For those close friends who know me well, you warmly embrace what I am: comfortable with my lifestyles. Thank you! You accept my preference to not be pigeon-holed into some of the mainstream social groups and behavior. Thank you again. As several of you have requested, I am posting some of the principles or guidelines that us open-lifers and those poly-lifers go to great lengths to adhere and encourage. For those who do not know me or are getting to know me, I want to preface these principles first.
I might sometimes seem self-centered to strangers, maybe unintentionally arrogant on certain subjects, but my close friends know me very differently. Some have fondly diagnosed me with delusions of grandeur! Chuckling I say, guilty as charged! I do make serious efforts to treat anyone with respect no matter our possible differences. And even though I am deeply convicted about my lifestyles, I hope my words are understood with a mix of humility as well. In that spirit I want to share this guideline.
As a progressing “student” in my lifestyles, I always have things about myself to refine and learn. And even though at the moment I am not involved in the polyamorous lifestyle (just the open-lifestyle) as of this post, as I read over this guideline, I found it actually crosses-over on some levels into any sort of relationship! I realized that the underlying theory to the open, polyamorous, and BDSM lifestyles are on a higher broader level two-parts: 1) philanthropy; a mindset and behavior that sometimes appears on the endangered species list. I mean, when would this planet EVER have too much goodwill? And 2) compersion — a) the feeling of joy/pleasure one has experiencing another’s joy/pleasure, such as in witnessing a toddler’s joy and feeling joy in response. b) The feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted to jealousy. This includes ALL acts of engagement with others, not just one.
One gross misconception that must be dispelled by real veterans of the open-lifestyle or polyamorous lifestyle is that the activities are a daily, weekly free-for-all. This could not be further from the truth. One of the most highest principles for veteran poly or open lifers, as well as BDSM lifestyles, is ethical integrity, or more basic: mutual respect as outlined below. Critical to this one principle is proactive articulated honest communication. And underlining every aspect of the lifestyle is a constant construction in non-judgemental forgiving environments which nurture more exploration, honesty, and proactive communication.
What the lifestyles are NOT are a reckless abandonment of emotional or physical responsibility to self or your partner(s). Unfortunately, there are sometimes newcomers who meet open or poly lifers who are in reality novices or dabblers, then are niavely accepted by the general (vanilla) public as representative of the lifestyle as a whole, and later witness those same dabblers breakup, sometimes in a nasty way. This too is not an accurate representation or opinion of experienced veterans of the lifestyle. It is worth noting that in every aspect of a truly FREE society, there will always be cases of irresponsible excess. Sometimes those very infrequent occurrences are merely human imperfection and corrections are made to avoid harmful behavior. In repeated cases it could be deemed borderline or developing borderline addiction, or full-blown addiction from a personality (soul?) with inner conflicts in need of professional treatment or therapy.
As one of the guidelines below points out, polyamory (or the open-lifestyle) is not the problem. It is HOW the lifestyle, self and others are managed and treated. Ownership of feelings, behavior, words, are very much encouraged and required. Whether our emotions, actions, or words are right or wrong gets sorted out afterwards in a civil way. In all cases, when you start open dialogue with your partner or spouse about an attraction to someone, you verbalize it BEFORE any circumstances become inappropriate. This demonstrates a healthy level of respect to anyone you hold dear or love. Simple.
Whether you subscribe to either lifestyle or not, this wonderful guideline has something valuable to offer anyone who wants more convex and/or concave fulfillment in their relationships; more importantly, want better control of themselves and to not be victimized or in fear of being victimized. A concept that deserves executing as perfectly as possible is internalizing what you yourself create or harm, but not internalizing what others harm. Selective reciprocation. Go back and reread those two sentences again. Is the “within manages the without” lightbulb switching on? All easier said than done I realize, but completely achievable if pursued diligently. I’ve often heard about the philosophy of Laws of Attraction which partly apply here. However, I feel that black-holes in space (both outer space AND inner space or anatomical space) exist and you must guard against them; not allowing them to suck-up all your “light”. In other words, as you achieve more attraction, you will not only attract beautiful energies but negative ones as well. This is why it is important to perfect your internalization gate. Does that make sense? As you read this guideline – of which I regurgitated into my own words – all of you can find at least one applicable point to your own relationships…past, present, or future. Also, please be sure to check the Further Exploration resources at the bottom; well worth your time!
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Don’t coerce your relationships into a predefined shape; let them be what they are. All people are complex and none are exactly the same, especially their individual needs and desires. Treat your relationships respectfully for what and who they are.
Don’t keep score. Fairness operates on a global level, not a local level. This planet and its inhabitants are in a perpetual state of flux. As long as “support” is available to everyone concerned when they need it, it is not a question of keeping score.
Do understand that your needs have nothing directly to do with your partner’s other partner. Achieving parity with everyone is not happiness. Being happy and fulfilled is not a competition! Simply ask yourself “Am I getting what I need?” not what everyone else is getting like a 3-year-old demands.
Do ask for what you need. No one is a perfect psychic or mind-reader. Just because someone loves you does not automatically make them a mind-reader to your needs and desires. Communicate them openly whether you feel they are childish or not.
Don’t let problems sit. This can be tricky, but don’t let small issues reach unmanageable proportions. Have or develop the tools to communicate maturely your emotions and needs honestly. Make it a habit!
Don’t assume that polyamory will solve problems in your relationship. Polyamory is a vitamin, not a cure. Bringing someone else intimately into an already unstable relationship is likely going to exacerbate the problems. It is not fair to that 3rd person or couple. Polyamory can definitely strengthen and enhance an already stable relationship, but it will always expose the flaws as well.
Do pay attention to the state of a prospective partner’s existing relationships. Entering into polyamory is not an amnesia pill; a prospective partner or couple cannot runaway from their own problems expecting them to disappear. Do assess the stability and growth of that prospective partner or couple and know well your possible emotional risks.
Don’t take sides. On occasions your partners will encounter disagreements; it is inevitable. You cannot always be Anne Landers. People must sometimes work out their own problems in their own time and way. Stay neutral but if your opinion is asked for be sensitive to everyone.
Do strive to be flexible. Resource management. Many problems in polyamorous relationships stem from resource management: one person cannot possibly be in two places at the same time. Successful growing poly-relationships are a reflection of creativity and flexibility by all concerned.
Don’t assume the problem is polyamory. Here’s an analogy: You have prepared this incredible gourmet meal in your beautiful gourmet kitchen with top-of-the-line gourmet cookware. When it is served something does not taste right at all. Do you tear down your entire kitchen? Do you throw out every piece of your fine cookware? No, of course not. Problems are often not the result of the cookware, or the kitchen, or even the home. Break the issues down into manageable units and find its roots before making assumptions.
Do pay attention to the way you relate to your partner’s partners. Always remember that your partner’s partner(s) are not a non-entity. They are a human being with equal feelings, needs and desires as well. Also, even though you may not care for them in the same way your partner does, they are by extension your relationship too. This person is someone significant to someone you love. Make it easier on yourself, your partner, and everyone else concerned and not tumultuous. Be in a supportive role for the partner you love so much, not a destructive role.
Don’t make assumptions about your relationship with your partner’s other partners. Some might automatically think that when another is interested in a sexual relationship with your partner, they want to drive a wedge between the two of you. Or maybe that they are automatically interested in both of you. This sort of thinking is a minefield! Statistically it is rare enough for two couples to all get along, and almost as rare for three in a triad. The complex dynamics involved must have the freedom and time to evolve into whatever they will. Your partner’s other partners are not going to follow the same path every time. Let them be.
Do take responsibility for your actions. Even as unpleasant as this obvious rule may be, it is universally true, even outside the polyamorous relationship. Whether we like it or not, our behavior can sometimes have unintended consequences. Unintended or not, they are our actions and must be owned as such. Whether we are the victim or the instigator, our actions show our control…healthy or unhealthy, intended or unintended.
Don’t assume polyamory makes you more enlightened. For that matter, don’t assume that monogamy makes you better either! Your relationship model doesn’t make you any better a person than anyone else’s. Treat everyone and their relationship as you would want them to treat yours. Just because you might deal with more numerous complex dynamics, does not make you a superior human being. In fact, sometimes you could be a masochistic fool!
Don’t make assumptions about your partner’s other relationships. Pretending to be a know-it-all about things you don’t fully understand is being an arrogant, perhaps insecure fool. During the initial rush and infatuation phase of a new relationship, it might be easy to prematurely conclude what direction your partner might take, or what your partner will or will not experience. “They must be better than I am in bed” or “They are trying to replace me” or “They have more fun together than we do” are all knee-jerk imaginations! Be patient and realistic. Stay informed and in the loop of what your partner is experiencing without interrogating. Respectfully present any concerns you have before they become serious problems.
And on that note…
Don’t vilify, demonize, or build up your partner’s other partners. Your partner’s partner is not (or should not be) your enemy, nor a demon, nor god or goddess. Your partner’s partner is just as human as anyone else, with flaws and quirks like everyone else. Try to see them in the same light as your partner does, not for how you might feel they threaten you. Again, being objectively supportive is more conducive to happiness for everyone concerned, including you.
Don’t look to your relationships to offer you validation. Instead, consider how your own gifts, your own personality, and your own actions can benefit the whole. Seeking validation in things and persons outside of yourself will only prepare you for a lack of self-identity and loss of your own unique offerings. The former is empowering; the latter is dis-empowering.
This leads nicely into the next point…
Don’t seek to give your partner happiness at the expense of your own. Doing this only leads to codependency. A polyamorous relationship must serve the needs of everyone involved. It is a myth to think you can make someone else completely happy, or someone else can make you completely happy. Others should not drain but compliment and enhance who you are.
Do know your limits, your needs, and the things that bring you happiness. On this point two things are important: 1) understand you and know yourself honestly. 2) Articulate clearly what it is you need and want. Examine yourself closely; are you secretly expecting things you are not verbalizing? Are you secretly pushing your relationship in a direction that seems unnatural? Are your expectations realistic for you, your partner, and everyone concerned?
Don’t be afraid of change. Like it or not, relationships evolve over time. They are living, breathing, dynamic, changing entities like everything else in this world. Healthy relationships do not remain stagnate. They morph into ways that should suit those involved. Be willing to commit to change in ways that include partners as life brings those positive as well as adverse changes.
Do know what place you have to offer someone. When bringing a new partner into a long-term stable enjoyable relationship, it is easy for that person to feel intimidated. Be sure to know exactly what the two of you can and cannot offer while making the experience a safe secure place. Free honest communication about what you are able to give is the first step in a happy memorable experience.
For Further Exploration:
Here are three books I found from PolyMatchmaker.com along with their reviews of the books. I own The Ethical Slut and have read it several times with increased appreciation. I definitely recommend it or their latest republished version. Australian author, columnist Samantha Brett has a fantastic article on the lifestyle that is an exceptional read: Ask Sam — The Sydney Morning Herald. Highly recommended! Finally, there are a host of organizations and social groups locally, likely in or near major metropolitan areas. Simply search open-relationships or poly-relationships.
One of the many strengths of this book for many readers is its very direct, step-by-step explanations of (for example) negotiating types of sexual behavior. There’s also some very interesting material about jealousy, insecurity, and some interesting thoughts about where those feelings come from.
A new reprint of the controversial 1974 book that so influentially challenged the old paradigm of “closed” relationships. The O’Neills inspired a whole generation to rethink the previous assumptions about what marriages ought to look like, attacking the myths of jealousy, ownership, control, imbalance, and a host of other conventional beliefs about marriage. They offered a new way of thinking about relationships that remains as fresh and valid today as it was nearly three decades ago.
In this book, authors Lipton and Barash take a look at mating patterns throughout the animal kingdom (though they seem to spend more time on behavior in birds than on other animals). The conclusions they draw can be anticipated from the title — that monogamy is not natural, at least based on biological, physiological, anthropological, and other evidence, and in fact is not as widely practiced as once thought. However, this is not to say, as some reviewers seem to think, that they believe that monogamy is thereby unnatural. In fact, in one place they say, “…even if human beings were more rigidly controlled by their biology, it would be absurd to claim that monogamy is unnatural or abnormal, especially since it was doubtless the way most people lived…” And later on, they affirm that “human inclinations may be able to fit whatever matrimonial pattern happens to exist in the society they happen to experience.” But monogamy does go against the grain of human nature, according to the authors, and so you have to work at it.
(This review offered kindly from O.M. Grey at Caught In The Cogs) Sex at Dawn takes the reader through a historical and anthropological journey of human sexuality, exploring why we feel the way we feel and how society and religions force us to go against our most basic instincts. The authors show readers a different way to live and offer what is quite possibly the recipe for long-lasting, happy, fulfilling relationships. As a biological case for non-monogamy that simply cannot be argued, this book should be required reading for every adult in a relationship.
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