20 Years of Polyamory: Q and A
(Photo credit: jmscottimd)
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Readers have given me some polyamory topic ideas that I’m working up into whole posts. I’ve gotten some questions about polyamory that don’t fit into a whole post of their own, though, so I’m tossing them here into a little Q & A post.
- Several people asked about poly and children and how I’ll tell my child about poly and answer questions about poly.
While I’ve known some families to really struggle with this question, it seems like a no-brainer to me. Poly is such an integral part of my relationship experience that my kid will be aware of it from early on. Any questions that arise I’ll be happy to answer in a really matter-of-fact way. I have really good examples of this. Friends of mine have already gone before with raising children in poly households, and I’ve rarely heard of any problems, because it’s just “the way it is” and is never sprung on the kids as something odd. The only time I’ve ever heard of problems is when there’s a fear of the kid leaking the information to adults who don’t know, like outing the parents as poly to the grandparents or telling teachers or neighbors. I don’t have to worry about relatives – I don’t have contact with any of my relatives, and all of Joshua’s relatives know we’re poly. I probably won’t have to worry about teachers since I don’t plan to send my kid to school. I haven’t told our neighbors that we’re poly, but I’m sure it hasn’t escaped their attention that we’re kind of weird. They probably wouldn’t really be surprised. I’m sure there’s a lot of ground to cover on the topic of poly and kids, but until I have kids and see how that goes, I don’t have much more to say about it, yet.
- Trevor asked about “bringing a new lover into poly, especially from the perspective of someone who has been poly for a long time.”
With the exception of my failed relationship back in high school, I don’t think I’ve ever had a lover who wasn’t already poly. It’s probably just as well, because I’m not that tolerant of a person, and coming to poly as early and easily as I did, I don’t have a lot of non-poly perspective. I think I would have very little tolerance for the feelings a newly poly person might have. I have seen lots of other people have newly poly lovers, and it’s often been a bit of a disaster, which makes me all the more wary of the idea.
Based on these other relationships that I’ve seen, I do have one piece of advice, which is to be very, very careful with agreements to take things slowly. From what I’ve seen, when the newly poly person asks for things to go slower and the other person agrees, this almost never results in a healthy poly relationship and instead just drags out the inevitable, dramarific ending. If your newly poly partner says, “It’s okay for you to make out with other people, but I’m not ready for you to fuck other people,” or says, “Can you hold off on starting any new relationships right now,” or says, “I just need more time to get used to the idea,” or says, “We just need to work on this problem in our relationship before you start any new ones,” or anything like that that, what they are really saying is, “I don’t want to be poly.”
If you’re a more compassionate sort than I am and you’re willing to “hold off” or “go slow”, you should have a very specific plan in place for how long this holding off is going to take and what’s going to happen in the meantime. For example, you agree to not have sex with anyone else until your partner has finished reading The Ethical Slut. Or until you attend a poly workshop together. Or you table the idea until after finals or after your anniversary. Or something like that. If there’s not a time-bound action item, like waiting until after finals, then you should give it a time limit. A short one. Like two weeks. If you give your “going slow” period a really long window, like 6 months, what you’re doing is saying that you’re going to break up in 6 months, and it’s going to be way more traumatic than if you’d just done it now.
Your mileage may vary, of course. But I’ve seen this play out a gazillion times. Couples that “go slow” crash and burn anyway. On the other hand, couples that jump off the deep end into the poly waters may have a rocky start, but the relationship doesn’t necessarily end.
- Trevor also asked about “Things you need to change about yourself in order to make poly work for you that could also be applied to monogamous relationships for even any relationship, work, friendly, romantic, etc.”
I’d probably just go with the usual self-improvement-type stuff. Learn about what makes you happy. Improve your self-esteem. Practice assertiveness. Get better at defining your personal boundaries. Communicate clearly. I’ve heard people say that there are very few actual “poly problems”. There are communication problems. Time management problems. Resource management problems. Self-esteem problems. Etc. Getting better at knowing yourself, communicating your needs, and problem solving applies to polyamorous relationships and applies to everything else, too.
Read the whole 8 part series: