I've been noticing something recently: something that started as a "huh", and has grown into a bit of a quandary. That something is a fairly consistent piece of feedback I get that generally sounds like "you practice good poly".
I've was monogamous my whole dating life, which started at 13. I've only been in Poly contexts for about 3 years now, and I'm quite comfortably poly at this point in time. I wrote a series on my shift from monogamy to poly here.
I've been resisting the 'good at poly' label, and after some introspection, I think I have a sense of why...
I'm not good at poly. I'm good at Relationship. To be clear: this is something on which I work diligently and daily - it's part of my practice. There is no perfect - only practice.
I hear a lot of rhetoric in poly spaces, that goes something like "Poly people are better at relationship, because we have to negotiate and communicate more than mono people".
This has not been my experience. My experience has been that there are folks who are more successful in Relationship than others, regardless of how that Relationship takes place, and it has much more to do with the people involved than the context in which it occurs. Your mileage may vary, of course.
So here are several things I do - strategies I employ - that I believe are some of the reasons people say I 'do good poly', and please know - I learned all of these in a mono context.
These are in order of the sequence in which they bubbled to the top of my awareness - not in order of importance
I hold myself responsible for my emotional state and ask that my People do the same
This is one of the few non-negotiable standards I hold in all of my adult relationships (play, sex, romantic, D/s, friend, Family). I wrote about this recently for Fearless Press. You can find the article here.
I know the difference between what I need and what I want, and I communicate that
My needs and desires change over time, and I've found that this is a conversation that comes up again and again in Relationship. I will say "I prefer that conversation to happen in person" if it's preference, and "I need to have that conversation in person" if it's a need. Very simple.
I choose The Path of Kindness
I am fully aware that getting all that I want all of the time is an inappropriate intent. Rather, I look for the path that is the most likely to create a win/win for all involved. I call that The Path of Kindness. It has to do with shifting from an attached perspective towards a detached perspective, and it is incredibly liberating. It is also a way of showing love, and I enjoy showing love.
I acknowledge significance in my partner's life
I don't want to be the center of someone's universe. I get it that my Masculine partners have careers, Family, other Relationships, etc. that they are cultivating, and I'm just fine with that. Whether my partner be tending to a garden, writing a piece of code, spending time with another person, etc... what I look for has less to do with the what/who of the other focus and rather the how. Is the person with whom I am in Relationship present with me when we are together? Is the person with whom I am in Relationship skillful in estimating the amount of time it will take to come to completion with another task (date, meeting, practice) before we can come together? Are my needs in the relationship being met? Stuff like that.
I am functional all on my own
This means that I do not ask anyone else to fix me, or complete me. Rather, what I seek is enhancement, excitement, intimacy, opportunities to share and to be vulnerable. Sure, there are contexts in which I need an anchor, and absolutely there are times in which I need solace and comfort. I just don't want/need one person to be all of that for me.
I create my own experience of security
While I take responsibility for my security (as I am truly the only person who can give it to me), I most definitely cultivate relationships with people who buttress that : people who are honest, show integrity and who strive to correct errors. I look for people whose intentions are in harmony with mine.
I take my time
Georgia O'Keeffe said it best "Nobody sees a flower - really - it's so small it takes time. We haven't time, and to see takes time. Like to have a friend takes time." No matter how hungry I am for it (sex, play, camaraderie, a Master, new friends), I always have time to see - time to learn a person - time to find out about them. My most successful friendships are at the 40 year mark this year, and believe you me, we have changed a lot over the last 4 decades!
I get curious
If something is challenging and I find myself moving towards resistance, I work to shift towards a mindset of curiosity. In the moments I'm able to do so with the sense of wonder I had as a toddler, then it's all the better.
I negotiate behaviors - not feelings
What I mean by this is, I'm more likely to ask someone "what kinds of behaviors would communicate X to you" than I am "how can I make you feel Y". The biggest reason for this is I have control over my behaviors, whereas I have no control over someone else's feelings. What's really terrific about these kinds of conversations, is that the person answering the question can be concrete. Please note- this is very closely paired with The Path of Kindness...
I mind my own business.
To quote my teacher, Byron Katie, "There are 3 kinds of business in the world: my business, your business and God's business. Whose business are you in?" So simple. Not always easy, and yet so very VERY simple.
I'm curious to learn how YOU practice good Relationship. What kinds of strategies do you employ?