Insecurities and the Kinky Eraser

(Disclaimer: this article references stereotypical body insecurities. I am not speaking to my personal idea of beauty.)

For many of you this article may not be very relevant – that’s ok. It does, however, apply to enough people that I felt it deserved some attention. I have had many conversations with people that are coming into the scene from the vanilla world. You know how when you’re dating and you start seeing someone new who is completely different from your old partner, yet you bring along all your baggage that you either have to work thru or realize it just doesn’t apply in the new relationship? Well the phenomenon I am discussing here is kinda like that.

For this article I am honing in on body issues and sense of attractiveness. There are two areas I see this issue play out – individually and when looking for a partner. I will start with the individual. This typically effects s-types. Why? Because they are usually the ones expected to shed some clothing at parties or at least during scenes. However, many new s-types feel completely intimidated by this when they begin their journey. They can’t imagine taking off clothes in front of a room of strangers. Much of this has to do with body image as well as it just being a new situation for them. I think what happens though, eventually, is that they see many others stripping down and they realize that almost nobody has a “perfect” body. And guess what? They also observe that those people aren’t ridiculed for it! This is something you just don’t see as much in the vanilla world. In the vanilla world, people get made fun of for every little flaw. No wonder people are intimidated by the thought of getting naked (or close to it) in the midst of a crowd. In the kink community not only are they not teased, but there is usually a lot of support and compliments given where the focus is the outfit, the shoes, the glittery eyeshadow, or the scene itself. Eventually I see most of these same people who started off feeling intimidated and insecure about showing more skin – taking it off (or at least more of it) a few months (give or take) later.

This issue also comes up when looking for a partner. This can go for everyone – newbies no matter what side of the slash. They come in thinking nobody will want them because they’re “too fat” or not attractive enough. Now I understand these insecurities (along with many more I just haven’t listed) are everywhere and certainly prevalent in the vanilla dating circles. Heck – there are dating apps solely based on matching due to how you look!

Here’s the thing – this is my theory as to why people have to adjust their baggage – or just toss it in the garbage when they enter the scene. In general, kinksters are looking beyond physical attributes – and/or looking at physical features completely differently. Have a big butt? Perfect for spanking. Broad shoulders like a linebacker? Fantastic for flogging. Large nipples? Hand over the clothespins. A bit fluffy and not stereotypically attractive but can throw a flogger? Line up the s-types! Do you get what I’m trying to say? Also, beyond play I think when people are looking for a connection, especially a D/s relationship, they are more drawn in by the strength of the dynamic than the other person’s physique. If you initially find someone who is “hot” but the dynamic pull just isn’t there – the attraction can fizzle. Vice versa, the dynamic pull can be so strong that the physical attraction simply follows. Can there be both? Of course! The point is that people walk into this scene with baggage and insecurities and it’s great to watch them slowly drop those societal expectations – even if it takes a little time. Kink is certainly more than skin deep.

Subspace. We’ve all heard of it and some of us have experienced it. If you are unfamiliar with what it is I highly suggest you read my article about it at kinkweekly or you can ask your friend google. However, I get asked in class when I speak to subspace if there is an equivalent for D-types. Yes, there is such a thing as Topspace or Dom(me)space. However, this is something you hear much less about. Not only do you hear less about it, but it also seems to occur less often than subspace. Why is that? I have a theory.

This theory is my own personal opinion based on what I know of subspace and having experienced Top-space as well. Have I gone out and researched it? Nope. Have I interviewed 100 D-types about it looking for common threads? Nope. So take this for what it’s worth and, if you’re really interested, do more research. If you do, and find more interesting tidbits – please leave them in the comment section below!

Ok, so let’s use subspace as a starting point. In general, subspace refers to an s-type’s reaction to various chemicals being released in their system. The closest vanilla activity I can compare it to is a runner’s high. In both scenarios the individual is pushing past, or through, a painful sensation – allowing the aforementioned chemicals (adrenaline, endorphins, etc.) to kick in. These chemicals give a natural high feeling and increase pain tolerance. If you have experienced either you know that you also have to allow yourself to relax into, or give into, this chemical change in your body in order to feel the full effects. As I mentioned in my previous article about subspace, everyone experiences it differently.

So with that subspace refresher, here is why I think Topspace is more difficult for people to achieve. When you’re Topping you are focused on numerous things – where you want the scene to go, how your bottom is doing, which implement you’re using, your aim, your surroundings, etc. When you are that focused and “in your head”, it is much more difficult to let go, or “give in”, to the chemicals being released. You may still have endorphins and adrenaline pumping through your system, however, there is a huge psychological component to achieving Topspace. For a runner if all you keep focusing on are the components of running – how tight your shoes are, worry about a lace coming undone, the pain in your right knee, concern about which direction you’re headed or if you’ll become lost on your trail, etc – you won’t ever allow yourself to get out of your head and give in to that runner’s high. The act of running has to become second nature so that you aren’t thinking about it anymore. That’s when you can start to “fly”, so to speak.

This is why I typically hear of D-types who have a lot of experience speaking of getting “spacey”. They have enough experience to where what they are doing is second nature. Flogging, spanking, or whatever they love just comes naturally and they don’t have to think very much about what they’re doing. They can let go and allow those chemicals to take over and feel all floaty after a scene just like s-types.

I think it takes a long time, and/or a lot of experience to get to the point that a D-type can get there, for their play to really become second nature – which is why we hear of it less often than subspace. It’s like getting in your car and arriving home, not remembering the drive. Because driving and your route home have become something you no longer have to consciously think about. Once a Top can say that about their play, they are much more likely to experience Topspace.

Honest Communication – say what you mean and mean what you say

You’ve seen the memes that list it and perhaps heard the stand-up comedians joke about it.

You can search for “things women say and what they really mean” and find a ton of pages and links.

Here’s a list from http://www.lifebuzz.com/9-phrases/ that cover most of my “favorites”:

#1. Fine. This is the word used to end an argument when she is right and you better shut up. Don’t even say another word!

#2. Nothing. If you ask her what’s wrong and she says nothing, then something is definitely wrong. Stay on your toes. Many arguments can start over “nothing” and then end with “fine.” Refer to #1.

Note: If she says “no really, there’s nothing wrong” then she really means there’s nothing wrong.

#3. Loud sigh. This is a non-verbal hint that you are being an idiot and she’s wondering why you are wasting time standing there and arguing about “nothing.” Refer to #2.

#4. Go ahead. This is like a double dare and it’s definitely not permission. She wants you to make the right decision, so rethink what you are about to do!

#5. Don’t worry about it, I got it. This means she’s asked you to do something several times and you didn’t so now she’s doing it herself. Uh-oh! This may result in you asking her later “what’s wrong” to which she will most likely respond “nothing.” Refer to #2.

#6. That’s okay. This is a very dangerous warning signal. She’s will be thinking long and hard about how you will pay for what you did.

#7. Five minutes. If she is getting ready this could mean 15-40 minutes, results may vary. But if you are watching the game, 5 minutes is exactly 300 seconds.

#8. Whatever. This means go to hell. You’re in big trouble! You may even feel a chill in the air.

#9. Thanks. She is thanking you. Don’t even question it, just say you’re welcome. But if she says “thanks A LOT” then that’s meant as sarcasm and you should definitely not say “you’re welcome” then she will reply with “whatever.” Refer to #8.

Now – there’s a reason people joke about this – from a distance it comes across as something funny that we see in sitcoms. We laugh because, unfortunately, many of us can relate. Whether it’s because we have used this language ourselves or heard it from our partner or former partners.

I have a plea…… STOP!

This language, by the way, can be used by anyone. Women do not own the market on this. If you use this language please examine what you’re doing and how it aids in your relationship and communication with your partner. (I’m guessing in an unhealthy or destructive ways.) If you’re not happy about something then say that. If you’re not ok with your partner doing x, y, or z be honest about it – don’t tell them “it’s ok” then berate and “punish” them later. It’s not fair and it’s not honest. It creates a trust issue as well. I have, personally, had to unravel partner’s belief systems that were influenced by their past relationships. I would tell them I was ok with x, y, and z and they literally didn’t believe me! I had to slowly prove to them that what I said was what I meant. This should not be a foreign concept.

Please stop playing games. Communicate with compassion and curiosity – it will get you much further.

We Are Human First

This article is about consent and negotiation and mistakes and hindsight. It’s about personal responsibility and compassion.

There are reasons I don’t do pick up play and why I like to be at least friends with someone before I do a scene with them. When you play as a bottom you are trusting someone with your physical, mental, and emotional well-being for a certain amount of time. When you play as a Top you are trusting another person to be honest with you up front and not vilify you if you make a mistake. Notice the running theme? TRUST. Now, if you are just starting to play and have just met that person or have only known them a short time, then a whole lot of trust isn’t necessarily there yet. This is why it’s not recommended that you do heavy scenes or attempt to push boundaries and limits with someone in the beginning. You should be developing more trust first.

So what should you trust about a new play partner? Well, as a bottom you should hopefully be able to trust that your Top has good intentions and is looking to play with you in a safe way while adhering to the limits that you have stated during negotiation. That they are not looking to take advantage of you or do things that weren’t discussed just because “well you didn’t say I couldn’t”. (This is also why I teach newbies to negotiate from an “I want to start with just doing x, y, and z” position rather than trying to think of all the things they don’t want to do.) As a Top you should be able to trust that the bottom has disclosed whatever medical issues, triggers, etc that they are aware of, along with things that may be unique to them as a player. For example, bottoms – if when you go into subspace you are barely aware of your surroundings or what year it is, this is something the Top should be made aware of!

However, guess what? Even after all that things can go wrong. The bottom may have forgotten to disclose something. The Top may have briefly had a brain fart regarding one of the bottom’s limits. The bottom may have been triggered by something they didn’t realize they would be triggered by. The Top may have done something that wasn’t spelled out in negotiations (not talking about major stuff). But remember, scenes are supposed to be fun. Especially with a new partner who is likely not to go too “deep” or too far in play the first time. Not everything will be spelled out in the negotiation – it’s not possible. Or, if possible, it would probably be a very boring, predictable scene.

So what do you do about that? Well, for starters, choose to play with people you can have a conversation with. I’m talking about a conversation beyond the negotiation. If these things happen (which they will) don’t jump to anger and blaming the other person. Start with personal responsibility. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what part of that do you hold accountability for? Acknowledge this to your partner. Hopefully they will acknowledge their part of whatever happened as well. TALK about the little things that happened and assume it was not born from manipulation or ill intent. Are some people douche-nozzles? Absolutely. However, most people aren’t looking to hurt you or create a bad reputation for themselves. Most people are doing the best they can or the best they know how to do. So talk about the scene. Make adjustments in your future negotiations if need be.

Just remember when you strip away the titles and the power exchange – we are all just human first.

 

So many closets, so little time.  Well, ok, only two closets, however, I’ve had to come out of them again and again.

When you hear that someone “came out of the closet” you may think, “Good for them, it’s a big step and now they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”  What people may not realize is that once you come out – that’s just the FIRST time.  Essentially you have to come out every time you meet someone new or run into an old friend or family member who perhaps wasn’t around when you made the big announcement.  (That’s how everyone comes out by the way – big loudspeaker type pronouncement over the radio or in a stadium.)

Every time you tell someone new, you run the same risk you did the first time.  Will they react positively or with criticism?  Will your relationship with them change after this conversation?

When I came out the first time it was at the age of 17 and I came out to my friends as bisexual.  (FYI – this is still how I identify – I know – SHOCKER – it wasn’t just a phase…..)  I am proud to say I have wonderful friends who totally accepted me and had no issue.  I got involved with my LGBT group on my college campus and dated the only other bisexual girl in the group because the lesbians wanted nothing to do with us.  (That’s a topic for another day)  Fortunately she was just my type and we had a nice time together.  It was, however, a short romance and pretty soon after we broke up I started dating the man I would eventually marry.

Fast forward 15 years, marriage, two kids and one divorce later.  Time to get back out into the dating pool.  I cast out my net to any and all on the typical dating sites.  Met a few great people – not great matches however.  Then I met a woman – an amazing woman.  We dated for a couple years with some bumps in the road.  However, it was a serious relationship and I felt that it was time to come out to my parents.  Until this point I was “relatively out” – meaning I was out to everyone except my relatives!

So there I was, in my 30’s, coming out to my parents.  Thankfully they are both totally supportive.  My dad thought perhaps it was a post-divorce phase until I explained that she was not my first female partner.

So then there was the kink/BDSM closet that I had newly discovered as I was going thru my divorce.  For many people kink is something they do in the bedroom and they never feel the need to “come out” about it.  However, for me it wasn’t only my lifestyle, it was also my job.  Only a couple years into the scene I worked as a pro-sub and then a pro-Switch.  I eventually felt the pressure to open up to my mom because she kept asking so many questions about my new job in “customer service”.  Nice cover, right?  Fortunately it coincided with the 50 Shades trilogy and my mom happened to be reading the first one.  I used that to come out to her.  Her biggest concern was my safety and my happiness.  I assured her that I was both safe and happy.  She was supportive.  She has even attended one of my classes to try and gain more of an understanding – which I thought was super awesome of her!

Shortly thereafter I told my dad and he was accepting as well.  All of my friends know and I’m not shy talking about it with new friends I meet.  I am a bit more cautious with friends connected to my kids.  However, if you read my article titled The Outsider, you will see I didn’t have much to worry about.

I know that many people don’t feel they can come out about their orientation, their BDSM lifestyle, or perhaps both.  They may fear family shame, ridicule, or job loss.  As for me I feel extremely fortunate to be able to live my life openly.

I am at the point now in my life (perhaps some of it just comes with age) where I figure if you don’t accept me (and all that I am) then I don’t need you in my life.  If you want to know more, however, just ask and I will answer any question you have!

I come out of two closets again and again….and I’m proud of both!

This is not my original writing – reference: https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html

This is a long article, however, if you are in a poly dynamic or thinking about entering one, this hits on many important points.  I like it because it is written for those who are approaching poly from a well-intentioned and compassionate place, yet mistakes and hazards can still happen.

 

Common mistakes in poly relationships

With grateful acknowledgement to Suzie, for her insight and contributions

 

There is an excellent guide to screwing up poly relationships on the alt.polyamory site, which describes in some detail the petty, mean-spirited, malicious things that you can do to help ensure that your relationship fails in the most dramatic, painful way possible.

This is not that page.

This page is designed to describe some of the mistakes you can make in a non-monogamous relationship even if you are compassionate, honest, and well-intentioned. Sometimes, building a stable, happy, non-monogamous relationship is not intuitive, and there are mistakes that can be made along the road no matter how well-intentioned you may be. Ideally, you should seek to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than your own; it’s a lot less trouble.

Don’t make assumptions about your partner or your relationship; talk about everything

There are people in the world who don’t like talking about relationship stuff, or who see it as an onerous chore. The problem with that is you can easily end up in a situation where you think something’s okay with your partner, or that you’re at some place in your relationship with your partner, or that you’re in a type of relationship that allows some things or doesn’t allow others, and your partner has a completely different idea. Finding that out by talking about it is a lot less dramatic than finding it out by crossing a line you didn’t even know existed. Be clear up front about what your partner expects from you (and about what you expect from your partner), and you’ll be a lot happier, trust me.

Don’t ignore the consequences of your actions—even the unintended consequences

The law of unintended consequence is as universal and as inescapable as the law of gravity, and is certainly more than capable of screwing up your romantic relationship beyond all recognition.

Put simply, your decisions and your actions have consequences for both your partners and your relationships, and you bear responsibility for these consequences—even if you feel that your decisions were appropriate and justified, even if you feel that your actions were expressly permitted by the rules of your relationship.

The most common example of unintended consequence can be found in relationships that have “veto” rules permitting one partner to veto another partner’s romantic relationships. Most of the time, veto is a negotiated and mutually agreed-upon rule; the people in a relationship that includes a veto power explicitly give that veto power to their partner.

Yet if your partner falls in love with someone, and you then veto that relationship, you are almost certain to hurt your partner. It does not matter if your partner explicitly agreed to that veto power and explicitly consented to give you that power; when a person loses a romantic relationship, it hurts. That’s the way human beings work. When you hurt your partner, that can and likely will affect your relationship with your partner, even if your partner explicitly gave you that power. Now, I’m not saying you should never exercise a veto; but I am saying that when you make a decision affecting your partner, seek to understand how it affects your partner, and take responsibility for that. Say “Yes, I know this hurts you, and I’m sorry.” Acknowledge that your decisions may affect your relationship with your partner, and take responsibility for those effects, even if they were unintended.

This is probably the single most crucial factor to the success of any relationship. Everything you do—whether it’s inviting your partner to some function but not inviting your partner’s partners, or seeking to exclude your partner’s other partners from things that are important to you, or even something as simple as not acknowledging the value your partner sees in his or her other relationships—will affect your relationship with your partner, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in ways that are more obvious. Be aware of the consequences of your decisions as well as your reasons for making them.

Don’t try to micromanage your feelings, or those of your partners

One of the more common problems in a polyamorous relationship arises when one of the people involved, in an effort to feel less threatened or more secure, seeks to control the extent to which his or her partner becomes emotionally involved with another partner. People often feel threatened by emotional intimacy—sometimes, more threatened than by physical intimacy. But trying to micromanage emotions isn’t the way to solve that problem.

Emotions are resistant to being managed that way; it’s virtually impossible to pass a “rule” that says “you may be physically intimate with another person, but you may not be emotionally intimate past this point” and have it stick. It’s not always possible to predict what relationships will become emotionally intimate, or how they’ll become emotionally intimate; attempting to manage insecurity or fear by micromanaging emotional connections is virtually certain to fail. In fact, sometimes, attempts to micromanage emotional intimacy lead to the next problem, which is:

Don’t destroy the village in order to save it

It’s a given in most relationships of any sort at all that hurting one’s partner will hurt the relationship. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you break your lover’s heart, you will cause damage to your relationship.

One way to break your lover’s heart is to force your lover to withdraw from a person he or she loves, which is where rules forbidding emotional intimacy generally end. Because emotions can’t be arbitrarily controlled, and because it’s not always possible to predict in advance when a relationship will become emotionally intimate, people who build relationship structures in which emotional intimacy is forbidden often end up unintentionally violating those structures. When that happens, a choice must be made: the rules forbidding emotional intimacy can change, or the person who’s become emotionally intimate with a new partner can withdraw from that partner. Doing the latter is going to cause a lot of pain, both for that person and for his or her new partner; eventually, that pain is going to affect the existing relationship.

In an effort to avoid making this mistake, though, people sometimes commit the next, which is:

Don’t expect someone to develop the same relationship with both you and your partner

One way people sometimes seek to address the problem of feeling threatened by emotional intimacy is to say “Okay, emotional intimacy is not a problem, as long as a new partner becomes involved with both of us and loves both of us. That way, nobody feels left out, and nobody needs to feel jealous.”

On paper, it looks great. In the real world, however, it’s not usually successful, because it rests on an assumption that isn’t true—namely, that it’s possible to dictate that two separate relationships can develop at the same rate and to the same degree with two different people.

Let’s assume that a person begins dating a pair of identical twins, and that he or she spends the same amount of time with each of them. Even in that situation, it’s not realistic to expect both relationships to develop at the same rate and in the same way. Relationships, like people, are individuals, and it simply isn’t realistic to think that a relationship with two different people will turn out the same.

People will sometimes seek to do this because they feel that it will protect them from insecurity or jealousy—“I feel threatened when my partner has an emotionally intimate relationship, but if the person my partner is involved with has the same relationship with me, I won’t feel left out, so I won’t feel threatened.” The better approach, I think, is to create a relationship that is inclusive rather than exclusive, but that does not rely on an impossible goal like “anyone new must date both of us and must develop the same kind of relationship with both of us.” Inclusiveness does not have to mean “two relationships that are the same”; indeed, it is possible to construct inclusive relationships in which the new person is only romantically involved with one member of an existing couple, but has developed a strong friendship with the other.

And while we’re at it, the second mistake people make along these lines:

Don’t assume that you can prevent jealousy by making sure you and your partner date the same person

This is one of the most common mistakes made by couples who decide to try out polyamory. The idea is that if one of the members of the couple has insecurity or jealousy issues, the way to keep this from becoming a problem is if both of them date the same person. After all, if your partner is sleeping with someone else, but you’re also sleeping with that person, you won’t get jealous, right?

Wrong.

Jealousy doesn’t work that way. Jealousy isn’t rational. It doesn’t make any difference if you and your partner are sleeping with the same person; if you are insecure, or have unresolved fears of loss or of being replaced, you may still feel jealous if your partner has another lover even if that person is also your lover.

The way to keep from feeling threatened or jealous is to figure out what lies at the root of the jealousy and then deal with that, not by creating relationship structures that are intended to make the jealousy go away. Jealousy is rooted in other emotions, such as insecurity or fear of loss. Dating the same person that your partner is dating does not make those other emotions go away.

Don’t forget your priorities

It is completely natural to become so wrapped up in the joy of a new relationship that you neglect your existing relationships; in fact, it often takes a considerable act of will to pay full attention to your existing relationships.

But doing this is necessary. Neglecting existing relationships in the giddy rush to a new relationship can be extremely destructive…to all of the relationships. Don’t get carried away; pay attention to what you’re doing. Take care to make all of your partners feel loved, needed, and secure.

Don’t start new relationships if your existing relationships have problems

Polyamory is not a way to evade problems in your romantic life. In fact, problems in one relationship have a very nasty habit of spilling over into your other relationships if you’re not careful.

If you have a relationship that is facing difficulty, that is not the time to be starting new relationships. Doing so is likely to create problems in the new relationship and exacerbate the problem in your existing relationship. It’s unfair to both your existing lover and to any new lover to begin relationships under these conditions.

And on the flip side of that same mistake:

Be careful about getting involved with an existing couple who haven’t worked out what polyamory is all about

One almost-certain way to run into heartache is to start dating one part (or both parts!) of an existing couple when each of the members of that couple has a different idea about how their relationship should work.

Any time two people are clearly not on the same page about what is and is not allowed, or have different ideas about how their relationship should be conducted, you’re likely to find trouble. And as often as not, when problems occur between the members of the existing couple as a result, you’ll be the bad guy. It pays to do what you can to see that everyone is on the same page before your heart is on the line.

And while we’re on the subject, the flip side of that same coin is…

Don’t get involved in polyamory if you’re still not sure whether or not you have a poly relationship in the first place, or if you’re not prepared to take responsibility for your actions

It should go without saying, but don’t invite someone into your relationship if you aren’t clear whether or not your relationship permits it. If you are partnered, and you think you might like to explore polyamory, be clear with your partner about it before you bring someone else in. And when you do bring someone else in, be clear that this person’s heart is on the line. You are offering this person physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, or both; take responsibility for that. Don’t let him in, create vulnerability, and then turn around without warning and say “well, my partner and I aren’t sure if we’re poly or not.”

Your partners are human beings, not commodities; if you want partners who will treat you well, consider your feelings, and behave with compassion and respect, you need to treat them well, consider their feelings, and behave with compassion and respect yourself. Get clear in your own head and establish with your existing partner how your relationship works and what the terms of your relationship are; don’t make someone else find this out by trial and error! If you’re not sure whether or not you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you aren’t in a polyamorous relationship.

Don’t assume that needs not being met in one relationship can be met in another

Often, people may fall into the trap of believing that if some need is not being met in a relationship, the solution is to meet that need by seeking another relationship. This is particularly common in primary/secondary relationships, where if the secondary’s needs aren’t being met, the secondary may seek out other relationships to meet them.

In reality, many needs are connected to a person, not to a relationship. If you need A, B, C, D, and E, don’t assume you can have needs A, B, and D met from Joe, and needs C and E from Bob. What you may find is that you need A, B, C, and D from Joe, and need A, D, and E from Bob; getting A from Joe does not mean that you do not also need it from Bob.

Don’t try to force your relationships to fit a predefined mold

Many people believe that communication is Rule #1 in a polyamorous relationship. If that’s true, then Rule #0 is: Let your relationships be what they are.

When someone who is in a polyamorous relationship begins searching for a new partner, sometimes the temptation exists to search for a new relationship that will fit within a predefined form—for example, “I want a bisexual female who will date both my partner and me, who is already partnered, and who likes skeeball.”

Like any kind of romantic relationship, a poly relationship isn’t likely to be quite that tidy. Often, a relationship may fail if the people involved in that relationship try to force it to fit some predefined set of conditions, rather than allowing the relationship to grow in whatever direction is natural.

This is particularly true in situations where an existing couple or group seek out a new relationship that will involve everyone equally—for example, “We are a couple looking for another couple in such a way that all four of us will be romantically involved with one another.” The impulse here can be to try to force the new relationships to fit that pattern even in situations where the relationships, if allowed to grow naturally, wouldn’t take that shape.

But this can happen in one-on-one relationships as well. When people say things like “I want a secondary partner,” they may be committing the advanced form of this mistake; you can’t always predict in advance how intimate a romantic relationship will become. You can’t force a light, casual relationship to become deep and passionate—but you also can’t force a deep, passionate relationship to be light and casual!

A very valuable tool that can be used to avoid this problem is to treat any relationship between two people as though it has three components: the needs of the first person involved, the needs of the second person involved, and the needs of the relationship itself. Often, the relationship itself acts like a third, independent entity, and it’s wise to listen to the needs of the relationship.

Don’t try to isolate your relationships

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Often, people try to isolate their relationships from one another, and try to “compartmentalize” the relationships so that each is a separate, distinct entity. This is usually more common with relationships that follow a primary/secondary model.

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. Each relationship can and will exert an influence on the others. It’s important to keep this in mind, and to understand that the things you do in one relationship have consequences for the others.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to go overboard in the other direction, which leads us to the next poly mistake:

Don’t try to combine your relationships, or force them to act as a single relationship

This happens most often in people seeking to create an intentional, equilateral relationship involving three or four people. The impulse is for all the people involved to want to do everything together—to spend all their time together, go out together, and so on.

The dangers here are twofold. First, it can be suffocating to have no space of your own, to always be surrounded by other people. Second, this tends to try to “force” the relationship to fit a mold it might not fit naturally. It’s quite normal for all the people in a triad or quad to relate to one another somewhat differently, even if the triad or quad is equilateral; and two of the people may enjoy doing something together that the third doesn’t enjoy, or doesn’t enjoy as much.

This is normal and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with letting the relationships develop as they will; not everyone has the same needs, the same tastes, and the same desires. It doesn’t mean the relationship is not equilateral.

Don’t try to separate yourself from your lover’s other relationships

This most often happens in situations where one partner is polyamorous by nature and the other is monogamous. A number of factors can cause you to try to distance yourself from your lover’s other lovers: Fear, jealousy, insecurity, and so on.

The reality of your lover’s other relationships is almost never as bad as the fear makes it out to be. Getting to know your lover’s other partners can go a long way to driving out that fear. The fact is, a person who is involved with someone who’s poly is also in a relationship with that person’s other partners—even if it’s not a romantic relationship.

If you see those other partners as competitors, it becomes easy to dehumanize them, and the impulse is to vilify and distrust them. This tends to cause a great deal of stress on your relationship with your lover; it also tends to cause you to go crazy.

Once you see your lover’s other partners as human beings, instead of as competitors, it eases any stress you may be experiencing. It also helps you to establish healthy, happy relationships with them.

If, that is, they want a healthy relationship with you. If they don’t, then it’s important to consider the next common poly mistake, which is:

Don’t be afraid to put your foot down

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Not everyone is a good person, and not everyone is perfect, and not everyone makes an ideal match for your lover. Often, we may want to do things that make our partner happy, even if we know better or if we have to sacrifice our own happiness to get there.

This usually works in the short run, and usually causes pain and grief in the long run. Listen to that little inner voice; it’s rarely wrong. If something bothers you, speak up about it. If you find something completely unacceptable, say so! Even if it’s irrational, your lover should at least be willing to listen to what you have to say about it.

And speaking of being irrational:

Don’t expect human beings to be rational all the time

We are inherently irrational beings. This is a part of the nature of man. Irrational responses are a part and parcel of who we are as human beings, and these things can’t be addressed rationally.

You may find some of your partner’s behavior or emotional response to be irrational in any romantic situation. This is not necessarily bad; love is not rational. Nor is jealousy.

Remember that you are not always rational, either. Do not attack, browbeat, or berate your partner for behaving emotionally; do not expect that your partner will always act in accordance with reason and logic. It’s not going to happen.

If your partner is acting irrationally, you must still be compassionate and respectful—even if you disagree with things your partner says or does! Treat your partner’s feelings with respect and courtesy. Try to find out why your partner feels the way he or she feels. Often, there may be some underlying reason that is not obvious; if you want to address the feeling, it’s necessary first to find out where it comes from.

People often know that it’s important to be compassionate when faced with jealousy, but it’s important to remember that all of your partner’s feelings are important. Even positive feelings, such as love or new relationship energy, can cause your partner to behave irrationally. Try to understand what your partner is feeling, and why, when you address any problems this behavior may bring up.

Develop good communication and conflict resolution skills

This one is obvious, really, but it bears repeating. A relationship is not doomed until the people in it stop talking to each other and start breaking dishes instead.

Talk to your partner. Honestly. All the time. About everything.

Don’t make unilateral life-altering decisions

Partners should include one another in life-altering decisions. Big announcements of major changes in one’s life can often make one’s partners feel alienated.

Talk to all your partners. Don’t relay information through your other partners

This never works. Seriously. Information that passes through an intermediary never quite gets to its destination without getting mangled. If you need to talk to someone, go directly to that person.

And on a related note:

Don’t rely on relayed information

Never trust that what one partner says about what another partner said is entirely accurate (even if no skewing was intended). Go to the source and get confirmation.

Don’t move too fast

There is no such thing as instant polyamory. Don’t think you have to have sex on the first date. Don’t show up with a moving van on the second date. And don’t call it a “relationship” till you’ve actually dating a while. Try letting things grow naturally, and build something lasting instead.

Polyamorous relationships are not different in kind from monogamous relationships, and the beginnings of any relationship are fraught with peril. Take it slow.

Don’t ignore that little voice in your head

This is an easy mistake to make in any kind of relationship, not just a polyamorous relationship. Sometimes, your heart may tell you one thing even when your head tells you another; even if you can’t put your finger on any rational reason why, it’s often a good idea to listen to your heart when it suggests that something might be wrong.

Just because you can’t find a rational reason why something is wrong doesn’t necessarily mean everything is OK. A wise course of action is to start with the assumption that the little voice is trying to warn you about something you have not consciously become aware of, and to delve deeper into figuring out what that may be.

The little voice is not always right, of course, but don’t write it off just because it’s not rational.

Don’t be afraid of change

Often, especially in a primary/secondary relationship, we may have a subconscious expectation that somebody new can come into our lives and our lives will continue pretty much as they were, undisturbed.

But any romantic relationship is going to leave a permanent mark on the people involved. Any time you introduce someone into your romantic life, even as a secondary, that person can and likely will alter your life permanently.

This is a feature, not a bug. If you bring people into your life, don’t expect to continue on untouched.

Don’t assume every problem you encounter is related to polyamory

When you’re involved in any non-traditional relationship model, it can sometimes be tempting to blame every problem you may encounter on that model. This seems particularly true in polyamory, where it might be easy and tempting to blame the polyamory for whatever trouble you may encounter—“If we weren’t poly, we wouldn’t have to deal with this!”

But that’s not necessarily so. Even traditional, monogamous relationships face their fair share of challenges and difficulties.

For example, if you’re in a poly relationship and you feel that you aren’t getting enough of your partner’s attention, it might be tempting to say, “If you weren’t also involved with so-and-so, I wouldn’t be feeling neglected.” But in any relationship, situations exist that may distract your lover’s attention—work, family, and so on. The problem in this case isn’t really polyamory—it’s time management.

Isolating the root cause of the problem, rather than simply blaming the problem on polyamory, is an excellent way to resolve relationship difficulties.

Make sure your actions and your intentions match

This is a valuable rule to apply to any relationship, but it’s particularly important in a poly relationship.

For instance, if you claim to accept or like your lover’s other partner(s), but in practice you manage to avoid acknowledging the other partner(s) as much as possible (such as never asking about them, never taking any initiative to nurture even the most casual or friendly relationship with them, falling silent or changing the subject whenever your lover mentions them, etc.), then you’re sending a clear message that you wish the other partner(s) didn’t exist.

This is very difficult on the lover-in-the-middle, which is made much worse if you deny that you’re doing this.

 

Last updated: June 18, 2011

https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html