If People Approached Monogamy The Way They Approach Polyamory

One of the frustrations of being part of the poly community is the number of folks who are already partnered and who want to try polyamory for the first time, but who approach the notion of opening their relationship in a way that makes experienced poly folks cringe. Often, it seems that these folks expect concessions from any person who wants to join their relationship that they would never have expected, or been willing to accept, from one another when they first met.

Now, to some extent that’s natural. There’s a learning curve to any relationship style, and we live in a society that deluges us with so many fairy-tale images of how relationships are “supposed” to go that the idea of stepping outside of those normal social paradigms can leave one feeling hesitant and a bit overwhelmed. Folks who already have a relationship want to try to make sure they don’t damage that relationship as they explore polyamory, but often in doing so they inadvertently set up their newfound poly relationships to fail.

If typical monogamous relationships were approached the way some folks approach poly, it might look something like this:

New poly couple
We have an amazing relationship and we want to make sure that nothing comes between us. So we only date as a couple. We’re looking for a bisexual partner who will date both of us. Since I’m a guy and my partner is a woman, as long as you’re bisexual that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Monogamous equivalent
My friend Bill and I have been friends since high school. We have an awesome friendship, and we want to make sure that nobody gets between us. If you want to have sex with me, you have to have sex with Bill, too. Since I’m a guy and Bill is a guy, as long as you’re a heterosexual woman you won’t mind having sex with both of us, right?

New poly couple
We have a veto relationship. If someone tries to damage or undermine our relationship, we can use our veto to make sure we stay strong. This is important to make sure that new people respect our relationship.

Monogamous equivalent
My mom gets the final say over any of my girlfriends. If you try to undermine our family, my mom can tell me to dump you and I’ll do it. If you object to that idea, it means you don’t respect my mom. I would never date anyone who doesn’t respect my mom.

New poly couple
My existing relationship is always Primary. It will always take precedence over any secondary. If you date me, you have to agree to be a secondary relationship. That doesn’t mean you’re not important; it just means that my partner always comes before you.

Monogamous equivalent
I take my job very seriously. If you want to be in a relationship with me, you will always take a back seat to my work. It’s not that you’re not important; it’s just that my career is more important than you are.

New poly couple
Our families don’t know that we’re poly. They want us to be monogamous. It would kill them if they found out. All our friends are monogamous too. So if you date one of us, you have to be in the closet.

Monogamous equivalent
My family is Amish. All my friends are Amish. I’m not Amish, but I don’t want any of my friends or family to find out. If you date me, you will never be allowed to meet my family (or if you do, I won’t tell them who you are). You will never be allowed to meet any of my friends (or if you do, I won’t tell them who you are). I will not acknowledge my relationship with you. You will not be allowed to talk about me to any of your friends.

New poly couple
I am looking for a new sister-wife for a polyfidelitous family. My sister-wives must all be faithful to me. We will all be part of a close, nurturing family.

Monogamous equivalent
I am looking for a new Best Friend. If you become one of my Best Friends, you will not be allowed to have any other friends. You will be expected to be emotionally close to all my other Best Friends, though.

New poly couple
We want to make sure that we avoid jealousy when we explore poly. So we will only do things as a couple. Any sex or any activity that we do with a new person will only be done with all of us together.

Monogamous equivalent
My friend Bill and I have been buddies for a long time. I don’t want Bill to get jealous if I have a new girlfriend, so whenever we go on dates, Bill will come along with us. If I take you out to the movies, Bill will be there too. The only way that you and I can spend time together is if Bill comes along.

New poly couple
We are looking for a third to move in with us and who will want to be part of our family and share a life with us. Our third will get to share in all the love that we have, and will be a part of our family in a committed relationship.

Monogamous equivalent
I know we’ve never been on a date, but I’m really looking for a husband, not a boyfriend. Let’s go out for coffee. If we click, you can move in with me tomorrow and we’ll get married on Tuesday. I already have the gown, and I’ve picked out the perfect flower arrangement. I have the marriage contract filled out in my top desk drawer at home. You just need to sign it and notarize it. What do you say?

New poly couple
We want to make sure that our relationship stays secure and we don’t feel threatened when we explore polyamory, so we sat down with each other and we worked out a list of rules about how we will do polyamory. Here’s a contract that spells out all our relationship agreements.

Monogamous equivalent
I have been thinking about it for months, and when I have a girlfriend, I’ve decided exactly how I want it to be. So I sat down and wrote on a piece of paper just exactly how our relationship will go. Here’s a list of all the dates we will have and the things we’ll do on those dates. For your convenience, I’ve made up a schedule that has all the times and places for our dates. After we’re finished with the dating phase, here’s a list of all the things we’ll do once we’ve decided to commit to each other. Look, I made a copy for you!

134 thoughts on “If People Approached Monogamy The Way They Approach Polyamory

  1. You don’t. Why would you want to deny yourself the opportunity to feel new things and examine those emotions for their hidden triggers to make reasoned decisions about who you want to be in life, rather than being a meat bag of reactionary conditioned responses that is afraid of experiencing difficult emotions because it might difficulty, pain, work, and growth to gain new insights?

    • My career is incredibly important to me. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say at the outset that it will always be more important than any relationship–one never knows what life will throw at you–I think that a relationship that required me to make more than trivial sacrifices in my career would have a very hard time persisting.

      • This is not the dominant social paradigm, though, and is something that I (and probably others) have trouble explaining to others. It wasn’t until I started dating that I really realized that there are things that are significantly more important to me than relationships with people, and that some people don’t regard it as socially acceptable to be that way.

      • Well yes, I think most of these are usually implied when they’re done in real life (the monogamous ones at least, can’t vouch for the poly ones from personal experience.) Their being only implied, of course, means that people don’t often stop to examine exactly how crazy it sounds.

        • This is awfully close to saying there’s One Right Way to do poly, which I’m not even close to comfortable with. My husband and I had veto for a while. We still have rules. We still consider ourselves a “Primary” relationship to which all others are Secondary – and at this point I believe we always will. I personally prefer to date others with the same arrangement One size does not fit all when it comes to relationship styles.

          • I tend to be less interested in the Right Way to do things than I am in the ways that most often lead to success. I’m a pragmatist that way.

            Folks do all these things in monogamous relationships, too…but rarely make them explicit, and when they are made explicit, I suspect the majority of people offered those propositions will take a pass.

            Yes, there are people who (effectively) say “My relationships will always be secondary to my career” or “My mother has the ultimate say over who I date.” And sometimes, they find partners who are OK with that. And if that’s what they want, hey, it’s a free world; they’re welcome to fill their boots.

            But it’s been my experience that relationships are more likely to succeed for all the folks involved when people don’t behave these ways. Veto is an example; it has been my experience that nearly every person I’ve ever met who is in a veto relationship feels a need for that veto because they feel insecure, and the veto makes them feel secure. Is that Wrong? No, but it seems to me that relationships are more likely to succeed when folks deal with their insecurities directly and then enter into the relationship from a place of confidence. Just like people are more likely to succeed when they allow their relationships space to develop, and don’t bring their friend Bill along on every date. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • couldn’t it be argued that it’s insecure to feel like a relationship must have the potential to be more important to someone than their career? ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. Re: jealousy

    Yes, it’s true. So many people think they can reap the rewards without doing the work. A lot of these rules that new poly people set are designed to prevent them from having to go outside their comfort zone.

  3. My career is incredibly important to me. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say at the outset that it will always be more important than any relationship–one never knows what life will throw at you–I think that a relationship that required me to make more than trivial sacrifices in my career would have a very hard time persisting.

  4. THANK YOU. I cannot you’re this loud enough! when I was exploring poly, I got so sick of her (why did it always seen to be her? Husband decided to explore anne age decided she’d go along or lose him? Hello) explaining โ€ the rulesโ€ that it would take any fun out of what should have been a flirty beginning. Such logic!

  5. THANK YOU. I cannot you’re this loud enough! when I was exploring poly, I got so sick of her (why did it always seen to be her? Husband decided to explore anne age decided she’d go along or lose him? Hello) explaining โ€ the rulesโ€ that it would take any fun out of what should have been a flirty beginning. Such logic!

  6. Reassuring

    As a poly person in a relationship with a chillaxed mono (he knows, he’s cool), this is reassuring. I have yet to pursue a second relationship, and occasionally worry about falling into a “new poly” trap. Or him assuming something, and me accidentally bulldozing through it. This list seems like a lot of common ones, and it all seems like he’s clear on these fronts.

    Hoo. Theoretical crisis averted!

  7. Reassuring

    As a poly person in a relationship with a chillaxed mono (he knows, he’s cool), this is reassuring. I have yet to pursue a second relationship, and occasionally worry about falling into a “new poly” trap. Or him assuming something, and me accidentally bulldozing through it. This list seems like a lot of common ones, and it all seems like he’s clear on these fronts.

    Hoo. Theoretical crisis averted!

  8. Well yes, I think most of these are usually implied when they’re done in real life (the monogamous ones at least, can’t vouch for the poly ones from personal experience.) Their being only implied, of course, means that people don’t often stop to examine exactly how crazy it sounds.

  9. This is awfully close to saying there’s One Right Way to do poly, which I’m not even close to comfortable with. My husband and I had veto for a while. We still have rules. We still consider ourselves a “Primary” relationship to which all others are Secondary – and at this point I believe we always will. I personally prefer to date others with the same arrangement One size does not fit all when it comes to relationship styles.

  10. I tend to be less interested in the Right Way to do things than I am in the ways that most often lead to success. I’m a pragmatist that way.

    Folks do all these things in monogamous relationships, too…but rarely make them explicit, and when they are made explicit, I suspect the majority of people offered those propositions will take a pass.

    Yes, there are people who (effectively) say “My relationships will always be secondary to my career” or “My mother has the ultimate say over who I date.” And sometimes, they find partners who are OK with that. And if that’s what they want, hey, it’s a free world; they’re welcome to fill their boots.

    But it’s been my experience that relationships are more likely to succeed for all the folks involved when people don’t behave these ways. Veto is an example; it has been my experience that nearly every person I’ve ever met who is in a veto relationship feels a need for that veto because they feel insecure, and the veto makes them feel secure. Is that Wrong? No, but it seems to me that relationships are more likely to succeed when folks deal with their insecurities directly and then enter into the relationship from a place of confidence. Just like people are more likely to succeed when they allow their relationships space to develop, and don’t bring their friend Bill along on every date. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. The Mantra of Doom

    If only more people really took to heart “There are plenty of fish in the sea” most of this horseshit wouldn’t fly.

    Plenty of fish in the sea.

    Plenty of fish in the sea.

    Has saved my bacon before!

    (although if we’re talking about someone who jizzes gold and diamonds, I might consider options — but not ordinary genitalia.)

  12. The Mantra of Doom

    If only more people really took to heart “There are plenty of fish in the sea” most of this horseshit wouldn’t fly.

    Plenty of fish in the sea.

    Plenty of fish in the sea.

    Has saved my bacon before!

    (although if we’re talking about someone who jizzes gold and diamonds, I might consider options — but not ordinary genitalia.)

  13. This would be better explained as “I have a cat.”

    “If you want a relationship, my cat has to like you.”

    “My cat has veto power.”

    “Love me, love my cat. Allergic? Sorry, I have a cat.”

    “I’m not getting rid of my cat so you can move in.”

    “My landlord doesn’t know I have a cat, so you have to keep quiet about it. And brush off any stray fur when you leave so he doesn’t know.”

    “You can’t have your own cat – my cat will sense it and be pissed off. Most likely in your shoes. Or worse, mine.”

    “When I take my cat to cat shows, you get to come with us! Won’t that be fun!”

    “I’m looking for someone to help me take care of my cat.”

    “My rules with my cat are pretty important. I’m sure that you can follow them all. Here, I’ve written them down. Oh, and vet times are on there.”

    “Did I mention I have a cat?”

    • In all seriousness, I suppose it’s like having kids, as well. My kids are indeed part of the package for someone who wants to be in my life. I don’t expect people to *parent* my kids, but if they don’t have fun with them and enjoy hanging out with them, I probably won’t pursue that relationship very far.

      • In fairness, you don’t expect them to parent, but you do expect them to be a grownup for them. It’s not unreasonable, but the closer you get the more it moves in to the parent-zone.

        Parents forget that it’s really uncomfortable for singles to be in that spot. We don’t always know know where the boundaries need to be. We might stop your 9-year old from grabbing the scotch, but should we stop the 17 year old from grabbing a beer? Do we tell him to stay out your purse when he’s looking for a twenty? etc.

        (Disclosure – my girlfriend has a five year old. This is the zone I’m living in.)

        • I do expect people I date to be responsible around my kids, of course. However, I wouldn’t expect a person I’m dating to be in charge of my kids without me there for any length of time (my kids are 15 and 12 yo boys, by the way) If one of the boys wanted $20 or a beer, I’d expect a partner to say, “we’ll check with your mom when she gets back from the store,” or some such thing.

          Mostly, I want my kids and the grown ups in my life to enjoy being together.

          It does make sense that hanging out with a young child and figuring out how to interact with her would have a learning curve for someone who is new to being around kids. Littler kids do tend to need more constant supervision and help.

          I wish you luck and fun as you spend time with your GF and her daughter.

          ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Nah – little kids expect to be told “No. Ask your mother.”

            Teenagers… I was one with a new stepfather. I didn’t make his life better, I’ll say that…

          • I have never had (nor wanted) children myself, but I have had two partners, including the partner I’m living with now, who do.

            My live-in partner has a 13-year-old daughter. I would say that she and I get along reasonably well, but in no way am I a parental figure for her. The idea of, for example, telling her to do chores, or being responsible for discipline, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Some people seem able to step into a stepparent-like role easily; I can not.

            I would not expect my partner to give up her parenting or to prioritize me over the needs of her daughter; and on the flip side of the same coin, I would not be comfortable with my partner expecting me to play a parenting-type role with her daughter. Instead, I think the best approach (and the approach that has worked well so far) is to start from a mutual acknowledgement that her daughter is important to her and I am not a parent, and allow the relationship to grow organically in the way that works best from that starting point.

  14. This would be better explained as “I have a cat.”

    “If you want a relationship, my cat has to like you.”

    “My cat has veto power.”

    “Love me, love my cat. Allergic? Sorry, I have a cat.”

    “I’m not getting rid of my cat so you can move in.”

    “My landlord doesn’t know I have a cat, so you have to keep quiet about it. And brush off any stray fur when you leave so he doesn’t know.”

    “You can’t have your own cat – my cat will sense it and be pissed off. Most likely in your shoes. Or worse, mine.”

    “When I take my cat to cat shows, you get to come with us! Won’t that be fun!”

    “I’m looking for someone to help me take care of my cat.”

    “My rules with my cat are pretty important. I’m sure that you can follow them all. Here, I’ve written them down. Oh, and vet times are on there.”

    “Did I mention I have a cat?”

  15. This is not the dominant social paradigm, though, and is something that I (and probably others) have trouble explaining to others. It wasn’t until I started dating that I really realized that there are things that are significantly more important to me than relationships with people, and that some people don’t regard it as socially acceptable to be that way.

  16. Same here — I have a lot more dealbreakers when it comes to my cat than I do when it comes to relationships ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Although I mostly stick with “I have a cat. Love me, at least tolerate my cat. The cat isn’t going anywhere, so if you have a problem with her, please state it up front, and the door is that way.”

    With that said, I think this is a hilarious breakdown of the situations described above, although I think some of them make more sense when translated to Our Feline Overlord terms!

    — A <3

  17. Same here — I have a lot more dealbreakers when it comes to my cat than I do when it comes to relationships ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Although I mostly stick with “I have a cat. Love me, at least tolerate my cat. The cat isn’t going anywhere, so if you have a problem with her, please state it up front, and the door is that way.”

    With that said, I think this is a hilarious breakdown of the situations described above, although I think some of them make more sense when translated to Our Feline Overlord terms!

    — A <3

      • It boggles me a little, Franklin. We often say some pretty similar shit, so I don’t really GET why they’d even like my column on FB, then. I don’t THINK I’m sugar-coating what I have to say.

        Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m a chick. When I say it, it’s cute…

          • Yeah, that confuses me, too.

            I have a couple of people on my LJ who feel (without being quite so vehement) that some of your examples are apples-to-oranges and that Their Way Of Doing Poly Is Working Just Fine, Thank You (which is awesome, because I am happy when my friends are happy!)

            I did point out, though, that there really ISN’T an apples-to-apples equivalent to try to explain some of these ideas to people who are firmly in the monogamous paradigm and *don’t* already have poly experience, so stuff that seems elementary or inapplicable to people in longterm happy poly relationships might be the best way of getting through to someone who hadn’t thought through the idea of “It’s important to let potential new partners know whether or not your Current Partner is going to be your First And Foremost Partner Forever” — I’m obviously not in favor of new partners getting automatic co-primary status, but I think it’s *fair* to tell them whether or not you’re open to the idea of co-primaries *eventually, some years down the line*, or whether they are ALWAYS going to be secondary to Current Partner.

            — A <3

  18. Utterly fabulous

    Yep I like it alot :). Putting the monogamous version into the poly context (or mabey that should be the other way about??) really brings home how wacky those exploring poly for the first time can be *lol*!

    God I hope I wasn’t like that and if I ever pull any of these stunts in future just glare at me kindly ok and I’ll get the message.

    loveeeeeeee poly!!!

    Liz x

  19. Utterly fabulous

    Yep I like it alot :). Putting the monogamous version into the poly context (or mabey that should be the other way about??) really brings home how wacky those exploring poly for the first time can be *lol*!

    God I hope I wasn’t like that and if I ever pull any of these stunts in future just glare at me kindly ok and I’ll get the message.

    loveeeeeeee poly!!!

    Liz x

  20. “But “I’m not getting rid of my cat” is definitely part of the deal with me. She’s a price of admission. I don’t insist my partners love her, but I insist that they respect the fact that I do, and that she’s part of the package.”

    Yyyyyyup.

    You want me, you have to realize that I love my cat. If my cat is having a medical emergency or something, yes, my cat will come first. And if you come into my house and disrespect my cat, you probably won’t be invited back.

  21. “But “I’m not getting rid of my cat” is definitely part of the deal with me. She’s a price of admission. I don’t insist my partners love her, but I insist that they respect the fact that I do, and that she’s part of the package.”

    Yyyyyyup.

    You want me, you have to realize that I love my cat. If my cat is having a medical emergency or something, yes, my cat will come first. And if you come into my house and disrespect my cat, you probably won’t be invited back.

  22. It boggles me a little, Franklin. We often say some pretty similar shit, so I don’t really GET why they’d even like my column on FB, then. I don’t THINK I’m sugar-coating what I have to say.

    Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m a chick. When I say it, it’s cute…

  23. http://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/pd68p/if_people_approached_monogamy_the_way_they/c3ohu54

    Also…

    New poly couple
    We want to make sure that our relationship stays secure and we don’t feel threatened when we explore polyamory, so we sat down with each other and we worked out a list of rules about how we will do polyamory. Here’s a contract that spells out all our relationship agreements.

    Monogamous equivalent
    I have been thinking about it for months, and when I have a girlfriend, I’ve decided exactly how I want it to be. So I sat down and wrote on a piece of paper just exactly how our relationship will go. Here’s a list of all the dates we will have and the things we’ll do on those dates. For your convenience, I’ve made up a schedule that has all the times and places for our dates. After we’re finished with the dating phase, here’s a list of all the things we’ll do once we’ve decided to commit to each other. Look, I made a copy for you!

    I fail to see how this is correct since you put down “We” for the poly and “I” for the Mono. Also, there is a big difference between sharing concerns and working to make sure both are happy compared to listing a set of rules and telling your partner that they need to accept them.

    Most of these seem to be off kilter.

  24. http://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/pd68p/if_people_approached_monogamy_the_way_they/c3ohu54

    Also…

    New poly couple
    We want to make sure that our relationship stays secure and we don’t feel threatened when we explore polyamory, so we sat down with each other and we worked out a list of rules about how we will do polyamory. Here’s a contract that spells out all our relationship agreements.

    Monogamous equivalent
    I have been thinking about it for months, and when I have a girlfriend, I’ve decided exactly how I want it to be. So I sat down and wrote on a piece of paper just exactly how our relationship will go. Here’s a list of all the dates we will have and the things we’ll do on those dates. For your convenience, I’ve made up a schedule that has all the times and places for our dates. After we’re finished with the dating phase, here’s a list of all the things we’ll do once we’ve decided to commit to each other. Look, I made a copy for you!

    I fail to see how this is correct since you put down “We” for the poly and “I” for the Mono. Also, there is a big difference between sharing concerns and working to make sure both are happy compared to listing a set of rules and telling your partner that they need to accept them.

    Most of these seem to be off kilter.

  25. I’m so glad that I’m allowed for my poly lifestyle to just go with the flow without all these rules and expectations. It isn’t fair to the other person to try to fit them into some mold that you expect in your life.

  26. I’m so glad that I’m allowed for my poly lifestyle to just go with the flow without all these rules and expectations. It isn’t fair to the other person to try to fit them into some mold that you expect in your life.

  27. yep, yep, and yep. one of the things the ex always said was “you dont have to get along with the wife, you DO have to respect that she’s not going anywhere, and be polite to her face”. he thought that was acceptible, and i did too.

    i never veto’ed, but i did occasionally raise a point of conversation about “i see this and it makes me uncomfortable”. occasionally he’d say “yes, i know but”, more often it was “huh, hadnt seen that” and things shifted a bit till they were comfortable again.

    i like your list, indeed!

  28. yep, yep, and yep. one of the things the ex always said was “you dont have to get along with the wife, you DO have to respect that she’s not going anywhere, and be polite to her face”. he thought that was acceptible, and i did too.

    i never veto’ed, but i did occasionally raise a point of conversation about “i see this and it makes me uncomfortable”. occasionally he’d say “yes, i know but”, more often it was “huh, hadnt seen that” and things shifted a bit till they were comfortable again.

    i like your list, indeed!

  29. Yeah, that confuses me, too.

    I have a couple of people on my LJ who feel (without being quite so vehement) that some of your examples are apples-to-oranges and that Their Way Of Doing Poly Is Working Just Fine, Thank You (which is awesome, because I am happy when my friends are happy!)

    I did point out, though, that there really ISN’T an apples-to-apples equivalent to try to explain some of these ideas to people who are firmly in the monogamous paradigm and *don’t* already have poly experience, so stuff that seems elementary or inapplicable to people in longterm happy poly relationships might be the best way of getting through to someone who hadn’t thought through the idea of “It’s important to let potential new partners know whether or not your Current Partner is going to be your First And Foremost Partner Forever” — I’m obviously not in favor of new partners getting automatic co-primary status, but I think it’s *fair* to tell them whether or not you’re open to the idea of co-primaries *eventually, some years down the line*, or whether they are ALWAYS going to be secondary to Current Partner.

    — A <3

  30. From a Monogamous person

    I think these are over simplifications of situations, but coming from the experience of entering into a relationship with someone with poly tendencies and making it very clear that I only wanted to be monogamous, I think since a lot of couples enter into their primary relationship monogamous and then one person wants to explore, the other may try to be accommodating even though it makes them uncomfortable, so naturally there are considerations and ground rules for the original couple, and if those are too strict for another poly person to enter into or for it to work, then the reality is that the original couple can not work as a poly couple and should either split up so the other person can explore or the poly leaning person has to make the choice that their partner is more important to them than having relationships with other people. You can’t have your cake and eat some else’s too ๐Ÿ˜‰ you can’t have everything you want in a relationship on either side, choices have to be made, poly and monogamy are both major life decisions. My advice to couples who are like this, if your not poly and your partner is take a break from one another, you don’t have to make an promises to be there for that person if they feel they made the wrong decision in the end, you are free to move on with your life if you choose. The main reason I’m not poly is because I don’t think most people are mature/have good self esteem to be honest and respectful, my life is complicated enough to deal with a third persons problems, I’d rather be single.

  31. From a Monogamous person

    I think these are over simplifications of situations, but coming from the experience of entering into a relationship with someone with poly tendencies and making it very clear that I only wanted to be monogamous, I think since a lot of couples enter into their primary relationship monogamous and then one person wants to explore, the other may try to be accommodating even though it makes them uncomfortable, so naturally there are considerations and ground rules for the original couple, and if those are too strict for another poly person to enter into or for it to work, then the reality is that the original couple can not work as a poly couple and should either split up so the other person can explore or the poly leaning person has to make the choice that their partner is more important to them than having relationships with other people. You can’t have your cake and eat some else’s too ๐Ÿ˜‰ you can’t have everything you want in a relationship on either side, choices have to be made, poly and monogamy are both major life decisions. My advice to couples who are like this, if your not poly and your partner is take a break from one another, you don’t have to make an promises to be there for that person if they feel they made the wrong decision in the end, you are free to move on with your life if you choose. The main reason I’m not poly is because I don’t think most people are mature/have good self esteem to be honest and respectful, my life is complicated enough to deal with a third persons problems, I’d rather be single.

  32. In all seriousness, I suppose it’s like having kids, as well. My kids are indeed part of the package for someone who wants to be in my life. I don’t expect people to *parent* my kids, but if they don’t have fun with them and enjoy hanging out with them, I probably won’t pursue that relationship very far.

  33. In fairness, you don’t expect them to parent, but you do expect them to be a grownup for them. It’s not unreasonable, but the closer you get the more it moves in to the parent-zone.

    Parents forget that it’s really uncomfortable for singles to be in that spot. We don’t always know know where the boundaries need to be. We might stop your 9-year old from grabbing the scotch, but should we stop the 17 year old from grabbing a beer? Do we tell him to stay out your purse when he’s looking for a twenty? etc.

    (Disclosure – my girlfriend has a five year old. This is the zone I’m living in.)

  34. I do expect people I date to be responsible around my kids, of course. However, I wouldn’t expect a person I’m dating to be in charge of my kids without me there for any length of time (my kids are 15 and 12 yo boys, by the way) If one of the boys wanted $20 or a beer, I’d expect a partner to say, “we’ll check with your mom when she gets back from the store,” or some such thing.

    Mostly, I want my kids and the grown ups in my life to enjoy being together.

    It does make sense that hanging out with a young child and figuring out how to interact with her would have a learning curve for someone who is new to being around kids. Littler kids do tend to need more constant supervision and help.

    I wish you luck and fun as you spend time with your GF and her daughter.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Nah – little kids expect to be told “No. Ask your mother.”

    Teenagers… I was one with a new stepfather. I didn’t make his life better, I’ll say that…

  36. I have never had (nor wanted) children myself, but I have had two partners, including the partner I’m living with now, who do.

    My live-in partner has a 13-year-old daughter. I would say that she and I get along reasonably well, but in no way am I a parental figure for her. The idea of, for example, telling her to do chores, or being responsible for discipline, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Some people seem able to step into a stepparent-like role easily; I can not.

    I would not expect my partner to give up her parenting or to prioritize me over the needs of her daughter; and on the flip side of the same coin, I would not be comfortable with my partner expecting me to play a parenting-type role with her daughter. Instead, I think the best approach (and the approach that has worked well so far) is to start from a mutual acknowledgement that her daughter is important to her and I am not a parent, and allow the relationship to grow organically in the way that works best from that starting point.

  37. Yes–this!

    I think some tendency toward self-awareness and introspection, in the first place, helps…but one can learn to not just blindly react to every emotion. I think the key is realizing that, while jealousy is normal and will happen from time to time, it is neither a horror to be avoided at all costs NOR a positive sign of love, as romance novels would like us to believe.

    The times when I have been jealous have generally resulted in long talks about important things, leaving me and my partner feeling close and connected, and with a better understanding of each other and our relationship.

  38. Yes–this!

    I think some tendency toward self-awareness and introspection, in the first place, helps…but one can learn to not just blindly react to every emotion. I think the key is realizing that, while jealousy is normal and will happen from time to time, it is neither a horror to be avoided at all costs NOR a positive sign of love, as romance novels would like us to believe.

    The times when I have been jealous have generally resulted in long talks about important things, leaving me and my partner feeling close and connected, and with a better understanding of each other and our relationship.

  39. This is excellent. I’ve often thought some of these things in a very abstract way, but didn’t quite have the words for it.

    The “dating as a couple” thing especially bothers me, and I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to go that route, either as an established couple OR as anyone setting out to date others who are already paired up. I never really saw the point. How can grow as a person and learn more about myself and other people (which is a big part of poly, for me) if I’m forcing other relationships to conform to the dynamic of the one I’ve already got? Likewise, I don’t want the pressure of HAVING to be attracted to someone’s partner. I guess this sort of thing works for some people, but I’m not one of them.

    Technically, my husband and I have veto power, but the likelihood of it ever being invoked is pretty slim. We both trust each other to make good decisions about people, and we’re similar enough that the idea of one of us liking someone the other doesn’t get along with, or having a major blind spot where the other sees clearly, is pretty much purely hypothetical. However, if something like this *should* ever happen, it would be before anything progressed, because he and I (and this is the case with my other partners, as well) tell each other when a new possibility appears on the horizon.

    We *have* had a few times where I knew more about a woman he had a mild interest in than he did, and was able to give him that information (not always negative) just so he had a somewhat broader picture. There have also been a few times where we’ve brought up concerns about trends/behaviors we’ve spotted, though both of us respect the privacy of each other’s relationships.

    I don’t have as big a problem with the idea of being closeted, at least to a small degree, because I’ve seen what assholes some people can be. I wouldn’t want to be completely hidden from the world, but I’m okay with showing some discretion around people who might be uncomfortable with/unaware of the situation in order to protect my partner(s) and make things run a bit more smoothly. In the case of boyfriend #1 (I have two) and my girlfriend (also his live-in girlfriend), it’s pretty much an open secret. Those who are close either know or most likely suspect the situation, and those who aren’t are not that big a part of their lives. My husband and I are out, too, in much the same way, but his girlfriend and boyfriend #2 (my husband’s girlfriend’s husband)are out only to their friends.

    Whew. Sorry about the long comment. I guess I had a lot to say ๐Ÿ˜›

  40. This is excellent. I’ve often thought some of these things in a very abstract way, but didn’t quite have the words for it.

    The “dating as a couple” thing especially bothers me, and I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to go that route, either as an established couple OR as anyone setting out to date others who are already paired up. I never really saw the point. How can grow as a person and learn more about myself and other people (which is a big part of poly, for me) if I’m forcing other relationships to conform to the dynamic of the one I’ve already got? Likewise, I don’t want the pressure of HAVING to be attracted to someone’s partner. I guess this sort of thing works for some people, but I’m not one of them.

    Technically, my husband and I have veto power, but the likelihood of it ever being invoked is pretty slim. We both trust each other to make good decisions about people, and we’re similar enough that the idea of one of us liking someone the other doesn’t get along with, or having a major blind spot where the other sees clearly, is pretty much purely hypothetical. However, if something like this *should* ever happen, it would be before anything progressed, because he and I (and this is the case with my other partners, as well) tell each other when a new possibility appears on the horizon.

    We *have* had a few times where I knew more about a woman he had a mild interest in than he did, and was able to give him that information (not always negative) just so he had a somewhat broader picture. There have also been a few times where we’ve brought up concerns about trends/behaviors we’ve spotted, though both of us respect the privacy of each other’s relationships.

    I don’t have as big a problem with the idea of being closeted, at least to a small degree, because I’ve seen what assholes some people can be. I wouldn’t want to be completely hidden from the world, but I’m okay with showing some discretion around people who might be uncomfortable with/unaware of the situation in order to protect my partner(s) and make things run a bit more smoothly. In the case of boyfriend #1 (I have two) and my girlfriend (also his live-in girlfriend), it’s pretty much an open secret. Those who are close either know or most likely suspect the situation, and those who aren’t are not that big a part of their lives. My husband and I are out, too, in much the same way, but his girlfriend and boyfriend #2 (my husband’s girlfriend’s husband)are out only to their friends.

    Whew. Sorry about the long comment. I guess I had a lot to say ๐Ÿ˜›

  41. Some of these are spot on. And others.. I just can’t concur with.

    I’ve experimented with various forms of poly since the early 90s. I’m not part of one of these ‘new poly couples’ – I solidly consider myself an ‘experienced poly’. Some of it with you.

    But the form of poly I hadn’t done was being in a intentionally lifelong primary partnership with one other individual. Ie. a couple. And ya know what? It’s working really well for me. For the first time in my life, I’m extraordinarily happy in relationship – instead of always feeling unappreciated, unloved, unseen and unsupported.

    I’m no longer fearful that someone won’t be there when I need support/help. Because we put each other first. In ways that just didn’t happen for me in other poly relationship styles. Some of suckiest relationship years of my life was the period when you and I were ‘dating’ – despite having multiple sweeties, not a single one of those relationships could I depend on. (And note, I’m not saying specifically my relationship with YOU was sucky… just that period of my life.) Whenever I needed something… something else was always a priority for every single one in my network. I was not a priority to anyone, and I believed that was the way ‘evolved poly’ people did it.

    I really like being in a primary partnership, with the intentions of keeping that as our core – regardless if we explore other relationships together or apart.

    So no.. I won’t be told we’re doing it wrong by you or anyone else. Because the intentions we’ve set in our relationship work for us. We intend to be primary to each other, and will not allow other relationships to threaten that. And, for now… new relationships/first encounters don’t start unless we’re both there.

    • I think this is why it bothers me when people characterize one or another way of “doing poly” as right/wrong. For the most part, I think that the “right” way to do poly is the way that works for you. Agreements can be helpful in that process (as you’ve found)… so long as you both/all AGREE to them. Yes, it’s worth considering whether your way is unfair to another person in your dynamic… but ultimately, if it’s your way, and it doesn’t work for them, it might not mean your way is wrong… it might mean that you and they are not a good fit.

      See also Getting to Win-Win and the section following, on Respect.)

  42. Some of these are spot on. And others.. I just can’t concur with.

    I’ve experimented with various forms of poly since the early 90s. I’m not part of one of these ‘new poly couples’ – I solidly consider myself an ‘experienced poly’. Some of it with you.

    But the form of poly I hadn’t done was being in a intentionally lifelong primary partnership with one other individual. Ie. a couple. And ya know what? It’s working really well for me. For the first time in my life, I’m extraordinarily happy in relationship – instead of always feeling unappreciated, unloved, unseen and unsupported.

    I’m no longer fearful that someone won’t be there when I need support/help. Because we put each other first. In ways that just didn’t happen for me in other poly relationship styles. Some of suckiest relationship years of my life was the period when you and I were ‘dating’ – despite having multiple sweeties, not a single one of those relationships could I depend on. (And note, I’m not saying specifically my relationship with YOU was sucky… just that period of my life.) Whenever I needed something… something else was always a priority for every single one in my network. I was not a priority to anyone, and I believed that was the way ‘evolved poly’ people did it.

    I really like being in a primary partnership, with the intentions of keeping that as our core – regardless if we explore other relationships together or apart.

    So no.. I won’t be told we’re doing it wrong by you or anyone else. Because the intentions we’ve set in our relationship work for us. We intend to be primary to each other, and will not allow other relationships to threaten that. And, for now… new relationships/first encounters don’t start unless we’re both there.

  43. Re: jealousy

    I’m curious about atypical jealousy. That is, nothing related to the monogamous/polyamorous structure of the relationship, where jealousy isn’t a clear insecurity of threat to the relationship. Where it seems to be more…codependently related following a theme of feeling “left out” more than any clear insecurity of abandonment. In that perspective the best conclusion I can come to is insecurity about where partner falls in the priority list to the other partner.

    Do you have much to say about that? Jealousy of, say, dedication to sports or ‘guy time’ etc?

  44. Apples to Oranges is right….

    You are trying to make a point, and I get that. I see what you are perhaps trying to say. However, the way you are going about this is very simplistic and uses analogies that are slightly off.

    To start off, comparing a couple’s agreement with one another with someone’s mother making choices for them or someone and their career? Please.

    Is it fair to say that just like a single person should not step foot in a bar with an inflexible list of specifics (6’2, blonde, tan, dresses in suits, owns a 2011 Porsche, is a doctor, loves poodles, drinks only 15-year old scotch or better, has never seen a Kevin Costner movie…) … that poly couples with a similiar list might be disappointed? Yes.

    But it is completely reasonable to have a set of expectations and explain them up front. Isn’t poly supposed to be about communicating and being honest?

    Sure, the couple who says they want a bisexual woman, into both of them, who has blonde hair, blue eyes, drives an SUV, loves pitbulls, makes a minimum of $50k, dresses in clothes from Forever 21, size 2 maximum, drinks martinis, and will only see them in a hotel on the 8th of each month from 9 p.m. to midnight is setting themselves up for failure.

    But the couple who says they want a bisexual woman to see both of them and that because of their schedules they will only be able to meet once or twice a month is being honest and up front about their expectations, rather than finding someone and then hurting them when they have to consistently decline invitations.

    I dated someone who was in his senior year of an architectural major. First date he explained that he liked me, but that his projects came first. He had set aside some time for date nights, but otherwise, he had to work; and who knew about after graduation. If I couldn’t deal with that, we coud just be friends instead. I had my own projects, and our schedules meshed, so we dated.

    What about people in the military? Um, yeah, their job comes first. And they will tell you up front what you can expect. Doctors, firemen, EMTs, police officers…many people have situations where they have job priorities above their relationships.

    To turn that around, there are people who have left jobs because their work interfered too much with their family life. Because their family is their main priority. They may have loved their job, but they loved their family more.

    And who are you to say that having that kind of priority system is a bad relationship model? My point is that a person or couple explaining their expectations – reasonable ones – based on their priorities (job, kids, spouse, ill mother, pet, hobby) is a very open and mature thing to do. And should be encouraged in everyone – mono and poly alike.

  45. Apples to Oranges is right….

    You are trying to make a point, and I get that. I see what you are perhaps trying to say. However, the way you are going about this is very simplistic and uses analogies that are slightly off.

    To start off, comparing a couple’s agreement with one another with someone’s mother making choices for them or someone and their career? Please.

    Is it fair to say that just like a single person should not step foot in a bar with an inflexible list of specifics (6’2, blonde, tan, dresses in suits, owns a 2011 Porsche, is a doctor, loves poodles, drinks only 15-year old scotch or better, has never seen a Kevin Costner movie…) … that poly couples with a similiar list might be disappointed? Yes.

    But it is completely reasonable to have a set of expectations and explain them up front. Isn’t poly supposed to be about communicating and being honest?

    Sure, the couple who says they want a bisexual woman, into both of them, who has blonde hair, blue eyes, drives an SUV, loves pitbulls, makes a minimum of $50k, dresses in clothes from Forever 21, size 2 maximum, drinks martinis, and will only see them in a hotel on the 8th of each month from 9 p.m. to midnight is setting themselves up for failure.

    But the couple who says they want a bisexual woman to see both of them and that because of their schedules they will only be able to meet once or twice a month is being honest and up front about their expectations, rather than finding someone and then hurting them when they have to consistently decline invitations.

    I dated someone who was in his senior year of an architectural major. First date he explained that he liked me, but that his projects came first. He had set aside some time for date nights, but otherwise, he had to work; and who knew about after graduation. If I couldn’t deal with that, we coud just be friends instead. I had my own projects, and our schedules meshed, so we dated.

    What about people in the military? Um, yeah, their job comes first. And they will tell you up front what you can expect. Doctors, firemen, EMTs, police officers…many people have situations where they have job priorities above their relationships.

    To turn that around, there are people who have left jobs because their work interfered too much with their family life. Because their family is their main priority. They may have loved their job, but they loved their family more.

    And who are you to say that having that kind of priority system is a bad relationship model? My point is that a person or couple explaining their expectations – reasonable ones – based on their priorities (job, kids, spouse, ill mother, pet, hobby) is a very open and mature thing to do. And should be encouraged in everyone – mono and poly alike.

  46. I think this is why it bothers me when people characterize one or another way of “doing poly” as right/wrong. For the most part, I think that the “right” way to do poly is the way that works for you. Agreements can be helpful in that process (as you’ve found)… so long as you both/all AGREE to them. Yes, it’s worth considering whether your way is unfair to another person in your dynamic… but ultimately, if it’s your way, and it doesn’t work for them, it might not mean your way is wrong… it might mean that you and they are not a good fit.

    See also Getting to Win-Win and the section following, on Respect.)

  47. , you are right, that’s not what I meant to communicate. To clarify that particular sentence: If it doesn’t seem fair to someone else in your dynamic, but it’s not something that you can or will change (perhaps it would feel “unfair” to YOU to do so, or would result in an important need of yours — or someone’s — not getting met), then the fairest thing of all may be to consider that maybe it’s not a good fit, and allow them to find another situation where everyone’s needs ARE able to be met fairly. The relationship needs the needs of all of the partners, in order for the relationship to “win”(/succeed.) If anyone feels like they aren’t “winning” then the relationship isn’t winning, and negotiation and change needs to occur. I hope that is clearer.

    And in further clarification, no, I’m not in favor of fear, obligation and guilt as manipulation tools, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t twist things to sound like that’s what I’m saying. (Or doesn’t that count as manipulation for you?) To make it maximally convenient for you, here’s the section on “Respect” that I linked above:

    “The key in all of these cases is RESPECT. The person youโ€™re making the Agreement with must respect you and your needs, and you must respect them and their needs. If that isnโ€™t the case, or if thereโ€™s something else interfering with the ability to make Agreements โ€œbetween equalsโ€ (e.g., mental or physical illness, severe trauma or grief, or any sort of negotiations in bad faith), then no amount of writing and re-writing will help. Respect, like honesty, is just that core in this process, and if one or more of the people involved canโ€™t or wonโ€™t behave with integrity, then a lot more will be needed in the relationship beyond a book on making Agreements.”

    For the record, I don’t believe that Agreements are the answer to all problems, not even all poly problems. (wry smile) I do believe, however, that AGREEMENTS (which are not the same thing as “rules”) can be a TOOL to help poly/non-mono people, especially in bridging the space between previous mono beliefs and new poly paradigms. Yes, I’m in favor of generally being as inclusive and accepting of difference as possible. No, I’m not saying any of this to justify people being crappy to one another. However yes, I think that sometimes it’s important to focus on the things that people have in common, and the ways in which they’re already behaving in the ways you (generic) want them to behave, in order to build those bridges from old paradigms to new paradigms.* It’s normal for people to need some slack when learning new skills. Long-term patterns of behavior like “pushing the envelope” are indicators of deeper problems, however.

    *(This is called “scaffolding” in the language of education researcher Marcia Linn. She did a lot of research on how information retention is vastly increased through “scaffolded knowledge integration”; lack of integration of knowledge happens a LOT in our schools especially, and it results in useless, isolated facts with no ability to connect them to real life applications.)

  48. , you are right, that’s not what I meant to communicate. To clarify that particular sentence: If it doesn’t seem fair to someone else in your dynamic, but it’s not something that you can or will change (perhaps it would feel “unfair” to YOU to do so, or would result in an important need of yours — or someone’s — not getting met), then the fairest thing of all may be to consider that maybe it’s not a good fit, and allow them to find another situation where everyone’s needs ARE able to be met fairly. The relationship needs the needs of all of the partners, in order for the relationship to “win”(/succeed.) If anyone feels like they aren’t “winning” then the relationship isn’t winning, and negotiation and change needs to occur. I hope that is clearer.

    And in further clarification, no, I’m not in favor of fear, obligation and guilt as manipulation tools, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t twist things to sound like that’s what I’m saying. (Or doesn’t that count as manipulation for you?) To make it maximally convenient for you, here’s the section on “Respect” that I linked above:

    “The key in all of these cases is RESPECT. The person youโ€™re making the Agreement with must respect you and your needs, and you must respect them and their needs. If that isnโ€™t the case, or if thereโ€™s something else interfering with the ability to make Agreements โ€œbetween equalsโ€ (e.g., mental or physical illness, severe trauma or grief, or any sort of negotiations in bad faith), then no amount of writing and re-writing will help. Respect, like honesty, is just that core in this process, and if one or more of the people involved canโ€™t or wonโ€™t behave with integrity, then a lot more will be needed in the relationship beyond a book on making Agreements.”

    For the record, I don’t believe that Agreements are the answer to all problems, not even all poly problems. (wry smile) I do believe, however, that AGREEMENTS (which are not the same thing as “rules”) can be a TOOL to help poly/non-mono people, especially in bridging the space between previous mono beliefs and new poly paradigms. Yes, I’m in favor of generally being as inclusive and accepting of difference as possible. No, I’m not saying any of this to justify people being crappy to one another. However yes, I think that sometimes it’s important to focus on the things that people have in common, and the ways in which they’re already behaving in the ways you (generic) want them to behave, in order to build those bridges from old paradigms to new paradigms.* It’s normal for people to need some slack when learning new skills. Long-term patterns of behavior like “pushing the envelope” are indicators of deeper problems, however.

    *(This is called “scaffolding” in the language of education researcher Marcia Linn. She did a lot of research on how information retention is vastly increased through “scaffolded knowledge integration”; lack of integration of knowledge happens a LOT in our schools especially, and it results in useless, isolated facts with no ability to connect them to real life applications.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.