I am occasionally disturbed by the plethora of polyamory advice out there. No, not because I think I need to be the only advice columnist (hardly!) but because I sometimes wonder how people evaluate the value of said advice. I’m sorry to say I probably have readers, myself, who would likely not consider my own advice as valuable if they had done their research. And you know what? If that’s so, they shouldn’t be reading this!
What should you ask to evaluate whether or not to take someone’s polyamorous advice?
How long have they been poly?
I know this is going to freak out a lot of newly poly people, but someone who has been poly a year or two isn’t going to have the perspective to be able to call bullshit on a lot of things. That being said, should the newly poly be writing about their experiences? Of course! My word, it does make for interesting reading, and chronicling the process is deeply useful on a lot of levels. We see a lot of blogs started when someone becomes poly because if you process mentally while writing, you’re gonna wanna write about the process. It’s natural. What we don’t see, and it’s a pity, is discussion of long-term relationships as much. I think one of the reasons is that once a lot of the processing has been done, it’s just… life. It’s not something we’re giving a significant amount of analytical attention to, and why should we? The processing part is mostly done.
If you reply that the PolyFamilies site probably shouldn’t have gone up (it went up within months of the quad getting together), there’s some truth to that. In our defense, we were looking for people who had long-term group marriages to give us advice, and (hi!) I process by writing.1
But really, no kidding, it’s a good idea to find people who’ve made it work awhile for your go-to. After awhile, you’ll start to see some useful patterns.
What do their relationships look like?
If their relationships are a clusterfuck, this might not be the best place to go.
If their relationships are portrayed as always perfect, this might not be the best place to go.
As an example, there’s a poly writer I’m rather fond of – Franklin Veaux. In a jealousy article, he talks about being utterly blindsided by jealousy at a certain point in his life and how he dealt with that. He even mentions that up until that point, jealousy wasn’t a real issue in his life. What you’re looking for is people who admit they fucked up, and will report what they learned from it. It’s the learned from it part that’s crucial, I hope you understand. Fucking up is easy, and there’s a fair subset of poly writers that are totally comfortable admitting it.2 It’s part of the human condition. Learning from it? That’s slightly less common. But that’s where you get your advice gold.
Do they see polyamory as a cure-all for a broken relationship?
You don’t see this a great deal any more, but there was a time when there was a plethora of “polyamory saved my marriage” stuff out there. It can’t. It doesn’t. Polyamory can be a good relationship choice, but it will mercilessly expose even the tiniest cracks in any relationship.
Entertaining writing is not the same as good advice.
The polyamory community is blessed with some amazing writers. That’s not the same thing as being able to give useful advice. Just because an idea is shiny, or presented in a way that makes you laugh doesn’t mean that it’s really what you should be doing with your life. That hurt to write, because I know that a lot of readers of this blog like the pithy writing. Please look beyond that and think critically about the ideas. They may not be worth all that much to you, or they may be useful, but look beyond the wrapping!
If you’re not good at thinking critically? Learn! Seriously. It’ll help in a lot of areas, not just in evaluating perverts talking about relationships.
1 I wasn’t newly poly, just new to group marriages.
2Which is a good thing.
6 thoughts on “Where Do You Get Your Polyamory Advice?”
I don’t know that people who do their research on you would think that you couldn’t give good relationship advice — I mean, everyone has their opinions and preferences, but one of the reasons why I think you *do* give good relationship advice is that you’ve experienced poly clusterfucks and relationship dissolutions — not that I’d have wished them on you, but someone who has never made a mistake or been hurt isn’t someone who is necessarily going to know how to deal with the messy realities of life that can make you want to write to an advice columnist in the first place.
You admit that you’ve had failed relationships (which I define as something other than “relationships that ended” — not every breakup is a failure, sometimes it’s the right thing for everyone, whereas other times, everything goes in the toilet and counts as a failure because of the amount of wreckage it causes.) I respect you for that admission (hell, I’ve known you since you were still *in* those relationships), and I think it makes you somewhat better-qualified to call bullshit on people who are entering into live-in relationships a month after meeting and insisting in starry-eyed bliss that they’re IN LURVE.
I agree that you should always evaluate the applicable qualifications and level of respect that you have for the person dishing out the advice. And, yes — admissions of fuckups (or near-fuckups, or rough times that were successfully weathered) and *actually learning something from said fuckups and not repeating toxic patterns* is an important qualifier.
And, hmm — perverts? Really? I mean, *I’m* one, but I don’t necessarily think that everyone seeking/dishing poly advice necessarily is one. What was your thought process behind your choice of wording? Or were you just being flip? (I only ask because I don’t think that being poly is a perversion. I love more than one person, *and* I’m a pervert — the characteristics overlap, but they don’t completely mesh.)
. . . many apologies for my punctuation. I am the Queen of Run-On Sentences, and I’m spoiled by being able to re-read, catch my mistakes, and edit in LJ 😉
I’m running with the anything but monogamy and man on top as being perverted, just ’cause it amuses me. So poly people are perverts.
*laughs* Fair! 😉
I’d have footnoted that, but having your definition in the comments is just as good. (Only because I want to stay away from the idea that polyamory = perversion per se, despite the fact that a goodly portion of poly people are, in fact, perverts.)
I don’t actually follow many poly writers out there. You’re one of them, and Franklin Veaux is another. Solid advice, things that cover actual problems that people experience instead of discussing fluffy theoretical polyamory which doesn’t generally apply to real life.
And oh god yes, I must agree that polyamory will “mercilessly expose even the tiniest cracks in any relationship.” The old trope, “Relationship broken: add more people!” exists for a reason. For anyone out there who thinks, “oh, our relationship isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t apply to us because [XYZ]” – wrong, it applies to you. My ex-wife and I gave the “let’s fix our marriage with poly!” train a try, and lo-and-behold it exposed far more flaws than we had known existed.
I’m sorry your marriage didn’t work out, but for what it’s worth, sometimes you can actually repair the relationship after all the cracks are exposed.