That Thang We Do – Communication in Polyamory
A while back, I wrote a post that was mainly a FAQ about OUR version of polyamory, as well as an update about our cast of characters for anyone who was having trouble keeping track of B, T, L, F and who others were/are. This was in response to questions I get on a fairly regular basis from readers, fans, and of course, real-life Prospects who may or may not be polyamorous or familiar with the concept at all.
Focusing more on the mechanics today, let’s address another common question I get: “Yeah, but how did you decide to DO this?” How does a monogamous, committed couple in love suddenly decide to date other people? Be alone with other people? Actively pursue and (sometimes) even fuck other people? LET their partner date, pursue, and (sometimes) fuck other people?
Very goddamn carefully, that’s how.
Joe and I are together almost 6 years, are utterly committed and in love, with absolutely nothing missing between us. Great communication, kick ass sex; we own a bunch of porn sites to spice things up and add some interesting career overlap, we’re each others best friends, and have shared enough difficulty to feel relatively safe saying: “If we can get through that, we can get through anything.”
Everything was and is fucking awesome. We literally had no relationship issues left to tackle. Problems, yes. We still have problems. Life problems. “Things that come up” problems. The sort of problems life randomly throws at us on a regular basis that are frankly, well…a part of life. Shit goes down. That never changes. We deal with it when it does.
But there was nothing wrong with us. We share a sense of humour. We laugh a lot. One of our favorite in-jokes (besides Sicilian men show their love by beating their wives at the 2 yr mark — why? Because we’re sick fucks and it would never actually happen) is what utter sex fiends we are: I’m a raging slut who’d consume men like candy given the chance and he’s an oversexed pig like…well, like a guy. Haha, pretty funny — let’s run out and get you some houseboys to play with, he’d joke. Why don’t you run out and collect a little harem? I’d joke. We were past the insecure possessiveness this sort of joking can trigger and Joe in particular seemed to find it almost a turn-on to encourage me to act the raging man-eater. He’s made jokes like this in front of other people, I’ve suspected, just to see how we’d all react.
Exhibiting my sexuality (off duty) for a random audience is contrary to my nature, so it didn’t always go well. Mainly due to whether or not I was in the mood for it. But what remained consistent was his encouragement of this mindset. My comfort with this kind of joking grew, and I’d sometimes even initiate it. I started getting a kick out of playing “that wacky porn couple” with him, from time to time. This went on for years.
And had three eventual side effects:
- a lessening of jealousy, possessiveness and the idea of ownership
- an increasing comfort in our sexuality and its display around others
- the beginning of a speculative mindset that started asking “What if?”
Opening our relationship began with a speculative discussion based entirely on hypotheticals asking “What if we did that? People do it. What if we threw a “freebie” at each other once in a while? Once a year? Once a month?” And off we went.
We knew swinging was not for us. Neither of us are voyeuristic enough to be comfortable with it. We could imagine being happy for each other if the other was out having a good time (compersion) but not watching each other get physical with someone else. There’s a vast difference between the academic knowledge your partner is getting busy with someone else and witnessing it from four feet away.
Tossing each other a freebie once in a while? Well…ok, but there was little real-life applicability. How? What were we to do? Troll bars once a month, saying “Yeah, I’m married but I’m allowed to fuck one person tonight only”? Completely aside from the fact that we hate bars and clubs and each require something of a mental connection with anyone we have licentious designs on, nope. That wasn’t feasible either.
So the conversation turned seriously to open relationships. We discussed what we might like about it. We specified what might be problematic. We were honest with each other about why we were curious: differing social needs and being horny pig-dogs. We giggled. We leered. We snickered. We got hot. We laughed our butts off. We got thoughtful.
Then we stopped the conversation COLD. Without making a decision, we agreed to ponder the idea separately for a couple of weeks and then MAYBE discuss it again at a future date.
Time went by. It seems we had been thinking about it and did want to talk about it again. We got down to business, making the very first of our (rather few) guidelines: there is no “wrong” way to feel. Relationships are hard enough even when they’re good. Here we were considering something fairly radical that would require massive amounts of trust in each other and respect FOR each other. Therefore, Rule #1: nobody feels “wrong.”
This is a Total Tolerance policy. In times of conflict or disagreement, there is to be one goal in mind: to make the other person feel BETTER. Safer. More loved. More trusted. More “whatever they need” at the time. NOT to be right or to get our way or to convince the other to do what we want. If anything feels strange or uncomfortable to Joe, my job as the one who loves him and calls him Primary (fiance, husband, baby, The Man, The Italian Sausage…) is to do whatever it takes to get him comfortable, even if that means I don’t get my way.
Relationships — of any kind — only work if they work for everybody. If one of you is unhappy, uncomfortable, un-anything, I’ve got bad news: it’s not working. Period. One query I hear that makes me quake in my bitch-boots is any one beginning with “How can I make my partner….?”
STOP…RIGHT…THERE. You’ve already fucked up by wanting to “make” your partner do anything. Clear your mind, walk away, grow the fuck up and think about your motivations and what s/he means to you. Are they an important, valued part of your life or an extension to use to get something YOU want? If you haven’t considered these questions, improve your relationship or end it.
Total Tolerance was a no-brainer for us, given the state of our commitment, love and honesty with each other. We were willing to try something new that might be fun and beneficial. We were not willing to risk the 6 years we’ve put in together. After agreeing to a few other guidelines, we said “Go!” We identify as polyamorous. We’re madly in love. We fuck like dogs. We put each other first. We live together and share an entire life.
And we sometimes date others. Life is good.