Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com
I’ve written a lot before about how I don’t know what I want and I consider myself a work in progress. Saying that, I have learned a hell of a lot over the years I’ve been doing poly. A lot of the things I’ve learned haven’t been particularly fun, learned through tears on my pillow from screwups which were sometimes my fault, and sometimes those of others. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may not always apply, but it certainly applies with these things I have learned the hard way, which I share now in the hope that maybe some of you might not end up having to go through the same shit.
(1) You don’t know what your boundaries are until you hit them. In theory, you’ll have some idea of things you definitely don’t want and that’s good, because you can avoid those things proactively. The thing is, matters of the heart are always steering a ship into uncharted territory, because every single relationship is unique. And sometimes, you might dash yourself on some unexpected rocks. You find things you love that pleasantly surprise you, but you also find things you never knew you wouldn’t be right for you, and sometimes it can be agony when you discover these things. This is horrible. But, on the plus side, I now have a better understanding of things that are dealbreakers for me, and can avoid that profoundly awful experience.
(2) Poly doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This problem tends to show up more among radical poly types. There is a mindset that doing poly will be utterly divorced from general societal influences if one has read the right books and has the right analysis. This is completely and utterly categorically untrue. This problem tends to manifest in two main ways. Firstly, men treat women badly. They replicate sexist structures, with an added poly twist to maximise the number of women they can fuck over. And secondly, there is often a denial of the presence of hierarchies due to anarchist beliefs. And both of these are very difficult to challenge, because those perpetuating these problems believe that having the right political analysis is enough. The solution here, I’ve learned, is to apply the same critique that I would to anything in which I’m not directly involved, and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction the second I catch the faintest whiff of manarchism. Not necessarily the best solution, perhaps, but certainly the one which has kept me safest.
(3) You will fuck up. Apologise and learn from it.
(4) You’ll never get everything exactly as you like. And that’s OK, because nobody and nothing is perfect. If it feels right, but not perfect, that’s good, not bad.
(5) Seriously. You will fuck up. Just don’t be a dick about it. Accept that you can fuck up, and hurt people, and that doesn’t make you a monster if you don’t do it again. If you deal with it right, ultimately you can become a better person from it. I hope I have.