When it comes to polyamory, there can be two extremes: One set of people demand relationship rules to, in theory, make sure relationships go exactly as they want. Other people reject the entire concept of rules, and try to ignore or rebel against them, solely because they’re rules. While there are plenty of people in the middle, the two extremes are certainly the loudest. A problem with both sides, is that they often lump rules and boundaries together. A lot of people feel like rules and boundaries are the same thing, but they most definitely are not.
A lot of people don’t seem to get it.
It hurts that they don’t accept my family. Just because I chose to build my family this way, it doesn’t make us any less of a real family. There are many families like mine around, some are more obvious than others. You can’t always tell by looking at a family whether they have made the same choices that we have.
There’s four of us living together, I’m married to one of them. But we all love each other, nonetheless. Just because I’ve known my husband for many more years than I have the other two, doesn’t mean they’re less important to me in any way.
Hello, fellow bisexual woman! You may be brand new to the idea of a relationship with multiple people, or you may have been polyamorous for years now. Either way, I’m guessing that you’re here because you are interested in dating a couple. Maybe one particular couple has approached you, or you might have your eye on a couple yourself. Or maybe you just like the idea of a triad in the first place. Congratulations, in any case! Triads can be happy, healthy, caring relationships. However, there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for on your way to making a happy, healthy triad. You’ve heard of Unicorns, now you’ll find out what dangers to avoid in order to not become prey.
People like to place blame. It’s one of the ways we try to understand the world and how bad things happen. Because of this, it’s extremely common for the wrong person, event, or thing to take the blame, especially when the real blame could fall on your own actions or the actions of someone you love.
When you have a relationship outside of the cultural norm, some people will blame the relationship, not the actual problem, when issues arise. If a monogamous couple divorces or breaks up, people assume there’s some sort of problem that causes this, such as different opinions on having children, or religion, fighting over many things, or even cheating. No one assumes that monogamy is the issue, even in the case of cheating.
In the stereotypical narration laid out by our culture, there are a lot of assumptions. A heterosexual man will meet a heterosexual woman, they will date, fall in love, get married, have children, and you know their relationship is a success because one of them died instead of getting divorced. This is a life that many people want, and that’s great for them, but there are also many people that it just doesn’t seem right to. These are the dangers in assumptions.
On the one hand, if something is so broadly assumed, you will feel like a complete outcast if you don’t fit that assumption. Whether that means you’re gay, or don’t want children, or want a career in juggling, or really anything that doesn’t fit the mold, it’s something you either have to speak out about and risk bad reactions, or stay quiet on, and live a life you don’t want.
Those are all huge assumptions, though, and here I want to talk about the many, many smaller ones we make day to day. Sometimes these smaller ones will pass by unnoticed, but often times they lay the foundation for one of the bigger ones, and the longer the assumption stays in place, the harder it will fall.
In poly, making a distinction between rules and boundaries is important, because it’s no longer about two people. Two people in a relationship with only each other can make rules with each other all day long as long as they both agree to them. In poly, when you create a rule between two people instead of stating your personal boundaries, the rule also affects any future third party but they didn’t have any say in it.*
Rules are declarations, whether agreed to or not, that you will enforce someone else’s behavior otherwise they will face consequences. Boundaries are clear definitions that you state about what you are comfortable with, and you act on your boundaries, instead of demanding that someone follow your rules. When it comes down to it, you are deciding whether you’re controlling someone else’s autonomy, rather than your own.
I’m a very busy person. I work full-time, at times take classes part-time, run a few Meetup.com groups, and have plenty of friends to fill up any time in between those. Between all of this, I already have a fairly full calendar, and with polyamory – and therefore all my partners – in the mix, it’s easy to feel like I have absolutely no free time.
I am what I would consider a social introvert. I love being around people and socializing, but eventually I need to curl up at home, with a book and some cocoa for a day, with no social obligations. It’s extremely rare that I find someone that I can be around while recharging, so that means that time needs to be spent alone for the most part. I have been lucky enough that my husband and one other partner are both people I can recharge around, but even then I still need my time alone.
Last week, my calendar was absolutely packed. My long-distance partner was visiting. We visited a friend a few hours away for a couple days. I had a team event after work. Another night I ran a meetup. This past week was no different – Two date nights with my husband, and two other dates. One appointment. I’ve also had multiple opportunities to see how things go with a few new (potential?) partners in the past month alone. With all this, I felt that I was about to go insane.
When I began my journey into polyamory, I had to decide what was healthy for me in my relationships. I eventually wrote down my boundaries and limits. These boundaries apply mostly to me and are reminders of healthy practices, but since most of the points are essentially spelling out respect and ethical behavior, I hold my partners to most of the same standards. I revisit it every so often to make sure it matches what I want (you can check the bottom of the page to see the update dates). I’ve posted it here not because it’s the be-all-end-all of poly manifestos, but because it might help others figure out where they want to start, even if it is to do the complete opposite of what I want and need.
As everyone finds out at some point, jealousy is something that will come up in every relationship, polyamorous or not. It’s really easy to try and find an easy way out of it, some way to tame the beast without actually trying to solve the jealousy.
Our culture tells us that jealousy is a healthy thing, that if you love someone, you will be jealous when they even glance at someone they find attractive. Hell, there’s even a popular song that came out recently titled Jealous that glorifies it. Some people even try to stoke jealousy in their partners as some sort of “proof” that they love them. It’s getting out of hand.
Instead of facing jealousy (which is a whole different series of posts…), so many people try to make up rules to try and skirt around the jealousy. One idea that keeps coming back for many new poly couples is making sure things are equal. Tit-for-tat, keeping score, even – whatever you want to call it, it only makes things worse.
You can see my other post on the topic here, directed at “Unicorns”.
Note: This post is not referring to everyone that looks for a triad – in this context, “Unicorn Hunter” is specifically referring to the kind of people that make the really common mistakes below. It’s similar to if someone mocks a new Dom that doesn’t understand consent by calling them Christian Gray. If you want to look for a triad, go for it!
Dear Newly Poly Couple,
Welcome to exploring the world of non-monogamy! It’s exciting, scary, exhilarating, tense, thrilling, and any other word you can think of in the rollercoaster of emotions. You’ve already talked about what you want, laid down groundwork, and set rules to make sure that each of you are comfortable. You may have even had a threesome or two already! Now, you’re all set to find a bisexual woman to join your relationship, love both of you, and be just what you both need. Right?