Leaving Societal Norms Behind

PART 4 – Mistakes in Polyamory (The “Our Story” Series)

PART 4 – Mistakes in Polyamory (The “Our Story” Series)

*Part 4 of a 10 Part Series of articles showing the diversity and authenticity within the Polyamorous Community.

Everyone makes mistakes. Throughout your lifetime you will make many mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn. Mistakes make us human. You will undoubtedly make many mistakes in the pursuit of, and on-going act of, relationships. Especially romantic ones. Polyamory is no different from Monogamy, or any other relationship form, in that respect. Mistakes happen. It’s what we take from them, and how we work through them, that really makes the biggest difference. Some mistakes are small. Some are huge. Some don’t rouse your emotions in the slightest, and others will leave you writhing in pain. No matter what it is, it’s okay that it happened. Again, everybody makes mistakes.

In polyamory there is a whole other set of mistakes that can take place, as we are walking upon new territory and the maps laid out for us are few and far between. Though there are new resources popping up every day for the polyamorous community, it is still a fairly new area of research and discussion. There isn’t a specific set of rules pinned up somewhere for us, and as each individual’s journey is so diverse we are all scrambling to find bits and pieces of information that relate to us or our situation. Most of it is just trial and error. However, from our mistakes comes a better understanding of ourselves, others, and the world. We learn, grow, and move forward – stronger, more confident, and capable – because of our mistakes. Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of. Our pasts make us who we are.

We asked our respondents to describe the worse mistake they’ve made during their polyamorous journey. Here is what they had to say:

Communication Failures

  • Rushing into things. Assuming people want what I want, or that they’ll change along with me. I’ve caused many relationship complications due to my hitting the gas and not allowing my partners time to catch up (maybe they don’t even want to catch up). Especially when opening up to non-monogamy, I was so excited and restless that I just kind of went for it and took my partner along for the ride. They were not at all ready. Sometimes it isn’t always about you – even when it is. It’s perfectly fine to decide to move forward and refuse to slow down, but don’t expect your partners to just fall in line behind you. Communication is key.
  • Telling hubby every time something small bothered me. It made him feel guilty and insecure about his other relationships. I learned how to process and deal with my emotions and now we can have discussion without me beingaccusatory and him being defensive.
  • I originally tried the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about my partners other partners.
  • In my early 20s, when my spouse & I moved in together, we both knew we wanted an open relationship (polyamory was not a term yet), but we didn’t talk enough about what that did & didn’t mean. Neither of us had ever fallen so deeply in love, so when we assumed our dating other people would continue in exactly the same way as before, we found out that wasn’t what we wanted–but it was harder than it should have been. When we formed a triad, we talked out all issues at great length & everything went much more smoothly.
  • Assuming everyone would communicate their feelings as well as I do is a huge mistake I’ve made. Personally I believe each person in a relationship is responsible for expressing their feelings and concerns. But I’ve found that if I don’t ask I might not ever know with one of my partners.
  • At the start, thinking a FWBshould be interested in both myself and my partner which he was but never wanted to have sex with my partner. Only me.
  • The worst mistake I’ve made so far during my journey is at one point, I totally disregarded my husband’s request that I limit the amount of times I sleep over at someone’s house. It caused us to argue and fight for 2 days. I was depressed and wouldn’t see or speak to anyone and my husband was super worried about me. We discussed the issue further after a while and came to a reasonable agreement and the realization that this was the first time that we’ve ever really talked a problem out honestly and maturely.
  • My worst mistake was not being clear and firm about my boundaries, and allowing myself to become involved in a situation in which because of that, those boundaries were routinely violated by a potential partner. This caused great mental distress. It’s okay to back away from a situation, to recognizethat despite attraction, boundaries that are not in alignment means it will not work, and you do not have to compromise on boundaries.
  • Not telling partners straight away that I’m poly.

Dishonesty

  • Attempting to date someone mono with shitty boundaries who was convinced she could change me. I spotted the fact that she was lying about being okay with me being poly pretty quickly and ended it. Got a slew of abusive texts and attempts to blame me for crossing her boundaries by continuing to see other women. I had told her from the start I was seeing other women, I was in love with two of them and none of that was likely to change. She said that was fine in the beginning… it clearly wasn’t.
  • I tried to force myself to be monogamous for a long time. I would feel guilty because I would crush on another person (but not act on it) and that made me feel like I was cheating or doing something wrong for liking another person.
  • Continuing my relationship with my boyfriend after my husband said polyamory was not for him. This affair was one of many things that contributed to my failed marriage.
  • Not being as honest about my feelings as I should. It ended badly, and multiple people got hurt.
  • Lying to my direct neighbor across the street and good friend, who happens to be my boyfriend’s sister. Three months into our relationship she directly asked me if something was going on and I lied to her and hid it from her for eighteen months until he was ready to tell her. She was fine with us being in a poly quad, more upset by the lying.
  • My worst mistake was not being fully honest with myself and then my partner about my needs. Thanksgiving I was already upset that not everyone could be together. Then I said it was okay for my boyfriend to go see a guy he was talking to. Being left alone was not something I was okay with and my anger ruined the rest of Thanksgiving.
  • I think the hardest thing for me was hiding it. I’m a very open person and was surprised to find more acceptance than I expected. I lost people/got judged far less than I thought I
  • Trying to ignore my own feelings for the sake of others. Not letting others know when I was struggling with something.
  • Not telling my wife of my true feelings for my girlfriend sooner.
  • Trying to force myself to be monogamous for a decade. 6 years with the same man was hard but I did it. It wasn’t fair to either of us though because I couldn’t not have feelings for other people so he was sad. And I couldn’t do anything about said feelings so I was frustrated and suicidal cause clearly there was something “wrong” with me.
  • The worst mistake I have ever made is believing that everyone is automatically open and honest about having other partners and regarding their sexual health and that of their partners. I have been bitten in the butt in both regards by not asking pointed questions or asking for evidence of their answer.
  • Not being open and honest about my poly journey with my husband at the beginning. He was very hurt and confused. Although our relationship has become stronger, I now wish I had taken a different road.
  • Not being honest with my husband. Taking things too far with someone without first discussing it.
  • Lied about having sex behind the others back.

Miscellaneous

  • I had a best friend who was also poly, and we developed our relationship secondary to our separate main relationships. My biggest mistake I think has been not letting that relationship develop into more. I enjoyed the dynamic we had, and was afraid of changing it or developing a deeper relationship with them, and so I didn’t. Eventually we both moved and I really, really miss them more than anything, and regret not trying or not even just investing more time in them.
  • Before I learned what rules/boundaries were, I started dating. Now I know to look for them beforehand. I ran into a whole lot of possession/control issues from the husband of the woman I was dating.
  • I wouldn’t consider this a mistake, but I wish I had made this discovery sooner. Living my authentic life has been amazing.
  • Getting involved with a couple who turned out to have too many cracks in their marriage.
  • I guess I haven’t yet, other than I suppose I can be a little clingy sometimes.
  • Falling for someone who wasn’t poly. It just lead to heart break for all involved.
  • Loving someone deeply that I can’t be a partner with.
  • The worst mistake I think I’ve made was when we first started and searched together. We never found anyone and I’m glad we didn’t hurt anyone. I didn’t realize unicorn hunting was so bad, but it only took about a week before I came across articles stating how it’s unethical, and ways to have an ethical poly relationship.
  • Expected my relationships to mirror those seen on TV or in groups. I would say please stop comparing apples to oranges and just be the cherry on top. Your relationships, your rules, your way to love.
  • My biggest mistake was to believe a person in a polyamorous relationship could act independently of his polyamorous partners. I confused polyamory with “being single”.
  • I have found that there is still a little hurt that everyone wasn’t equally involved from the very beginning.
  • I reacted too emotionally after my longest partner and I transitioned to being friends only. It was the right thing, and I knew it, but quickly I felt regret and lashed out. The transition would have been more pleasant for both of us if I would have just communicated my emotions rather than allowing them to fester and dwell until they exploded.
  • Deciding to be monogamish with someone who claimed to understand poly things. They turned out to be more mono leaning, and unwilling to compromise. Also, accepting a relationship with someone who has a veto option in their other relationship. Those have been my biggest errors.
  • My journey has been short so far, only about 8 months, and I have been fortunate enough to have not hit any large road blocks. Just little getting-to-know-each-other’s-needs speed bumps that were quickly resolved with open communication.
  • Same mistakes I make time and time again, getting too attached too fast. I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s hard to pace myself at times.
  • Entering into a relationship that my partner wanted as monogamous knowing that I am poly but still trying to make it work.
  • None of them are actually related to polyamory. I ignored red flags in a person.
  • Making my wife feel insecure by not providing enough love and attention.
  • Not realizing what was going on, thus sticking to old patterns.
  • Not dividing time evenly.

Stay tuned for PART 5 of the “Our Story” Series!

TERMS DEFINED:

Friend with Benefits (FWB) – Referring to a platonic friend that you also interact with sexually, but without any romantic connection/relationship.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) – Refers to a dynamic in which you don’t ask anything about your partner’s other relationships, and they don’t tell you anything about them. Usually goes both ways (as in, no one is allowed to divulge information from any relationship with their partner). Often used by people opening up their relationship who think it will combat jealousy, but regularly leads to more complicated and emotional issues.

Primary Relationship – A dynamic in hierarchical polyamory which describes a relationship that involves a more intricate connection (often with someone you see more frequently, live with, or have children with). This relationship usually takes president over any secondary relationships. Many people consider a nesting partner to be a primary.

Secondary Relationship – A dynamic in hierarchical polyamory which describes a relationship that involves a less intricate connection (often with someone who you are seeing more casually, or who you are less physically or financially attached to). This term can be offensive when used prescriptively instead of descriptively. Hierarchical polyamory is only seen as ethical or consensual when a relationship naturally takes the form of secondary, opposed to someone placing someone into an “open” secondary slot.

Monogamish – This term means that the couple is mostly monogamous, and they see each other as their main romantic and sexual partner, but they allow for outside sexual experiences every once in a while. Similar to swinging, but on a less frequent basis. In the polyamorous community can also include short term or infrequent romantic relationships outside the main couple.

Abuse – Cruel or violent treatment of a person. This can include any number of things, such as verbal attacks, isolation, intimidation, coercion and threats, economic control, abusing authority, using loved ones, minimizing/denying/blaming, etc. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or psychological. For more information about abuse, please visit Love Is Respect, Battered Women’s Support Services, or The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Boundaries – Rules or limits you place on yourself to make sure your are meeting your needs, and not doing things that you don’t want to do. Boundaries are very beneficial and help to foster healthy relationships. Not to be confused with rules, which are placed on other people; or agreements. Boundaries are there to make sure you stay happy, healthy, safe, and successful. It’s all about focusing on your needs and wants and making sure you uphold what matters to you. If you need help forming boundaries, or simply want more information about boundaries, you can read our article Boundaries or visit the site Break The Cycle.

*For more Polyamorous terminology, we recommend reading through this list created by More Than Two: Polyamory 101

Community Projects

Our Story #2

If you’d like to be an anonymous participant for our next series of community representing articles (titled “Our Story #2”), please complete the following questionnaire:

“Our Story #2” Series Questionnaire

Your responses will help showcase our community’s diversity, promote a positive polyamorous representation, and help give advice/guidance/support and information to those newly coming into polyamory, as well as those currently living polyamorously. Our main focus for the “Our Story #2” series will be how to create and maintain healthy relationships within the constructs of polyamory, whereas our focus for the 1st “Our Story” was a more general overview of polyamory.

The new series “Our Story #2” will be published after the last piece of our 10 part “Our Story” series is complete. Stay tuned for all 10 parts of the “Our Story” series, as well as the upcoming “Our Story #2” series.

**THIS QUESTIONNAIRE IS COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS! DO NOT PROVIDE ANYONE’S NAMES OR ANY OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION!

Our Story – was a series that covered general topics in order to both introduce the world to polyamory, as well as normalize it and showcase its diversity. (The article series will be available on our website starting January 1st…each part of the 10 part series will be published 2 weeks apart.)

Our Story #2 – is a series that is focused on how to create and maintain healthy relationships within the constructs of polyamory.

ALL submissions are anonymous, and will be combined to create a comprehensive guide to help polyamorous people maneuver the ups and downs of relationships. Everyone is different, and therefore everyone deals with their emotions in different ways. Emotions affect the way in which we communicate, act, and love. Sharing your own suggestions, for things that have benefited or helped you in some way, will greatly impact our Polyamorous community as a whole in a positive way. The best advice FOR the Polyamorous community, comes FROM the Polyamorous community!

If you’d like to participate in this questionnaire, please click HERE.

“The Art of a Polycule” Project

We are starting a new project to artistically represent the relationship dynamic diversity within our community. This project will be art based, and will showcase the way in which a variety of community members construct their relationship dynamics. In order to be an anonymous contributor to this project, you must send in an image representation (something self-drawn; by hand, or other media means) that details your polycule structure.

Rules for art submissions are displayed below:

  1. You may include as many people as you feel best represents your polycule (including partners, metamours, metamour’s partners, platonic relationships, etc.); but NO friends, family, children, pets, or the like.
  2. The polycule must start with YOU, this is a representation of YOUR structural relationship dynamics.
  3. This is anonymous! As such, no names shall be given for any of the people in your polycule.
  4. Your drawing must be designed in the following way (Each person drawn must be a shape, and each connection between them must be presented as lines.):

-You will be a black dot.

-Your partners will be red hearts.

-Your metamours will be blue triangles.

-Additional partners (of your metamours, or of their partners, depending on how far you feel your polycule extends) can be drawn as green squares.

-The lines between romantic partners will be solid pink.

-The lines between platonic partners will be dotted yellow.

-Do NOT draw lines between you and your metamours, unless you consider them to be a romantic or platonic partner.

ALL SUBMISSIONS will be re-constructed and formatted into a new design that will be extended to all pieces so that the arrangement and visual product is smooth and congruent. So don’t worry if your artistic abilities aren’t the best, it’s the information about the polycule formation that matters most, not how well you can draw it. Your original product will not be on display, only our finished product with the polycule dynamics we have collected from the community. This isn’t a contest, we are looking for contributions from everyone (no matter your level of artistic ability).

**Send submissions to our CEO:

Jauni@PolyamorousLiving.com

**Thank you to all who have chosen to contribute to our polyamorous projects!

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J

I am a gender fluid pansexual vegan Wiccan mama who is polyamorous (and forms connections through the freedom of relationship anarchy). I love writing, photography, dancing, travel, hiking, cooking, kissing, and motherhood.


Reader Comments

  1. My parent is not Neurotypical (he is Autistic), he feels supported when there are rules. Not making my “rules” or wishes clear has led to some mistakes and heartache. Not telling my partner I am comfortable with his going on a date with his GF but that I wasn’t comfortable with them meeting another person and hooking up with them as a couple was a mistake. They ended up with someone that I had never heard of or met, and that made me feel very betrayed. It took a long time to overcome this, and I realize that my part was not saying clearly that my comfort was with him dating this particular person and not with dating anyone else that would come along.

    1. It’s definitely different for everybody, which can make it difficult. But thats why open, honest communication is so important. We need to know what others want, need, and think about things.

      This doesn’t mean we need to cater to them or change ourselves to meet their needs, but it’s important for everyone to be aware of how everyone else is feeling and thinking about things to avoid running into issues that could have otherwise been resolved before they even began.

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