I was asked by a journalist yesterday what one thing I would tell someone who was considering exploring polyamory. In the blur of the interview I’m not entirely sure what I said, so I thought about it a lot afterwards… and started a list.
Here it is.
12 things I’d have liked to understand at the start of my polyamory journey:
- Forget everything that stories, movies, songs and other mainstream narratives tell you about love and relationships. There are no scripts for this.
- Most importantly, forget the social script that equates jealousy with love – reject the idea that if you REALLY love someone then you’ll want to possess them, and make them all yours. Embrace fully the knowledge that if you REALLY love someone, you want them to be free to live, love and be happy. People cannot be owned. Let go of your possessiveness.
- Radical honestly starts with your self. Be ready to sit with your feelings, express your needs, assert your boundaries and find acceptance for all of these in other people – particularly your partners (and their partners).
- You may find you experience the value of meta relationships with your partner’s partners – the very people the script is telling you to be jealous and fearful of. The chances are your mutual love won’t be your only common ground and there can be great joy in discovering the things you share and in offering support to one another.
- Priorities are not hierarchies. Whilst love is infinite, time is not – and scheduling can be tricky. Sometimes you may choose to prioritise your own needs/feelings or the needs/feelings of one partner over the needs/feelings of another. Be mindful of boundaries and communicate, lots – you can work this out together.
- You will probably have to process complex and different emotions and needs simultaneously. It’s entirely possible to be experiencing a painful break up at the same time as feeling the new rush of falling in love, perhaps also at the same time as supporting an established partner with a practical or personal challenge. You’re going to get better at emotional multi-tasking.
- Be prepared for your friends, family or anyone else you tell about your relationships to question and challenge you and your choices. They may assume that you are having wild sex orgies – and whether you are or not, people will shame you for your sex positivity. They may be angry or upset by your choices. When things don’t go well in your relationships they may assume that the problem is polyamory, so it’s useful to find some polyamorous friends or networks to lean on. (If you’ve no idea where to find them try googling ‘polyamory’, or facebook searches, or networking platforms like ‘meetup’).
- Support and connection can take many forms and come from many places. Not relying on just one person to live with you, to be present and to provide your primary source of support means you can access different ways of meeting your needs. Long distance relationships can thrive with text, internet and communications that mean those partners can be part of your everyday life. And different people – whether partners, metas, or wider polyamorous networks – bring valuable different experiences, perspectives and skill sets when you’re facing challenges. (Thanks to my partners for your help with this blog!)
- Love is not a zero sum. It magnifies. When you fall in love with more than one person, you’ll find you don’t compare and choose. You recognise all the things you love about them, reflected and multiplied by the love you feel for someone else. The more you love, the more you CAN love. And as you open up to let different loves into your life, you may also find new ways to see, know, accept and love yourself.
- Love is beautiful and magical. And it is NOT all you need. Successful relationships are built on shared wants, needs, values – the circumstances of the individuals involved matter. Without following those mainstream social scripts, you’ll need to find your own ways of exploring and expressing your ongoing commitment to each relationship.
- You might be on a date and not realise it. Or think you’re on a date and find an amazing new friendship. When you’ve thrown off the script that romantic or sexual relationships are intrinsically more important and significant than platonic relationships, the possibilities of authentic connection are much wider.
- Polyamorous relationships don’t proceed in the same standard direction that you come to expect in monogamy, nor at the same pace. With honesty, consent and openness, relationships can find their own shape. The most authentic and lasting connections may shift and evolve in ways you don’t expect at all. The best relationship advice anyone ever gave me is patience.
© JENNY WILSON and LOVEOFFSCRIPT.CO.UK, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JENNY WILSON and LOVEOFFSCRIPT.CO.UK with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.