There’s a popular situation in sitcoms and romantic comedies. There’ll be this couple — one of them being presented as having their life a bit out of order. The couple sleeps together, and then the more together partner starts getting the other person’s life in order for them.
I’ve never been too happy with this one. The implication is that sleeping with someone means you’ve rights over them. I don’t care if you’re monogamous or polyamorous, this one is obnoxious!
Just because you’re sleeping with someone doesn’t mean you can:
- Try to become their band manager.
- Manage old, long-term relationships for them.
- Get them to make a Life Change.
When I speak of trying to become their band manager, I mean that as a kind of blanket euphemism for trying to manage any point in their professional lives. It’s just that the classic example of this is the girl starting to date a musician and then wanting to manage the guy’s band.
Yes, when you get into relationships, you do want to entwine your lives. I get that. But wait to be asked.
This part may seem poly-specific, but it’s not. For monogamous examples, think of dating someone and then trying to help them manage their relationships with their parents – either trying to reconcile or defending the person against them.
In polyamorous situations, for goodness sakes, don’t try to help someone with his problems with long-term relationships! I’m not encouraging you to be heartless, but if you haven’t known someone for more than five years, chances are slim that you have the whole picture. If you’re dealing with new and shiny, you can’t possibly have all the facts to give good enough advice.
It’s one thing to want someone you love to Be All That They Can Be. It’s quite another to immediately start encouraging them to go back to school, make a career change, blah, blah, blah. This is especially true when you start offering to help with applications, business forms or whatever. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s fine to listen and find out what the other person wants, but sleeping with them doesn’t give you a right to manage that sort of thing for them.
I get that you might think they’re in a Relationship That’s Bad for Them. Might even be true. Even so, wait to be asked. Seriously.
When you are in a relationship, you have these rights:
- You may ask for what you want.
- You may set boundaries.
No, you don’t get rights over another person’s time. You do get to ask for what you want, and in fact if you want a good relationship, you’ll do exactly that.
I’m not going to go into a big lecture about boundaries. A lot of my columns talk about them. Click here for a series. The basic takeaway is that a boundary is about what behavior you’ll accept to be in a relationship. But, it doesn’t tell the other person how to behave. Yes, that’s subtle, and I spend thousands of words analyzing the difference in other columns.
The point here is that I think that translating some very, very wrong monogamous norms into polyamorous situations really has the potential for a lot of wacky hijinks that might be fun to watch on a comedy of errors.
But, dear oh Lord, you wouldn’t wanna live ’em.
 Usually the male.