Saturday, April 28, 2018

"Trying Poly"....

Administrivia: For those who wish to mark their calendars, on Sunday July 15 I will be giving a sermon at Grand River Unitarian Congregation, 299 Sydney Street South, Kitchener, Ontario. I will be writing it; the topic I have selected is "The Doctrine Of Love". Further details...well, you'll have to be there for them. Although I hope to be picking the music.
Big, heartfelt thanks to Rev. Jessica Purple Rodela for the vote of confidence.

I'm grateful that polyamory is getting more and more visible, at a rate I hadn't imagined in my most optimistic projections. Alan M's excellent blog, Poly In The Media, tracks notable mentions of abundant love in newspapers, magazines and television, and it seems like both the quantity of articles and the quality of their sources has been increasing rapidly.  This kind of exposure will certainly help to reduce stigma. And it may encourage more people to "try poly".

Something about the formulation of that phrase feels just a wee bit 'off' to me. My inner Yoda is saying "do or do not, there is no try". I think it's because I'm really sick unto death of, well, guys especially, not having the slightest clue what they're actually 'trying'.

Poly women, you've seen it on dating sites, haven't you? I mean, rejecting a guy on Plenty of Fish or OKCupid is already pretty much guaranteed to come with a heaping helping of "you stuck up bitch, why won't you fuck me" (see previous 'incel' post!)...but if you're ethically non-monogamous,  you get the added bonus "you're poly, which means you'll fuck anything, and you STILL won't fuck me? (Cue tirade).

Or, what's arguably worse, you meet someone, you click, you explain what you're about in terms of ethical non-monogamy, they appear to get it, and subsequent actions and behaviours reveal they only appeared to get it because it might have got them into your pants.

Now, it's fair to say right off that there can be a vast difference between what you think you're going to feel, confronted with polyamory in practice, and what you find yourself actually feeling. You think you're okay with the concept of metamours and the fact you're sharing someone's time, attention and possibly body...and then an actual metamour actualizes out of the actual blue and you're actually jealous as hell. Even experienced poly people can be confounded by jealousies with one partner they never experience with another.

But that's not what's, ahem, actually going on in many many cases. The guy -- it's usually a guy, though it can just as easily be a girl -- focusses on the time, attention and body when it's theirs...and never even stops to consider what happens when it isn't.

That's because almost all of us have been raised in a devoutly monogamous culture, and the only lens most of us can view "more than two" through is cheating. So often the person new to polyamory will cast themselves (unconsciously) in the role of cheater or cheatee. Both roles dictate emotional reactions to a wide range of common poly situations and both are 100% dead wrong.

POLY IS NOT CHEATING. POLY IS A DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIP MODEL, no more valid than monogamy but no less, either. It works for lots of people, and can work wonders for people new to it, but only if those people have a solid grasp of what it is they're embracing. I have introduced two people to polyamory, and both of them are at least as accomplished at it as I am...probably more so.

"Try" it? Nobody would say that about a monogamous relationship. "Hey...I've got this hankering to be with you and only you for the rest of my life. I want to invest in you every expectation I have for a relationship! Let's....let's TRY MONOGAMY!"

The thing that people refuse to get is that there's commitment here. Instead of committing to one person, you're committing to two or more. I've seen that assertion endlessly disparaged -- only one of the relationships can be "real", right? -- and I immediately ask which among the disparager's friends is the only real one.

As I've repeatedly said, poly people themselves don't help this cause overmuch because many of them make no distinction between no-strings-attached sex and, well, more-than-just-strings-attached relationships. I have no problem if you want to engage in casual sex, so long as you're doing it ethically...but don't call it polyamory, okay? This is another thread linking back to my previous post. Because so many asshole men feel entitled to sex, but not near as many feel entitled to relationships. Stress the relationship at every turn and you'll turn the assholes off much more reliably. Even doing that consistently won't shield you from people determined to misread you...but it will help. 

So on the other end: you still want to "try" polyamory? Here's a little not-cheat sheet to determine if you stand any chance of success. Test yourself against it; test any prospective partner against it.

1) ARE YOU LGBTQ+ (and the biggest plus I'm highlighting here, in case you ruler-straight folks are nervous at this,  is ALLIED)?

There is a very strong strain of gay conservatism, but on the whole, LGBTQ people--who already violate heteronormativity by their very existence--are more open to violating other norms that don't serve them. And those who are allied are more likely to be open to polyamory, which does defy a societal norm.


It's not a critical emotion, but the capacity for it is highly suggestive of a poly mindset. It's also something very easy to spot early in someone: the ability to feel joy unadulterated by self-interest is something I personally find highly attractive.


Because you're going to have to be. We all have stuff to learn--I've discovered I'm not quite the level I thought I was--but your inclination has to be towards solving problems through calm, reasoned talk. It's not that polyamory is inherently problematic, before you get that idea: it's that situations come up in polyamory that a lifetime of monogamy can't prepare you for. What do you say or do when your metamour wants more time with your partner than you're willing to give? What about if you want more time with a partner than another partner is willing to allow? And how do you react when your partner comes at you with an insecurity you find, frankly, stupid? (Hint on that last one: don't say "that's stupid...")


We polytypes DO get jealous. The difference between us and others is what we do with it. We don't pin-the-blame-on-the-partner (unless it's a very special kind of justified jealousy where we're very deliberately being abused or neglected...and if we've done our job and picked our partners with the proper care, that kind of jealousy is very rare.) Instead, we look within ourselves to see what insecurity is driving the jealousy. If you find that alien, if you're the kind of person who is suspicious of your partner's "gender-inappropriate" friends, please do us a favour and forget you ever heard of polyamory.

In short: if you are excited by the prospect of abundant love not just for yourself, but also for your partners, you might have what it takes. If you recognize that people are PEOPLE, with feelings and desires and above all BOUNDARIES of their own, you might have what it takes. Are you getting it? This is no light undertaking, any more than a serious monogamous relationship is. Do or do not: there is no try.

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