September 16, 2011 in Poly
You may be wondering about the new sobriquet I have awarded my guy. Proposed playa name?
Nah. Just me being cutesy and cleverly folding us all into my topic. You’ll see.
EG linked to a Polyamory Weekly podcast. I suspect most of you couldn’t be arsed to actually listen to it — I don’t blame you. I do listen to Minx’s podcast regularly. The referenced ‘cast came up on my rotation recently and I took keen interest in what Minx and Ms Wagner were saying about 18-20 minutes into it. The topic was “Advice for Poly Newbies“. At around the 20 minute mark Ms Wagner started discussing three excellent “rules”, two of which apply beautifully to anyone, not just to poly practitioners.
A word first, though, about Dick’s nick. Dick enjoys creating characters in his expositions, to help the reader track what he’s talking about. They’re usually a composite of real life people. I see no need at this point to do that: I have two real life characters already available — three if you include this lizard. So let me introduce Existing Guy, New Guy, and the lizard, who will help me ‘splain my point of view.
Of the three topics, the first one is pretty much relevant only for the newbie polyamorist. The final two can be fit into any relationship type.
1. Avoid the “kid in the candy store” mentality when you first try poly
Some people might hear about polyamory and think to themselves, “Oh cool! Just say I’m poly, and then go schtup every available person of interest who’ll pass the time of day with me!”
That’s not as grand an exaggeration as you might think, as I have had people actually tell me variations of this. One person, upon learning I consider myself to be polyamorous, figured I was dating a bazillion men.
Remember dating? In my college days, quite a number of my peers dated pseudo-polyamorously. During the latter part of those years, the lizard indulged in a string of simultaneous relationships. The guys she dated were also dating others. It was a love-fest, you might say. I say “pseudo” in part because they none of them knew the term “polyamorous” but also because they considered it just dating. It was a sniffing out period, possibly while they were in search of “the one,” or more likely simply because it was enjoyable. A polyamorous relationship, if you want to go by the “rules” or given definition, involves multiple committed relationships based on truth and communication. Committed to what? Committed to continuing the relationship, devoting yourself to it, for as long as it will last. The lizard tells me that in those heady college days, in her way, she was “committed” to two of several men. That is, she pretty much intended to continue seeing them both for a good long time. The others, she recalled, didn’t really measure up, but were, for the most part, good experiences to have.
When the lizard uber-committed to one of those two guys by getting engaged, she stopped dating all the others. The lizard tells me she did that mostly because it was expected, but there was another consideration. For a time, said the lizard, she found she needed to focus a lot of attention and emotion on that one guy. Even if she were to have continued dating the other guy, her time would have been consumed by her fiancè so the other guy would have had less and less of her. Of course, once married her time and attention was further divided among the little lizardlettes she spawned. But that’s a different story.
When someone in your puppy pile gets more attention than the others, you run the risk of finding yourself stressing out. And losing the one(s) left out.
The lizard can totally vouch for that even today. She’s got Existing Guy, right? New Guy comes along and piques her interest and, over time, the lizard and the new guy grow a new relationship, brimming with that wriggly happy hot weasel energy and absorption. And right around in that time frame, the lizard’s ex popped back into her life, wanting another chance, now willing to live within the expectations of her chosen lifestyle. A few co-workers started sniffing her toes. She quickly brushed off the co-workers, but did include the ex. One lizard. Three men.
The lizard wanted to ensure everyone got a fair share of her affection and attention, but the plain fact is, she could not muster enough energy or interest for all three. Someone was going to end up not getting what they needed out of the relationship and the lizard juggling them all was going to end up exhausted. For the record, and much to his disappointment, the ex is the one who was squeezed out beneath the edges.
This advice, this rule applies in particular if you’re looking to build lasting relationships. The lizard would advise you to build them one at a time, adding on to them only after they’ve stabilized, after you’ve worked out the obsessions and after all of you have established a solid level of honest communication with one another. The good communication between the lizard and her guys has been fundamental in providing the supportive love all need to help them avoid hurting one another. This was made apparent especially when New Guy came on the scene and the lizard found herself consumed by the flames of the new relationship energy. She has wanted to be sure Existing Guy doesn’t get ignored, and it helps that EG understands her excitement about NG, and is willing to adapt to her changes.
If you’re looking to just date around, well, that’s different. People will sort themselves out. Some will bubble up to the top of the list and others will fall away. Still, keeping the communication channels open, ensuring the right expectations are in place, that’s vital for the most happy of experiences, you ask me.
2. No major life decisions during NRE
Twitterpated. Puppy love. Super-charged, oh-em-gee, the world is filled with sparkles and you want to spend every last loving moment of your life cocooned with the NG, learning everything there is to learn about him. New Relationship Energy.
The lizard reports that each time she has bathed in this phase, she initially finds herself daydreaming different, usually impractical lurve scenarios.
Lessee, sell all the properties, ditch this job and find one — ooh, airline pilots travel a lot, don’t they? … or better yet, get a bunch of cute little cabins dotted around the country and spend months at a time in them, dallying with whoever the NG is. Lingering on the beach, romantic hikes through the mountains, moonlit picnics in the tree-shaded glades. Shopping and fabulous resorts! Honeymoon!
Seriously, while your brain is being scrambled by serotonin and such, you’re not usually at your most rational self. Existing Guy knows someone who pretty much moves in with and marries the person he just fell in love with on a yearly basis. Okay, EG may not actually recognize this guy when viewed through the lizard’s interpretation. Suffice it to say the acquaintance lets his neuroreceptors do his thinking for him in some respects.
So all of this should go without saying, and I’m not going to dwell on it but I do want to use the topic and its underlying message to think about NRE.
Dr. John Buri, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Thomas and blogs for Psychology Today. He has an article on the differences between love and being in love that’s interesting. I’m not so sure his definitions are all that absolute, but they’re interesting. The lizard has vicarious experience with what he’s talking about. She reports that a monogamous (actually, serial polygamous) family member cheated excessively on each of the women he married, nearly from the wedding days. He confessed to his first wife that he couldn’t help himself. He just loved falling in love. Once he had settled into the “love” part of it (which Dr. Buri asserts requires commitment in addition to intimacy and passion), once the neuroreceptors weren’t getting their extra jolts of juice, he started looking around. Then getting divorced, giving half of his stuff over to whichever wife he was leaving behind.
Now those are some life decisions!
This advice works well for all types of romantic partnerships, especially those who wish to commence monogamous relationships. Recognize that what you’re feeling now is hopped up. Don’t fuck your life up just yet. Wait for the Redbull™ in your heart to filter out, then make hopefully more rational decisions.
Uh, that presupposes you have ever been rational in the first place.
The lizard is grateful for the rational, stable natures of her two guys, neither of whom have sold off their homes and belongings to move in with her. Yet.
3. More focus on communication, less on hard and fast rules
This is the spot in the podcast where Existing Guy took his tangent. The scenario presented in the podcast was that of a theoretical polyamorist who got permission from his monogamous wife — or his primary poly partner, whoever — to start a new relationship, and the wife laid down the rules,
“You can fuck her just so long as it’s not in my bed!”
Many other long-suffering wives haven’t exactly give tacit permission for their husbands to stray, but stayed quiet so long as hubby didn’t bring “that woman” into “my house!”
Relationships all develop rules over time. Understandings. Experienced polyamory practitioners counsel that it’s good to establish the boundaries and guidelines that work best for each of you. The guidance here is not to avoid doing that altogether, but to talk through the issues honestly as they come up. Start by talking, and learn what it is about yourself that makes you uncomfortable. Don’t set it forth as a rule so much as an understanding on how best to keep things balanced. Cuz mistakes will happen, and new things previously unconsidered will rub open new and surprising wounds.
You’d’ve thought he would have known that was wrong!
Be ready to talk honestly and unagressively about these hurts. Find rational ways to work through them. It helps if you have already explored your soft spots and have a notion as to what truly bothers you.
The lizard told me she tries to make sure she opens up to New Guy and Existing Guy about the things that are causing her to chafe or feel hurt. She also asks them about their raw, itchy places, if they exist. When she headed off to Burning Man, known for openly sexual experiences and also a place where she’d get a lot of quality time with New Guy, what were Existing Guy’s concerns? When the lizard heads east for her yearly sojourn to the Keys, she won’t be out of touch, but she will be more focused on EG and have less time to spend with NG. It’s important for her to understand NG’s concerns, and how she can help allay them if possible. EG, NG, and the lizard all get to own their feelings, but each of them has a role in helping their lovers.
If there is a rule in the lizard’s love life it would be: communicate openly and frequently.
Oh, yeah, and hug her, pet her, and rub her feet and back a lot. Feeding her brownies with ice cream never hurts.