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.

Mind Reading 101

Sometimes, common sense is not such a common thing, after all. Most rational, cognizant people are aware of the fact that other people don't read minds. There are some exceptions, of course, such as in the case of authentic clairvoyance or in partners/siblings/etc. who are so close that they can literally "read each other's minds", just "know" what the other is thinking, etc. However, I'm talking about your typical, average human being--folks just like you and me, and as far as I know, you and I can't read minds. That's what we need to be aware of when we are expecting our partners to read our minds, because despite all rational evidence to the contrary, we do expect them to read our minds. In fact, we tend to be hurt when they fail to discern what we are thinking/feeling/wanting/needing.

We think we're being coy. We think we're being subtle. What we are really doing is being irritating and obtuse. So you and your partner(s) are in a store, several months before Christmas. You see a beautiful red suede handbag. It's so beautiful, in fact, that you have to concentrate to keep from drooling. You turn to your hubby, bat your eyelashes, and you say, "I sure could use a new bag." Your hubby pretty much ignores you. In fact, your hubby has no idea what a "bag" even is. A bag, to him, is the vehicle for delivering his potato chips. You come closer to the rack holding the now much coveted purse. You say to hubby, "You've always told me that you like me best in red." He looks at you and says, "You look great in red." Then he does a double take and wonders exactly what you're talking about since you happen to be wearing blue on this particular outing. You are now standing right next to the red suede handbag of your dreams. You stop. You reach out to touch it. You say, "Feel this, Hubby. Isn't it soft? Doesn't it feel good? Do you think it's pretty? I think it's beautiful." Your spouse looks at you, nods his head, and agrees that it is, indeed, a beautiful bag. You walk away happy, because you think he's gotten the hint. He hasn't. He doesn't think like you do. None of your spice think like you do. He may have some kind of vague memory of you saying you could use a new bag, and hes proud of himself for remembering this. On Christmas morning you are so excited. You know that you'll be carrying that red suede bag by that evening. You tear into the box with anticipation. Then you have to fight back the tears when you see that the bag your hubby bought you is a very nice bag--one in which to carry your snorkel gear. (And yes, this did actually happen.) Then to top it off, you get mad at him because he failed to read your mind. Really, how much sense does this make?

If s/he loved me enough, s/he'd just know what I need.
If s/he loved me enough, s/he'd just know what I like.
If s/he loved me enough, s/he'd just know what I want.
If s/he understood me, I wouldn't have to tell him/her why I feel this way.
If we were actually in sync, I wouldn't have to explain my emotions.
S/he should just know what's going on inside my head and heart. S/he is my partner, after all.

Okay, so I'll be the first to admit that a part of that makes a perverse sort of sense. However, turn it right around and look at the other side of the exact same coin. Do you know what your partner(s) want and like and need and how they feel and what they are thinking, and do you understand their actions and emotions, and do you always know what is in their heads and hearts without them telling you? Nope? I didn't think so. Well, they can't do it either, as much as we'd like them to be able to do so.

You also have to take into consideration that someone living a poly lifestyle has had past partners and more than likely has multiple partners right now. That means that they've had a lot of different experiences with a lot of different people, and these experiences will inevitably influence their actions with you. This issue cropped up for us about three years ago, when we were still a quad. During the "courting" phase of our relationship, Hubby would bring me flowers, light candles when we made love, hand me a glass of wine while we were waiting for dinner, write me "love letters" (in the form of email, of course). All of the sudden, it just went away. He stopped cold turkey, and I was convinced that he didn't love me anymore. Now that he'd made the 'conquest', it wasn't challenging anymore, and he'd lost interest.

Now I'm a real sucker for romance. Bring me a flower, and I'll be your slave for a day. Light candles and play music while we make love, and I'll do anything you want me to do. Buy me 500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, and you own me. I'm a real contradiction. I do consider myself to be a feminist, but I sincerely love romance and all its, champagne, candles, music, holding hands, long walks on the beach in the moonlight, running your hands through my hair, whispering in my ear, walking in the rain...the sappier it is, the more I like it. I honestly thought that my actions clearly conveyed this. In my mind it is totally obvious, and I don't know how anyone can miss that fact, especially someone who loves me. So when the romance went away, I fell into a funk. Hubby finally asked me what was wrong, and in tears I told him how much I missed the romance we shared, how starved for it I was. He was honestly astonished. He'd been married to Wife for ten years at that point, and Wife deplores romance. She thinks it's stupid; she thinks it's a waste of time. Flowers are stupid because they die. Candles are stupid because you just have to get up to blow them out. He was basing his current actions with me on his past experiences with her, and he had no idea that anything was wrong, because I didn't tell him anything was wrong. I just expected him to read my mind.

About two years ago, the mind reading issue cropped up again. Hubby would rather swallow ground glass than to hurt anyone's feelings. Ever. Because of this, he tends not to say some things that probably should be said. One evening we were at a bar, and I was feeling rather amorous. All I really wanted to do was get him home. Instead of announcing this fact at the bar, I leaned over, blew in his ear, and tugged on his earlobe with my teeth. He was just tipsy enough to say something he wouldn't have ordinarily have said. He shivered, looked at me, and said, "I really hate that. It makes the roof of my mouth itch, and it kind of squicks me out." Huh? Well hell, I had no idea. Based on my own experience, he should love it. If you blow in my ear or nibble on my lobe, I'm likely to melt into a puddle right there at your feet. I didn't know, because he didn't tell me, and I don't read minds. Had I been able to read his mind, I would not have spent two years nibbling on his ear to convey, "Hey take me home, NOW!"

These are relatively little examples, but it certainly happens with bigger issues. The bigger the issue, and the more partners/spice involved, the worse the fall out. It can be avoided. It all boils down to this: people don't read minds; don't expect them to. If you need something, state it outright. If you want something, don't hint around. Don't make people guess what you are thinking, especially if it's important that they actually know what you are thinking. Practice with the little stuff. How hard is it really to say, "I love this red bag. I'd like that for Christmas" or "Please don't nibble on my ear. I know you like it, but I don't like it very much"? If you start small, practice with the little stuff, it will get easier, and as icing on the cake, you're going to get the bag you wanted, and your dense spouse is going to stop slobbering on your ear. Then when the big stuff, the extremely important stuff crops up, you'll be ready.

PolyAnna; October 08, 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.


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