready to play nice with the ex. There’s a good chance that your ex is still going to be in your social circle. Your ex may still be sleeping with your other. Your other may still take weekends out of town to see your ex. You may still be going on vacation with your Other’s ex, because you two are still madly in love. Your ex may still be with your best friend. You and your Other’s ex may still be living down the hall until other arrangements can be made. Unless you are ready for a break-up with one to be a break-up with all and everything, these are all very real scenarios. This is when you take responsibilty for your feelings, talk about needs and boundaries, and act with civility.
10. Polyamory is: Going to hurt. Going to be awesome. Going to throw you into territory no book can prepare you for, and it will test your heart and soul. If it’s a path you choose to try after examining your motives, temperment, and willingness to lose everything, and know in your bones that it’s a place you want to go, then it’s a crazy, awesome, experimental ride that brings out things in your that you never knew you had, and can take you to places you never want to leave.
-photo courtesy of the author
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