Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

December 13, 2008

Miss Poly Manners, and others

Can't resist reading Dear Margo or Ask Annie in the paper? Several special-purpose polyamory advice columns have popped up on the web in the last year or so. Here's a roundup.

1. Miss Poly Manners is a longtime activist and writer who started her column last June. From her latest entry:

Greeting The New Metamour (as heard on Polyamory Weekly Episode 182):

Miss Poly Manners,

When I started dating my current boyfriend, he was dating my friend.... Now he is interested in another woman. He wants me to meet her, and this is something I REALLY don't want to do. But I know that if I don't, our relationship will end, and I don't want that either. How should I behave when I do meet this woman? Are there some sort of social graces I need to be aware of?


Dear Ms. Scared,

...A new metamour comes with unknown influence. Being afraid of unknown consequences does not, by itself, indicate a lack of polyness.... Miss Poly Manners suggests doing some work on personal insecurity issues and communication with your partner. Tacit's website, "What, Like Two Girlfriends?" is a great resource for how to deal with insecurity.

The meeting should, for everyone's comfort, be in a neutral setting, if possible. Miss Poly Manners recommends behaving warm and friendly towards your future metamour from the outset.... She quite possibly has her own fears about this whole thing. You were once the incoming partner; try to remember what it felt like and do what you can to put her at ease.

Miss Poly Manners does not recommend limiting your usual amount of PDA [public displays of affection] just because she is present... but all should be careful to not imply possession along with the expression of affection. You can help remove the impression of possession by simultaneously encouraging their own PDA with subtle things like maneuvering so that your shared partner is sitting or walking between you and has access to both of you, and initiating casual affection towards the metamour herself (such as greeting her with a hug), and smiling if they express affection. Engage her in conversation about herself and her ideas. Treat meeting the metamours as you would meeting *anyone* who is important to your partner, like a family member or friend.

Many people find it awkward and uncomfortable to directly broach the subject of polyamory on the first meeting, but Miss Poly Manners recommends doing it anyway. With practice it will become less uncomfortable, and not ignoring the elephant in the room sets the tone for the future of your relationship as one of open communication. You can verbally welcome her by acknowledging her relationship specifically, with something like "It's so good to finally meet a woman that meets Jack's high standards!". Be sincere in your compliments and compliment often. You can ask her outright, "Do you have any concerns or questions that I can address?".

You should offer her your direct contact information and encourage her to contact you directly for any reason at all, serious conversation or just chit-chat. Not only will this make her feel more comfortable, but it will also give you some clues on how she feels about the whole issue and let you know if there is any real basis for your fears....

2. The Polyamorous Misanthrope is posted weekly by Noël Figart, aka Goddess of Java, a longtime public presence in the poly world. She has been to hell and back in several ways, including the bust-up of a five-year group marriage, and has put herself together with unusual discipline and sanity. Despite a sympathetic ear, she is not shy about blasting fluff and nonsense out of the water. (Her soft spot is Heinlein, not that Heinlein could be called soft.)

What is the right action of the larger community when relationship dramas can destabilize and threaten an entire social network?

— a very wise friend

...If you’re polyamorous and are lucky enough to have a social network in your city, chances are it’s pretty small.... Being poly, there’s probably going to be interlocking relationships, dating and what have you. People, being people, are gonna fall in love, stay together and have great relationships, break up, be loyal, backstab, gossip, refuse to misbehave — all of it. The one thing you can count on people to do is to behave like people.

This means sometimes there will be Relationship Drama that might splash on your local community.

How do you handle it?

This is gonna be how you handle it, ’cause I doubt like hell many people would choose my method. I go away until it blows over.... But allow the person who sits in the corner watching everyone play Telephone to make a few observations:

* You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

Okay, I am going to have to break it to you: Relationships are not always forever, and sometimes breakups hurt a whole bunch. If you’re not up for that, for heaven’s sake learn how to be before you start getting heavily involved in a poly community. Emotions can run high. Can you behave yourself when emotions run high?...

* This isn’t actually unique to polyamory.

Families, churches and whatnot all have their own versions of interlocking loyalties and relationships blowing up a social structure.... Wouldn’t it be cool if polyamory could set the example for Community in general....

* You’re not responsible for making other people behave.

If you fancy yourself a “community leader”, it’s still not your job to make sure that your widdle flock wipes their noses properly. Don’t go running from feuding party to feuding party trying to make every one behave. It only makes things worse. You’re participating in and feeding some nonsense. Step back, disengage and encourage other people not to be personally involved in things that are Not Their Problem. You can’t make it all better. You can set a good example.

Read this whole column. And do read the classic guest column that she posted from Rainy Hannah, "The Brave Little Toaster".

3. Ask Serolynne is written by Cherie L. Ve Ard, a longtime activist coming out of the brainy Tampa-Orlando poly nexus. Ask Serolynne is a branch of her larger blogsite, which has lots of her standing articles on poly, safer sex, and HPV.

How to have ‘The Conversation’

Dear Serolynne:

In the last 2 months I’ve met and hit it off with a really incredible guy who knows both me and my partner already, and understands and sees himself fitting into both our lives and is comfortable with that. Everyone is happy and excited about the situation.

What I’m now struggling with is the safe sex conversation that I have to have with my new partner. Condom usage for intercourse is a given, but my partner of 4 years and I are both feeling we should set a new standard for safer sex and get all parties tested if there is a possibility for a long term relationship. I know it needs to be done, but I don’t know how to propose STD testing before we engage any further.

—Excited and Trying to be Responsible

Dear Excited:

I typically e-mail them my most current sexual health and history spreadsheet (click for a blank copy) and ask for theirs in return. Has worked like a charm every time — tells them right up how seriously I take the subject, and creates a clear opening for having the discussion and dealing with the topic in a straightforward way.

Another fun way I have heard of people handling this is making a date to go get tested together.

I figure, if I can’t talk to someone about sex and sexual health with them, why would I want to have sex with them anyway?

4. Seattle is the poly capital of the world. (If you disagree you can make your case in the comments, but it'd better be good.) One of Seattle's several alternative newspapers is The Stranger, where BDSM and kink columnist Mistress Matisse, herself a longtime poly, often dispenses thoughtful polyamory wisdom in her Control Tower column. Here's a list of her columns touching on poly for about the last three years. A sample:

When people who are considering polyamory talk to me, one thing they say is, "I'd like to open up my relationship but I don't know if I'll be able to handle it." No one can predict with perfect accuracy how he or she will feel about anything, but exactly how you feel isn't as important as how you respond to those feelings.

There is a key trait in people who do polyamory well, and it's this: They are good at regulating their strong emotions. By that I mean, when something emotionally intense is happening to you, either good or bad, you're able to see it as part of a larger whole and keep it in perspective....

Also: Andrea Zanin, Canada's queer poly Sex Geek, sometimes dispenses poly-specific advice.

Other advice columns have started and gone inactive. There was Poly Ann earlier this year. An old, inactive, but rich and interesting one, The Poly Bureau, remains on the Poly Boston site local to me.

What others have I missed? Please add them here.


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Anonymous Goddess of Java said...

Hey! Thanks for pointing out Rainy's column. It IS a classic!

December 13, 2008 9:26 PM  
Blogger Kit said...

Excellent list of sane and sensible drama- taming advice columnists !

December 14, 2008 2:49 PM  

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