September 22, 2011

School of the Hard Knocks

“Polyamory is a grad school relationship. It’s for grownups only. If you can’t yet bring yourself to communicate honestly with your partner about everything that goes wrong….and don’t wait too long after it goes wrong, and don’t lay on guilt when you bring it up, then don’t do it. Stay monogamous. Polyamory is not the place to work out your neuroses, any more than running a marathon is the best way to exercise your recently-broken and healing ankle.” - Raven Kaldera, The Polyamory Contract

Non-monogamous relationships are arguably one of the most difficult relationship structures to maintain and many lessons are learned (and often relearned) the hard way. Every emotional bump and bruise and scar is definitely earned. Here are some of my hard earned lessons in polyamory thus far:

Ask for what you want. I’ll repeat it a little slower. Ask. For. What. You. Want. I can't expect anyone to read my mind and just give it to me. As my aunt would say, a closed mouth don't get fed.

This is one of those lessons I’ve had to repeat many times before it stuck. (And truth be told, I‘m sometimes given a refresher course lol.) Because of the many ways in which this lesson manifests itself, it has had to be learned in it‘s numerous incarnations. For example, it can be difficult to ask for what I want if I feel it’s a silly request. I find that this reason often applies if I have a 'trivial' emotional want, ie: I know my partner loves me. He tells me that he loves me often. Though sometimes I ask to hear it. Small exercises like this have helped me in the grand scheme of things. It makes asking for what I want easier, no matter how ‘silly’ it may seem. (That’s not to say that I feel entitled and always get what I want. My boyfriend is a bit of smart ass and sometimes I’m met with answers like, “I loved you all day yesterday. I need a break today,” or, “Right now, I love college football. Try again later.”)

(For more reasons as to why we often don’t ask our partner(s) for what we want, read Ask For What You Want, a very insightful post by polyfulcrum.)

Don’t keep secrets between partners. This was an ugly one for me to learn and I still have all of the knocks to prove it.

Being romantically involved with two people who are also romantically involved with each other can be tricky. It gets trickier when one asks you to keep a transgression of theirs from the other. DON’T DO IT! Not only did I feel the guilt of keeping things from Partner B when it wasn’t even my secret to keep, I felt betrayed by Partner A for putting me in that position. The negative feelings intensified the longer it went on and the fall out of keeping the secret was much worse (for me the formerly innocent party, made accomplice) than just coming out with it.

I didn't think I would have to ask a partner not to put me in a position that would compromise my relationship with the other partner. Now, I set this boundary upfront to avoid any more unpleasant surprises like this.

Don’t be the mediator in your partners' relationship(s). It became emotionally draining for me to play that role in my partners' relationship. Going forward when put in this situation, at most I will provide a sympathetic ear without giving advice or taking sides. If the negativity of my partners becomes too much for me to even provide that, I say something like, “I’m sorry you two are having issues. Being put in the middle of your conflict makes me uncomfortable.You should talk to him/her about this.”

Credits towards my very own poly degree :p

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