Lately I’ve discovered an array of online articles(and have written a few myself) about how to make your poly relationship work. While these can be useful, it occurred to me that an alternate – and perhaps, more straightforward – approach is to outline a few No-No’s for people new to the poly life – and for those who need a refresher course. Some points are from personal experience, and some are borrowed from More than Two: Polyamory from a Practical Perspective where Franklin Veaux delves into much more detail on his fabulous, poly-centric site.
1. Don’t put people into boxes: It’s very common for couples to go searching for a third to fill a very specific role; you will probably be disappointed if you can’t be flexible here. Remember that your third will have a seperate list of wants and needs, and they may just clash with yours. Unicorns aren’t real.
2. Resist keeping score: If your partner has had a delicious fling and now finds herself the lucky recipient of another while you’re having a dry spell, don’t remind her of this. It’s not a competition, and this kind of thinking breeds jealousy.
3. Don’t compare yourself to your metamour: We are all unique. Living a poly lifestyle means celebrating variety. When you begin playing the comparison game between yourself and your partner’s lovers, your self-esteem lowers and you forget that your partner also picked you.
4. Don’t expect mindreading: Communicate, communicate, communicate. A lack thereof is the #1 reason for failed relationships of every kind. You can’t assume that your partner still feels the same way about anything as he or she did a month ago. Frequent check-ins are required.
5. Don’t let tension build: If something is bothering you, let all involved know immediately! Even if you decide later that you’re okay with how things are progressing, it will be invaluable for everyone to know where your sensitive spots are so they can avoid bruising you in the future. Waiting too long to bring issues up will make you feel awful, and sometimes you’ll come off as petty.
6. Don’t think an extra person will “fix” a failing relationship: Contrary to commonly held beliefs in men’s magazines, if your sex life is waning or communication has gone sour, this is probably the worst time to introduce someone new. You wouldn’t have a baby under these conditions, would you? Same guidelines apply.
7. Don’t take sides: Let’s face it – there are going to be situations where you find yourself “in the middle” of two people who disagree. Hone the art of listening to your partners vent about theirs feelings without weighing in, unless someone is causing serious damage to someone else, and your support could end it. Needless bickering and teaming up should be left to the sixth grade schoolyard.
8. Don’t scapegoat polyamory if things go wrong: Relationships are complicated beasts, and there are a zillion reasons why one might not work. If you’re new to polyamory, it might seem like an easy excuse, but be certain that this is the cause of demise before pointing any fingers. Polyamory takes work, sure, but if you strip back the framework you might find that a deeper emotional cause is at play. Take the time to know yourself and you’ll know your relationships better, too.
Anything I’ve forgotten? Share your Don’ts in the Comments.