This week’s column is a guest piece by Edward Martin, III.
How do I “break the news” I’m poly?
This question rolls around a lot, especially on boards and meetings where there’s a lot of new folks, or folks that have just started dating, or aliens that have only recently arrived on Earth and haven’t quite figured out exactly how humans interact.
Maybe there’s a fourth category.
The basic question is this: “Gee, I’m poly and I’ve met this great person and want to ask them out on a date or two, but I’m not sure about the how and when of revealing that I’m poly. What should I do?”
A necessary digression:
First of all, note that this question – like so many other questions – never has to be asked more than once. Once you have an answer that works, you can pretty much use the same technique for everybody. If the answer you’ve been offered or that you’ve come up with can’t be used for practically all instances, you’ve probably just come up with an answer that’s not viable (my preference is solving General Equations, because I don’t like to do a lot of work – it’s like learning how to do addition, instead of memorizing all possible answers to all possible addition problems).
Second — and this is really important if you hate being redundant and doing redundant work over and over and over and over — is that you, personally, don’t have to come up with a solution. It’s true! Ever watch someone suffer horrible burns on their hands by grabbing a red hot stove element, and then wondering if maybe your Magical Powers will protect you if you grab the same element? No, because any idiot can see that a red-hot stove element will make you scream like a little girl if you touch it, and learning that lesson indirectly is tremendously better than learning it first-hand. (my sympathies to the people who burned their hands, but thank you for teaching me that danger!) Okay, where were we? Right – coming out to potential partners/lovers.
There are two ways of going about this. Follow along all the way to the end, though, because the two ways are very different from each other.
The first way is easy: They’ll figure it out. They’ll figure it out because they’ve hung around you, or hung around your friends. They’ll see you have at least one partner, probably more, and that everyone’s communicative, comfortable, and cool. Maybe they’ll see the family pictures on the wall*, or how the kids kiss four parents goodnight. They’ll see it at parties, or see it during dinner, or other social events. They’ve already been introduced to everybody, and have all the first names down.
The only big “reveal” here is of the potential interest (which, frankly, is obvious by this time).
Now, surely, there will be some folks who claim this is a sort of “time-traveling” solution, that you would have to go backwards in time to arrange for all of this before you belly up to the bar with your Special Digital Effect hanging out. What they call “time-traveling” I call “planning ahead.” Planning ahead takes very little breaking of the laws of physics. You just put things in the right order from the get-go. The “reveal” shouldn’t involve any sort of huge problem, if it’s placed near the end of the sequence. There’s the cart and there’s the horse. Hook them up in the right order and you find that you have lots more problem-solving brains left over for those really tough Sudoku challenges, and learning Cantonese.
“Planning ahead” is one of those things that separates adults from children, and humans from animals. You want to target “adult human,” in your brain so plan ahead. A mistake might happen, but there’s no reason for it to happen more than once (preferably, it happens to someone else where you can observe and learn).
Speaking of horses and carts, that brings me to the second way.
The second way is even easier: Don’t bother, because it’s not a high priority item for you. If it were important to you and the other person, if you wanted a Deep Meaningful Relationship With a Partner, then you would have put your horse and cart in the appropriate order. See “The First Way.” Enjoy the hot monkey sex and if it becomes an issue, then be casual and mature about it. It takes two (or more) to tango, and if none of the involved parties bothered asking, then it’s safe to assume that – should you want things to Go A Little Further – it’s just not a dealbreaker, high-priority kind of item.
Note that this is all reciprocal, by the way. If you’re being romanced by someone and they prioritize introducing you to the family and their social structure, then chances are pretty good this is what they consider important. If they instead prioritize tiling the floor with clothing, and you’re cool with that, then remember that if other issues come up later.
There is a third way, which involves only dating people who have already been clearly identified as poly, and of course, you can do that, but sometimes it just seems so incestuous. Besides, if you’re going to a priori limit your pool, you just might miss out on something really exciting. Good or bad, I suppose.
* this is how people who may appear to be single can reveal they’re poly, as well as provide an excellent example of how well they might speak of their exes. We don’t have to talk much about people who are single because of how venomous they are about their exes and soon-to-be-exes, naturally, because that’s one of those “duh” moments.
** Now, for those really rare birds that have no past, and make no conversation where they can slide in the fact that they are not sexually restrictive, their best bet is to assume nobody in their right mind would subscribe to a restrictive sexuality and act accordingly, which would probably (assuming they were acting in a mature fashion) include asking after other people their intended may be dating. If that dosn’t open the conversation up in the right direction, you might as well start rolling percentile dice.
I Have Something to Tell You © 2008, Edward Martin, III
Used by permission
All Rights Reserved
Edward Martin III’s a writer and filmmaker living in the Pacific Northwest. Other essays and reflections of his can be found at http://www.petting-zoo.org/NonFiction.html and his movies can be found at http://www.guerrilla-productions.org/ he also does these animations: http://www.petting-zoo.org/Hardcore.html