You just got here so breathe deep. We’ll teach you all you need. This community serves to help one another and you’re free to ask as you please. Read as much as you need, this article and more, there are so many books about this. Don’t be scared, it might seem like a lot at first but you’ll have help to guide you through.
This text is not a roadmap but rather a series of guidelines that come from personal experience, from scraped knees and broken hearts.
The understanding of non-monogamies is an individual process that involves an exploration, mostly personal, of making sense of all the different possibilities and probabilities out there. An understanding of how these fit into your life, an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, for you, your relationships, and the networks you create, modify and recover. To go into this process as a couple, as if it was an exploration of the relationship, is unfair to yourself and to the people you connect with during that stage. It has to be you, as an individual, with the varied support that the community offers, to activate and explore your own deconstruction of traditional relationship concepts, and this involves being available to learn from others. Only then can you expect to build a healthy polyamorous identity and a community truly freed from entrapments.
It’s easy to fall into couple dynamics, to think that, for one reason or another, that’s safer than having a whole network. But, in fact, that’s not how it works. You see, our perception of safety has been skewed, we no longer trust anyone, looking over our shoulders, constantly fearing the world. We never fully believe one another, looking for a catch at every turn, always anticipating that our trust will be broken. We form couple to prevent loneliness in all this mistrust.
The truth is that it seems easier because the world is organized around coupledom.
But allow me this; is it easier to go through a breakup alone or with support?
The assumption is, at the beginning of each monogamous relationship that you either die with that person or that you will eventually be apart. Seeing as it is so, perhaps the preference lies in consistent support, people with whom to laugh, cry, share and carry on.
I share relationships of all sorts these days. I hold people who I have not seen in months and that taste both old and new. Others whom I talk to daily, that are there, present. They’re networks of care, like the networks inscribed in the foundations of an open, honest friendship. It’s a never ending conversation, a shared pleasure, a sustained exchange.
To grow with someone is so much more expansive than a coupled experience. I grow with every bond formed; that transitions or ends. I grow with every shared laugh and every tear that someone helped wipe. I grow, every day, a bit more; I understand myself as well as the world that surrounds me.
We grow, no matter what, together or separate. I also grow when I sleep or when I write. I walk this path with so many others that I can’t imagine my life differently.
It’s important, first and foremost, to see how the world is assembled for coupled life. It’s important to admit our impotence in what society deems legitimate and true, real and “healthy”. But it’s also important to keep fighting. To think of love differently, to release it from this short definition, to assume love as a natural force that flows with and through us and not as a scarce resource that we dispense carefully.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in this process is that love is not scarce; love is abundant. The more you pour it into the world, the more you’ll get back. Pour your bleeding heart out, build bridges, don’t burn them down.
We don’t ask for a mother to choose between their children, why should we be asked to choose between our lovers? Friends don’t suffer the same scrutiny either. If there is more than one friend, why not more than one lover, more than one love?
(This, by the way, is Franklin Veaux’s saying)
We have to strive to subvert the meaning of love. There are so many different kinds to give and receive, so many ways of feeling what others may give us. Open yourself up to the possibility…
Give yourself to others as if you had nothing to lose. Be honest with what you can give and receive. Be brutally honest even when it seems awkward or difficult. Trust that your relationships will be better for it. And believe that you will surprise yourself with what you can, in fact, give that you thought would never be possible.
Think of building conscious relationships with clear, defined borderlines. Fill them with love when building them. Adjust them often, as needed. This is not protection this is clarity in communication. Only through honest conversations can one build the safe space needed for the growth you crave and to build truly significant relationships. Speak with care, with love swirling in your mouth but speak.
People don’t spend enough time, it seems, trying to understand how to talk about talking and how to think about the different ways we communicate. Dedicate some time to this, New Poly; in figuring out your communication styles, what types of hurdles you might bring into a relationship with you. No matter how much others may want to hear, they also need to understand what you’re saying. Understanding the pitfalls of our words, misrepresented concepts and overall assumptions around communication is essential to successful relationships.
To turn a specific point into a broad one, I’d like to add that we’ve been misled somewhere along the way. There is no such thing as an easy love or an easy relationship. Even if there is such a thing as soul mates, that relationship will still be difficult by virtue of our own human needs. All relationships need to be worked on and in working on them, for them and with them we can build stronger bonds and connections that meet our needs and give us the necessary support to thrive.
Don’t feel bad if you’re not “edgy” enough and would much rather have an open relationship than embracing relationship anarchy. Also, don’t feel bad if you’re too “edgy” and dream of living in a building shared between all your partners. We all have different ways of connecting because we are all unique in our own views of love, relationships and connections. Explore your own, understand what is it that you might want from a relationship (if a relationship or several relationships even is what you want), mess with your own history and see if there are lurking patterns that you might not have realized. Don’t bother too much with putting labels on things. Names tend to complicated matters instead of simplifying and don’t allow us to dissect our needs as thoroughly.
Jealousy is very badly seen in some parts of this community. They’ll judge you if you express it and you’ll judge yourself for it, come up with questions and doubts. But the truth is that jealousy always exists even in the most expert of poly people.
Consider that jealousy is attached to much more than it seems. Or were you never told that jealousy is a sign of love? Think about how much of it is tainted when connected to gender for example. Much of what is involved in feeling it is actually merely social.
What you, New Poly, need to realize is that jealousy is not something to be avoided or protected from. Jealousy is an important feeling like a stomach ache tells you that you probably ate something bad or a tooth ache points to a cavity. Jealousy is there to warn you about something that you haven’t quite figured out yet. Ask yourself what is it that you’re truly feeling, talk to others about it, explore it, touch it, feel it, understand what it is that your jealousy is trying to tell you. It it some unmet need? Broken expectation? Anxiety? It might not even be any of these. It might even be that it’s not jealousy but something else that you’re feeling.
You’ll have doubts, all the way through (even I have them most time). Understand that it is difficult to navigate the world trying to subvert what your own heart tells you. But our hearts are sculpted to fit the social expectations around them and sometimes breaking them out of the cast might break them in pieces too.
There’s an old Japanese art of mending broken vases with gold called Kintsugi. (The first time I heard this was by Beatrice Gusmano) When they glue vases back together the cracks are filled with gold that shows through, changing the vase forever but also making it unique in showing all the ways that it broke under pressure and was mended anew. The vase that was common before is made into a masterpiece after it’s broken. The same will happen to your heart, it will become a masterpiece, a roadmap of lovers and loves.
We’ve all been there before, biting into our hearts, trying to deny jealousy is a part of us. We’re still there sometimes, chewing through it, making new sense of old feelings, readjusting what we mean and what we need.
At the end of all this, what matters is that you do what’s right for you and for others, New Poly, explore all you want, keep honesty in mind and expectations low, always for you and for others. Construct clear communication lines and it might come to a point where you won’t be able to imagine your life any other way. When you let love flow, when closeness and intimacy stop being issues and start being fun to play with and you’re free to ask for what you need, to express it without fear, you will have changed the way you look at love.