Actual Poly Advice Columns!
As I promised a few weeks ago in a roundup of advice columnists fielding poly questions, here are some actual poly advice columns by people who live the life they're advising about.
In no particular order:
● The Kimchi Cuddles comic has started taking Ask Kimchi questions every Sunday:
|(Used by permission)|
● Goddess of Java, aka Noel Figart, has for nine years run one of my favorite advice sites, The Polyamorous Misanthrope ("wielding the stick of grandmotherly kindness"). It includes a category for reader questions, Ask the Misanthrope. She's lived many years of the good, bad, and ugly of poly life and dishes consistent good sense, sometimes when it's a clout upside the head. Yet she is helpful and kind to babes-in-the-woods, respectful of people's lack of knowledge as opposed to stupidity. Here are her 10 most popular columns last year. Here's her meta-advice post, Where Do You Get Your Polyamory Advice?
● Polycule often turns her Polycule blog into an advice column:
Q: I got my wife into polyamory. She eventually found another love. That's cool. What isn't is that his philosophy is not the polyamorous kind and keeps forcing mono values onto their relationship. He is also a "non-sexist" sexist who drops constant comments on how she does something very well "for a chick". They share few values. He plays mind games meant to take from our relationship! I don't want to affect her decisions, but... How do I protect myself while not disrespecting her?!!
A: You’ll have to talk to her in a very patient, gentle, loving, and supportive way.
While there are some people who practice polyamory with the agreement that you can have a say in who your partner dates, I won’t be endorsing that.... However, you also have rights and freedom here, like the right to feel comfortable in your own marriage, and if outside factors (partners) are affecting that, you need to talk about it. The tricky thing is to talk about your feelings without putting her in a corner that’ll make her feel defensive or unsupported. Remember, these are YOUR feelings, NOT a commentary on her relationship, and there’s a fine line to be balanced to make sure you aren’t implying otherwise.
...Ask her when is a good time to have a talk about relationships, and make time for it.... Explain what makes you uncomfortable, that it isn’t a matter of wanting to get between her and her partner, but you have your own feelings to look out for.... Just because you think he makes inappropriate sexist comments doesn’t mean she has an issue with them. Just because you don’t think they share values doesn’t mean that bothers her.... Stick to talking about the things that affect you and your relationship with her, like the playing mind games to take her time away from you. Don’t make blanket statements like that, though; specifically talk about times it actually happened....
...The other issue you have here, and perhaps it was just poor word choice, is that you say you “got her into polyamory.” This may mean she’s not totally thrilled about it, which would drive her to a monogamy-minded person because she may be that way also....
● Ask PolyAnna is an occasional feature at Lucar and PolyAnna's Looking Through.Us blog:
Q: As a “secondary” involved with a married poly man, how do I stay informed/involved in his serious medical condition (which will involve surgery) without stepping on anybody’s toes or seeming too pushy? I am concerned & scared & just need to be included.
A: So… PolyAnna dislikes the ordinal number system when it comes to relationships. Does she have a better classification system in her head, yes, yes she does; does it work for everyone, no, no it doesn’t. That said, in your situation, what exactly does ["secondary"] mean? Legally, you aren’t his wife, so right there the law and some hospitals limit your visitation rights and access to vital information from the word go. This can be mitigated with legal documents or other formalized agreements....
That aside, I think your relationship with your partner’s wife will greatly impact how this situation functions. What are your existing relationship agreements? Is it time to modify those agreements?... If there is an uncomfortable truce, or a pretty thick wall of silence between you and your partner’s wife, I think this could prove a difficult situation. Are you all collectively out? Being public about your poly status will greatly impact this situation, now and going forward.
Once you sort that out, ask yourself, in very clear terms, what do I want and what am I willing to give....
...When people are dealing with serious medical issues, they aren’t always themselves. Periods of stress can make or break relationships. If all else fails, and you feel fairly confident that you aren’t going to make a tense situation worse, and your best efforts to help plan ahead for the day of surgery are rebuffed, come by during normal visiting hours. Bring something nice for your partner and his wife, bring something to eat, drink, occupy the time. Offer to take a walk with her, even if your relationship has been rocky at best, make the offer and be prepared for the door to get slammed, but offer. Be prepared, too, for her to say yes. Sometimes when people see love, really see it, when the going gets tough, they respond accordingly. For some, seeing really is believing.
● On the UK's Polytical website is Ask Polly. We are told, "Polly has scarlet hair, big green glasses, and is made almost entirely of cats."
How do I come out to my moderately conservative parents?
I’ve just spent the Christmas break biting my tongue whenever my love life and plans for the future come up, and it was driving me up the wall....
I have an established partner whom they know, and I’ve just started a second relationship. I’m thinking about bringing my established partner into the conversation, so they can communicate to my parents that they’re happy with the arrangement.
...Previous attempts to bring up the subject of non-monogamy in an abstract, ‘I’ve got this friend’ way have been met with disapproval: the words ‘immoral’ and ‘disrespectful’ were used and Mormons were alluded to.
Yours, Pathologically Honest
I’m inclined towards advising people to think twice before coming out. [But] here are a whole bunch of tips that can make your life easier if you decide that you do want to come out.
Have you come out before, for example, as queer? How did it go?...
Phrase this as something you’ve decided, for yourself, after lots of careful thought and conversation. Don’t let it turn into a debate about whether polyamory as a lifestyle is morally right or wrong: this is about you and your choices, and coming out is about getting them to understand and respect that....
If your established partner is a primary, emphasise that. Phrase it as being an open relationship, and that your partner is really important, and that you still intend on being with them long-term (if you do.) The idea here is to... surround your primary relationship with a white picket fence.
Don’t introduce too much new terminology....
If you have, you could mention that you’ve met and spoken with other people for whom this kind of thing has been working well for decades.
Be available to answer their questions: make plenty of time to do so, show that you’re adult and responsible and that you’ve thought a whole lot about this (and say that explicitly too.)
They probably haven’t come across open, honest, ethical non-monogamy before, and they’ll immediately associate the idea of open relationships with the occasional horror stories and rumours they’ve heard.... Don’t take this too personally: your aim is for them to hear and accept your choices. [Then] give them some space.
How To Support Yourself And Stay Safe
I’ve been recommending that you bend the truth and omit facts quite significantly, and occasionally that you lie. I know doing this just isn’t an option for many people. If you come out, out all the way, and tell them everything… it might be quite a lot for them to take. They may take it badly. Your relationship with them may change irreparably. I’m sorry. This is really hard.
I’m now going to say a bunch of what will sound like pretty scary stuff....
Are you dependent on them in any way, for example, financially? If you’re going to come out, get independent of them or be ready to become so quite quickly. They might cut you off. They might disown you. They might take it so badly that you won’t want to engage with them again. I’m sure they’re lovely, but you just don’t know. Be prepared to break up with them over this.
Think about physical space and safety. If you’re coming out in their house, do it on a day when you won’t be staying that night. Having your established partner there with you can really help keep things calm. Have a bag ready near the door in case things go badly and you need to leave. Keep your phone and wallet in your pocket in case you have to leave before then. Don’t be afraid to just walk out if they respond badly....
Beforehand, make arrangements to phone, or have coffee with, a friend who understands stuff immediately afterwards – take space to rant about all the awful stuff they said, to relax and de-stress.
Lastly, I’ll emphasise again: you don’t need to come out. This isn’t something you owe it to them to do.
Read the whole post.
● Poly Pipeline includes "Dear Poly Dude" and "Dear Poly Chick" answers to readers' questions. For example:
Dear Poly Chick,
What do you think when you hear someone say, “I am poly”?
My instinctual reaction is, “poly what?”... My mind goes into a whole flurry of possibilities. Since most poly people are unique in their own way (we’re all unique snowflakes), I try not to make any assumptions of what their particular experiences of being poly are.... I tend to ask a lot of questions: How many partners do you have/want? What type of living situation or relationship structure(s) are you in? How long have you been poly? How did you come into polyamory? What does being poly mean to you?...
So, in a sense, I suppose my mind stays relatively blank, allowing the other person to slowly fill it with information as they see fit....
Heed that. Two people can mean very different things by "You're poly?! So am I!", aided and abetted by the Wishful Thinking Fairy applying her invisible blindfolds to both.
● Ask Jennvicious is new anarchist advice column, "Life coaching and social etiquette for radical subcultures." She occasionally takes poly questions:
YOU WARN ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF OPENING UP A RELATIONSHIP THAT HAS BEEN MONOGAMOUS. I'M CONSIDERING BRING UP THE SUBJECT WITH MY PARTNER OF TWO YEARS. HE HAS SAID BEFORE THAT WOULD NOT CONSIDER A NON-MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP, BUT HE KNOWS THAT I'VE BEEN IN PRETTY HEALTHY NON-MONOGS IN THE PAST. TO START, I JUST WANT OUR COMMUNICATION TO BE MORE OPEN.
My warnings stem from my (educated, I’d like to think) opinion that polyamory only works when both partners are committed both to that relationship model AND to each other. Not in that I-bought-you-a-ring-and-filed-a-paper-with-the-government sort of committed, just committed to respecting each other’s needs, taking responsibility for our own feelings, and not cutting and running at the first sign of trouble.
It is very difficult to change to polyamory when one person in the relationship just isn’t excited about it. I would be curious as to why your partner has stated his opposition to it before. Maybe he has a really good reason, like a raging jealousy issue that he is unable or unwilling to control.... But maybe he’s just been burned before, or feels insecure about his partner not caring about him as much if they have other partners, or just basically doesn’t trust that he will get his needs met. Those are issues that you might be able to work together to address....
...You might also start talking about minor attractions you both feel to other people. This isn’t about acting on those attractions, it is more about acknowledging something that I think monogamous people sometimes forget: being in a relationship with someone does not mean that you never feel attracted to anyone else. It sometimes feels really healthy to get those feelings out into the open in a relationship. It also might bring up some of those issues of insecurities and things like that.... It’s kind of like practicing.
The most important thing, if you value your current relationship, is to take this whole process very slow. Give your partner the opportunity to think about things that he might get out of having an open relationship. Read things about polyamory together and talk about them.... Talk about things you’ve learned from your past experiences.... Ultimately, open relationships should be about creating our own models of relating to each other that work for each of us, not about forcing people to adapt to our whims.
● Ask Polyamory Paradigm, an occasional blogger, invites you to "ask questions and find advice on polyamorous relationships or life."
My quad has just become a triad! Help!
My wife and I recently joined with another couple to form a MFMF quad. The two women are involved with each other lightly, along with being involved with both men. Things went well for a short time until I started to experience some jealousy. I initiated a conversation with my wife about slowing things down (she is falling deeply in love with the other guy) and things blew up. My wife is now staying with the other couple and nobody is talking to me! What should I do?
Your wife is deep in NRE (New Relationship Energy) so I'm not entirely surprised your conversation blew up. Most people in the middle of NRE seem to interpret anything negative or questioning of their new relationship as an attack and attribute it to jealousy, envy, or other negative drivers which they perceive as *your* problem, not theirs.... Focus on negotiating with your partner in a way that continues to support their new relationship.
As I see it you have two choices at this point: you can either support your spouse, or you can "drop a bomb" on things.
Dropping a bomb [means] you would ask your wife to discontinue her involvement in what is now a triad. Being in NRE, she is probably going to explode and reject the idea entirely. This is probably the quickest way to end your marriage and even if it doesn't, you haven't worked through the issues, you have avoided them.
Supporting your spouse is much more complicated and difficult. Probably the first thing to examine is why you feel left out? You have each attempted to have a relationship with someone new. Hers worked, yours didn't. Although it sucks we all know it happens, right? So the real question becomes: is it okay for your wife to have a relationship without you?
If you are practicing a more traditional form of polyamory the answer is probably Yes.... If you are able and would like to remain friends with the other couple, let her know that. Explain that although you feel hurt, rejected, disappointed, and are in emotional hell, you recognize her right and desire to continue her involvement with the other couple and support her completely.
The next part can be a bit tricky. Let her know that while you support her, you also need to feel supported. The other couple may not be able or willing to provide you any support right now, but you rely on her, as your wife, to support you in times of need. Ask her to try and divide her time fairly between you and the triad [DING DING DING! say I; "fairly" is a null concept in these things --ed.] Suggest creating a calendar so you aren't surprised by time she wants to spend with the other couple. Communicate to her that what you are trying to accomplish is a negotiation that meets both your needs, and your only goal is to continue having a beautiful relationship with her while supporting her new relationship with the other couple....
And finally, go get your own life....
● Modern Poly ("The pulse of the polyamory movement") is a big online magazine and resource center that's been making big strides lately. It had an Advice section with a past column by Annie Ory, Hey Annie!, and Ask RaeRay.
● Angi Becker Stevens, who does The Radical Poly Agenda, has started a Q&A section and has just asked more people to send their Qs.
● At the women's magazine xoJane, columnist Cathy Reisenwitz writes, From Shared GCals to GPS Tracking, I'm Answering All Your Polyamory Questions! (July 9, 2013). xoJane claims to be "The fastest growing women's lifestyle brand on the Web," with 2 million monthly readers.
● Update December 2013: Here's a new one that just sprang up: Dear Viny: Actual Advice for Alternative Relationships.
While we're at it: Many discussion sites welcome newcomers sharing their situations and asking for help. Some of my favorites are Expansive Loving, particularly for those with a spiritual bent; Polyamorous Percolations, a friendly, supportive site where Polyamory in the News got started (hence my holdover coffee-theme logo); and Loving More's LoveList, with lots of longtime good people.
An up-and-coming site for advice is, believe it or not, the Reddit Polyamory subreddit, which at 14,000 members has become (I think) the largest poly discussion site on the internet outside Fetlife. Reddit has a reputation for harboring more than its share of internet ugliness, but this subreddit is an oasis of goodness by and large. The demographic is young.
Also, many static sites offer excellent advice for anyone in the poly world. Some high points:
● I always direct people to Franklin Veaux's More Than Two. For couples thinking of opening their relationship, I often suggest they go there, read the essays in the right-hand sidebar together, maybe aloud, and discuss them with each other as they go along.
● Anita Wagner Illig's widely used jealousy resources belong in this list, in particular her Making Peace with Jealousy in Polyamorous Relationships workshop handout. Anita has long run the Practical Polyamory site.
● Jessica Burde runs Polyamory on Purpose, "the practical side... to deal with all the fun, insane, wonderful hassles of day-to-day in a polyamorous relationship." Scroll down to the Categories in the left-hand sidebar. She recently published a book, Polyamory and Pregnancy, and is now working on the next in her Polyamory on Purpose guidebook series: The Poly Home. For this she's currently asking for stories and input.
● Who'd I miss?
P.S.: Of course there's nothing like a supportive community of real-life people. Find your local poly discussion/ support/ social group starting here.
For a schedule of bigger conferences, gatherings, and campouts, see Alan's List of Polyamory Events.