Social Media can make polyamory seem almost magical. Because it’s easy to put on the happy mask and only show the good parts, the fun parts. This is true no matter who you are. But I have a secret to share: it’s not all sunshine & rainbows.
In our effort to make the largely monogamous world understand and accept us, we can tout polyamory as a this beautiful alternative that is free of the struggles monogamous folx face. Which can be true. But in doing so, we deny, hide, or just gloss over the hard and messy parts of polyamory.
More Than Words
One of the big tenets is communication. Polyam folx are forever talking about talking. Whenever someone asks the community about a situation in their relationship, the first answer is always: Did you talk to them about it? Communication is the key to living this life. But that’s true regardless of what relationship your in. It’s true for familial relationships (parents/kids, siblings, etc.). It’s true for platonic or professional relationships (friend circles, bosses, coworkers). And it’s true for romantic relationships, regardless of the form they take. Communication is important. And can make or break any type of relationship.
The part that we fail to talk about in the context of polyamory is the amount of work this takes. Communication goes beyond talking about your feelings, or sharing plans. It is learning to say those things without being asked. It requires you to do the hard work of analyzing your own reactions and feelings before sharing those with others. It is remembering to share plans with multiple people; and learning to take responsibility, and then apologizing, when one person inadvertently gets left out of the loop.
Open Your Ears
Let’s not forget the other side of communicating. You have to listen. A lot of us have grown up not really knowing how to listen properly. We listen to react, to argue, to reply. How many times have you had a conversation with someone and while they were talking, you were already forming your response to them? We have to re-learn how to listen in way that allows to actually hear the other person. To hear what they are saying between the words, in their tone and inflections and body language.
It is more than just the words. It is the thought and work you’ve put in to them, before you say them. And it is the act of listening, not to respond but to hear what is being said and not said.
Another big piece we gloss over: jealousy. That green-eyed monster does pop up in polyamory. We are not immune. We are human. Polyam folx are quick to turn the topic of jealousy into compersion. Which is an amazing feeling that is not exclusive to polyamory. You’ve felt it when your significant other got that promotion, or your best friend got married/had a baby, or your kid graduated from school. That is compersion.
Jealousy is the other side. In my polyam life, it usually pops up when a need is not being met. And those needs tend to have to do with my love languages. So if someone is getting more time (which is my main love language), I can feel that jealousy pop up. And I do not always recognize it for what it is. So there are definitely times where I can be… bitchy and withdrawn. Which of course, doesn’t fix or help anything. Did I mention we are human? This is the hard part, the part the community tries not to talk about. Because in order to deal with it, you have to get to know yourself. You have to learn your reactions and triggers. You have to learn to recognize when jealousy is speaking to you, feeding you lies.
It doesn’t always lead you to compersion either. Sometimes that jealousy leads to hard conversations instead. And that’s okay. Jealousy can be used for good, if you do the work to figure out the root of it.
Polyamory Isn’t Perfect
No, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are growing pains along the way. Problems you thought you had figured out in the beginning have a way of popping up again later on down the road. Sometimes they look a little different, sometimes they look the same. So you have to learn, adapt, and keep going. Polyamory can be an amazing way to form relationships and family. But it is not perfect or easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.