In any physical art you study, be it dance, martial arts, swimming, or team sport, one day, you’ll go to class or practice and the coach/teacher will announce with an evil gleam to the eyes, “We’re drilling the basics today.”
The beginners won’t react much. They’re still learning, after all, and any basics drill is going to be covering new material.
The intermediates will groan, restrain from showing any eye rolling, and be frustrated. They know this stuff!
The really advanced? They’ll be nodding their heads internally. Yep, yep, yep, it’s about time for another good basics drill, they’ll be thinkin’.
With that in mind, we’ll be looking at the basics of polyamory today.
- It’s about love. Polyamory is a Greco-Latin abomination of a construction that means “Many Loves”. If you’re not coming from a place of love, you need to go back and find that first. It’s the most important thing. No, really. I’m serious. If it ain’t about love, it ain’t worth bothering with. Make sure what you’re doing is really love, first.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is often called the Polyamory Mantra and it’s called that for a reason. If you do not let your loves know what’s going on in your head, and paying careful attention to what is going on in theirs, you’re asking for trouble. Do remember that communication is a two-way street. Stephen Covey of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” fame says, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” This is fantastic relationship advice, not only for romantic relationships, but for any human interactions. Humans need 1 to feel understood. Communicate. It’s like taking food from someone’s mouth not to do so.
- Polyamory won’t solve your relationship problems. I once commented Polyamory will mercilessly expose any cracks you have in your relationship. I stand by that more firmly than ever. If you’re bored with your partner, the two (or more) of you aren’t getting along, if you’re losing that spark? Please, please, please don’t be one of those “Relationship’s broken, add more people” types! It doesn’t work, it won’t help and it’ll wreak havoc on all involved. Solve your internal problems first, then decide if you want to branch out or not. But make for damn’ sure your original relationships are solid. 2
- It’s about love. Love. It’s about love –not the slippery bits stuff (delightful, though that is!) Wasn’t kidding when I said it was about coming from a place of love.
- Know Thyself. If you don’t know yourself, you can’t know some crucial things that permit you to be able to be loving and have a good relationship. Do you know what your boundaries are? If you don’t, you sure as heck cannot communicate them! Do you know what you want? I mean do you know what you really want? Can’t ask for it until you know. Make sure you know!
- Know Thy Partner. You’d be hard put to come up with a more loving act than to take the time and energy to get to know someone down into their bones in a way that does not frighten them or barge into their vulnerabilities. It’s a courting process that’s actually far more difficult than getting someone into bed. It’s also a process that takes years. Yeah, yeah, I know you feel that wonderful connection when you fall in love. Feels great. That’s not what I’m talking about. This takes years. Puttin’ in those years is a fantastic act of love. (Opening up and helping the other person really know you is also such an act. Courageous, too, ’cause that’s vulnerable as all hell!)
- It’s about love. I keep reiterating this and I hope I’m not too boring. Thing is, when I’m talking about love, I’m not talking about some pansy-assed, fluffybunny nonsense about “feeling positively” towards someone. I mean the real thing, from the blood and from the bone. I mean the force that gets you up in the middle of the night to attend to a sick kid. I mean the force that gives you the courage to be vulnerable. I mean the force that gives you the energy to focus all your attention on someone so that you can “know” them — and yeah, I do mean Biblically. There’s a reason that expression exists <grin>.
In fact, I challenge my readers, experienced polys or not, to come up with what they think are a good set of “polyamory basics” — things to think about that you can go back to on a routine basis as a checkup to see how you’re doing in your relationships.
Until next week, behave yourselves, my poly chillun.
Mama Java, out…
1Many of my faithful readers will note I seldom use the word “need” when talking about anything other than physical things that keep you from dying. Guess what? A human that does not feel understood at all by at least one other person is a suicide waiting to happen.
2Barring that, have the balls to end and clean up the detritus from the old relationship before starting new ones if you think the old one is broken beyond repair. Suck it up and own your own shit, first!
14 thoughts on “Back to Basics”
I agree entirely with your “If it ain’t about love” column.
For this one . . . hmm. I have to quibble somewhat — you need to love the one(s) you’re with, but in a relationship that’s open, you can’t require that your partner/s already BE in love with someone to start dating them. Love is something that develops with friendship and familiarity, but often the latter come after some amount of courtship.
(For example, my secondary partner is single other than his relationship with me. He’s open to dating other people, and I’ve encouraged him to do so. When he meets someone new, he’s obviously not going to know her well enough to be in love — but he’s still poly, given that he’s dating ME and someone else, and I’m still poly even though I’m not looking for new relationships.)
I think that polyamory can be more about the *potential* for loving relationships than the *actuality* — I am open to my partners forming loving relationships with someone else, but I also am aware that it may take some time and some false starts before those relationships are established.
Not disagreeing with the column as a whole, but I do think that something should be said for the fact that polyamory isn’t just a leap into a full-on “loving relationship” from the get-go — there’s a trial-and-error factor involved.
— A 🙂
I would add another “Basic”–there is no blueprint for what a poly relationship should look like.
There are as many relationship styles as there are people practicing poly. And what might work for one set of people would be a disaster for another.
Too often people try and shoe-horn a relationship configuration onto a person. Experienced poly people know that each relationship is unique and will probably not look like any other relationship out there.
Someone recently said that she likes to keep her friends and her lovers separate. That for her, poly doesn’t work if she becomes romantically and physically involved with her friends. Whereas for me, the thing I like best about poly is that I get to be emotionally and physically connected with my friends on a deeper level.
That’s one of the great things about poly, there are so many options and opportunities for us! From closed, polyfidelous triads to open strings of poly pods, the variety is as infinite as the people.
> In fact, I challenge my readers,
> experienced polys or not, to come
> up with what they think are a good
> set of “polyamory basics”
Well, as time goes on, I remain impressed by the indicators posted below (written by an anonymous commenter to San Francisco Bay Guardian columnist Andrea Nemerson, who published them a while back):
In my experience and observation, the following factors most positively influence the odds for success:
1. General attitude of goodwill and a generosity of spirit
2. Willingness to be honest, especially when the news is likely to hurt
3. Independent spirit [which I take to mean both emotional self-sufficiency, and a readiness to ignore what society thinks].
4. Strong personal desire for a poly life
5. Reasonably good emotional intelligence and self-esteem
6. Reading poly literature and discussing it with partners.
Likely the poly relationships that you’ve seen crash and burn were insufficiently supplied with one or more of these components.
Poly out East
Keep up with Polyamory in the News!
I think it’s excellent to go back to the basics every so often and this is a great, great list. I definitely agree with Kevin that the lack of a blueprint is pretty basic to poly.
You covered what poly means, the mantra, what it’s all about, etc….you just forgot one thing: The Poly Mating Call:
“Get out your calendars!”
Oh, another one: Franklin’s wise saying, “Let your relationships be what they are.” And accept that this is okay.
Not every good poly model is the one that’s your ideal. You can encourage relationships toward the direction you desire, you can discreetly clear the path, but you can’t push those horses down the path — and you need to be ready to back off the encouragement if it’s just not to be.
This is a great post. I made a few comments on my own blog; I hope you don’t mind me posting the link here for others to read. Please feel free to comment on it.
Alan – I thought I recognized those words! Poly Out East = moi.
Great post, Noel.
> “Polyamory” is a Greco-Latin abomination of a construction
Ain’t at all unusual in English. If we were strict about this, an automobile would be either an autokineton (all Greek) or an ipsomobile (all Latin). A television would be either a teleoptikon or a provision.
Well, Alan, now I feel a moral imperative calling me for the Grammatical Rectitude of the Sacred Purity of the Tongue to use those constructions.
*grin* What with English being such a pure language and all…
Good article Noel. The only important element that I would have separately emphasized (though it is implied in much of what you said) is “no game playing”.
Ask what you want, and respect the answer that you get. Respect the requests that you receive along with the requester, and give the honest answer in love.
you can’t require that your partner/s already BE in love with someone to start dating them
Most people (not all of course) already know a bit about loving other people. They’ve got family. They’ve got friends. They may not be in perfect relationships, but they have them and maintain them. Someone who hasn’t got that grounding would have a very difficult time with a poly relationship. That doesn’t mean it is impossible for someone who has a history of damaged relationships to have a poly relationship. But it will never be common or easy.
Being “in love” isn’t the same thing as choosing to love someone :).
But…isn’t it really all about love?
I’ve been grazing thru your articles, nibbling & grabbing & chewing thoughtfully, after seeing a link to “Stupid Poly Tricks” in the BrevardPoly Yahoo! Group. I respect your writing *enormously* & your lifestyle greatly; I hoped to find information & insight into establishing new poly relationships, & did; I’ve already e-mailed a couple of links to your articles to my beloved spouse of 10 years…. and you succeeded in talking me out of polyamory at this time.
Dammit. *pout* Both my spouse & I were in polyamorous relationships before & when we met, & I was really looking forward to escaping the tedium & stresses of our long-monogamous relationship with some good escapist NRE & hot sexxin’ (or at least spoonin’ ;-). Now you’ve convinced me to (shudder) be a better communicator & work (eeeuuuuww!) on my relationship with my beloved SO first. Well, hell.
I guess I should say thank you, but I don’wanna. Do you have to write so clearly & sensibly? Couldn’t you throw a bone to the dogs of self-deceit, slosh a sop to irresponsible lust?? *sigh* Oh well. Being a responsible adult is still a helluva lot better than being a teenager, I guess….
Looking forward to reading more from you!
~Cat RiverOtter (up North in St. Augustine)
been involved for past year or so with the wonderful woman who sent me this article (and her partner and kids). had this shit for months and finally read the article…makes sense but…even though i’m filled with love for her (and another woman) why does it bother me so when she brings up subject of attraction to other guys? the jealousy thing makes me want to throw in towel sometimes and seek a normal relationship. i must be missing something…