I have recently come up with a theory: everyone, no matter their relationship type, should act like they are in a polyamorous relationship.
Not in the sense that we all need to actually become poly*, but in the sense that the poly community has gotten really good at some basic relationship principles that us monogamous folks could learn from.
(NOTE: Obviously just because someone is polyamorous doesn't automatically mean they are good at it. I am going to be speaking in some broad generalities, but it doesn't mean that every polyamorous person you meet is going to be a wizard at all these things --opening up your relationship doesn't instantly make you a relationship superhero. They are, however, the principles that poly relationships are generally built on.)
Out of sheer necessity, people in polyamorous relationships tend to be really really good at communicating their needs, expectations, and experiences. They communicate in advance of a thing (whether that thing is a new dating partner entering the scene or some adventurous sexual activity). They communicate during a thing. They communicate after a thing. They often schedule in communication to make sure things don't slip through the cracks.
It sounds kind of formal and stiff, to check in so often and schedule communication, but I think we can all agree that most poly relationships aren't characterized by their formal stiffness. Instead, there is a keen understanding that intentional communication is vital to allow for other kinds of freedom.
Along the same lines, I think people in poly relationships are way less likely to let bad feelings hang around and fester than us monogos. (Is that a short-hand for monogamous people? Can we make it one?) Again, out of necessity, feelings of fear, anger, envy, or anything else that might feed into jealousy or resentment, need to be looked at and addressed pretty quickly if your multi-person relationship is going to be healthy.
I have found, in monogamous relationships, that there is often a fear or avoidance of bad feelings. Talking about them is hard and scary and can easily wind up turning into something bigger, so we avoid them until we absolutely have to bring them up.
I am sure talking about negative feelings is still sometimes hard and scary in poly relationships, but there is a difference: everyone involved has recognized in advance that these feelings may emerge. They are prepared for some negative emotional responses and are okay facing them and dealing with them - personally, and as a unit.
Including Your Village
The most frequent argument I heard in favour of polyamory is that one person cannot meet all your needs.
That's true, but it doesn't mean you have to be poly. You certainly can if you want to, but either way, it's a good idea to recognize that your partner is not going to meet all of your needs, and that's okay. That's why we have friends and family and coworkers and a whole other community of people in our lives. Invest in those relationships, too. Build a village!
This is the "know thyself" section. Healthy relationships are a lot healthier when people know themselves well: their insecurities, needs, desires, boundaries, dreams, and triggers. Even better when they know these things and also how to take care of themselves.
Again, by necessity, polyamory requires a lot of self-reflection. If you're going to open up your relationship, you have to be very in tune with all sorts of things: what you need and want, what you are and are not okay with, where you might feel triggered or insecure, what your emotional response is right now, what might be behind all of these things, and how to deal with it.
Imagine with me a world where everyone knows these things about themselves. Amazing, right???
Recognize Unintended Consequences
Part of all this open communication, self-reflection, and facing of feelings is the recognition that there can be unintended consequences to your actions and that those matter too. Just because you didn't intend to mislead someone or hurt them doesn't mean they don't now feel mislead or hurt. It is more important to deal with that feeling than convince them that you didn't mean it.
Imagine how all our conflicts would go if we always accepted that there are unintended consequences to our actions, and we dealt with them head-on instead of trying to skirt blame?
None of this is revolutionary. We all know that communication and honest self-reflection are important to a relationship, but often, if we can get by without it, we do. Not because we hate our relationship and want it to suffer, but because life gets buys, stuff is hard, and whatever, this person is stuck with me.
Basically, the reality of being in relationship with multiple people has forced the poly community to adopt principles that monogos (is it working? Can we make it catch on? It's so fun to say!) often incorporate only after going to a relationship counsellor.
So let's do it! New group chant: Life is busy! Stuff is hard! Our relationships still deserve to be taken care of!!!
*If you don't know, polyamorous relationships are relationships that involve multiple people. They take many forms, but are always above-board and consensual for all parties.
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