Okay, mah poly children. Grandmama Java (my granddaughter was born Monday) wants to roll it back to some basics for making polyamory work. If you practice these five rules, you will have great relationships, and you will find that things work better for you. One caveat. It will not fix someone else breaking these rules, but Rule Five talks about this, so you’re still all good.
1 If I speak in the tongues n of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; I then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The Bible may not be part of your tradition or beliefs, but this passage still makes a significant point. Love is a big, honkin’ deal. No love, polyamory won’t work. I put this first because it is the most important. Love first.
And by the way, love and NRE are not the same things. NRE is fun and awesome, and love can often be. But sometimes it is boring and tedious. It’s as much cleaning up after someone who threw up in the night, as it is about walking down a beach hand in hand watching the sunset. I talk more about the dull and tedious side because the other side is easy. But the fun is important, too. Just make sure you’re doing both.
And love is also a verb. If you’re sitting there feeling nice, that’s cool. But get up off your ass and do stuff. That’s where it’s love.
Relationships don’t work well in the face of lies. You might think you’re getting something you want (from peace and quiet to a piece of tail). Ultimately, you’re not. If you need peace and quiet and can’t get it when you’re being honest, maybe you need to take a look at Rule Five. If you want to get laid more and think you can’t do it being honest, again, Rule Five is going to be important to you.
The thing is if you modify the noun “honesty” with the adjective “brutal” then I think you might want to take a look at Rule Three and Rule One. Honesty is not incompatible with kindness and love. If you think it is, you need to work on your communication skills, cupcake.
To do an end-run around the whole, “But what if she asks, ‘Does this make my butt look big?’” And she happens to be a bit broad across the beam. I want to offer this thought:
You can still be kind. You can ask, “Are you asking if that is flattering on you, or if it emphasizes your butt more than you like?”
That’s not dishonest, and it is also kind. You’re asking for clarification about what they really mean, and you’re not assuming.
For what it is worth, if you need feedback and you’re dealing with a partner who you know does their best, to be honest (you fortunate thing you), you can help by making sure you’re asking the question you need to be answered. If you need reassurance that you’re loved, found attractive, valued or whatever, it is totally okay to ask for exactly that! And hey, since that’s what you want and need, it’s also…
Pobody’s Nerfect. I get that you sometimes have a terrible day. But try, try, try to keep kindness in mind as your motivator for dealing with your loves. The presumption is that you love them, right? You want to treat your loves well.
The thing is, treating a love well means that you’ll need to know your loves well enough to learn what makes them feel loved and cared for.
As just a dumb aside from the somewhat boring dailiness that is my own life, one of the things that make me feel cared for is when someone I live with does some sort of chore around the house without being asked to. These days, I am the primary carer of the home because I work from home and it’s just easier for me to do stuff. The Prince, who knows this little fact about me and was home as we were readying to visit our new grandbaby, emptied the dishwasher while I was clearing up some work for a client. (He also knows emptying the dishwasher is not a task I am particularly fond of). So, he just did it.
I have another friend who feels most loved when she is given little gifts. You know teeny silly stuff like a cute eraser or a specialty truffle.
Kindness and love do involve getting to know your partners well enough to know what acts of kindness are valued. It’s a mistake to assume.
Own Your Own Shit
“Own your own shit” is a phrase that like using I statements can be perverted into a stick to beat people with. Y’all do know that’d be a spectacular way to break Rule Three to use this on people that way, right? Good.
Owning your own shit is really recognizing several things:
It means knowing that your past has probably taught you coping mechanisms that aren’t very loving. Check for them. Root them out as best you can. You won’t entirely. It’s a life-long project. Ever noticed how old people always go on about being mellow and kind and letting things go when talking about interpersonal relationships? That’s because we’ve learned these things (albeit imperfectly) as we’ve plowed through enough time and relationships, ourselves.
But perfecting your character and your treatment of other people is an excellent project – one that will serve you well in all relationships, not just poly.
However, owning your own shit means you have to be able to identify your own shit, and not other people’s. This brings us neatly to…
Have good boundaries
I wrote a really long article on boundaries when I reanimated this blog from PolyFamilies to its present version – The Polyamorous Misanthrope. You can read it if you like, but boundaries are simple enough.
Boundaries are what is in your locus of control. What do you choose to do? What behaviors will you choose to interact with and what behaviors will you walk away from? What are you responsible for, and what isn’t really your responsibility or problem?
So, here’s a boundaries example. You’re at a fancy dinner, and the hostess is passing around a dish of asparagus. You loathe asparagus to the bottom of your being and do not want to eat any.
“Would you care for some asparagus?” asked the hostess.
You reply, “No, thank you,” and you pass the dish on to the guest on your left.
That’s boundaries in a nutshell. You didn’t like something, you said no, and you passed on it. Good boundaries. Interestingly enough, good manners. It’s amazing how often the two coincide. (As an aside, it would be bad manners and bad boundaries to press someone to eat something they’ve refused)
This is, of course, simplistic and ignores the personal baggage that we often bring to relationships. Interestingly enough, good boundaries does sometimes mean doing this. Kindness and love may require exploration. (Why do you feel unloved when I say no to your asparagus surprise? I love you, and I love your cooking. Can we talk about this?) But, that loving discussion actually can’t happen until the boundary is bumped up against. So, boundaries are crucial when it comes to loving effectively.
I encourage you to practice these five simple and unbreakable rules in all your relationships, not just your poly ones. Besides, I don’t want to have to kick anyone out of the Poly Club, now do I?*
* Note to the humor-impaired, no, I do not have the authority to do so and I know it.