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.

If I Only Knew Then...

People that are very new to poly or who are just considering taking a leap into responsible non-monogamy often ask people with more experience what sort of things they wish they had known in hindsight.

Of course if you ask 10 different people that question it's likely you'll get half a dozen different answers from each of them.

I have not been in a poly relationship for very long, but I can list off a few things that I wish I had known when we had started out:

First and foremost, slow and steady is the name of the game. I am still learning this. Plunging headfirst into poly or any sort of non-monogamy situation is reckless. You are asking for trouble if you let the intense emotions of NRE take over any rational thoughts and allow your heart to lead you. Yes, emotions are important. However, I truly believe that for the start of a poly relationship you need to let your brain make all of the important decisions. Not all the people involved in your relationship(s) are going to be comfortable moving at the same pace. As slow as the slowest and slower still is an excellent motto to live by.

Secondly, educating yourself on poly and relationship dynamics in general is never a waste of time. Read everything you can about poly, jealousy, relationships, etc. At the same time, do not try to force yourself into anyone else's idea of what your relationships should be. When you read something, take from it what you can use, and toss away the rest. Do not saddle yourself with the notions or beliefs of others unless you feel comfortable that they fit in with your life and vision. Gain wisdom from people who are walking the path, but keep in mind that life experience can sometimes make people jaded, and it is easy forget what it was like to be new yourself.

It is also advisable to expect the unexpected. You are going to experience situations that you are totally unprepared for. You will not have any life experience you can apply or fall back on because poly will present you with issues you can never possibly encounter otherwise. You are blazing your own trail, and at times you will not have any idea what you are doing. That is perfectly ok. It's normal to not have all the answers all the time. Be gentle with yourself, tread slowly and carefully, you can find your way. Just don't be blindsided when you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. It's going to happen, that's the only thing you can know for sure.

I will also fall back on the much-encouraged communication aspect. Communication is not only important, it is absolutely vital. Trying to have a poly relationship without good communication skills is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. It is doomed for failure. There are many ways to improve your communication skills. Ask your partners how they feel about how the flow of communication is going. Yes, communicate with them about communication. Talk yourself silly about it. Also avoid the trap of indirect communication. 'V' relationships are particularly vulnerable to this, as the hinge person often becomes the go-between for the other two. Direct communication is essential. There must be an open flow between all parties or else the relationship will eventually erode. I highly suggest seeing professional mediation and therapy if there are too many communication issues to overcome alone.

Last, but certainly not least, remain understanding, gentle, and open-minded. You and the other people involved in the relationship are doing something that goes against the grain of society. You are going to mess up, you are going to stumble and fall and question yourself. You need to give yourself permission to be imperfect, and you must extend that permission to the people around you. Having unrealistic or unreasonable expectations of yourself or any of your partners is like setting yourself up for certain disappointment. Make sure that you discuss your expectations and the expectations of your partners openly; so that you all know what page you are on.

Someone recently asked me if poly is worth it (at least for me) considering all the crazy ups and downs that we've been through. I can say with absolute certainty that for me, it is totally worth it. Sure we have our moments where it's hard, but in my opinion few things worth doing are easy. Poly is certainly not the path of least resistance, but for those of us that choose to take it, the rewards are worth the struggle.

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; July 15, 2006


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