Leaving Societal Norms Behind

PART 5 – Lessons Learned (The “Our Story” Series)

PART 5 – Lessons Learned (The “Our Story” Series)

*Part 5 of a 10 Part Series of articles showing the diversity and authenticity within the Polyamorous Community.

Oh, isn’t it fun learning lessons? *Chuckles* Not! Life sometimes takes us through a long, windy, bumpity, dirty, awful, smelly, disgusting, down-right horrid road before we reach the lesson at the end. Other times we have more pleasant, easier, or quicker experiences that lead us towards lessons. Unfortunately, it is frequently the experiences that give us the most trouble that turn out the most rewarding lessons. That’s just how life goes though. No amount of people shoving their knowledge into our ears and down our throats will truly prepare us for, or prevent us from moving forward towards, what lies ahead. Our own experiences are the only true ways of fully and sufficiently learning lessons. I’m just one of those people, though, who apparently always had to take the ‘hard road’ … as my dad liked to put it. I just liked to check things out for myself. But hey! Lessons have been learned.

All of us have learned things throughout our lives, and throughout our polyamorous journeys. No two experiences are exactly alike, so no two pieces of advice will be the same. However, there can be some pretty identical lessons being learned all around. There are many paths towards a lesson, doesn’t matter which path you take, because it’s the lesson at the end that counts. Each path will slightly shape the way in which we receive or take in the lesson, but ultimately the lesson will be the same. And lucky us, there are so many lessons to learn out there! Meaning there are even MORE paths to go down. Not that any piece of advice will stop you from learning things on your own, but sometimes the advice we hear can be part of our journey towards learning a lesson (just not the extent of it). So put your listening ears on, and let’s see what the polyamorous community has to offer in terms of lessons learned. There are a lot of us out there – much wisdom to be shared!

We asked our respondents to explain the most important lesson they’ve learned during their polyamorous journey. Here is what they had to say:

Honesty & Communication

  • Jealousy can’t be avoided all the time because we are humans after all. Communication is key. If your partner thinks there’s too much talking then it’s not going to work out very long. Dating more than one is obviously morework even if it’s just a casual relationship. Treat your partners how you wish to be treated. Don’t try to fix things with one partner by jumping into another relationship. Make mistakes but learn from them. Move forward not backwards. Let love lead the way.
  • Communication, even the hard to say, is key. You gotta put it out into the world. If there is something we are having a hard time talking about, we will text each other, even if we are sitting next to one another. But this lifestyle doesn’t work unless you’re 100% honest with each other. And yourself.
  • Open and honest communication is the most important thing. You need to be honest with yourself and your partners in order to build a good relationship.
  • People are generally fairly open-minded if you talk honestly with them, at least on the individual level.
  • Being vulnerable is hard, but so necessary for communication. Sometimes listening and understanding someone else’s vulnerability is also really hard. But taking that extra time to make sure you have a healthy relationship with yourself and each and every independent person is so, so important. Don’t ever start a relationship with someone you can’t have open vulnerable conversations with, unless you’re not looking for a relationship and just looking for sex.
  • You need to communicate and not be afraid to piss someone off and confront them (says the person who will do anything possible to avoid confrontation). Without this things fester and grow,at which time they explode. Your metamour does not hate you, don’t listen to your anxiety.
  • Never lie, always be honest even if it hurts, and always make sure you have enough time for every partner so no one feels neglected.
  • Honesty and communication are so important. Everyone says it, but it cannot be stressed enough.
  • Understanding different love languages is so incredibly important. I thought my last relationship didn’t work out simply because we fell out of love with each other. My current partner and my meta have shown me the power of understanding love languages and I’ve realized that my ex and I never understood each other on that level. It’s so freeing to learn and be able to know how to communicate affection in ways that are truly needed and appreciated.
  • So far, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that nothing can truly work and be at its best unless you have complete communication. If me and my partners didn’t communicate with each other, this would be nothing more than organized chaos.
  • Communication! And just because a partner is communicating their feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, displacement, etc. does not mean that the other relationships need to come to a full-stop.
  • Be honest.
  • Honesty.

Intention

  • I’ve learnedto set boundaries and be firm on those boundaries, and I’ve learned to not let how others understand and do poly influence how I do mine in negative ways. The most important lesson I’ve learned outside of being open and honest with partners, is to engage in a version of poly that works for me, and to meet people with whom that form of poly is compatible. I am not going to be compatible relationship-wise with every poly person I might have an attraction to by virtue of being poly, and that’s okay.
  • There are always going to be people telling me what to do and how to do it. I don’t have to listen to them. All that matters is how I feel about myself, and in this context, how my partners feel about everything. Ignore toxic negativity and live.
  • Be patient with other people and their expectations. Keep a level head and cool your emotions before communicating. Respect boundaries and expectations while remaining true to yourself.
  • The most important lesson I have learned is to avoid people who engage in poly-hierarchy and couple-centrism. I now hold a boundary against dating people who take that approach.
  • The jealousy will pass. The heartache eventually ends. The good times almost always outweigh the bad. Hang in there.
  • You have to be comfortable being alone to have healthy relationships with anyone. This was– and still is– a hard lesson for me to learn. Spending time with someone, expressing love, or partnering out of fear of being alone is a recipe for a failed relationship. When you come from a place of love and come as a full individual that WANTS to be there but doesn’t NEED to be there, those relationships blossom in such a beautiful, strong way.
  • Don’t jump into bed with ANYONE straight away. Get to know each other first, take the time to see how you all feel together in a room, especially when you make each other uncomfortable. Above all, RESPECT EACH OTHER AND give each other space for your individual selves.
  • My first polyamorous relationship was a triad and the best piece of information I learned was that there are four relationships within that triad and they all need to be nurtured to be successful. (i.e. ABC AB AC BC)
  • How to control my over- Sometimes it gets the best of me, but I have learned how to control it for the most part. It’s been my biggest struggle.
  • That things are in this life. The more people involved the more you have to think about.
  • Autonomy is important. Autonomy to maintain privacy, make choices, make plans.
  • Disentanglement is HARD, as the person entangled, or as the person facing an entangled partner. Vetoes are harmful to the relationship with the veto power, and to the person who agrees to get involved with someone that has a veto in their other relationship. Walking away is ALWAYS an option, sometimes it’s the most difficult option, and might also be the healthiest choice.
  • To take my time. To communicate about everything. To allow others to go at their own pace, and not force them onto my path. Everyone has their own journey to take. I can’t make decisions for other people, but I need to make sure I’m making the right decisions for myself. Self-love and self-care are extremely important!
  • I’ve learned more about myself, and that I am worth something to people more than I thought I was. I learned how amazing compersion is, as well as learning how to feel confident enough not to be jealous of my partner being with other partners.
  • How important communication, understanding, and patience is in my relationship. Also learning to not be afraid to dig deep into myself and self-analyze.
  • We are still relatively at the beginning of our journey but have learned already that the primary relationship needs to be rock solid for it to work.
  • Not to over think everything.

Acceptance

  • For us, the most important lesson learned through the polyamorous journey is that we don’t have to buy into society’s conventional monogamy as the only way to a happy relationship. And further that a failed relationship still has value. Hopefully you had fun, but you also gain from it. Whereas we can feel like a failure when a monogamous relationship ends. With poly, appreciating each person comes with the territory and our relationships don’t define us.
  • The most important lesson I’ve learned is to be honest with myself and accepting of my emotions. Even when in mono relationships I had a hard time accepting anything negative I felt about my partner. I’ve learned to own my emotions because they’re mine, and it helps my mental health to admit how I’m feeling.
  • I’ve learned that I am not broken. I’ve learned that it is possible to be happy with more than one partner and not feel like dirt for it. I’ve learned that my heart is big enough to love multiple people.
  • Love is love. You can love lots of people and have many in your life. Having the right people doesn’t drain you, they and you grow together.
  • The big thing I learned, is that because there is so much variety, not everyone practices polyamory the same way.
  • That love is love and it is meant to be shared.
  • I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that not all relationships need constant contact to thrive. Sometimes I worry that I don’t see or talk to some of my partners enough but every time I do I’m reassured that our relationship is actually strong electric because of that distance. We seem to love each other more deeply in the time we have together because we know it may be awhile till we get together again.
  • There have been so many lessons and personal growth that I have experienced since poly took over my life. But the most important thing I have learned is that I matter. My feelings, my wants, and needs matter and it’s okay to want what I want.
  • Love is so much larger than what cis het society tells us it is. We practice polyamory in platonic ways all the time, I just needed to transfer that to my romantic and non platonic relationships. No one owes you anything.
  • The way someone makes me feel is my problem not theirs. Jealousy is a personal issue, anger is a personal issue, own my ish. Find the root and heal from within.
  • The lesson is a combination of “compersion is not compulsory” and no matter how hard you try “you will feel jealousy and that’s OK”
  • Lesson—people love to judge what they don’t know or can’t have. My journey belongs only to me and no one else.
  • Independence. Sometimes, you have three partners and you’re still crying alone in your room. The ironic part of being polyamorous is you’re not always going to have someone on hold for when you need them. And sometimes you have to self-reassure when things get tough. Yes, you have a support system and people to turn to, but sometimes in the moment, you have to care for yourself and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid of it.
  • Honestly, most of what I learn about polyamory kind of sucks. I have learned that although there are many healthy polyamorous people, many people who are unable to connect in healthy and genuine ways do hide behind it. I have learned that there are a lot of partner collectors who cannot be content. I have learned that there are a lot of people who match the unfortunate stereotype of the polyamorous person that is portrayed in our society, which is disappointing. I am, on the whole, an outsider of this community despite being polyamorous.
  • Everyone does polyamory differently to such an extent that the label itself does not have much meaning. I usually ask about partnerships.
  • Love is not a zero sum game. More love for one person does not mean less love for anyone else. Love is cumulative =)
  • It’s painful. But hopefully possible.
  • As M George Carlin once said, “Be yourself,everybody else is taken!”

Stay tuned for PART 6 of the “Our Story” Series!

TERMS DEFINED:

Partner Collector – An individual who likes to acquire partners, but is never content with the ones they possess and always out there looking for more.

Compatibility – You are compatible with a partner if you are both able to exist together without conflict. Though any relationship may have minor conflicts, anything major can shine light on incompatibility. (For example, if one person wants to be monogamous with a monogamous partner, but their partner wants to be non-monogamous, they are incompatible. Anything that is a major parts of your life or identity that clashes with a major part of your partner’s life or identity can show your incompatibility; whereas smaller, less important things can often be worked through with honest communication and/or acceptance of each other’s differences.)

Vulnerability – In this context, we typically mean emotional vulnerability. We may ask people to open up and be honest with us, to be vulnerable, to show their true selves and trust us enough to not hurt them. This is the kind of vulnerability that helps form connections and allows relationships to blossom. Vulnerability is being brave enough to show your true colors, knowing that you may not be accepted, but going for it anyway. (Other forms of vulnerability are not necessarily a good thing, and can often be a bad thing. When we are placed in physically or sexually vulnerable places where we have little choice and are opened up to harm. It’s important to make the distinction between being emotionally vulnerable because you trust in someone, and being physically, sexually, or even psychologically vulnerable out of fear, coercion, or some other form of force. Abusive situations can, and often do happen, when one person is put in an uncomfortably vulnerable position and cannot find a way out of it.)

Love Language There are 5 different love languages: 1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Acts of Service, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Quality Time, and 5) Physical Touch. They each have multiple dialects, and basically it’s the way in which someone expresses and interprets love. It’s important to know your own love language so you are able to tell your loved ones how to best go about showing you love in a way that will allow you to feel it to the best of your ability, and not go overlooked; and it’s important to learn the love languages of your loved ones so that you can love them properly in ways that they are sure to interpret as love. Sometimes we show love in the way we wish to receive it, but our partner does not interpret love in that way and the gesture will get overlooked. It’s also important to recognize the love language of your loved ones so that you realize when they are showing you love in their own language. Noticing that there are different ways to express and interpret love allows you to pick up on more of the love that is around you, and helps you appreciate things more when they are done out of love, even if it isn’t in your love language. To read more about Love Languages, please visit Crated With Love.

Disentanglement – To be freed of, or unraveled from, a person in the context of a relationship in which you have been previously overly intertwined. Often referring to learning how to become less co-dependent, but can also simply mean you are disengaging from a relationship that you feel has until now wrapped, or tangled, you up to the point of harm to your self-care, self-love, or other forms of self and existence.

Toxic Negativity When the negativity of others becomes detrimental to your health. This can be a form of abuse in itself, as the negative person’s toxic negative reality can consume you.

Compersion – Feeling happiness for your partner’s happiness (if a partner finds joy in another partner, you feel happiness and joy for them, too). A good video explaining this topic can be found, here.

Metamour (Meta) – Your partner’s partner (does not necessarily imply that their is a friendship or connection between you and this person).

Cisgender Heterosexual (Cishet/Cis Het) – Someone whose gender matches their sex assigned at birth, who is also heterosexual (straight). The overarching culture of the US society, and many Western cultures, that are mainly monogamous, tend to see things (and portray things in the media) in a very narrowly cisgender heterosexual way. Though that has been slowly changing in the last decade or so.

Couple-Centrism – When two people are focused on their coupledom as most important, when they see their polyamorous experience as an offshoot from their coupledom, opposed to seeing their relationship as part of their polyamory. This can cause issues with new partners, as they feel less important or disposable.

Polyamorous Hierarchy (Poly-Hierarchy) – The practice of describing the the level at which a relationship sits (determined by how important it is, and what is involved, etc.). If a relationship naturally takes on a primary role in your life, or naturally takes on a secondary role, and all in the relationship are happy with where the relationship is at, then it is acceptable to claim that it is a primary (or secondary) relationship. Though, some people may find these terms upsetting or unacceptable, often becoming offended by them because of the assumption that the hierarchy is formed unethically/non-consensually. The unhealthy form of this practice is prescribing a level to a relationship before it has begun. Telling someone you are starting a relationship with that they HAVE to fill a specific role, or that you only have a secondary slot open for them, without allowing the relationship to form naturally. This practice gives the concept of hierarchy a bad image.

Veto or “Veto Power” – When partners in a primary couple have the ability to say Yes or No to their primary partner’s other potential partners. Seen as unhealthy and unethical. Can badly affect the primary relationship, and makes potential partners feel disposable.

*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.


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