~What you wanted to know and ask~
This relationship dynamic has been talked about a lot. I mean a lot. I wanted an article that wasn’t about facts, wasn’t about which dynamic is better, wasn’t just all positive and fluffy that made it seem like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I wanted it to be real, raw and from someone who was in it.
This relationship dynamic I have tried and was not for me. I found which dynamic was right for me through trial and error. My partner and I thrive in this Dynamic and that’s where my book will be pre-selling this year.
Meet Mel, she is known in the polyamory community and helps others within it as well. You can find her on RadicalRelationshipcoaching.com, monogamydetox.com and polysingleish.com.
First let’s say what Polyamory relationship is. Polyamory (from Greek πολύ poly, "many, several", and Latin amor, "love") is the practice of or desire for intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy"- wikipedia.org. For me my definition is one person who wants to love more than just one person, but multiple. To be in a relationship where all parties know what is going on and everyone is okay with it. Open, honest and responsible.
Don’t get confused with polyamory vs. open relationships.
“Some poly relationships, called “polyfidelity” relationships, have rules not much different from a traditional monogamous relationship, only there are more than two people involved…nobody in the relationship may take an “outside” lover, just as neither partner in a monogamous relationship is allowed to have an outside lover; if you do, it’s cheating.”- By Cory Scarola
I do not usually like using labels to define things, but it sure makes things easier when trying to describe to others what dynamic you are. That being said every dynamic is unique to each person. Even if two people have the same dynamic, this does not mean they are the exact same. Each have different boundary’s, values, ethics and spin on their dynamic. That is the beautiful part of building, finding, understanding and communicating to each other to essentially get the relationship you both want. Well doesn’t that sound awesome! I sure thought so, that’s why I am in the relationship I have now. Besides, even though you are (insert relationship dynamic here) doesn’t mean it’s forever, doesn’t mean you cant change it, doesn’t mean you can’t make up what you want.
“We change throughout our lives and so do our relationships.”-V.C.
(photo credit: wunderweib.de )
Here are some Questions:
Responses by: Mel Cassidy - Coach, Mentor, Facilitator
1) What kind of relationship dynamic do you have? How would you describe it to others?
It's complex— but not complicated! I do my relationships as a solo polyamorist, meaning that, while I do have a number of meaningful, committed, intimate relationships in my life, I'm not on the 'relationship escalator' with anyone. There isn't any partner that I want to marry or live with or have a child with. Solo Polyamory has a lot of focus on individual autonomy and encourages you to broaden your emotional support network. I'm a bit of an anarchist- sometimes the lines between friends and lovers get deliberately blurry. I have dear friends who are former partners, I have partners who have started out as dear friends. People who I feel a heart resonance with, I don't like to limit what that relationship can be by putting a single 'label' on it. I want to discover, with them, what the most awesome expressions of our connection can be. Right now, I have a lover in Victoria, a new romance just down the road from me, a friend who is a new lover in the city, and several long distance humans who are important in my world.
2) How did you know this relationship dynamic was right for you? And how would others know for themselves? (Ask yourself why you want it? How it looks like to you? Are you ok with your partner being with others?)
Like many people who come to Solo Polyamory, I had been in a mostly monogamous marriage for many years, and even when I tried to date again, I found that the old stories around my 'one true love' just didn't resonate for me anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to polyamory, and to the particular style or flavor that's going to work best for them. I've found that a lot of my clients can look back to their school days and see the seeds of it: talking about have multiple boyfriends when they grow up, or wanting to date multiple people at the same time when in high school. For some people it's tied in with their queerness: if you're attracted to more than one gender then you may not feel totally satisfied with only one partner.
3) How do you go from Monogamy to Polyamory?
Ideally? Slowly, with a lot of patience. In reality, most people move way too fast, without working through a lot of stuff first. You kinda have to go back to the very fundamental basics you've been taught about what being in a relationship means, if you really want polyamory to work for you. When I'm working with my clients, I ask them three questions: What, Why, and Where? What kind of polyamory do you want (because there are many options), why is it that you want it, and where do you see this path hopefully taking you in the next five to ten years. Based on what those answers are, there's different avenues to explore. Some fundamentals are the same though: working on your communication skills, working on your relationship with yourself. Opening up a relationship is one of the scariest things you can do, because any kind of incompatibility will become highlighted and you'll also be confronted with your own blind spots.
4) When bringing this dynamic up with your partner, how would you bring it up? How would you approach the subject all together?
Sooner, rather than later, is always better for everyone involved. If you know that you really want to be able to have a sexually and/or emotionally open life, and have intimate relationships with other people, but that's not something that would work for your partner, then it is going to be better for both of you to figure that out early on.
There's a lot of examples of polyamory in the media these days- not all of them great, but they can help bring up the topic in conversation. Many people have had fantasies of group sex, and a few of those people have also thought about being in relationships with, or dating, multiple people. Before bringing it up with a partner, be really clear about why it's important to you. And be prepared for your partner to freak out, be upset, and say no. Just because you want something, it doesn't mean that your partner has to be comfortable or okay with it.
5) Do you have sex all the time? (or more then usually monogamy relationships)
I mean, overall, I think I have had more sex since I became polyamorous than when I was in a monogamous marriage, but it is not about having sex all the time. I will go through phases where I might be dating a number of people who live near me, and who I have great sexual chemistry with. But then there are phases where I have more long distance relationships, or the chemistry is taking a pause. Polyamory has helped me get out of the idea of sex being something that there's a scarcity of. I don't need to 'horde' sex. I don't need to say 'yes' to everyone who wants to have sex with me— most of the time I am saying no thank you. Polyamory really can help free you up to have more quality connections. People might think it's about quanitity (of sex and of partners) but the healthiest most long-lasting poly relationships are the ones that put the focus on the quality of the connections they are having.
6) A common question people ask is about Jealousy, does it still arise in poly relationships?
NOTE: “Dedeker Winston, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory, writes about jealousy.”
Jealousy can be a great clue for needs you have that are going unmet. That doesn't mean that your partner needs to change what they are doing to meet them, but it could be a sign that you need to sit down and have a conversation about what's been happening. Sometimes the things activating our shadow emotions- jealousy, fear, anger- might actually originate in the past. Old childhood wounds around abandonment, or trauma from early relationship experiences, can pop up when we are exploring open relationships. It's good to be gentle with yourself. If you have deeper stuff going on, and can work with a counsellor or coach to 'name' these things, it can help your partner understand what's happening when you have a reaction of jealousy, and they might be able to change their approach to better support you. However, jealousy can also be part of our subconscious recognising something that is a 'red flag', and it's good to listen to that intuition. Having poly-friendly friends who you aren't in any way involved with, who you can talk this stuff out with, is a really really good idea.
There's a term in polyamory, 'compersion'. It refers to the joy you experience about someone else's joy. Like when you see a cute couple walk down the street and go "awwww!". Not everyone feels compersion though, and not everyone feels it immediately. And that's okay. There's actually three dimensions to it: intellectual, somatic, and erotic. Some people find one dimension easier to access than the other. AND, you might feel compersion and still feel jealousy at the same time! They are not mutually exclusive!
(photo credit: Baller Alert)
7) What is ok and not ok for you in your relationships? (boundary wise)
People tend to confuse and conflate boundaries, rules, and agreements. A boundary is something I set for myself. A rule is something I make that affects other people. An agreement is a mutual accord that I make with other people, it's something all parties consent to.
I do my polyamory in a style called 'Solo Polyamory'. That means I don't have a primary partner. I'm not on the 'relationship escalator' with anyone, I'm not wanting to marry or move in with any of my partners. That doesn't mean that my relationships are without commitment or depth though. I have had some very deep, very involved relationships, all while maintaining a degree of autonomy in my life. So I don't put rules or limitations on others. I talk to my partners about what my own boundaries are, what the deal breakers would be for me.
A big deal breaker for me is withholding sexual health information. That includes who else my partners have been having intimate experiences with, and what forms of protection they are using.
Another is how they treat me and their other partners. I ended a relationship of two years because I witnessed a partner, who had been great towards me, behave awfully towards his other partners. I also don't get involved with people who have a lot of 'drama' going on in their relationships; if drama comes up, I withdraw. Why? Because it is exhausting and draining. Soon the entire relationship becomes about navigating the drama, and that isn't healthy.
I look for people with compatible values. Even if chemistry is great, if you don't have compatible values in a relationship, things will get messy. Different conflict styles, different spiritual views and health perspectives: these things might seem like not a big deal in monogamous relationships, as you can often find a compromise. But when you are dating multiple people who are also dating multiple people, it can get messy quickly!
I encourage as much open and honest communication as possible. Communicating when there's a new crush, talking about plans with other people, and not trying to 'protect' your partner from information you think might hurt them- that's a good start to communicating openly.
8) How do you know if you’re in this dynamic for you and not for other unresolved issues?
Sometimes it's both! We all have things we are working on. Being aware of what they are and why we are doing what we're doing, that's what matters. And that often only comes about from doing some work to understand one's self.
9) Is polyamory not serious? Or is it? (explain)
Relationships are always serious, in that people are being vulnerable with one another, and we owe it to ourselves to be kind to one another as much as possible. I think too often people have learned to treat other human beings flippantly, in all kinds of relationship dynamics (poly or mono) and that's very hurtful in the long run. Casual, less enmeshed relationships are definitely possible in polyamory, but even then that's not an excuse to treat someone unkindly, or without compassion and empathy.
10) What are some do’s and don’ts?
For that you have to come to my workshops :) Don't assume. Do communicate!
11) What are some common Questions people ask you and what are the answers?
It varies so much. There are really no 'common' questions. Surprisingly few people ask about jealousy.
12) Do you hide your lifestyle from your family? If so how, and if not explain.
I'm open about being open. I have never had much of a family to begin with, there's only my Dad. He's very understanding, but doesn't ask too many questions. We live in different countries.
14) Tell me a short story that happened when something went sidewise and how you handled it?
There's no short versions of these stories! Poly relationships are complex by the very nature of more people being involved. When things go sideways it's like a line of dominoes collapsing one onto another... not that it's catastrophic per se, but it can certainly take a lot of time and patience to figure out and heal.
Thank you, Mel! For bringing the awareness of this dynamic to others and answering these questions. I hope you learned more about this dynamic and how it works.
Hope you enjoyed this interview, I know I did!
More relationship dynamics on the way...
Just remember every dynamic is different even if the label is there.
Love more, Fear less.