These writings contain my experiences and opinions. The opinions are personal in nature, not professional. I am not a professional; I have no degree. These are the insights I have gleaned from living four years in a polyamorous relationship.
Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.
Your Relationship, Your Rules
In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes made in/about poly relationships is that the entire family always functions as one big unit—wanting the same things, liking the same things, wanting to do the same things, having the same interests, etc. Ironically enough, this is a mistake made by actual poly people in actual poly relationships. We did it, and we almost broke up because of it. Since I can only write about my experiences, from my point of view, I’m going to once again use my family as the example. Soon, you’ll know far more about my family than you ever wanted to.
I am a highly romantic type of person. I like music, and flowers, and champagne, and walking on the beach, and holding hands, and candles, and long lingering looks, and sharing an ice cream cone, and making love under the stars. I like long flowing dresses, and long loose braids, and gauzy materials, and 950 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. I like sleeping in spoons, and cuddling in bed, and staying in bed late to have a cup of coffee together on Sunday mornings. I like bubble baths and intimate talks in the garden and going out on dates.
Wife, however, hates romance, and she’ll state that fact any time the opportunity arises. She doesn’t like hand holding or other public displays of affection; they make her uncomfortable. She thinks flowers are a waste of money, because they just die. She can’t sleep if someone is touching her, so cuddling is no good. She doesn’t like dating, not even with her spice, because she’s not much of a go out kind of person. She thinks that sex should pretty much be divorced from emotion—physical release as opposed to romantic connection. She’s practical.
So, who’s right, and who’s wrong?
That’s just the thing; neither one of us is wrong. We just happen to be pretty much emotional polar opposites. Then we have Hubby, the hinge in the V, right in the middle of two such different women, and wanting to be able to please them both. Well, it is possible to please us both; it just wasn’t possible to do it at the same time, and that’s what he was trying to do. That’s what we were all trying to do. We made the huge mistake of falling into the "relationship as a unit" trap.
Sure a poly household is one big unit, and there are times when it should function as one big unit. There are chores to do and bills to pay and meals to cook and shopping to be done. There are also the fun things—movies to see, family vacations to take, pets to play with, furniture to buy. However, besides the one big poly relationship, there are separate relationships in the dynamic, and it’s a big mistake to not recognize that fact or to ignore it. In my family, we have the “unit” relationship, but then we also have the relationship between Hubby and Wife, and the relationship between Hubby and me. Depending on your family dynamic, there could be any number of relationships inside the unit. Don’t ignore them.
It got to a point where I broke down in tears and asked Hubby why he never brought flowers anymore, why we never turned on music and lit candles when we made love, why we never just went and walked on the beach at night anymore. We did all those things when he was "courting" me, when we were first dating. The fact that they stopped had me pretty much convinced that he was tired of me, and I was so hurt and so lonely that I was almost ready to leave. So we started to talk, and as we delved further and further into the topic, Hubby realized that he was trying to conduct our part of our relationship based on Wife’s rules. In an effort not to upset her, he avoided the romance aspect, the things that meant the most to me, and he upset me instead.
It worked the other way as well. Hubby went through a phase when, every time there was occasion to buy Wife a gift, he got her a gadget…palm pilot, mp3 player, Ipod…until she finally exploded and asked him what was with all the techno crap. Upon reflection, he realized that he was projecting my love of anything gadgety, techy, geeky, onto Wife. She was upset by the fact that he didn’t try to figure out what exactly she would like best and instead gave her what I would like best. She was as frustrated as I was.
That’s when we realized what we were doing, that we were neglecting separate parts of the big relationship by trying to play by someone else’s rules, meet someone else’s expectations, cater to someone else’s needs. We sat down and talked and talked, and we finally worked things out. There are things we need to agree on—what couch we’re going to buy, what color the dining room walls are going to be, what movie we’re going to see when we all go out together. However, there are things that we don’t need to agree on, as well—when romance comes into my relationship with Hubby, wife no longer gets to make gagging noises and roll her eyes. When Hubby picks out a gift for Wife, I no longer get to say, "What kind of stupid present is that?"
I’m serious here; this is very very important. In your individual part of the relationship, you get to play by your own rules. Don’t ignore your needs; don’t deny them; don’t neglect them. You’ll live to regret it if you do.
To quote my own dear Hubby, "It’s not all tits and champagne, but it’s sure worth it when you get things figured out."
PolyAnna; June 13, 2005
PolyAnna is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.
folks have read this article.