I know I haven’t been updating much. There are several reasons for this. The biggest is that one can only say, “Don’t be a fucking idiot” in so many ways before the message begin to get a little monotonous.
The other is that I’ve been leading a life so devoid of drama that I’m not analyzing much about relationships. Here’s the rub: What the poly community does really need is a good picture of what good multiple relationships can look like.
First and foremost,communication really is crucial. Communication doesn’t have to be these long, drawn-out relationship analysis sessions. If you’ve let it get that far, you need to learn to communicate better. Communication involves things like, “I’ve got a big meeting that I need to drive to, so I need the car early Thursday morning.” or “Honey, those spontanious foot rubs you’ll give? I love those and feel really cherished when you do that.” or “Sugar, when your boyfriend comes over, would you please change the sheets when he leaves?” It’s like washing the dishes immediately after dinner before they get crusty. If you do it in little bits regularly, you keep on top of it without a lot of nonsense.
When it’s working you don’t have this sense of urgency. You’ll certainly feel a sense of joy and excitement about your relationships from time to time. What you don’t have is the drama of a movie or romance novel, where everything is urgent and you feel like you’re hanging over the edge of a cliff in a life or death struggle. Love is great, love is wonderful, love is the most important thing in the world. Thing is, it’s not a life or death struggle. If love is a struggle, you’ve got a lot of internal character work to do. That’s okay, but don’t accept it as the norm. It’s a flaw to be worked on.1
When it’s working you’ve chosen people who will listen to you. However, I want to address the expression “You’re not listening!” A lot of people use this incorrectly, assuming that if the person is listening carefully, they would immediately agree with exactly what they want. That’s not the case. Understanding is simply not the same thing as agreement. I actually do have a significant disagreement with my partner about how a couple of things in our lives should be handled. We’ve talked about it, and there have been boundaries that he’s okay with agreeing with and I’m okay with accepting. The difference comes from a fundamental difference in our characters and values. The reason it’s not a source of conflict2, is because we both understand that it’s okay for us to have this difference of opinion. When I brought up the concern, my partner most certainly did listen. Then explained his point of view. We thought about it awhile, and what we really fundamentally wanted out of the situation. When we both were able to get to the heart of what we wanted, we were able to see a clear set of boundaries that did respect both opinions. Of course that doesn’t always happen. I could see a “no deal” situation occurring. With good boundaries, sometimes you have to accept this is going to happen.
When it’s working you’ll feel free to speak up about what you want and what you don’t want. You’ll be willing to say yes to things and you’ll be willing to say no to others without playing a mental chess game before you’re comfortable speaking for fear of explosions. You won’t be afraid that if you aren’t accommodating that you’ll lose your love. On the other hand, you’ll find that there are plenty of things you’re completely happy to say yes to and won’t be pressured. You probably won’t even notice it because it is working and the human mind tends to focus on solving problems rather than finding what’s working.
When it’s working, there’s going to be some fun from time to time. Life isn’t all work and analysis and being all focused on seriousness. When it’s working you and your partners will play from time to time. I’m not just talking about sex here, though yeah, sex is great. Is your pack of Munchkin cards gathering dust? When’s the last time you ran around the yard with a set of water balloons and your loved ones or rolled down a grassy hill?
When it’s working, you might not even be thinking too much about it, because it is working and you’ve got other things on your mind than worrying about something that’s delightful!
1YOU work on it YOURSELF. This is not someone else’s problem. Hang it on someone else and Mama Java’s gonna give you a stern look over her glasses.
2Disagreement and conflict aren’t the same thing, either.
7 thoughts on “When It’s Working”
Yes! A thousand times yes. I’ve never managed to put this idea into words though I think I’ve struggled at articulating it for a while. I am going to point people to this from my ‘blog. Thank you for writing it.
Though, (it’s early and I’m pre-caffeine), I was a bit concerned that you suggested people needed telling to change the sheets because they would get crusty. I re-read that paragraph, it makes more sense the way you wrote it.
Heh, I kinda read the same thing re: sheets/crusty… seems like the “It’s” in the sentence following the sheets example is referring to the act of changing the sheets. Maybe remove “It’s” and replace with “Communication is”?
But, putting that aside (since it really doesn’t matter much at all), this was a very well-presented concept, and one I agree with wholly. Having BEEN in a relationship where I was always basically punished any time I spoke my mind, I have an enormous respect for communicating openly and often. Damage the paths of communication (or just refuse to communicate), and the relationship is screwed.
I was taught and now teach that there are four parts to communications, what you say, what they hear, what they say, and what you hear. If any part of that breaks down, there isn’t communications.
You have to listen to what your partner is saying. You have to understand what they are saying, you have to acknowledge what they are saying. Only then will you be able to communicate what you need to communicate.
ex: I’m jealous. Ok, I hear that you are jealous, what are you jealous about? She gets to go on long drives with you. But you don’t like long drives!
You didn’t hear what was said, and then there is a blow up. Why was she jealous about the long drives? If she doesn’t like long drives, then there must be some other reason.
Listen, make sure you are hearing what she is saying, say it back again in her words, say it back again in your words.
And when she is listening, make it as easy for her to understand as possible. User her language (words and phrases). Make sure that you stop to verify that she heard what you intended to say. Don’t be afraid to say “Opps, I said that wrong, let me try again.”
Never blame other in a communications mishap. Just accept it as your mistake/failure, fix it and move on.
To long of a comment, but it was a great article that got me thinking
Communication in my relationships is often broken. Wife #1 communicates fairly well, and we both get our points across. However, Wife #2 just shuts down, and doesn’t communicate well, at all. Drives me nuts because I can feel when something is amiss, but she clams up, and I won’t hear from her for days.
Thanks for the post Java Goddess!! Always a good reminder.
O Java Goddess, you are living the good life then!
I, too, am happy to report that I am very happy in my family. I am so content that I am not emotionally needy anymore.
I used to be the buffer in the original marriage but now I have found that we truly complement one another.
I am at peace.
This is so good to read. I’m in a V triad that has worked very well for three years that we have lived together. Hubby and I have been together for 19 years, our Third has been with us for three. We are blessed in that we are all good communicators. And play, oh yes, we do play. Both men love jokes and puns. One will come home from work with a new one, and the other has to respond, and it goes on and on. My part is to sit and groan. LOL. The men, although they are very different in some ways, are very alike in others and have a lot of affection for each other. Both realize that they fulfill different needs for me and so there isn’t much for there to be any conflict about. Like any relationship it is always changing and growing and evolving, but I think we have now reached a point where all of us feel secure. I always felt so blessed to have the perfect man for me as my husband – someone who understood from the beginning that I am bi- and poly- and always will be. To come to find another man who is also so very good for me, and who simply “fit” right in – well, I am doubly blessed. It’s good to know that others have found the same happiness, in whatever configuration works for them.
Just when I was not looking for it, a nice little triangle relationship found us, and the last weekend was so utterly domestic and silly and peaceful that I can’t think really of very much to blog about it. But that’s the way it should be, really.
For the stats, I have a husband who shares a girlfriend with me, and I have a boyfriend who is the friend of both of them. Sort of a triangle with a V attached, and there’s some kink involved with roles, too.