Like many, Angel stumbled into polyamory quite by accident. She and her husband have been happily married for four years, and recently opened their marriage and their hearts to the possibility of poly relationships. She shares the ups and downs of being new to the lifestyle and navigating the emotional and practical issues that come along with it.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

You really think you know your spouse until you decide to try polyamory.

When you are part of an established couple and you decide to open your hearts, and indeed your marriage, to outsiders, you will learn things about your spouse that you never knew before. Some of these new sides of your partner will surprise and delight you; others will make you wonder if you ever really knew them to begin with.

My husband and I have always had a very strong marriage. Far above average, according to friends and family. We forged excellent communication skills, rarely fought because 99.9 times out of 100 we agreed on issues at hand, and generally had a very solid foundation. Things couldn't have been better.

When we decided to open ourselves up to poly it was like learning to communicate all over again. Suddenly there are all these new emotions and issues that monogamous couples will never experience. It's truly like starting at square one and building your marriage all over again to include someone new. Added to that are the thoughts and feelings of this outside individual that you are just getting to know. Things can get pretty upside down.

Human beings are so complex I don't think that we can ever really totally know another person. Situation and life experiences will show you aspects of your partner(s) that would never have surfaced otherwise. Be prepared for shock, amazement, and sometimes disappointment. You might find that your spouse is far more judgmental, fear-driven, and close-minded than you once believed. They are also likely more resilient, determined, and stronger than you ever knew.

Even going into polyamory with your eyes wide open will not guarantee that everything will go smoothly. Communication is the key, and it's also vital to keep in mind that your spouse has never done anything like this before. It's impossible to predict the mess of emotions that will arise over things that you might not have expected. For instance, your spouse might be fine knowing you are being intimate with your other partner, but doing something mundane like going grocery shopping could spark intense feelings of jealousy. It just isn't possible to accurately anticipate what situations will cause emotional upheaval.

The best thing to do is just be prepared for a lot of 'two steps forward, three steps back'. Be open and honest about your feelings, and listen to the concerns and feelings of your spouse without being judgmental or defensive. Remind yourself that you don't have to agree with how your spouse is feeling or thinking, but you must always be sensitive and loving towards them, in order to encourage the flow of communication. No one wants to talk when they fear they will be met with criticism. Fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves, no matter what the feelings or situation, is vital to successful relationships. Everyone should be able to state their wants and needs, and then mutual compromise to meet those needs can begin.

You will have to give if you expect to get. It's about meeting your spouse where they are and discovering some common ground. Be prepared to learn a lot of new things about them, and yourself.

You will emerge from challenges knowing each other better and feeling closer than ever. In the long run I believe that all of the ups and downs and expecting the unexpected will serve to make your relationship with your spouse all the stronger.

Nobody's Angel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Nobody's Angel; April 1, 2006


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