Chesh wanted to write something on poly and my alarm bells went off like a claxon. We have had poly relationships which have gone wrong, and my worry is that the second that she writes something on poly, people we are involved will be hurt, or people we used to be involed in will go “really? Really, you think you are an authority?”
The idea of a relationship guru or an expert on relationships is crazy. Is it someone who has had a successful relationship for forty years, or someone who has had lots of unsuccessful relationships and learnt from them? And what is learnt in one relationship isn’t necessarily transferable to the next relationship – or a different one.
Having given those caveats, if none of us share our experiences then none of us have a chance to learn from each other’s mistakes. So having been around the block a few times and made more mistakes than I care to mention, I wanted to say something about what is okay. It seems unsurprising to say anything – everything is okay as long as everyone is up for it. If you want a one night stand; if you want a three-some, four-some, more-some; if you want to know the people you play with or don’t; if you are a couple who are just using an extra body for sex and want to kick them out as soon as the last person has finished cumming; or if you want to be in a live-in relationship with your poly family… It is all okay as long as that is what everyone wants and what everyone agrees too. Until it isn’t.
That “until it isn’t” bit is tough. First of all I think most of us are very bad at actually knowing what we want – what will work for us, and how long it will work for us. Just on a basic level many of us can imagine something and find in reality it’s different. But it goes further than that – we change. What is okay for us isn’t going to stay the same, and as our needs change our desires change and how we feel about the people in our life evolve. Saying “well, I just agreed to X Y Z” doesn’t cut much water – it fails to recognize that with all the best of intentions, we are not always able to predict what will make us happy or what will make us sad.
I struggle with that a lot – if I say to someone “right, I can see you once every six weeks” and they say “that’s great, I am after the same”, I am shocked six months down the line when it’s not enough. I want to say – “well, we agreed!” When I sit back and am rational I realize that my own feelings have evolved, that actually I want more myself – but my starting point is to want to go “but we agreed!” We both said what we wanted.
With poly, it’s even harder when you have three plus people all with evolving desires and requirements, all with changing goal posts on what makes them happy or sad, what is a turn on and what is a turn off. When one person is upset it throws everything else off and the more people involved the harder that becomes. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom here – one person who is feeling really happy can lift everything. A smile, a skip in the step and huge hug and the world can feel so much better. I also don’t want to suggest that change is a bad thing – it’s not – change can involve moving from a narrow view of what you thought you wanted to something that is far more fulfilling. It can involve moving forward to a far better, healthier, more whole relationship. BUT it requires an ability to not draw a line in the sand and say that was what we agreed – and what we have has to look like what we had, or what we said we wanted. It has to be founded on the fundamental acceptance that our needs, and how those needs get met evolves over time.
So as someone who gets it wrong more than I get it right – my number one piece of poly advice: Everything is okay until it’s not, and when it’s not, be prepared to change.