When I first started my polyamory journey, I expected that we would all need to have extremely good communication. This has absolutely been true.
Although… some days, when we’re discussing the consistency of my dog’s morning poop after she’d been sick, I think we communicate perhaps a little too much…
But I digress.
At first, my little family consisted of my husband Cash, my boyfriend W, and me. Now, it has grown to include Cash’s new girlfriend and W’s new girlfriend as well. If you want to expand it out, both of those girlfriends also have other partners, who also have other partners. I’ve joked that we are soon going to hit Kevin Bacon if we’re not careful.
When you have so many people trying to navigate various romantic relationships and intimate friendships, things can get…sticky. And not in a fun sexy way. It’s so easy for feelings to get hurt or emotions to run hot. I won’t speak for the other members of my new poly family, but I will speak for myself:
I’ve learned that this won’t work for me without extreme vulnerability and honesty.
Vulnerably honest communication is terrifying at times, because I might hurt one of my partners or metas. I’m also opening yourself up for rejection, disagreement, and judgment. I personally hate confrontation, and this kind of communicate requires it. You have to close your eyes and just say things before you chicken out, even if you aren’t sure how the other person will react.
So what does it mean to me to have completely vulnerable and honest relationships with my partners?
1. Immediate Communication
If I feel weird about something, I talk to a partner immediately. Even if I am not sure why I feel weird or if it will just be a passing feeling, I don’t let it fester. I don’t tell myself, “It’s not a big deal” and try to forget about it.
I mean, that’s how little things become big things.
Sure, feelings can sometimes dissipate, but if I don’t address them the same thing will likely come up again in the future and my partners would have no idea I was having a negative reaction previously. People can be oblivious to ways in which they are hurtful. But if someone loves you, they will want to know immediately if they are doing something that makes you feel bad.
Oh, it’s super awkward. So awkward that it needs a cape and a day job working for the Daily Planet. It feels like you’re criticizing your partner. And I mean, maybe sometimes you are. But that’s the thing: you can gently tell someone they are doing something inconsiderate without being an asshole about it. You can remind them that you love them and that you know they love you. You can hug them and assure them that you know they didn’t realize it, because of course they didn’t realize they were hurting you.
If you’re with something who is hurting you and does realize it… that’s not a relationship you should continue. That’s selfishness at best and abuse at worse.
2. No Blame Game
Blame is really easy. We all look for someone or something to blame when we have a negative experience. However, often no one is to blame. So, when I communicate with my partners, I try really hard to make sure I don’t blame them for my emotions, even if I am upset.
I take responsibility for my own feelings. I am reacting to things my partners do and say, and just because I have a negative reaction doesn’t mean that a partner has done something wrong.
In fact, I have learned to assume they are NOT doing anything wrong.
I trust them when they say they will never do anything to hurt me if they can help it. Any negative emotions I feel because of their actions are not their fault unless I communicate that something is hurting me and they don’t care, listen, or change their actions. Neither of them would do that.
When we communicate about an issue, I always do my best to blame the situation not the people, myself included. I’m not always successful, but I want my partners to know that I love them and trust them that they always have my best interests at heart. I don’t want either of them to ever feel like I think poorly of them, even in cases where they do make mistakes. I love both of these men with all my heart, and I think the world of them.
3. Being Honest About My Shortcomings
Along with not blaming my partners, I’ve learned that I need to be radically honest with myself about my shortcomings, and I need to communicate those feelings with my partners. It’s easy to want to be the strong person that handles things herself. After all, if something is my shortcoming, why should I burden either of them with it?
But that’s such a weird tendency that most of us have. I mean, the point of a partnership is that you have someone to share your burden, isn’t it? We are so caught up with not being a burden to other people that we don’t stop and think, “hey… it’s okay that I’m a burden sometimes because they are too, and we shoulder it together.”
Being honest about my shortcomings means that I communicate when I’m having unreasonable thoughts or feelings rather than just pushing those thoughts and feelings aside. It’s embarrassing sometimes. I don’t want to be that girl who is jealous or petty or angry or whatever. I want to be better. But how can my partners help me be better if they don’t know that I’m struggling?
4. Pointing Out How Relationships are Different
Recently, as our polycule has grown, I’ve been seeing a relationship between my husband and his new girlfriend blossom in ways that our relationship hasn’t. That can be a tough pill to swallow, but it is easier because we talk about it. It would be much harder if I were keeping though thoughts to myself. We point out the ways in which their relationship is different and talk about why that might be, without blame. When we talk about it, we also point out the ways my relationship with W has blossomed in ways my relationship with Cash hasn’t.
We can also, most importantly, talk about the ways our own relationship has fully bloomed in the most beautiful and unexpected ways. Being polyam and having these conversations about our various relationships has made it easier to appreciate what we have together.
Again, it’s awkward sometimes. But remember, different doesn’t mean better or worse. My relationship with Cash is different than his relationship with his girlfriend, not better or worse. There’s no ranking relationships here.
5. Feelings Change (A Lot)
I fully believe that vulnerable communication means that you need to say what you are feeling today even if it’s not how you may feel tomorrow. Additionally, you have to listen to your partners’ feelings with the knowledge that they too may change in the future.
It’s so important to constantly reestablish rules within your relationships, as well as communicate your personal boundaries as they change. Even more importantly, I think it’s important not to define yourself or your partners by the emotions they feel in this very moment.
Emotions are not the same as opinions, and we tend to confuse the two. Opinions can change too of course, but they’ve been more thought out (hopefully), and are based on patterns of facts, experiences, etc. Emotions are flashes of light that might be gone in a day or an hour or a minute! We need to communicate them, but also give people grace about how they feel in this single moment. It’s why it makes sense to take a moment to calm down when you’re extremely angry about something. Not that you shouldn’t communicate your anger immediately (see point one), but sometimes it does make sense to take a deep breath first to make sure heightened emotions aren’t muddling your communication.
So, is it worth it?
Relationships are hard. Polyamory is harder. Sometimes, it feels like we spend so much time communicating our feelings that it takes over our time together. But is it worth it? 100% yes. Every emotional conversation, every difficult question, every embarrassing message about our emotions makes us all stronger as a polycule. I’m learning about myself more and more every day, and it’s honestly spilling over into my non-romantic life as well. I’m learning to be a better friend, a better sister, a better business owner. I’m learning to love myself more.
For me, polyamory has unlocked a new level of life that I didn’t even realize was a possibility. And I’m so lucky to be doing this with two incredible men who embrace my need for communication and who support me when I’m vulnerable.
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