Really identifying your own wants with potential partners is a major part of successful polyamory. You shouldn’t just date someone because they’re poly and you’re both attracted to each other. Having those conversations can really lead to a healthy relationship, whether that ends up romantic, sexual, or just a friendship.
I talk a lot about communication, it’s really the backbone to every sort of interaction with another person. Having that discussion about your wants and your partners wants should be among one of the first few conversations you have before starting a relationship, though I can understand why it’s difficult to start.
“Oh hey, I know we just met, but tell me what you want”
Alright, I’m not even going to try and admit to having that conversation starter. But hey, if you’re bold enough to do it, I commend you.
One reason it’s a good thing to know what you want before getting really involved in a relationship is knowing that you both want to get really involved. A quick way of hurting people is by thinking ‘oh yeah this is totally just a casual FWB situation’, meanwhile they are falling head over heels for you.
Also, with poly, there are multiple ways people experience their relationship to it. I personally am not a hierarchal polyamor-ist (is that a word? It is now), for I am not searching for my ‘primary’, though I do date someone who has a primary. One of my other partners live out of town and our relationship, even though we love each other, is really intense for a good couple of days, and then we don’t see each other for a month. When I asked him what it was that he wanted out of ‘us’ it was really easy to realize that we’re both happy with our current set up, and should that change for either of us it made an open space to be able to talk about it.
I know some people who are poly who don’t want to hear about their partner’s other partners, where as I want to be close friends, or at least know, my partner’s partners. I have very good relationships with two of my metamours, and it’s because I like it that way, where as a lot of people question me about how I could do that.
I still don’t know exactly what I want, but even not knowing is a good conversation to have with your partner. Particularly for me I only started dating seriously less than a year ago, so it’s hard for me to imagine my life with someone, when I’ve lived 27 years without, and got very good at being alone. I find I need a lot of alone time, as well as quality time with a partner.
Along with that, I have a hard time asking for what I want because I’ve lived for so long just doing things for myself. If I want something I’ll make it work for me. With another person involved… well you can imagine how that doesn’t always work out great for either of us.
…knowing what you want, it gives you the space to step back from something that isn’t working, to analyze the ‘okay, is this person someone I want in my life, and in what capacity’. One of my closest friends, who calls me almost twice a week and we talk for an hour, was someone I dated and had very strong feelings for. Until I sat him down and explicitly asked him what it was he wanted, and what he could give me. I had to make a decision whether that would be enough for me. Ultimately it turned out that romantically he couldn’t give me what I wanted, but, after a few months of healing, we work really well as friends. In fact, I feel like I can talk to him about my relationships outside of feeling judged by people who don’t know me in that way.
It is really hard to realize that someone you like, and who likes you, wants something completely different. You have to be the one to decide whether that works for you or not. A friend of mine recently opened up her relationship because her and her partner realized that she doesn’t want kids, but he does. And instead of ending their relationship, because everything else they have is so special and full of love, they were able to compromise where it still works for them.
Though, what you want today, may change tomorrow, or even after the moment you say it out loud. We humans are fickle, confusing creatures. It takes a lot of work to be self-aware. But believe me, you will be better off the more you know yourself and your wants.