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One of the frustrations of being part of the poly community is the number of folks who are already partnered and who want to try polyamory for the first time, but who approach the notion of opening their relationship in a way that makes experienced poly folks cringe. Often, it seems that these folks expect concessions from any person who wants to join their relationship that they would never have expected, or been willing to accept, from one another when they first met.

Now, to some extent that's natural. There's a learning curve to any relationship style, and we live in a society that deluges us with so many fairy-tale images of how relationships are "supposed" to go that the idea of stepping outside of those normal social paradigms can leave one feeling hesitant and a bit overwhelmed. Folks who already have a relationship want to try to make sure they don't damage that relationship as they explore polyamory, but often in doing so they inadvertently set up their newfound poly relationships to fail.

If typical monogamous relationships were approached the way some folks approach poly, it might look something like this:

New poly couple
We have an amazing relationship and we want to make sure that nothing comes between us. So we only date as a couple. We're looking for a bisexual partner who will date both of us. Since I'm a guy and my partner is a woman, as long as you're bisexual that shouldn't be a problem, right?

Monogamous equivalent
My friend Bill and I have been friends since high school. We have an awesome friendship, and we want to make sure that nobody gets between us. If you want to have sex with me, you have to have sex with Bill, too. Since I'm a guy and Bill is a guy, as long as you're a heterosexual woman you won't mind having sex with both of us, right?

New poly couple
We have a veto relationship. If someone tries to damage or undermine our relationship, we can use our veto to make sure we stay strong. This is important to make sure that new people respect our relationship.

Monogamous equivalent
My mom gets the final say over any of my girlfriends. If you try to undermine our family, my mom can tell me to dump you and I'll do it. If you object to that idea, it means you don't respect my mom. I would never date anyone who doesn't respect my mom.

New poly couple
My existing relationship is always Primary. It will always take precedence over any secondary. If you date me, you have to agree to be a secondary relationship. That doesn't mean you're not important; it just means that my partner always comes before you.

Monogamous equivalent
I take my job very seriously. If you want to be in a relationship with me, you will always take a back seat to my work. It's not that you're not important; it's just that my career is more important than you are.

New poly couple
Our families don't know that we're poly. They want us to be monogamous. It would kill them if they found out. All our friends are monogamous too. So if you date one of us, you have to be in the closet.

Monogamous equivalent
My family is Amish. All my friends are Amish. I'm not Amish, but I don't want any of my friends or family to find out. If you date me, you will never be allowed to meet my family (or if you do, I won't tell them who you are). You will never be allowed to meet any of my friends (or if you do, I won't tell them who you are). I will not acknowledge my relationship with you. You will not be allowed to talk about me to any of your friends.

New poly couple
I am looking for a new sister-wife for a polyfidelitous family. My sister-wives must all be faithful to me. We will all be part of a close, nurturing family.

Monogamous equivalent
I am looking for a new Best Friend. If you become one of my Best Friends, you will not be allowed to have any other friends. You will be expected to be emotionally close to all my other Best Friends, though.

New poly couple
We want to make sure that we avoid jealousy when we explore poly. So we will only do things as a couple. Any sex or any activity that we do with a new person will only be done with all of us together.

Monogamous equivalent
My friend Bill and I have been buddies for a long time. I don't want Bill to get jealous if I have a new girlfriend, so whenever we go on dates, Bill will come along with us. If I take you out to the movies, Bill will be there too. The only way that you and I can spend time together is if Bill comes along.

New poly couple
We are looking for a third to move in with us and who will want to be part of our family and share a life with us. Our third will get to share in all the love that we have, and will be a part of our family in a committed relationship.

Monogamous equivalent
I know we've never been on a date, but I'm really looking for a husband, not a boyfriend. Let's go out for coffee. If we click, you can move in with me tomorrow and we'll get married on Tuesday. I already have the gown, and I've picked out the perfect flower arrangement. I have the marriage contract filled out in my top desk drawer at home. You just need to sign it and notarize it. What do you say?

New poly couple
We want to make sure that our relationship stays secure and we don't feel threatened when we explore polyamory, so we sat down with each other and we worked out a list of rules about how we will do polyamory. Here's a contract that spells out all our relationship agreements.

Monogamous equivalent
I have been thinking about it for months, and when I have a girlfriend, I've decided exactly how I want it to be. So I sat down and wrote on a piece of paper just exactly how our relationship will go. Here's a list of all the dates we will have and the things we'll do on those dates. For your convenience, I've made up a schedule that has all the times and places for our dates. After we're finished with the dating phase, here's a list of all the things we'll do once we've decided to commit to each other. Look, I made a copy for you!



( 73 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 5th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
Teehee! I like these!
Feb. 5th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
Dude. What vitamins are you taking lately? I SO want some.
Feb. 5th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
And this is why you're on my "crushes" list on Facebook.
Feb. 6th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 5th, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
You don't. Why would you want to deny yourself the opportunity to feel new things and examine those emotions for their hidden triggers to make reasoned decisions about who you want to be in life, rather than being a meat bag of reactionary conditioned responses that is afraid of experiencing difficult emotions because it might difficulty, pain, work, and growth to gain new insights?
(Deleted comment)
Heh. - zaiah - Feb. 5th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - siriciryon - Feb. 7th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaiah - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: jealousy - margareta87 - Feb. 5th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: jealousy - margareta87 - Feb. 5th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: jealousy - tacit - Feb. 5th, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: jealousy - mellyjc - Feb. 8th, 2012 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashbet - Feb. 6th, 2012 11:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - badfae - Feb. 8th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 5th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant! Thank you!
Feb. 5th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
What's sad is I know people who have done some of those monogamous equivalents. Which probably just shows something about human nature.
Feb. 5th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
My career is incredibly important to me. While I wouldn't go so far as to say at the outset that it will always be more important than any relationship--one never knows what life will throw at you--I think that a relationship that required me to make more than trivial sacrifices in my career would have a very hard time persisting.
(no subject) - ab3nd - Feb. 6th, 2012 04:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - silverrose - Feb. 6th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zellion - Feb. 6th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - silverrose - Feb. 6th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 6th, 2012 02:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xaotica - Feb. 7th, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 5th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU. I cannot you're this loud enough! when I was exploring poly, I got so sick of her (why did it always seen to be her? Husband decided to explore anne age decided she'd go along or lose him? Hello) explaining ” the rules” that it would take any fun out of what should have been a flirty beginning. Such logic!
Feb. 5th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
*cannot TYPE this loud enough..
Feb. 6th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
As a poly person in a relationship with a chillaxed mono (he knows, he's cool), this is reassuring. I have yet to pursue a second relationship, and occasionally worry about falling into a "new poly" trap. Or him assuming something, and me accidentally bulldozing through it. This list seems like a lot of common ones, and it all seems like he's clear on these fronts.

Hoo. Theoretical crisis averted!
Feb. 6th, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
Oh sweet validation. Franklin, the things that come out of your mind bring me such joy and more brain fodder. Thank you for that.
Feb. 6th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
This is a good post and you should feel good about it.
Feb. 6th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
This. Is. AWESOME!
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 6th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
This would be better explained as "I have a cat."

"If you want a relationship, my cat has to like you."

"My cat has veto power."

"Love me, love my cat. Allergic? Sorry, I have a cat."

"I'm not getting rid of my cat so you can move in."

"My landlord doesn't know I have a cat, so you have to keep quiet about it. And brush off any stray fur when you leave so he doesn't know."

"You can't have your own cat - my cat will sense it and be pissed off. Most likely in your shoes. Or worse, mine."

"When I take my cat to cat shows, you get to come with us! Won't that be fun!"

"I'm looking for someone to help me take care of my cat."

"My rules with my cat are pretty important. I'm sure that you can follow them all. Here, I've written them down. Oh, and vet times are on there."

"Did I mention I have a cat?"

Edited at 2012-02-06 02:23 am (UTC)
Feb. 6th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
(no subject) - devianttouch - Feb. 6th, 2012 07:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashbet - Feb. 6th, 2012 11:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asarin - Feb. 6th, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kindredsgirl - Feb. 7th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mouser - Feb. 7th, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kindredsgirl - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mouser - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kindredsgirl - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 7th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 6th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
Of course they do. I reckon they're doing one of the things on the list and don't cotton to the idea that it might keep people away?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 6th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashbet - Feb. 7th, 2012 05:03 am (UTC) - Expand
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( 73 comments — Leave a comment )