Ferrett Steinmetz (TheFerrett to people on Fetlife) is hilarious and honest about the highs and lows of polyamory.
In this week’s mentor post, he offers some advice to someone considering ‘taking it easy’ on the poly for the sake of their new monogamous partner.
Be Brutally Polyamorous
“I’m polyamorous, but my partner’s new to this. They say they’re okay with what I’ve told them about poly, but… I can tell they’re nervous. So I’m going to damp it down for a while just to be kind to them – I’ll go easy on the side-dating.”
Don’t do that.
Your kindness will rip ’em to shreds.
Because if you give someone an artificial trial period, one where you give them the faux-monogamous experience to make them comfortable, then all you’re doing is lulling them into a sense of “Oh, this is what it’s like.”
And when you start up the dating after a while, they’re going to be even more panicky. Because not only will they have the usual assortment of jealousies and insecurities that come when you transition into a multi-partner relationship, but also they’ll be thinking, “But… you didn’t date anyone for a year! Now you’re looking for someone else!
“What did I do wrong?”
And here’s one of the central truths about relationships: What usually scares people the most is deviations from the established norm. For example, I have a sweetie who’s a swinger: she goes to clubs and guzzles cock like there’s no tomorrow. She tells me about her problems organizing gangbangs. I think it’s adorable.
But that’s because I met her as a swinger. That’s who she was, and who she continues to be.
If my wife, who’s fairly conservative in who she sleeps with, suddenly started hitting the clubs every night, I would fucking panic.
I’d panic because my wife’s behavior would have changed, and I’d feel like maybe I didn’t know her as well as I’d thought I did, and wonder what I was doing wrong that she suddenly was into freaky anonymous sex. And whereas I know my sweetie loves me thoroughly because “gangbangs” were just part of our background noise, my wife attending ’em regularly would be different.
Not saying I couldn’t get used to it. I could adjust.
But that switch in behavior is what scares people.
Giving them a “trial period” and then dropping the big change of “Oh yeah, I date other people now” is going to hurt someone unfamiliar to polyamory more. Often, a lot more. You are doing them zero kindnesses.
Because what’ll happen by then is that you’ll be so much more attached by the time you find out the other person said they’d be okay with poly, but really, turns out they can’t handle it. It’s not like this happened in the first weeks of dating, when you were soppy with NRE but also shallowly attached – no, it’s been months, you’re both emotionally entangled. To discover after a year that whoops, this whole poly thing is actually a dealbreaker for your other partner hurts way more.
If you’re going to be poly, own it.
Mind you, I’m not saying to go out and date someone you hate to rip off the band-aid! If they’re the currently only person in your life, cool, drift with that. But for God’s sake, if you were dating other people before, keep dating. Don’t give your trying-to-adjust partner the illusion that this is trial period is what they’re signing up for.
They deserve to know what sort of effects dating other people will have on them. Some of them will be every bit as cool with it as they promised. Others will need some adjustment, and hopefully you can fine-tune your caring to give them what they need without selling out your satisfaction. And still others will freak out so much that really, your choices boil down to “be monogamous with them” or “break up.”
All of these things are better to know early on.
So yeah. It seems selfish, but… be brutal. Show them what they’re in for. Polyamory’s not for everyone, and going out of your way to give people the impression that “polyamory” means “occasionally you flirt but really, nothing happens” can demolish ’em once the first dating happens. And if you drop that hammer after they’ve come to rely on your love and support, you’ll be one of those poly folks going, “How could they not know I was poly? I told them! Why are they shocked now?”
They’re shocked because you told them that what you were doing was what they could expect, and it wasn’t.
So keep dating. Give them as much love as you can. Hug them and let them know that your love for them is a unique thing that’s not touched by other people.
But keep dating.