Observations and Tips From a Poly Newbie
Observations and Tips From a Poly Newbie
I recently joined the polyamorous community. It was by complete accident. My partner and I broke up, but I wasn’t quite ready for anything serious. While dating casually, I had a few men and women ask for more commitment.
I told them the truth: I wasn’t capable of giving them what they wanted. I was still emotionally exhausted from my last relationship, and the thought of dating someone seriously and monogamously brought back an overwhelming and all-consuming anxiety.
Then, at Fascination, my favorite queer event in Boston, I was introduced to another man who’s also bisexual. He, however, is polyamorous, living with both his wife and girlfriend, and he attended Fascination with a man he’s dating.
I wanted to ask him a million questions, and told him I would love to interview him down the line. Knowing this wasn’t the appropriate atmosphere to get into everything, I asked him if I could bother him with one question. He smiled and nodded.
“Are you happy?” I asked.
He paused, and then resolute in his answer replied, “Yeah, I am.”
The next week he invited me over for dinner to get to know him and his partners, and immediately, I connected with them. After a party or two later, he asked me, if we could go on a real date, just the two of us. Excited, I replied, “Yes.”
One date led to two. And two led to a few more. I haven't been dating him long. I’d say a little under a month, but I like him, and he likes me. Because he’s seriously dating (and married) to other partners, I didn’t initially worry about “where this is going,” and whether or not I’d be able to give him everything he needs. This allowed me to relax and get to know him without fearing we’re moving too fast.
Quickly, he introduced me to his poly friends, and I was welcomed into their community with open arms. I had never met a more open, honest, and sex-positive community. A dramatic group, undoubtedly, but who doesn't love a little drama?
In my brief time dating a man with a wife, girlfriend, and other scattered partners, I’ve learned a few things about the poly community and about myself.
1. The fear of the unknown is much worse than the truth
I used to struggle with fervid jealousy. My ex was best friends with her exes, and it drove me insane. She, like myself, is naturally flirty, and every time she would talk about a cute guy/girl, I felt insecure and like I was going crazy. It's no surprise that one of my biggest fears of dating someone with multiple partners was jealousy.
Strangely, I haven’t been that jealous. Maybe it’s because I feel like the other people were there before me, and if he started dating someone new more seriously, I’d be upset. I’m not sure; I guess I’ll find out. But as of now, I don’t mind that he has dates with others. Sure, I’m bummed that I can’t see him, but when I actually know what he’s doing, I feel calm.
So much of jealousy comes from a fear that your partner is going to break a commitment to you or that he’s going to lie to you. But when he’s allowed to do these things, he’s not breaking any commitment, and when he tells you everything; he’s not lying. So my jealousy has (relatively) disappeared.
2. It’s not just about the sex
There’s a difference between being polyamorous and being a swinger. Poly people are open to multiple romantic partnerships, and while that can include sexual partners, it doesn’t have to. Swingers have multiple sexual partners, but one romantic partner.
During my brief time in the poly community, I’ve met polyamorous folk who are simply open to the idea that if two people they like happen to come along, they could date them both. However, they typically date one person at a time, simply because they only like one person at any given time. Most of the time, they’re single as fuck — just like the rest of us.
3. I can explore different types of relationships
There are very romantic relationships that aren’t sexual. There are sexual relationships that aren’t serious. There are friends you love and care for deeply, in more than a “just-friend” way but not quite a “dating-partner” way. It's all a long way of saying there are more types of relationships that platonic friend and romantic partner. Being poly allows you to explore these relationships without guilt.
I’m able to cuddle with a friend, without feeling like I’m doing anything wrong. I’m able to meet someone, have that immediate crush, and not need to suppress it. I can explore various connections with other people.
4. Love is infinite
Yes, I’m aware of how corny this sounds. But my love for one person doesn’t take away from my capacity to love someone else. When I was dating my ex, I would purposefully choose not to hang out with certain people — people I could see myself really liking.
At the time, it didn’t really bother me; I felt it was a sacrifice I needed to make. But I realize now, I have the capacity to love more than one person, and I’ve been kidding myself.
5. Time management is everything
If you’re dating multiple people, and want to have friends too, you either need to get a clone or learn how to time manage like a boss. You schedule dates, and you stick to them. You see the people you care for in your life, and they will understand if something comes up with another partner from time to time that you need to cancel last minute.
It’s also important to take time for yourself. When I started dating multiple people, I got so excited. I planned dates nonstop, but soon realized that it’s unsustainable, and I need time alone.
6. Poly people are excellent communicators (Well... in theory)
No lying. No hiding emotions. Everything, and I mean, everything is on the table. These strong communication skills are driven by necessity. You have to be on the same page with your partners in order for everyone to be happy and have their needs met. If you feel like you’re not getting what you need from your partner, or that s/he is spending too much time with another partner, you say something. You also need to analyze where your needs are coming from. Expressing them isn’t enough. You need to find the root and address it head on.
Relationships don’t exist in isolation, and one relationship absolutely affects your relationship with other partners, so your actions not only affect you and your partner, but a circle of interconnected people. On a related note, you need to learn how to compromise (like you do in all relationships) and handle disappointment (like you do in all relationships), but compromise and disappointment is likely to come up more often in polyamory, as they’re more than two people involved.
Poly people understand all this, and are thus open, honest, and clear in their intent and desires. As someone who thrives on emotional vomiting, and has problems keeping things in, this has been the best part of being poly. I get to talk about all my feelings and get to hear about all the feelings of my partners. And let's be honest for a second, what could be better than that?