An aggressive title for a first post, I know, but I’ve heard this particular phrase a lot and each time it bugs me like crazy.
More often than not I hear this phrase in bars when I’ve gotten to talking to a random, but sometime I hear it (or similar phrases) flippantly espoused with depressing regularity from people who are practising poly, and quite often this has two reactions:
1. It makes me a little angry
2. It makes me start preparing for when their partners come to me with their inevitable conflicts.
That being said, there are some people for whom it is simple — their metamours are all cool and pleasing their partners just happens naturally, and that’s awesome! But that’s certainly not the average. Polyamory is no better or worse than monogamy, but it is a damn sight more complicated. (Vocabulary break: the partner of my partner is my metamour.)
Polyamory (or at least, the particular flavour I practice) is about the ability to have multiple relationships with multiple partners. A relationship is any level of regular interaction between two people. I have a relationship with my best friend. I have a relationship with the barista who hasn’t had to ask what kind of coffee I want in months. I have relationship with the girl I go to dinner with and sometimes fuck. I have a relationship with my girlfriends. I have a relationship with my wife.
These people all mean variable things to me, they all expect variable levels of regular communication from me (my barista’s kinda needy), and I in turn want a certain amount of time with each of them.
Talk about your feels.
Being in a relationship means a certain amount of talking about feelings and getting past conflicts, and for every partner you add, you add more conversation. If you really hate talking to your partner about where your relationship is going or how you and your partner feel… then polyamory probably isn’t going to be a healthy relationship model for you.
The girl you’re just sleeping with may not ask for it, but she still needs to hear that you’re not just there for some key parts of her anatomy, and your partners are going to expect your emotional support. It doesn’t matter if your relationship is purely sexual — every now and again you’re going to have to ask questions like “Are you happy with what we’re doing?” or “Where do you see us going?” etc. It’s just par for the course.
So your partner in a monogamous relationship requires a certain amount of attention, affection, and reassurance. The same is true of polyamory, but on a whole other level now that you’re going on dates and sleeping with other people. While the amount your partners care about this definitely varies from person to person, you sure as hell can’t accidentally neglect their emotional needs.
And that means talking about your feels.
So you’re going to talk about your feelings and theirs. Is everyone getting what they need? Is everyone happy? Is anything causing pressure? And every now and again a serious conversation with one partner is going to result in you having to have more serious conversations with your other partners. It’s okay; they need this, and if you value them you’ll give them the conversation they need.
Time management skills.
Every relationship needs a certain amount of time spent in each other’s company. For a laid back partner who you meet up with every two months to make the beast with two backs, not a huge outlay of your time.
But your girlfriend may want to see you 2-3 times in a week, two of your partners may each want to see you once every 2 weeks and so on, and it stacks up. Taking on a new partner is accepting that you now need to budget another person’s needs into your schedule.
Clash of the Metamours
You are unique, I’m unique, we’re all fucking unique, and we’re all going to get along with each other in different ways and to different levels.
This can cause tremendous conflicts when your partners don’t like each other.
As a relationship with a person becomes more and more serious, there will come a day where they need to stop hearing about your partners from you and actually meet them and develop their own relationship. If they both fell for you there’s a good chance they have some common interests, and in the long term it’s much easier and healthier that, when your partners have a conflict, they can step back and sort it between themselves rather than playing an endless game of telephone between the three of you.
You’re not marching to everyone else’s steps
Okay, so polyamory becomes more known every day, but it’s still socially shunned by some, or just plain foreign.
“Does that mean you sleep with whoever you want?” “So you have a bunch of wives?” If you choose to be publicly poly you’re going to hear these (and far more presumptuous and stupid) remarks a lot. Some are going to be amazed and ask a lot of very personal questions; some are going to judge you and say harsh and intolerant things.
This may result in you being more aware of who you tell what. You may have to very carefully control who knows what about your relationships, e.g. “Sure thing, we’re seeing the movie at 8pm, but fair warning, my sister in-law is coming and the in-laws don’t know M. and I are poly, so just be a little careful what you say”.
Many loves, one heart
You know how break-ups hurt?
That never gets easier.
When a relationship ends, you’re still going to be upset by it to some level, and your partners need to be understanding and supportive of you. It doesn’t matter that you have a girlfriend 10 miles down the road, or that you have a plethora of potential partners to call upon — you’re still going to miss the partner who lives 8 states away. It’s still going to suck, but this is what you signed up for. You’re still allowed to be hung up on old exes (you know, as much as is healthy anyway), and when one of your partners is sick, you’re going to be sick with worry.
I don’t mean to preach or to scare — for all that it’s sometimes tough, sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s complicated, I’ve never regretted being polyamorous, and I recommend thinking about how it may work for you (even if it won’t).
Just never say I told you it would be simple.