So we all know that I personally am a big purveyor of polyamory (pronounced ‘I’m a bit of a love slut’), but I know that it isn’t a path for everyone. I look back now and I see where I made mistakes along my path.
So what I have decided to do is create a bit of a question list for you to sit down and ponder, to decide whether poly is really something you should be trying out *at this time*.
1) Do you actually want an open relationship?
So it may seem like an obvious question, but it’s one that many people don’t actually ask themselves. Not everyone is non-monogamous, which could stem from religious beliefs, upbringing, or even just an innate monogamous persuasion.
Some say that non-monogamy is the natural order of humanity, but I would say that non-monogamy is a persuasion or personality trait: either it’s something you *ARE* (like people *are* gay, *are* black, *are* tall), and they can’t be any other way, or it’s a trait like people are *usually* introvert, *usually* taking the lead on projects, etc. If you could break it down to a five point spectrum, it would be:
- Some people *are* non-monogamous
- *usually* non-monogamous,
- *usually* monogamous,
- *are* monogamous.
So step 1 is literally just to figure out where you are on that scale. Figure out if you actually *want* an open relationship. If you don’t *want* it, then don’t do it. If you are not excited by the prospect, then you don’t have to do it.
2. If you’re in an existing relationship; is it stable?
If you are in a currently monogamous relationship, is it a happy one? Is it stable? Is there trust, intimacy, etc? it it healthy?
Make sure that your base is solid before building more on it.
The same is true if you are going to become a third in an existing partnership: Is *their* relationship happy, healthy, stable?
Trying non-monogamy because you want to try to save a failing relationship is a death toll. If it’s struggling already, then fix it or end it before you try anything. It’s a bit of advice you will rarely hear, but yes, sometimes ending a relationship is the best course of action.
3. How are your communication skills?
Ok. So sit down and complete this:
I am comfortable sharing on a scale of _ / 10.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I am comfortable receiving on a scale of _ / 10.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Now understand that a 0 on both is a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. I personally don’t see this as poly, so much as a permission to cheat. but 10 is sharing every sordid detail, every kiss, every sexual act, everything.
I myself am a 5 on sharing and 9 on receiving info. What this means is that I’m not super comfortable sharing the details of what I do with people outside of a brief overview and answering questions, but I Absolutely love hearing about my partners’ exploits. I am super happy when they share the tales of what they get up to with their other loves.
The reason for this exercise is simple: Open relationships have lots of discussions surrounding sex and relationships. You will need to discuss not just your wants, needs and limits, but your partners’ and potentially even their partners’ with people who will have the same. You will need to decide on special agreements, check in with each other about how the agreements are working out, whether they need to be altered…
You will need to talk about jealousy, envy, anger, how you are processing, how person A’s emotions are affecting person B and how that is affecting person C.
There is the semi-joking statement that poly people spend more time talking about their relationships than actually having them.
4. How jealous are you?
Envy is wanting what someone else has, while Jealousy is worrying that you are going to lose something you have.
In open relationships, this can be your relationship, your intimacy, your time, etc etc etc.
For the record, feeling it is completely fine, and I have done pieces where I talk endlessly about how jealousy itself is not a negative thing, but the less jealousy you innately experience, the easier your experience with poly will be. If it is a particularly strong feeling, then poly will be a lot harder for you.
5. How tolerant are you of ambiguity?
So remember back in Q. 3 when I spoke about ‘special agreements’? These are agreements for who, when, how and where it is ok for you and your partners to see other people. They suck sometimes, but they happen. Remember when putting these in place that they SHOULD NEVER BE indefinite. plan to review them periodically (monthly should be ok).
Well, these agreements are rarely, if ever, completely black and white. Life will throw every curveball at you that it can. The ability to adapt and absorb ambiguity in these circumstances. The grey area will always, always raise its head and you will need to be tolerant of these issues if you want to ensure that neither your relationship nor your non-monogamy are broken by these issues.
Part of being open is also being open to the change of rules over time.
Try to develop your tolerance for ambiguity by keeping the following in mind:
Stay neutral and suspend judgment. Delay, as long as you can, the expression of an opinion, positive or negative, about the topic of discussion or exploration. Don’t get distracted by the process either. Take it all in as interesting data.
Stay curious. Seek to understand the things that would otherwise induce a judgment. Avoid assumptions, and try to take on an open-minded, curious stance about what’s happening around you. Ask questions that start with “why” and say things like, “Tell me more about that.”
Enjoy the mess. The creative process is rarely neat and tidy. Consider this an opportunity that allows you to be messy. The whole world is constantly demanding that you put things in order, give yourself permission to let them stay out of order, in service to a possibly more innovative outcome.
Take time. The world that’s asking for order is demanding speed as well. Slow things down and take your time to look at things for longer, to ask more questions that you’d normally permit yourself, to generate more ideas and options before selecting among them.
Try things on. Play with questions and ideas and concepts, try them on for size. Follow threads of thought, pretend something might work and see where it takes you. Live, temporarily, with possible options to see if they are useful or not.
Train yourself to react to new and ambiguous situations in a neutral way and adjust your thinking in relation to changing goals or situations. Open relationships have challenges which are much easier if you take the time to develop your cognitive fexibility and tolerance for ambiguity.
6. Can you regulate your emotions?
All the plans, agreements and communication in the world won’t prepare you for some aspects of non-monogamy. It adds a level of complexity to your relationships where negative emotions are bound to be triggered. Everyone has insecurities about something (Except me. I’m practically perfect in every way. Like a twisted Mary Poppins.), everyone gets disappointed from time to time, everyone gets angry, jealous, etc.
The problem is not the emotion at all, The problem is how you deal with those emotions. Do you take it out on people? Take it out on yourself? Bottle it up? Use it to fuel you?
Non-monogamous people tend to practice recognising and avoiding these triggers. Take the time to process and reinterpret the meaning so that you can distance yourself.
Long story short: learning to ‘cool off’ and regulate emotions.
Again, I’m completely sure that there are times when shit happens and when it does, you need to OWN that shit, but if you can head it off early, life will be a lot easier for you.
7. Do you have support?
Addicts have sponsors to support them, the LGBT+ movement built a community, one of the biggest things you need to do is find a community of supportive, like-minded people.
From personal experience; it is difficult to feel as though you are doing this huge, brave and scary thing on your own, you need people who you can talk to, a support network.
Find or build up your network, and if you have reached this point still certain that you are committed to following the path of non-monogamy, then just remember:
You are not alone.
Ok. That’s a much longer post than I was expecting, but a good one I feel.
If you want to get in contact to share your tips or to just say ‘yo, I love the blog.’, you can email email@example.com and I will try to read and respond when I can, as always, we have the Patreon and Facebook pages, as well as the all-new iTunes podcast feed, meaning you can listen to episodes if reading is not your thing.
Well, stay sexy and see you on the flip side!