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The art of being a good poly partner - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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The art of being a good poly partner [Jul. 20th, 2010|04:07 pm]
Zoethe
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Yesterday's entry brought a number of comments about this paragraph:

Poly requires a very strong sense of self, a lot of self-confidence and flexibility, a sense of humor, and a willingness to be honest, forgiving, and understanding. If you don't really like yourself, first and foremost, then your poly relationships are likely to be fraught with drama.

It's one of those remarks that seem obvious to me, but seemed to be a serious revelation to a lot of people. And that surprises me, until I stop to think about it. Because there are many people out there who make the mistake of thinking that relationships will define them, instead of being just a part - though an important part - of their lives.

Relationships are wonderful things, but in order to be successful at them, it's important to have a good sense of self. Without that, it's easy to either lose oneself in the relationship or to become so insecure and demanding that one drives a wedge into the relationship.

Disappearing into the relationship is how people find themselves wondering why their partner treats them like a rug. Even if the partner is by nature a loving person, it's human nature that we get busy and preoccupied and to fall into a pattern of taking unnoticed advantage of the conveniences around us. If a partner lets us treat them in that way, even the best of us will be guilty of ignoring unspoken needs. Turn that partner into someone who is self-centered or strong-willed, and becoming a rug is easy.

Now multiply that by several partners. You can see where that gets ugly.

Likewise, being insecure and demanding is just asking for continual drama. In a monogamous relationship you are not going to always get your own way, or get all the positive reinforcement and attention you want. In a poly relationship? The number of needs and demands - relationship, life, family, personal - on the relationship grows exponentially. If you can't stand not to be the center of attention, or if you are intolerant of schedule changes, or if you always have to be first in everyone's attentions, then you are asking for poly drama and failure.

Poly is not the place to prove that you are the sexiest, most fascinating, most amazing person in the world. Poly is not the place to salve one's pride. Because there are going to be times when partners are busy with the other aspects of their lives and their loves will not be number one. Even for primary partners, there are times when work or children or parents or other demands are taking the other partner's energy and attention. Someone who can't accept that they are still loved, and can't distinguish the difference between a temporary distraction and a serious relationship problem - and can't discuss potential problems in a calm and adult way, because there are times when you have to check in - will find their poly relationships are going to be fraught with crisis and anger, and are likely to find relationships ending without really understanding why.

If you are looking for poly to justify your existence or make you feel good about yourself, then there are times when it's going to let you down and let you down HARD - not because anyone is being mean or intentionally hurtful, but because Life Happens. And if you can't take Life Happening without falling apart, then you will generate poly drama. Which is likely to spiral out of control.
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[User Picture]From: custardfairy
2010-07-20 08:20 pm (UTC)
I would love to say that I figured this out without the bumpy road of drama coming before it, but that would be an outrageous lie.

But aha, for I have at least finally figured it out, and maybe experience is a very efficient and direct teacher.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-20 08:24 pm (UTC)
It's definitely a learning process, and I don't think it ver stops completely.
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[User Picture]From: anagramofbrat
2010-07-20 08:26 pm (UTC)
Here via nounsandverbs. I'm in custardfairy's camp as well, but at least I learned something from my dramastorm! Well said and done, hope you don't mind being crossposted?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-20 08:32 pm (UTC)
Hi! Crossposting is always welcome!
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[User Picture]From: firebirdgrrl
2010-07-20 08:35 pm (UTC)
This is so good. You rock!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-20 08:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: aiela
2010-07-20 08:39 pm (UTC)
Being able to 'check in' in a calm, adult way is a huge key to avoiding poly drama. If a partner fires off an email or a phone call to me saying, "Hey, where've you been, is everything okay?" and I can send back a "Yes, sorry, just swamped this week with XYZ, love you, I'll make time for you this weekend after my deadline." then two things have happened - my partner has let me know that s/he is feeling neglected and that's my clue to try to shoehorn in some time without having a fit because I've been busy and that's just mean and also my partner has been able to express their feelings without me going "Well, DUH, I'm BUSY and you are CLINGY and ARGH."

Communication is frightfully important in poly, and not everyone is good at letting their needs be known in a way that's helpful - going too far into either extreme is not likely to work. But being able to say "Hey, I know you've got Stuff, but I miss you" and then being able to accept that it may be a day or two before time can be cleared for you is a really important poly skill.

(And one I have had to work hard to develop. But as with most things, if it doesn't involve effort, it's rarely as rewarding.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-20 08:43 pm (UTC)
Definitely important, and one of the things where you are quite good. It's both a matter of checking in, and a matter of having enough self-confidence that you assume that the other person is having issues rather than it being about you. It's really great. Love you!!!
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2010-07-20 08:50 pm (UTC)
It seems like that sentence could apply to any sort of relationship. Perhaps it is merely magnified by the quantity of partners, as a monogamous person could only have one drama at a time (well, when restricted to relationships).
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-20 08:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's definitely just magnified by poly. It's good advice for anyone.
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[User Picture]From: jfargo
2010-07-20 08:59 pm (UTC)
Relationships are wonderful things, but in order to be successful at them, it's important to have a good sense of self. Without that, it's easy to either lose oneself in the relationship or to become so insecure and demanding that one drives a wedge into the relationship.

Can you repeat this to me every day for about the next month and a half?

Thanks.

(Not really, but that was meaningful to me right now. Thank you.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 12:46 am (UTC)
It definitely applies to every relationship. And I mean it; if you need to bend my ear, I am here for you, dear.
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[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2010-07-20 09:31 pm (UTC)
I have a naive question. How do you handle privacy among partners? Is it all open, or compartmentalized?

Let's say X is feeling neglected. How do you prevent him or her from feeling like you're not only neglecting him, but not talking about it with other partners? Or is that avoided with a "strong sense of self"?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 01:04 am (UTC)
I guess that my position is that I don't talk smack about my partners to my other partners. If I feel like I'm having a communication problem that I need an opinion on, I go to Ferrett for feedback, but there is no "cross-pollination" among the partners, and I pretty much have a policy of not discussing relationship issues outside the relationship when they are still in flux.

That being said, I am aware that this is not always everyone else's policy, and that sometimes partners feel the need to talk about me with other people - I am not always the easiest person to live with, after all. I'm busy, and I'm pretty self-contained, so when things get busy and stressed I tend to be less available. And some people have a bigger need to talk about things than I have.

This could be a problem if I felt a need to "control my P.R." I've seen friends get really bent out of shape at the idea that a lover or an ex was talking about them in a way that they can't control. That's crazy making, and it's not fair - I don't own my partners and it's wrong for me to want to control them.

My policy instead is one of intentional ignorance. I don't think about the things that people might be saying, and I don't try to track down the people they've talked to if I found out they've been talking about me to someone. I trust that once they work through an issue they will either bring it to me or get past it themselves. I can't change what I don't know about, and finding out before the thought has been really worked out can lead to overreaction.

So I just assume I'm doing fine until I get indications to the contrary.

I hope this answers your question!
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[User Picture]From: lothie
2010-07-20 10:09 pm (UTC)
You're right...that should be obvious...and it's sad that it's not.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 01:16 am (UTC)
I'm so happy to get to state the obvious and have it be regarded as wisdom! ;-)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 01:18 am (UTC)
You're just ignoring me, I can tell! ;-)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 01:20 am (UTC)
If you can both respect each other and know what you're getting into, then the work can be worth it. But oh man, it takes a lot to make it work it!
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[User Picture]From: myrrhdusa
2010-07-21 02:09 am (UTC)
Everyone else has said it already, but this is a wonderful post. As someone new to the poly situation, and learning as I go in a MFM triad, I've learned not to expect absolutes, always be flexible, and listen, and talk, and listen! So far we haven't killed one another!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 11:20 am (UTC)
Very much so!
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[User Picture]From: mplsindygirl
2010-07-21 02:55 am (UTC)
I had the option of a poly relationship when I was married. But I knew our marriage wasn't stable enough, nor was I happy enough, for me to want to bring anyone else into that mess. So, I was monogamous for 15+ years. My ex and I were toxic to be around and lost a number of good friends along the way. I can't imagine how awful trying to add another partner would have been on that person. I'm just glad I didn't.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 11:23 am (UTC)
If the primary relationship is a mess, poly is just going to make it a bigger mess, no doubt. You made a wise choice.
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[User Picture]From: miintikwa
2010-07-21 04:21 am (UTC)
*cheers*

This is all common sense to me, too. But so many people go "ooh, I wanna be poly!" and leap into it without thinking about what it means.

Compromise, communication, and cooperation are all MUSTS with poly relationships. And too many people are all about ME ME ME.

Ego has no place in poly.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-07-21 11:26 am (UTC)
Actually, I think ego has a very important place in poly. You need to have a strong one to deal with the bumps.

Solipsism has no place in poly.
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[User Picture]From: kilbia
2010-07-21 02:44 pm (UTC)
And this, boys and girls, is how I figured out that I'm not cut out to be poly. Now the challenge is to figure out how to live with a man who is.
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[User Picture]From: mariadkins
2010-07-21 03:04 pm (UTC)
good luck. seriously. i mean that.
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