I can’t say I have a ton of experience with polyamory but the experience I do have, I’m starting to see the best ways how poly could work and some of the ways in which it doesn’t. I have been in two quads and some dating on the side. If you’re married and decide to open up to poly, the most important thing is BOTH of you have to want it. Even more so than communication. It absolutely cannot be one going along with the other or any sense of hesitancy in either partner. Relationships are difficult enough to manage without introducing more lovers. Every piece of literature, paper or electronic, advises that your “primary” relationship be strong and have excellent communication. Part of that communication is admitting whether you want it or not.
I used to think that Red and I had great communication because we would spend hours talking. We talked about religion, politics, kids, people, family, friends, clothes, music, movies…everything. Everything BUT our emotions or our relationship. When it came to the hard stuff or if I had questions or doubts about us or him, he would get angry and mean. So I stopped asking and we would get along great. When I started approaching the subject of opening our marriage, either polyamory or swinging, he didn’t communicate that he didn’t want it, instead he said it sounded like fun.
The entire hierarchy issue is debatable. I can see the desire and even the need for a spouse to be primary when having additional lovers. But having been secondary as well, it sucks knowing you’re second place. Although love knows no hierarchy, time and treatment of your lovers will certainly convey the message loud and clear. If you’re dating outside of your marriage, what would be the proper rules to have in place? Should you have to ask or beg for time to go on dates? Asking for permission makes you feel like a teenager again asking your parents if you can go out on Saturday night. There is a big difference in asking “May I…?” and “I was thinking of….or planning on..”. It’s a delicate, fine line. Especially when there are children involved who need to be taken care of.
Before Master and Kitty came into our lives, it was easiest for me to get away and leave Red home when he was studying or wanted to stay up and have some alone time, perhaps with video games or some shows he wanted to catch up on. It was a struggle otherwise. Once Master and Kitty joined us, she would come up with ways in which we could swap and spend time together and it was much easier because Red and Kitty had developed feelings for each other as well and it was an even swap. With the couple before, he didn’t have feelings for her and swapping was difficult, at best. And other times a minor disaster.
Reading other experiences, I’ve come to think that it might be a little more difficult but being single-ish and dating multiple poly people would be most ideal. Having your own independent place and your lovers come to spend time with you, stay the night, go on dates, etc. makes the most sense to me. Whether your lovers are married or dating wouldn’t matter so much as long as the time spent fulfills both partners and most importantly, you don’t necessarily answer to anyone. You’re open and honest about your dates and activities, as poly would dictate, but there’s no primary partner to ask or argue with.
On the other end of the spectrum, forming triads and quads, in my mind, a near impossibility. Master and I were discussing the metamour issue the other night and he made a good point. It’s almost more important for the metamours to have an even stronger relationship and bond than the lovers. Lovers will have a special bond because of the love and sex but metamours….well, they will most likely end up just being friends and if you don’t have a strong friendship, the jealousies and other crap will tear down any chance of a fully functional triad or quad.
I thought because I had known, loved and got along with Red for 16 years, I could figure out how to function and even be friends with Kitty. And same with Master and Red. These were our spouses and the metamours were just like them, why couldn’t we find a way to make this work? I feel, at the end of the day, Red and Kitty just don’t have the skills to make this kind of relationship work. Neither of them have great people skills. And communication? Yea right. When we first moved into the poly house and it was a spouse night, Kitty wanted a shower in her bathroom. Red’s bathroom. I was in their room and she felt I had taken “possession” of the room already. Master spoke to me about it, I went up to her and tried to talk to her. I told her all she had to do was say something. When she wouldn’t even look me in the face or answer me and all but ignored the fact I was right in front of her, I knew then this was never going to work. If she couldn’t communicate about something as simple as a shower, what about the bigger issues? After some other issues came up, I pleaded with both Red and Kitty to have roundtables to work everything out and both ignored my advances. So why should they be shocked when everything went to hell in hand basket within weeks?
Not to mention the idealism behind all living together! It sounds great. Dividing expenses, chores, having everyone pitch in and contribute to the functionality and happiness of the house. Another near impossibility! Maybe if you are all hippies…
Lastly, the skills and desire to work through the jealousies and insecurities that poly or any sort of non-monogamy bring about it crucial. We all have insecurities. We all experience jealousy. But we all don’t have the ability to recognize those issues for what they are when they come. And to work thru them. You absolutely cannot come out guns-a-blazing and looking for fights when you’re upset for whatever reason. All the person sees and hears at that point is your emotion and usually the natural reaction to that is to fight back. And the real issue at hand? Goes completely neglected and unnoticed because of all the noise and crap surrounding what you’re actually upset about. Know yourself well enough to walk away, think about and dissect what’s wrong and when you can come back reasonable and able to have a quiet discussion outlining your feelings, then approach it. I’m not saying that’s easy or even doable every time, but it’s a good habit. And critical really to building any sort of lasting relationship.
As small of a community that poly really is….and it is growing, I truly think there is an even much smaller percentage of people who can really make this work! And make it work long term.