Leaving Societal Norms Behind

Part 9 – Advice to Newcomers (The “Our Story” Series)

Part 9 – Advice to Newcomers (The “Our Story” Series)

*Part 9 of a 10 Part Series of articles showing the diversity and authenticity within the Polyamorous Community.

Advice is subjective. Everybody practices polyamory differently. Everyone has different preferences and different needs. However, whether you are in a kitchen table situation or parallel polyamorous situation, whether you’re solo polyamorous or in a triad or quad or have a whacky formed polycule…consent is essential. If nothing else, consent matters. Everyone has to actively engage in informed consent – otherwise it just isn’t polyamory. Consent is an active ingredient and specification to consider yourself polyamorous. Polyamory is a form of consensual non-monogamy, not just non-monogamy. It isn’t cheating! It isn’t manipulation! Polyamory IS consent, with the freedom to explore multiple loving connections.

That being said – the advice beyond mandatory informed consent can be widely diverse. It all depends on the person you’re receiving the advice from. Everyone has their own brand or flavor or polyamory that they practice. There are just as many types of polyamory as there are people who practice it. This goes for both naturally polyamorous people who see it as their relationship orientation to anyone who is choosing polyamory as a lifestyle or lovestyle. Please take everything you hear from others with a grain of salt. Things that work for one person may not work for another. You need to find what works for you and the people you’re involved with. Commonly put, follow the “whatever works” rule of thumb. With that in mind… read the following advice with an open mind, but only put into practice what feels right in your heart. Sometimes implementing things that are difficult is what is needed, but there’s no point in working hard to try and do something that feels wrong to you. Follow your own moral compass, consider your needs and the needs of your partner(s), and discuss with them your ideas for moving forward.

Keep in mind that some people discover polyamory when they’re already in a committed relationship and some discover it when they’re single. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in life, it just matters where you’d like to get to. Things won’t always be exactly the way you want them to be, but that’s okay. Sometimes they’re even better. Or sometimes things need to be adjusted. People are constantly growing and changing, and that’s okay, too. What works now might not work later. As long as you do what you need to in order to work on yourself through this process, and you are open and honest with those you are with, then you are doing things right. It CAN be hard! It CAN be frustrating! It CAN be heartbreaking! It is a learning process, an endless journey, a constant growing opportunity – as is life. Allow yourself the mental and physical space you need to take things in. Go at your own pace. And enjoy!

We asked our respondents what piece of advice they’d like to give to polyamorous newcomers. Here is what they had to say:

The Basics

  • You will hear it again and again because it’s so true. Open communication is essential to this lifestyle. Even when it’s hard it will save you lots of heartache.
  • Please do your research TOGETHER. Talk about what you’ve read. Do not come in to polyamory to “save” your existing relationship.
  • Don’t unicorn hunt! Read the info provided in poly groups. Listen to people’s stories. Open your mind and your heart.
  • Honesty and communication are key. Also, comparisons only lead to anxiety and trouble.
  • Date separately no matter what.
  • No 2 situations look the same, the make up of yours will be different to others but that doesn’t make it any less “poly-normal”.
  • Communication is imperative, really talk about your feelings and their feelings, keep checking in.
  • Communication is key. Don’t let your needs go unmet just because it’s difficult to verbaliz
  • Be honest always. Be forthcoming in all aspects of your loves with all involved. Never hide anything from anyone because that’sa recipe for disaster and heartbreak.
  • Make sure your primary relationship is absolutely rock solid before adding anyone else.
  • Your needs and wants are valid. Don’t be afraid to verbalize what you need. Open, honest, transparent communication is the point.
  • Communication really is the key to having a healthy poly relationship. Even when you’re feeling jealousy, insecurity, or even while being happy and feeling compersion, it’s really good to communicate those thoughts out loud with your partner.
  • It’s best to be open and honest. It’s hard work and there will be struggles for everyone.
  • Do a TON of research! Everyone’s journey is definitely different but you may be able to find inspiration and guidance in other’s relationships and dynamics.
  • Honesty, transparency.
  • Read up on polyamory. A lot. There is so much info out there. Find a bunch of different sources and engulf yourself in it for awhile. You are going to run into a TON of unfamiliar territory and it’s helpful to learn from people who have encountered similar situations.
  • Communicate, own your desires and take responsibility for your own boundaries.
  • Be open minded.
  • Understanding one’s own boundaries and needs is so important. Stepping back to be sure you’re being honest with yourself really helps keep everyone genuinely happy.

Hard Truths

  • It is not easy. There will be a lot of days you will struggle, but there will be just as many days that make it all worth it. Keep fighting, it is worth it!
  • Stop rushing into things! Seriously, think how long it took you to find someone that is now your partner. Then take that amount of time and multiply by at least 2 because you now have to find a partner who is okay with your polyamory AND has the same feelings toward you!
  • A polyamorous relationship is just that; a relationship. Don’t fall in love with the idea of having more than one person, fall in love with people for who they are. Don’t get into a relationship if you’re not going to treat people like people.
  • You will become jealous no matter how ready for this you think you are. Don’t look at others relationships as a tool or guideline, look at what you want to get out of your relationships. No two relationships are going to be the same. Yours will be unique. Communicate and communicate and communicate!!
  • Get informed. It’s an emotional roller coaster, not merely a funny playground. Be willing to work on yourself.
  • Don’t just jump in. Do the work, study, read up. There is a lot of emotion and fear rolled into this transition. Work through that first.
  • Confront problems when they are still small, before they get tough or impossible to resolve without hurting someone. And whoever is most attuned to problems–consider it a form of emotional labor to bring issues up & be grateful.
  • Understand there will be struggles. Learn to control your jealousy and turn it into compersion (finding joy in the joy of those you love). To me it’s really better than enjoying my own joy.
  • Listen to the advice, it’s not easy ever. Date/play/search alone, very rarely will 2 people fall for the same person the same way. Your choice is your choice, don’t let anyone try to tell you what you can and can’t do but also be respectful of the people you lo
  • Talk, communicate; adding more people in your life will not fix any of your problems if you’re not communicating.
  • It’s a red flag if you feel the NEED to be constantly searching. It shouldn’t be about always dating or trying to collect partners. It is about the openness to see where a new connection takes you. You still need to learn to be content with what you have, or you are shortchanging your partners.
  • People don’t grow and change in the same ways. Sometimes as you grow you’re able to grow together with people in interesting and unique ways, but sometimes you end up growing apart. And that’s okay. Things don’t have to last forever for them to be special. Change is inevitable – don’t try to stop it, and don’t try to cling to the past. Allow yourself to open up to the possibilities, even when that means letting someone go.
  • Understand there is a HUGE variety of possibilities in how non-monogamous relationshipsmight be structured. Recognize that what you think you want at the beginning of your journey isn’t likely to be what actually works. Don’t be rigid in your relationship expectations, be willing to compromise. Don’t label someone who doesn’t fit what you want as unstable.

Additional

  • It will be harder than you thought and way more rewarding.
  • Read all of the literature/guides/forums with a very critical eye. The only thing one ‘should’ do in poly is be open, honest, and transparent with partners and lovers. But how those relationships can look are incredibly diverse, and someone else’s poly doesn’t make theirs more valid, authentic, or significant than yours. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a triad, doing separate relationships, engaging in a primary/secondary relationship model, or being a relationship anarchist. All are valid. 
  • Educate yourselves on what a full STI panel involves. Dispense with couple-centric ideas and learn to deconstruct any preexisting coupledom mentality. Don’t be unicorn hunters and don’t be a unicorn.
  • Begin your journey with disentanglement, either in your current relationship, or just understanding it so that you can stay mostly autonomous. Learn the difference between rules and boundaries, and begin defining your boundaries and unpacking the rules you feel you want/need.
  • Take it day by day and never be ashamed of your love because a lot of people will try and shame you, but you are not wrong.
  • Take your time, No need to rush. It’s not always love at first sight. There are so many people out there. Let the Law of Attraction work for you. Try not to be too judgmental and never change yourself to suit ANYONE nor expect someone to change for you.
  • How people engage and manage poly relationships is very different and diverse, and you are not necessarily compatible with everyone who is poly by virtue of being poly. Don’t feel pressured by all the guides and people who tell you otherwise, engage in a form of poly that works best for you, rather than what others tell you, and you’ll meet people with whom that form is compatible.
  • Come into it with an open mind, and understand that you will learn so much more as you become more experienced. Learn the pitfalls of not vetting, know what red flags are, and be able to protect and guard yourself before you fall for someone that may not be around.
  • Don’t rush into anything. Take your time and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Figure out what you want because there are so many different flavors of non-monogamy, it’s hard to just pick one.
  • Take your time to find the right person. Don’t hide your feelings and be open to anything.
  • Stand your ground!
  • Thinking and behaving as a good partner — regardless of your relationship status — attracts compatible people into your life. It may take awhile, but you will enjoy the journey. Good polyamorous partners are honest.
  • Take your time. Every relationship is different, and the dynamics between them can get complicated. Never forget to communicate and make sure everyone is comfortable.. Loving freely and fully can be so fulfilling, but don’t sell yourself out to just anyone. Find the beautiful perfect people that fit your life.
  • Don’t compare yourself to the other Polyamorous people you meet or read about. As long as you are open and honest with all parties you are involved with then there is no “right” way to be Poly. What works for some will not work for others. Do what is best for you and your loved ones.
  • Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Learn each other’s love languages, needs, and boundaries and constantly talk about them. Don’t let things build up over time. The more you practice talking about little things, the easier it will be to talk about bigger issues.
  • Eliminate jealousy and territorial nature. Communicate more about your feelings and be rational.
  • Expect tension and arguments, but be patient with one another.

Stay tuned for PART 10 of the “Our Story” Series!

TERMS DEFINED:

Disentanglement – The act of disentangling oneself from the entwinement of couplehood. Monogamous couples can become codependent and otherwise overly entangled in each other’s lives to an unhealthy extent. Disentanglement separates two people back into their own autonomous and individual forms. It is a big chunk of the self-work one must do in order to go about non-monogamy in a healthy way. Can take a lot of hard work, but extremely beneficial for all partners.

Non-Monogamy – Any relationship dynamic that is outside the scope of monogamy. There are both consensual and non-consensual forms of non-monogamy. Polyamory falls under the consensual form of non-monogamy because partners are participating and involved with the explicit informed consent or all other partners.

Victim Mentality – an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize or consider themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of contrary evidence of such circumstances. People with this mentality often refuse to take responsibility for their actions or emotions – instead blaming others – and don’t take the time to do any necessary self-work to help alleviate issues in relationships – putting the weight of solving things on their partner’s shoulders.

Open Communication – Being vulnerable and honest about your feelings, wants, needs, boundaries, etc. and genuinely listening as others do the same. Communicating to understand and to solve problems, rather than to manipulate or prove a point. A healthy form of communication that requires respect, empathy, and authenticity from all involved.

Transparency – Being open and honest in a way that your thoughts, feelings, or motives are easily perceived, not hidden. It is important to tell people exactly what you want and why you want it so that everyone you are involved with is involved through informed consent and not lies or other manipulation.

Triad – A relationship between 3 individuals. This includes each individual connection. Often explained as 4 distinct relationships: A+B, A+C, B+C, and A+B+C. This can be the most difficult relationship dynamic to come upon or create, and is most rewarding when formed organically (opposed to forced). It is unlikely that all people involved will feel exactly the same about the other 2 partners.

Primary/Secondary Relationship Model – Also known are relationship hierarchy. A primary partner may be someone who shares more life responsibilities, or whose life is otherwise more entwined, with you. A secondary partner typically is less entwined in your life. Be careful here, it can become a toxic or abusive situation when used to combat jealousy within coupes.

Relationship Anarchy (RA) – A free form way of creating relationships to suit those within the relationship, with no predetermined dynamic. Each individual communicates their wants and needs, and the people involved design their relationship with only the things all involved want. There is an endless possibility of ways to arrange and combine all the diverse aspects of love, life, and connection. The main focus is on the people involved, not on the relationship. Often these relationships will transition over time as the individual’s wants and needs change.

Compatibility – Not just whether or not your personalities clash; compatibility takes into account all areas of life (including wants, needs, and boundaries, as well as time constraints, energy levels, ability to put in effort, and other commitments or responsibilities). Even if you love and care for someone else and you get along with them well and enjoy spending time together, you still may not be compatible for a romantic relationship. Compatibility can change over time, and can be flipped by major life changes such as new careers, housing, marriage, children, or traumatic life events. Sometimes you could otherwise be compatible with someone, but simply aren’t at that point in time.

Compersion – Finding joy in the joy of your loved ones, or pleasure in their pleasure. Typically referring to those you are partnered with and the way they feel with their other partners, but has been expanding to encompass all people you may have a connection to. Often deemed the opposed of jealousy (though it is possible for both things to exist at the same time).

Coupledom Mentality – Primary focus being the couple’s relationship and the health of that relationship. This typically leads to unhealthy, or toxic, interactions with others outside the couple, as those individuals are deemed less important or disposable (depending on how they impact the initial couple). Often characterized by the act of becoming, or being seen as, one unit. The term “we” being used a lot to explain things about the couple, opposed to speaking about the individuals.

Couple-Centric – Seeing relationships through the lens of couples. Or seeing a couple as the base of relationships. This puts focus on the couple as the center of all else. Opposed to having a coupledom mentality, couple-centricity can be applied to society as a whole. Society tends to be very couple-centric, especially due to the heavy emphasis on, and pressure from, widespread monogamous culture. This plays a huge role in the overall couple’s privilege that is allotted to individuals who choose the monogamous path of couplehood, as well as the shame placed on those who step outside this rigid relationship box.

Unicorn Hunting – The unethical act of a couple searching for a bisexual woman to add to their relationship. This is more than just a couple looking for someone to date, it is the act of creating tons of non-negotiable rules for this third person before even meeting them, and treating this new person as disposable once they come into the relationship. A term often misused by couples new to polyamory. This is a hunt for a mythical creature without consideration of the individual’s own wants, needs, or boundaries.

Unicorn – A fictitious woman (often bisexual) who is the “perfect” match for a couple: will love each partner equally, agree to every rule, and do everything the couple says or asks. Seen as not having a mind of her own (no individual wants or needs or boundaries). Easily slips into a triad with a pre-formed couple, and can even fix the problems that were previously in place before her arrival.

*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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    1. At the bottom of each page there should be something that says “Subscribe to Polyamorous Living” where you can input your email address and click submit.

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