The Poly 101s the world now sees
All kinds of media are now telling the public how to do polyamory right, or so they think. Gone are the days when most poly advice came from actual poly people.
So it's especially crucial for us to keep supplying our advice and insights, lest we lose control of our own narrative! The media still generally listen to and repeat what we say. So keep your blogs and websites stocked and publicized. They determine what journalists will write when the boss says, "This thing is trending. Go do a piece on it."
For example, Cunning Minx of the Polyamory Weekly podcast has been, for the last 12 years, one of our smartest and most indefatigable spokespeople. She recently posted this:
Minx’s "Ignite" talk on polyamory
Last week I did a brave thing and opted to speak to a large mainstream audience (about 800 people) about polyamory. My goals were to create awareness, bust some myths and help make the idea of polyamory more accessible to those considering it or with friends or relatives practicing it.
I’m not sure if I accomplished those goals, but it was a receptive audience and a fun time! So please watch. And if you find it helpful, please like, share or forward. (5:34)
The title, "8 Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory Before I Tried and Frakked It Up," is the title of Minx's short, clear, snappy book on the subject. I recommend it for anybody who wants the need-to-know Poly 101 basics in 94 pages, if you're not up for the deeper More Than Two at 490 pages.
In a similar vein, Dedeker Winston is another of our best public educators, podcasters (Multiamory), and book authors (The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory, just out four months ago). Here's the Multiamory trio's beginner's guide section of their website. Winston wrote the following piece for Bustle using a similar theme as Minx's talk and book: The First Mistakes You'll Probably Make If You Open Up Your Relationship (Nov. 2, 2016). Read the whole thing, it's worth it. But for skimming:
...You'll find countless articles on the ways in which millennials are creating a “new” monogamy that is characterized by, ironically, injecting non-monogamy into otherwise traditional-looking relationships and marriages. ...
I asked a number of people who have been in open relationships for years to share their early mistakes, so that you can learn from them without making them on your own.
1. Trying To Keep Everything The Same. ...
2. Attempting To Avoid Jealousy By Dating The Same Person At The Same Time. ...
3. Not Talking Enough. ...
4. Avoiding Your Partner’s Other Partners Like The Plague. ...
5. Thinking It Will Solve Your Problems. ...
Ultimately, your relationship will change, for better or worse. Michael, 30, offered this observation: “...My friends, partners, and I have found that as we explore romantic and sexual niches we didn't even know existed, we can no longer promise that a primary relationship is worth defending at all costs.” [But] “you get to learn more about yourself than you thought possible.”
Compare and contrast such examples with the Poly 101 advice that the wider media are telling the wider world. The good news is that yes, the media still tend to treat us as primary sources and broadcast what we say... more or less... usually.
Get ready for a long read. I'll give my own assessment at the end.
● For instance, this popped up in Metro UK, Great Britain's free paper for public-transit riders: Polyamory 101: Should you open your relationship? (Jan. 26, 2017):
By Rebecca Reid
It’s easy to assume that relationship means two people, but in fact, that’s just not true. Relationships can include just as many people as you like (a bit like families). And when it does, it’s called polyamory, or an open relationship, or ethical non-monogamy.
Take a seat, sharpen your pencils, welcome to polyamory 101.
...How does it work?
...Polyamory is a relationship with more than two people in it. It can work in all different combinations. Sometimes all the people in the poly are romantically involved with each other, sometimes they’re only involved with a few. Sometimes there’s no connect at all between some members of the group.
The only universal principle of polyamory is that it’s an honest and transparent relationship. Unlike an affair, everyone is acutely aware of what’s happening, and there’s no deception.
So you can sleep with anyone you want?
Sometimes, but not always. In some poly relationships, it’s perfectly legit to sleep with whoever you want. In others, it needs to be cleared first, and some poly relationships are [sexually exclusive] within themselves.
Isn’t that really complicated?
Yes and no. ... The major complaint you’ll hear in a poly will be about time and organisation.
"Whose night was it supposed to be?"
Don’t you get jealous?
It’s a complicated question (and the question that absolutely everyone will ask you). In short, yes, you do sometimes get jealous. ... The biggest problem is usually about time. While love has no limit, time does.
To make a poly relationship work you need to be committed to being open and honest about your emotional needs, and responsive to your partners when they tell you how they’re feeling.
Is everyone equal?
Again, kind of depends on the specific poly.
It’s common in a poly to have primary and secondary partners. For some people, the titles ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ denote who comes higher up the pecking order. In others, it’s just a reflection of how long you’ve been together.
There are lots of other systems too. Some polys don’t like to put labels on people or give anyone a higher rank than anyone else.
To make it even more complicated, there’s also a relationship structure called ‘relationship anarchy’ or ‘anarchamory’. ...
Why would anyone want to be a secondary partner?
For some people, the part-time nature works incredibly well. If you’re long distance, not a big fan of commitment, or have an extremely busy work life, it can work as a brilliant way. ...
...How do you make it work?
The most important thing is that your partner doesn’t think it’s because things are bad or wrong in your relationship. If your relationship isn’t in a strong and healthy place, then you’re not going to survive the transition.
Poly people are obsessed with communication. Communication isn’t just the number one rule, it’s rules one through 100.
Feeling jealous? Talk. Feeling nervous? Talk. Feeling happy? Talk. Polyamory might involve getting more sex, but trust me, if it’s going to work then you’re going to pay for that sex several times over in conversations about feelings.
Pretty good for a mass-market throwaway on the subway.
● I'm sometimes surprised that Playboy is still around. In its long Poly 101 a few months back, Open Relationships Are on the Rise. Is It Time to Open Up Yours? (Nov. 22, 2016), I actually couldn't find much to object to.
By Debra W. Soh
...First, learn the terminology. “Consensual non-monogamy” refers to relationships in which partners let each other have romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people. This includes polyamory (relationships that are mostly romantic), swinging (relationships that are mostly sexual) and open relationships (which are a mix of both)....
Polyamorists emphasize that their relationships are egalitarian and consensual. ...
Second, understand the psychology. ... Some research-backed benefits to polyamory include heightened emotional intimacy among partners, improved communication skills, and more financial, physical (like when it comes to getting housework done) and emotional resources to share than your typical two-person household.
Third, make a game plan. From a practical standpoint, you might want to start by asking yourself if you have the time. It’s a myth that poly relationships take less work, or are more casual, than monogamous ones. ...
Fourth, anticipate possible outcomes. Arguably, the biggest landmine of having an open relationship is jealousy. ... Poly relationships can help couples learn how to manage their feelings in ways that are healthy and don’t involve monitoring or restricting each other’s behavior.
...Most of us don’t want to picture our partners having sex with other people when we close our eyes, [but] some choose to instead feel vicarious happiness at the thought, which is known as compersion. And it works. For people in open relationships, compersion has been shown to predict greater relationship satisfaction. But like all decisions around sex, everything needs to be consensual. ...
It can take a good amount of trial and error to figure out what works. Negotiating (and renegotiating) boundaries and rules are necessary to succeed. For example, some couples agree they won’t hook up with new partners unless their primary partners have met them first. The good news is an increasing number of sex therapists are becoming enlightened about non-traditional relationships, and there are also helpful resources like The Ethical Slut and More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory to help you find your way.
Times when non-monogamy might not be the best idea? If you decide that this is what you need, but your partner ultimately wants to stay monogamous. ... Also, don’t pursue non-monogamy if it is being used as a last-ditch effort to salvage a relationship in the final stages of decay. I have yet to see this kind of arrangement work out. ... No matter the curiosity or motivation, a couple needs a strong foundation, with a commitment to honesty, complete transparency and trust, before opening up.
● In Glamour magazine, What It Really Means to Be Monogamish (May 9, 2016).
By Andrea Syrtash
I spoke with sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., who has worked with monogamish couples in his private practice in New York City. ... If you're thinking of having this kind of agreement, Kerner suggests outlining the top principles of what the agreement would be. ...
In some cases, one person in the partnership is curious to try being monogamish while their partner is more hesitant.... "Some people go along for the ride if they love their partner. The problem is when the road is unclear and the ride keeps changing, which often happens...."
In most cases, though, Kerner suggests that monogamish couples [should] have the same interest in having this arrangement.... "My experience is that this works infinitely better when two people are temperamentally suited for it and come into the relationship recognizing that non-monogamy is important to them."
● In another women's magazine, Shape: How to Have a Healthy Polyamorous Relationship (April 5, 2016).
By Samantha Lefave
...Read on to get the most important tips experts say everyone needs to know.
It's Not a "One Way or the Highway" Situation
"Polyamory is a state of open-heartedness and open-mindedness about having multiple simultaneous relationships," says Anya Trahan, relationship coach and author of Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. "Intimacy might mean sex and romantic connection, or it could mean a deep emotional or spiritual connection.
..."Many people across the globe are becoming wise to the [notion] that love is not bound by gender," says Trahan. When that happens, "we begin to question other things that are considered 'normal,' like the idea that the only way to have a healthy, intimate relationship is between only two people."
It's Not Just About Sex....
But Sex Does Come Into Play....
...Protection is also of the utmost importance for the polyamorous, says [Elisabeth] Sheff. "They take a lot of care with testing and knowing their status, being really on top of using [birth control] barriers, and coming up with fun and creative ways to make those barriers sexy and interesting." So protect your sexual health consciously by getting tested and asking your partners to do the same, then show each other your results. This should be done whenever a new partner is introduced for either person, says Sheff, as statuses can change without people being aware.
But Be Warned...
A common mistake people make when opening up their relationship to polyamory is thinking it will fix whatever problems you currently have with your partner. "If the relationship is broken, adding more people will not help," says Sheff. "It's important to know the difference between 'Here's an opportunity for growth and we can come out stronger and happier on the other side,' and 'This relationship is just f—cked and it's not going to get better.' It's hard, but it's something that needs to be done because polyamory rubs your face right in your issues."...
You May Want to Ease Yourself In
Because polyamory is usually an emotional investment, Sheff says it might be smart to instead define yourself more as monogam-ish when you first get started. ...
Some Best Practices
– Figure out what kind of polyamorous relationship you want....
– Get educated....
– Set your boundaries....
– Always be ready to renegotiate....
– Be honest.... All the experts agree that constant, honest communication is necessary for a successful polyamorous relationship. "It's emotionally challenging, and it makes you face your issues," says Sheff. Whether you stick to polyamory or not, forming this habit means there's the potential to grow and have a much more honest, intimate relationship than before.
● Here is what people find on Wikihow, a widely-used source of how-to information. How to Practise Polyamory is just a few paragraphs at this point, but on the right track:
Understand that it is possible to love more than one person at a time....
Understand that polyamory is not always open....
Establish your own set of ethical guidelines....
Be honest and open with your partner(s)....
Respect your partner(s)....
Be aware of jealousy....
Understand that this is often frowned upon by society....
Be open about your lifestyle choice when socializing....
Learn to manage your time....
● On the women's blogsite SheKnows, How to Tell Your Partner You'd Like an Open Relationship (Jan. 17, 2017):
by Anabelle Bernard Fournier
...But what if there were another way? What if you could open up your relationship so both of you could indulge in your crushes and attractions without compromising your commitment to each other? A growing number of people are coming out nonmonogamous and changing the way we imagine healthy, respectful relationships.
What is ethical nonmonogamy?
An ethically nonmonogamous relationship is a relationship in which the two people agree to have relationships — sexual, romantic and otherwise — with other people. The conditions and rules for outside relationships may differ between couples, but the core ideas remain the same for all of them: honesty, openness and trust.
Ethical nonmonogamy can include relationship modes like swinging, hookups and polyamory.
Their common denominator? Everyone knows what’s going on....
Breaking the ice
For those with the courage, naming the topic directly is probably the best, most effective way to do so. Being direct about your desires and your need to open up the relationship will give your partner the possibility to have all the information they need to pursue the discussion further.
Are you ready for an open relationship?
A common error that many couples make in opening up is believing that it, alone, will solve problems they’re having with sex, communication and trust. To the already troubled couple, opening up will only compound the issues. ... As Franklin Veaux says, “ ‘Relationship Broken, Add More People’ almost never works.”
Think you’re ready to open up? Take a look at some of the books and plentiful resources online to get the discussion going between you and your partner.
● Similarly, in the women's beauty-and-fashion mag Nylon, Diary Of A Polyamorous Woman: Opening Up About Love (May 19, 2017):
By Almass Badat
...Do not get open relationships mixed up with multiple one-night stands or affairs. Open love requires time, care, consideration; it should make you feel uplifted, cared-for and seen — even if eventually shit hits the fan.
The dynamics of an open relationship are all about checking in, communicating, and constantly adapting. Inwardly, individual participants have to work on possession issues, jealousy, personal insecurities and come to terms with what their idea of ownership in intimacy looks like. ... Part of the balance is about finding a partner or partners who share or want to share a similar vision as you do, as well as recognizing your ability to value your partner’s or partners’ needs, too.
...You have friends that you like to go to bowling with, and you have friends you’d prefer to stay in and watch the latest episode of Atlanta with. You have friends you see once a year, and ones you see every day. Each connection houses its own space in your mental and emotional sphere, right? This perspective can be applied to romantic connections as well. ...
“When you are born in a world you don’t fit in, perhaps it’s because you were born to create a new one.”
● On the other side of the gender gap, at The Good Men Project, Is Poly For You? Probably Not. But Possibly, Maybe… (March 18, 2017):
If you can read all of this and still think it's not entirely out of the question, this mode of living could possibly be for you.
By Johnathan Bane
...No one model of relationship is the right fit for everyone. The things that seem perfectly fine with one relationship would not be allowed in another. I have found that ultimately, it’s not about finding the right relationship model, but finding someone whose idea of a relationship is compatible with yours.
...For the majority of people I know, polyamory is NOT for them.
...Do you believe in absolute trust and communication to your partner about EVERYTHING? The poly style of living is rooted in a deep love of honest communication. ... The reason being, you are going to run into problems. Jealousy can rear its ugly head, a specific image might not leave your mind, and it’s important to be able to have an honest and loving conversation about that, so that you can navigate any roadblocks. That being said, sharing everything is not necessary. It’s not necessary that you know the entire contents of the book, just that you have access to it if you need to.
Would you be able to know, intellectually, that your spouse/partner is having sex and having an intimate relationship with someone else and be alright with it? ...
Would you feel guilty for getting your emotional/sexual needs met by more than one person?...
Would you feel guilty for double dating (you dating your preferred member of another couple, while your spouse/partner did the same)? This is often the beginner’s way to ease into things. ...
...If you can read all of this and still think it’s not entirely out of the question, then congratulations. This mode of living could possibly be for you. What should follow is an analysis of your relationship on every level to see if it could survive the growing pains necessary to dip your toes in the water. ...
● On another men's site, Askmen.com: Everything You Need To Know About Polyamory (undated). Here's its partial outline:
The History Of Polyamory
How Common Is Polyamory Today?
What Are Some Misconceptions About Polyamory?
What Are The Benefits Of Polyamory?
– Polyamory Decreases Cheating
– More Needs Are Met
– More Love Has Psychological Benefits
– Polyamory Can Help You Both [sic] To Become Emotionally Stronger
What Should You Consider Before Trying Polyamory In Your Relationship?
– What Would The Ramifications Be?
– Is Your Relationship Ready For This?
How Do You Get Started?
– Deal With Your Past Ghosts First
Being prepared means reflecting on your past relationships and asking yourself: ‘What have been some of my issues in the past?’ ‘Do I tend to crave a lot of time and attention from my partners, or do I prefer to keep things cool?’ ‘How emotionally invested do I tend to get?’ ‘How can I learn from my past relationships to prepare myself for a polyamorous one?’
– Take It Slow
– Agree On Boundaries
– Enlist Help, When Needed
One hidden gem in this area is going to “pastoral counseling” with a Unitarian clergy member. Most of them are very open-minded, and can bring both psychological and spiritual elements into the discussion. Strange, but true!
● A click-seeky magazine site called Vix presents 5 Things You Need To Know About Polyamorous Relationships (undated):
...There are no secret partners.
There's no scoreboard.
It doesn't solve relationship issues.
Relating to your partner's other companions is key.
No matter how many partners are involved in a polyamorous relationship, everyone has to keep in mind that you are all in one relationship. When everyone gets along, life is pleasant.
Plan on being flexible.
Successful monogamous relationships require a great deal of compromise so, imagine having multiple ongoing relationships going on at once....
● On another magazine site, Romancegoals: Polyamory 101: Everything You Need to Know About Non-Monogamy (undated).
...There are plenty of people who live their lives in loving and fulfilling polyamorous relationships. Because polyamorous relationships exist primarily outside of the mainstream, they are something that many people don’t understand. Here are the basics....
There is no evidence that monogamous relationships are better.
This is true across the board, whether we’re talking about longevity, sexual satisfaction, emotional intimacy or happiness in general. That being said, there is also no evidence that polyamory is better, either. The important thing is that you do what feels right for you and your partner(s).
The “right one” is a myth.
We are sold a bill of goods that says that there is one soulmate for everyone, just waiting to make you feel complete. ...
Polyamory isn’t only for people who don’t get jealous. ....
Polyamory is more common than you think. ...
Polyamory is not a constant orgy.
Polyamory can involve a range of relationships, from friendships to group sexual situations — and everything in between. ...
Polyamory is not cheating. ...
Children raised in polyamorous families do just as well as other children. ...
What seems to be most important is support, routine and modeling healthy modes of romantic love that features communication and responsibility, honesty and compromise.
Polyamory is not necessarily easy.
It takes emotional intelligence, respect, boundaries and excellent communication skills to make a polyamorous relationship work. However, it’s not necessarily more work than a traditional monogamous relationship.
No relationships complete you.
You are already complete. If you come into any relationship — polyamorous or monogamous — expecting it to make you whole, it will only let you down.
● In V.v Magazine, an online citylife mag in Toronto: Polyamory: What it is and How to Tell if it’s For You (Jan. 19. 2017).
By Jen Kirsch
...And so there [my dad and I] sat, watching the final dates Jojo had with the final two bachelors contestants [on Bachelorette];
“So wait, she’s kissing both of them?!” – my dad asked, confused and disoriented.
“So wait, she’s introducing both of them to her parents?” – my dad asked, in utter shock.
“So wait, she’s going to the fantasy suite with him, too?!” – my dad asked, deplorably disgusted.
“So wait, she’s in love with both of them?!” – my dad asked, genuinely confused, shocked and possibly even in awe.
Yes, yes, yes and yes, daddy-o. And she’s not the only one.
...We call this say-what? type of relationship polyamory.
...So why would someone want to do that?
Because for them, it comes naturally. They don’t see relationships in any other way. For them, non-monogomy is a way of being and way of life. It also gives the couple [sic] the certainty and comfort that they’re with their ultimate partner, but still allows them to experience other people and connections.
...Maybe this is for you. Maybe it isn’t. ...
● The idealistic-sounding, alt-dating app Feeld ("explore love beyond societal norms") was formerly called 3nder until Tinder sued it. Its website presents The Push for Polyamory: Why More Gen Z's Never Want to Settle Down (Nov. 19, 2016).
What is Polyamory?
Polyamory is the reigning authority over all monogamish relationships. Reserved for only the most secure, it enables folks to love freely, forming relationships (sexual, emotional or both) with a multitude of people. ... Instead of telling your partners what they can and can’t do (and vice versa) all parties involved are free agents. [Well, sometimes. What they're really talking about is RA, Relationship Anarchy. –Ed.]
In Morgan Potts’ essay “Polyamory as a Rejection of Capitalism” they suggest that “ethical non-monogamy” not only guarantees the “romantic and sexual autonomy of every person” but also emphasizes the importance of the individual over a pair or a group. To be polyamorous you have to first be secure with yourself. ...
...While millennials might have been the first generation to deal with the so-called divorce epidemic, today’s youth have been raised in an era where “till death do us part” is no longer realistic. Known for their optimism and go-getter attitudes, Gen Z’ers are the perfect people to lead the path to polyamory.
How Does Polyamory Work?
The key is to figure out the terms of your arrangement — if there are any. The most liberal poly folks might not have any limits on their relationships, while others stick to a few hard rules (e.g. the weekends are just for us). Some people use the guise of a monogamish relationship to do shitty things. ... Others are able to manage their jealousy.
Compersion: The Opposite of Jealousy....
Playing the Feeld
Apps like Feeld encourage people to be upfront about both their desires and expectations, and can be a good place to dabble in polyamory — so go play ;)
Whether you’re already monogamish or in the midst of building a designer relationship, make sure to keep checking in with number one: yourself. No one said dismantling centuries-old societal norms would be easy. ... Let go of the notion of people as property and we will all be a little more free.
● Farther afield, this appears on a large health-information site in India: Dos and don’ts of polyamorous relationships (Jan. 20, 2017).
By Bhakti Paun Sharma
...You make your own rules in every relationship, but there are some general rules you must keep in mind before you opt for polyamory.
Don’t treat it as competition....
Do have a say in the relationship. The rules need to be mutual, so if you don’t agree to a certain rule or clause, oppose, argue and communicate. The rules must apply to both [sic] partners equally.
Don’t criticize your partner or discuss personal details with others. The two of you [sic] are committed in a unique relationship, respect that.
Do support each other in difficult situations. Since you are committed to one partner [sic], you need to be there for them when they need you.
Don’t compare yourself with your partner’s partners. Just because your partner has gone bungee jumping with them doesn’t mean he/she has to do it with you.
Do express your feelings and needs.... Don’t go searching a new person for every small need....
Don’t use polyamory to fix your relationship. ... Fix your problems and then opt for other partners if you both agree and feel the need to.
Do respect your partner’s choices of people they hang out with. ... If you don’t like the other person, just practice basic courtesy, that’s it.
● Thrillist: How to Pull Off an Open Relationship, by Gigi Engle (Sept. 15, 2016). The section headings:
– Open relationships require thorough consideration and planning
– Communication is key
– Jealousy will happen
– You learn to get creative around "date night"
– New partners need to understand the primary dynamic
– Every emotion must be dealt with in open relationships
– Most people won't understand
Okay, my conclusion, if you haven't guessed it by now:
Although our message continues to get across pretty accurately, there's one clear difference: The wider world immediately thinks in terms of primary couples opening their relationship. The poly community often thinks farther, in terms of whole new paradigms of agency, romance, family, and society.
In other words: changing the rules of a marriage, versus embracing a broader new view of romantic love and intimate community.
And maybe this is strategically just fine. Michael Rios, activist in the Network for a New Culture, has long said, "This is how you get people to accept a new thing. You show them that it's just like this thing they already know, but with one new twist."
Labels: Poly 101