By request, I was asked to contribute to this blog as a fairly green member of the poly community. As a newer person to this social lifestyle, I can say that I have certainly taken more than one wrong turn, so I felt what would be the most prudent use of these screen inches would be to make a list of ‘dos’ and ‘do-nots’ in order to help others side step the landmines I encountered.
1. House rules are the greatest invention for counter-culture groups. If you plan on joining into a lifestyle where there is even the possibility of romantic entanglements, it is best to lay down what is and is not appropriate from the get go. Once everyone agrees on how to behave, the entire affair is sure to go more smoothly.
2. Do be upfront with new people whom you want to get involved with. Most of the frustration and heartache one can experience from being poly is due to someone you are interested in not being comfortable with the same lifestyle making a more intimate relationship a non-starter. But on the whole, people respect honesty first and more often than not; it sparks an interesting line of conversation that doesn’t have to end with ‘wanna go back to my place?’
3. Don’t try to navigate multiple relationships at once by yourself. If you are reading this blog, than you no doubt are aware of the many support groups and organizations nearby for discussing, solving, and troubleshooting your relationship woes. All the same, we come from a society where it is somewhat taboo to discuss anything other than the annoyances our partner(s) exhibit on a daily basis. It is unfortunate that with divorce rates at astronomical levels in this country, people are not coming around to their support systems for aid in maintaining or at least talking through the quirks of our respective partners. Rest assured, if you have a need to talk about your poly experiences, there are people who are not only willing to listen, but also can come from a wealth of experience, often times directly relating to your specific problems. Just don’t keep it to yourself.
4. Do tell your partner(s) when you see someone else. At the beginning of a new relationship, it is a good idea to ‘test the exposure’ of your primary or secondary partner. Let them know that things are happening elsewhere in your personal life and be direct about how much information they are comfortable hearing. Who knows, one thing could lead to another, and they may find your other significant other as charming as you.
5. Don’t be stingy with your emotions. One of the founding tenants of polyamory is that love shared is not love divided. Basically, you cannot run out of emotion just because one or more individuals see your compassionate, friendly, and caring side. While it can be emotionally draining to dote affections on multiple people, never restrain yourself with the fear that the tank will run dry and one of your relationships will suffer as a result. If you have been out with others every day of the past week and a partner approaches you for drinks, it is okay to say you’re tired and feel like staying home. This can easily be followed up by kind words of encouragement, and then you can rest up for the next time you see that person.
6. Do remember that you deserve to feel just as happy as your partner(s). As we have not evolved our technology to the level of ‘Demolition Man’s’ telepathic virtual reality sex toys, we still have to rely on word of mouth to express our needs and desires. There are most definitely times when all I want in a night cap is to pretend like I am 14 again and kiss on the couch. It is refreshing to go back to the basics and not have to worry about the parents walking in on you! These are feelings that you should have no concerns expressing with another person. As it turns out, humans have an innate social desire to please one-another and many people enjoy this type of affection even more than serving themselves. Doing so is made difficult, however, by the fact that we can’t jump inside one another’s head (yet) and follow someone’s instruction telepathically.
7. Don’t feel like a license to date others is a license to date everybody. This is a famous critique of alternative life styles from the more conservative members of our society. And this rhetorical slippery slope is just as dangerous in conversation as it is in practice. While you may have license from your partner(s) to see whomever you choose, remember that the best part of meeting new people is the connection that is made and the chance to form a more valuable, lasting relationship with that person. Does this mean marrying everyone you can have a good conversation with? Certainly not. The rules of social norms still apply here, however, in that we need many different types of relationships to build a healthy support structure. Acquaintances, casual friends, close friends, partners, and spouses are all still necessary, even if you have the option of curling up with them in bed at the end of a good night out.
8. Lastly, do be careful and considerate with your personal life and the details of it. One the best core beliefs of the Chicago Polyamory Connections group are that just because we choose a certain lifestyle doesn’t mean that other alternatives are more or less valid. It is a personal choice to date multiple people at a time, just as it is a personal choice to date one person at a time. Making decisions that work for you is part of what makes adulthood so empowering (and honestly much more difficult at times). So remember to be honest and open with the people you decide to place your trust in, but also keep in mind that what is your path may not also be theirs, and this is okay.
There are, of course, many other ‘rules of the road’, but just to get started, it is a great idea to hold in your head one particular thought: I am an imperfect person, and no land mind, regardless of size, is too big that an apology can’t help lessen the damage.