Kestryl: Sassafras, take a break from g-chatting with your butchfriend! We need to write our couples blog, err, um, our relationship blog.
Sassafras: Nice catch!
Kestryl: Huh? Are we fishing?
Sassafras: No, I was talking about your self-correction of “couple” vs. “relationship.”
Kestryl: Oh yeah, well, when I say ‘couple’ people don’t realize that we’re poly.
Sassafras: Somehow people never realize that we’re poly.
Kestryl: Isn’t it obvious?
Sassafras: I think we confuse people because we’re not dramatic.
Though we’ve mentioned, in passing, in previous columns that our relationship is both deeply committed and polyamorous, we realized we’ve never publicly discussed what our dynamic looks like. While, in general, any single polyamorous relationship isn’t the business of anyone other than the parties involved in it, as part of our commitment to improving queer relationships throughout the world, we’ve decided to devote this week’s column to discussing how poly works for us (and how it could work for you! )
Sassafras: A winky face? Really? Are you flirting?
Kestryl : With our entire readership .
Sassafras: Oh boy.
Kestryl: Don’t worry, it’s just flirting. I’ve got my hands full.
Sasafras: You certainly do. We both do, in really good ways.
Kestryl: Now you’re just bragging.
Sassafras: Well….. I wouldn’t call it bragging, just celebrating.
Kestryl: Well, as we’ve said before… there is always something to celebrate.
We can’t really speak to the challenges that come with turning a monogamous relationship poly (or turning a poly relationship monogamous, for that matter) because we’ve poly since we hooked up at that drag show over 7 years ago now. What poly has looked like for us has ebbed and flowed, depending on each of our respective time, interest, energy, and available hotties. Our own negotiations and boundaries have shifted over time as well.
Of course, there are as many different ways to be poly as there are poly identified folks. For us, polyamory works because we think it’s unrealistic to expect one other person to fulfill everything we could ever want from a relationship. We tend to each have fliratations, hookups, flings, or relationships with other people, but we have never pursued triads or shared lovers. At this point, we’re each involved with someone long-distance—Kestryl has a European girlfriend, and Sassafras is smitten with hir butchfriend on the West Coast. In some ways, our additional realtionships being with people in other cities makes poly easier, though in other ways it adds complications that don’t come up with a local paramour.
Sassafras: You really love that word.
Kestryl: What, paramour?
Kestryl: It’s a good word!
Sassafras: It makes me think of “paranormal,” and that that makes it sound like I’m dating a vampire.
Kestryl: Or an alien!
Sassafras: Right, which ze’s not. Hence: dumb word.
A lot of our tips for a poly relationship are things that we’ve already blogged about, that apply to any relationship: keep it cute, celebrate your lovers, and find ways to stay connected regardless of distance (ask Kestryl about hir international texting plan) and communicate, communicate, communicate. As you might have noticed, communication is very important. If you think it takes a lot of processing to have a healthy mamogomous relationship, fasten your seatbelt because a healthy poly relationship requires exponentially more–but in our opinion, the benefits are worth it.
Kestryl: I don’t know that it actually requires more communication.
Sassafras: I think it does.
Kestryl: But, if you think about it…In a monogamous relationship, after going out, you spend hours processing ‘did you flirt with that girl at the bar!?’ Whereas, in a poly relationship, you spend hours processing ‘so, what can I do with that girl I flirted with at the bar??’ It’s a queer relationship, the processing is a given.
Sassafras: That makes sense, I guess. We queers do like our processing in general.
Of course (before you even get to processing what you can do with the girl you flirted with at the bar), for a poly relationship to really work, it’s vital that you start with a negotiation of where your basic boundaires are: when it’s ok to flirt, when it’s ok to get a number, when it’s ok to make out , when it’s ok to go on a date, etc. We have a word document that outlines what our basic boundaires are. It’s a word doc and not a pdf, because it’s a living document that we revisit every six months and alter to fit what makes sense to both of us in our relationship, and add anything that we’ve come up with to address situations that we had not previously anticipated. It’s a short document, just about a page long– easy to remember, and not overwhelming to update, but it covers just about everything that is important for our boundaries.
Of course, no matter how thorough you are when you initially negotiate your poly relationship, you will somewhere down the line run into something that you had not anticipated. Part of successful communication is being able to work together to negotiate how the unanticipated situation fits in to your existing negotiations. You might have different boundaries and negotiations for what happens locally vs what happens when you’re traveling, what forms of involvment you are available for, etc. Solid communication about boundaries and expectations is important for everyone–not just you and your partner(s)–but also anyone else you may be involved with. A commitment to good communication helps everyone to know where they stand.
Kestryl: Remember that one girl I dated who thought poly was a waiting list?
Sassafras: She was really mad that I ‘jumped in line.’
Kestryl: She didn’t understand that it wasn’t a line, that’s not the point.
Sassafras: I know, that was unfortunate.
Kestryl: My own communication could have been better then, I suppose I learned that from her.
This brings us to another aspect of poly relationships: you will make mistakes. Feelings will get hurt–not necessarily any more than they would in any other relationship, and not in a way that a commitment to solid communication can’t mitigate, BUT: jealousy will happen, and sometimes feelings will get stepped on. In order to minimize the possibility for hurt feelings, we try to be particularly attentive in our negotiation to the logistics of adding an additional relationship into one of our lives, in terms of costs in time and energy, as well as discussing what we want from additional involvements, how jealousy impacts us, and how we each best deal with the green eyed monster.
Any of these aspects of poly relationships that weve touched on–negotiations, boundaries, jealousy–could (and possibly should) merit blog posts all their own, as could a more in-depth discussion on communication strategies particular to poly relationships. We will be revisting all these topics in future columns, and we’re happy to consider any specific questions from you, our readers, as well!