Happy Friday, everyone! Taking my blog time today to do some wrap up.
Today’s post is a mental clearinghouse and review/reflection regarding some polyamory and ethical non-monogamy posts I’ve seen recently in my social media timelines. While I find a lot of it useful and sound, I take issue in small ways. One of the issues is I wish more would cite their sources. It feel like some are are just speaking off the cuff and don’t have a very good grounding in readings like More than Two by by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux (which does have some of its own issues, but anyway…), The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, or Opening Up by Tristan Taormino.
So anyway, with that introduction…
This one giving Advice regarding triads or quads is a good place to start because I wrote about characters who eventually form a triad in my novel We Three. Anyway the site “Non Monogamy Help” specializes in ENM advice and as it goes, it’s sound.
One of the things about viewing a polyamorous relationship from outside actually holds true for any relationship. Not being one of the partners involved, it’s hard to know what has or has not been hashed out already. The blogger acknowledges this: “unless there is some big aspect of the quad you have left out that might have contributed towards your significant other’s feelings on this.” Which should cue the letter writer in on a few facts everyone in their polycule needs to address.
First, the partner who has a tendency to be possessive and jealous. Jealousy is natural, and with healthy communication is not a make-or-break issue in most cases. Note the “with healthy communication” part. I’ll get back to that later.
The “possessive” trait however is troubling. One of the key recognitions by successful non-monogamists is that another person does not “belong” to you. They belong to themselves and choose to spend whatever part of their time, energy, and love they desire to, with you. Can you want more time with a partner? Yes. But possessive says “they can’t spend more time with someone else.” For someone in ENM relationships, this should have been a non-starter, or at least discussed early in the process and recognized as someone’s problem they have to address in themselves. Possession is a monogamist perspective. “I belong to you and you belong to me” is antithetical to non-monogamy.
Maybe I’m more in favor of non-hierarchy polycules, but there’s definitely unhealthy things happening if the partner who wrote in doesn’t feel they can address the possessiveness and the jealousy in a direct conversation.
Did everyone in these relationships go into it with the understanding of everyone else’s needs for the relationship? It doesn’t sound like it.
This relationship (mono particularly) seems to have grown with a lot unspoken and the partners connect with this fairytale idea in their heads that “my partner, if they’re the right one for me, will just know how I feel.” But to assume something, as they say “makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” That goes triple for poly relationships, IMHO. If it hasn’t been talked about it cannot be understood by everyone.
The letter writer did seem to be asking for guidance how to talk about it, but I’m not sure the blogger did that with practicable advice, no examples of how that conversation might be proposed.
Anyway, all this thinking leads to the problem I have with a couple other recent bloggers: this one and this one, too, suggest entering polyamorous relationships as a “cure” for relationship issues.
ENM relationships require MORE communication time and care. While love is infinite, energy and time are finite. Healthy communication takes time, but NRE (new relationship energy) hypes the body and brain on endorphins and the longer you go without communicating openly, the more other relationship(s) will look less appealing because “ugh, I just don’t have time to deal with that” is actually about a reluctance for conflict: “I don’t like feeling down; I like this ‘up’ feeling much better.” Assuming that communication is conflict is unhealthy.
Couples with faulty communication skills trying ENM to “spice up their lives together” without adopting healthy communication strategies will frequently descend into distrust, resentments, imbalance and, eventually, dissolve.
Ethical non-monogamy is open; everyone knows of everyone involved and has communicated what they want and need out of relationships. Every partner is listening to and respecting their partner(s) wants and needs as well. There are huge benefits to regular “check-in,” not just when you or another partner is feeling “down” or that there’s been a shift. With regular check-ins you will often hear positive feedback and that boosts everyone.
Monogamists could really learn healthy communication skills from polyamorists in this regard — check in with a partner regularly and encourage them to communicate openly and honestly with you. And listen.
That brings up another thing: listening. So much of unhealthy communication can be summed up as follows: “Listen to respond, instead of listening to understand.” Learning to listen means NOT interrupting, NOT judging, and NOT preparing a response. When you do respond use words that are reflective, not reflexive or defensive. By this I mean respond using, “I hear you saying (or feeling)…” not “How could you think (or feel) that…”
Different ways to build healthy communication can be found in the podcast Multiamory. Here’s their podcasts that specifically deal with communication. (You’ll notice the first link is a Patreon; I’m a supporter. You can be too)
This post also points that good communication is essential.
Maybe I’m hearkening geekily back to my journalism training or my current rhetorical theory class is just forefront in my mind, but communication is the key to improving so many things. Just do it. And learn to do it well. Our lives, and the lives of those we love, will be much better for it.
Have a great day,