“One Partner. Will that be all for you today?” The cashier smiles warmly. You nod your head. “And would you like to add our Partner Protection plan with that? Only $10 extra and you get full control over what they do and who they see. If something goes wrong with them and they stop listening to you just bring them back in and we’ll fix or replace them so they’re good as new, no additional charge. A lot of people like the veto feature in our Partner Protection plan, it allows you to dispose of any potential threat to your relationship with your partner before it becomes a problem. Another feature allows you to enact the OPP or polyfidelity clause any time you choose.”
Sound terrifying? It should. Partner protection, though it may sound good to many people in theory, is in actuality very detrimental to not only any future relationships but your current relationship that you want so badly to protect. Have you ever heard the saying ‘If you love something set it free?’ Trying to cling to something only makes it try harder to escape because it feels suffocated. Like a kitten squirming to get free from a child’s grasp, your partner will internally start to panic and feel very trapped if you enact too many rules that try to force things to stay the same. The beauty of life is that things are always changing, everything is always in flux. If you are too scare to allow yourself, or others you love, to change and grow, you are not only limiting them, but harming them as well.
Couples Entering Polyamory
A lot of couples entering polyamory (and I want to make it very clear that not everyone starts out in a couple), tend to have this idea that the person they are with in the beginning will be with them in the end, no matter what. They think of the this initial partner as a base partner. The foundation to their polyamorous journey. Something to build on top of. When in fact that isn’t the case at all.
Opening up a relationship isn’t so that you can add additional items to that relationship. The whole point is that you’re able to form new connections with new people and start new relationships as you see fit. Sometimes these other relationships can benefit the individual, which in turn can benefit the initial relationship, but that is not always the case. People coming into polyamory as a couple, who see themselves as one unit that will take on this journey together, are completely missing the point. That isn’t really opening up your relationship at all. Your relationship is still quite closed, you’ve just maybe cracked a window.
What I mean by this, and I hope no one takes offense, is that most couples entering into polyamory aren’t really entering into polyamory. The fact that they identify themselves as a couple – that one statement right there… that shows how little they understand the concept. Polyamory isn’t about adding ‘extra’ people. People aren’t experiments or playthings and they sure as hell aren’t disposable. They aren’t an item you can just grab off the shelf and split in half and be like “Yay, I’m sharing with my partner now.” Any new relationships that form should be done in a genuine way.
Is it Ethical/Consensual?
Now, I’m not telling you how to ‘do’ polyamory. Triads are completely acceptable things, as are having ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ partners… IF these things happen naturally. However, they are not ethical (and definitely not consensual) if you just tell someone ‘here is the role I’m looking for you to fill – either you can or get out’. You have to let your connections grow organically. You can’t force someone to have more or less feelings for you by the push of a button. You can’t choose who it is you fall for. And you sure as hell cannot control what happens between your partner and their other partners.
The ‘Us’ Mindset
That’s the thing though. A lot of times when a couple decides to open up to non-monogamy they think “This will be an exciting journey for us.” Completely blind to the fact that it isn’t a journey they can really take together. They are not one person. And the ‘us’ and ‘we’ language that gets thrown around so readily in monogamous culture as a ‘healthy’ way of forming your relationships…well…it’s that sort of thinking that gets you into trouble when opening up.
Your partner is not an extension of you. You can’t control the foods they eat, the things they watch, the games they play, their hobbies, their interests, their passions, the places they go, their sense of humor, how they think, or who they love. It isn’t your place to control these things. They are their own person. They are not your pet. It is extremely unhealthy to assume you’ll have control over a person’s love life (whether that person is your brother, friend, mom, child, or partner). It just doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to make up rules for how often they can see each other, or how sexual they are allowed to be. It isn’t your relationship. They also cannot decide these things for you.
Rules vs. Boundaries
We have a good article about boundaries that I’d like you to take at look at. It talks about the difference between boundaries and rules. People often get these two things confused. I don’t want to spoil the article for you, but the gist of it is that boundaries are things you create to take control over yourself, and rules are things you create to take control over others. Rules are unacceptable behavior in relationships (non-monogamous or otherwise). Some people will disagree, but the fact of the matter is that if everyone truly agrees to these so called ‘rules’ then they don’t really need to be in place anyway. And if they don’t genuinely agree, then having rules in place isn’t going to stop them from breaking them. You can’t control other people even if you try to. In the end the person will be who they want to be and do what they want to do.
The Core Couple
Let’s examine something for a moment – when people say that the couple is the core relationship, what are they even saying exactly? Something I brought up to someone in one of our FB groups was that once you start dating other people, who do you consider yourself to be in a couple with? Is it still that same person? Are you in multiple sets of couples? Who do you choose to call yourself couple with, who do you decide not to do that with, and why the distinction? In actuality, a lot of people just assume that the first relationship is the most important and that it will last the test of time. (Remember they are coming into polyamory from the monogamous mindset – they started THAT relationship with the idea that it was their one and only person for eternity. Breaking away from that idea can be difficult.)
The Hard Truth
That’s the truth of it though. Relationships end. It can be sad, but it happens. And it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with them ending. They can still be deemed successful even if they end at some point. Plus, endings in polyamory can be a lot different than they are in monogamous relationships. Some relationships just plain suck and they make you feel like shit and they end and it’s over and you cry. Sure. Sometimes shit still stinks. But other times you’re able to realize more of a flow to relationship endings. You begin to see endings as more of a transition into something else. Read a great article about it, here. After all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not being compatible with somebody or things just not working out. But if you still have a connection with that person, why lose that just because the romantic relationship or the sex is gone?
All your relationships have value. If they don’t – you shouldn’t be in them. Yes, sometimes people come into polyamory with someone and as they learn and grow and do self work they realize they no longer work together. Sometimes when people grow they grow apart. It happens. Again, that’s perfectly okay. Perhaps you end up breaking up with a newer partner instead, yes, that can happen too. Or maybe you break up with all your partners. Sometimes you just need to work on yourself. Relationships can be stressful when you aren’t 100% you, yet.
Here’s the thing though. A man on FB said to me that he assumed that if all other connections drop off at least you had the one you started off with. This seemed pretty depressing to me, honestly, because…well…what about all these other people you have fallen for? Suddenly you have no heartbreak simply because you still have someone else? So – I asked him this: Would you still feel the same way if it was your ‘core’ partner you broke up with, but you still had another partner. Would it hurt less simply because you had someone else? And he was shocked. He had assumed you wouldn’t ever break up with your initial partner.
Influenced by Monogamous Culture
Monogamous culture teaches us a lot about how we’re supposed to love and how we’re supposed to think about love. Not all monogamous relationships are unhealthy, but the overarching culture of monogamy is a very toxic and abusive one. The idea that ‘no matter what happens, I’ve still got you’ may seem like a really sweet sentiment but in actuality it just puts a lot of pressure on people to stick around even if they no longer want to. And, be honest, don’t you want to be with people who genuinely want to be with you?
The Reality of Polyamory
Nope. Base relationships don’t exist in polyamory. You can’t decide one person is your base and all other people are extras. That’s not fair to other people. Plus, if you lose your base partner, how do you decide which partner is now your new base? The only base relationship you should be in is the relationship you have with yourself. If the most important person in your life isn’t you, then maybe you need to spend some time being single to figure yourself out. Because it’s very important to know how to love and take care of yourself properly and be content within yourself before entering into a relationship. We actually have an article Polyamorous & Single that covers that exact topic, if you’d like to check it out.
No – you can’t tell the future. And nothing is a sure thing. There is absolutely no such thing as partner protection, and if there was it would be creepy as hell. You have to love your partner enough to want to see them happy, even if that happiness isn’t coming from you. Compersion is one of the best benefits of polyamory. If things aren’t working in your relationship, it isn’t because of another relationship, it’s because there is work to be done in YOUR relationship. So get ready to do that work. Hiding insecurities behind ‘rules’ is not going to help you when shit hits the fan.
And even if you do end up losing that first partner you started out with. Don’t see it as a failure. It isn’t. Nothing is permanent. But that can also be part of the beauty in it. Enjoy the wonder of something while you’re in it, because we are never promised tomorrow. To quote someone from a FB group of ours: “All relationships end, most of them not after a long life together. All we can do is face those endings with grace, kindness, and courage. … Our hearts were given to us to break, and to do less is to cheat ourselves of a full life.” Don’t be afraid to go out and live your life and find love. Don’t be afraid to let your partner do the same. After all, that is the point of it all.