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.