If you’re anything like me, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to be the perfect partner. In poly relationships, the pressure can feel even greater because of the sheer number of people involved.
If you mess up, you will probably be called on it—several-fold, but what can you do? Nobody’s perfect and despite our best efforts, mistakes happen.
Here are some suggestions for how to proceed in the aftermath of something hurtful or damaging that you’ve brought down upon your polycule.
Admit to Your Wrongdoing
Did you neglect to tell everybody who should have been in the loop, about a new sexual encounter? Maybe you shared a piece of information that was supposed to remain private, or crashed a partner’s date night? Whatever offence you committed, big or small, it’s always best to take responsibility for it. If you know that your actions violated a poly agreement, there’s no point in becoming defensive.
On the other hand, if you honestly feel that you did nothing wrong, talk it out with your partners and try to understand their individual points of view. Apologize for hurting them, but avoid empty apologies for the sake of making peace.
Let Everybody Express Themselves
It might be hard to hear, but it’s important to give everyone a chance to speak his or her mind. Most likely you’ll feel attacked and will need to resist the urge to fight for your actions. Before you say anything, however, let those who are offended finish their thoughts.
The whole point of this exercise is to show your polycule that you respect them and care about their feelings. Once everyone has taken the floor, repeat in your own words what you heard them say, then talk about your own feelings in relation to theirs. (If you want to be poly, you better get used to talking about feelings.)
Negotiate a Solution and Follow through with It
Try to balance everyone’s needs with your own to come up with a suitable course of action. This could take a few conversations to figure out, but once you have, be sure to then do the thing you’ve agreed to do.
Maybe you’ve all decided that STD testing is in order, or a revamp of your schedule to accommodate the partner whose date night you hijacked. Whatever it is, have another check-in after you’ve followed through with your plan, so that you can wrap things up in a thorough way.
Set an Expiry Date for Grievances
Don’t let things drag on for too long. Address the issue as soon as it arises, then set boundaries around how long you’re willing to hear your partners complain about it. If you gave everyone the chance to express their grievances, then followed through with what you said you were going to do to resolve it, you’ve done everything you can do to make things better.
Try to avoid getting trapped in a cycle of guilt and blame. Also, try to remember this experience the next time one of your partners does something to upset you. Empathy is the best way to reach a place of forgiveness.