Poly Means Many: Negotiation

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 www.polymeansmany.com. This month, our topic is “negotiation”.

This month’s topic is negotiation – much like communication and scheduling, it’s something that’s often held up as a Special Poly Skill.

As you might be able to guess from my sarcastic capitalisation (there is so such a thing as sarcastic capitalisation), I am unconvinced. Negotiation comes from accepting that not everyone in the world wants the same thing as you, that you can’t always get what you want, and that even if you could, if there are people you care about then you wouldn’t want to ride roughshod over their desires and needs just to get what you want. It requires clarity, self-knowledge, care for someone else, empathy and understanding. I don’t see anything there specific to polyamory; that’s just a people skill.

You might have noticed this is a fairly common thought on this blog – that ‘good poly skills’ are generally just good relationship skills, in the broadest and most encompassing sense of relationship. Why do I keep saying this? Because fundamentally I don’t think poly is that interesting.

*awaits chorus of ‘then why blog about it?’*

I read poly blogs for a variety of reasons; some combination or permutation of:
– a friend or acquaintance’s blog, or a writer I admire
– feeling reassured that other people are out there doing the same thing; feeling part of something
– looking for other people dealing with a specific issue, for inspiration/commiseration
– feeling like less of an idiot by finding other people who’ve made the same mistakes as me
– learning more about poly configurations and relationship styles beyond my own and my friends’
– catching up on media coverage, books, cultural stuff that I rely on the internet to inform me about

(Those of you who don’t know me in real life – or even if you do! – I’d be interested to know what draws you to read this blog)

Reasons for reading poly blogs, for me, do not include ‘learning about general poly skills’ – relationship skills, yes, which is also part of why I am endlessly fascinated by advice columns. I can think of literally no poly relationship skill or issue or behaviour for which I couldn’t also come up with a monogamous analogue – sometimes imperfect, but even issues that come up in the majority of poly relationships are different every single time, so there can never be a perfect comparison.

Reasons for writing this blog (aside from the self-centred enjoyment in working out thoughts and feelings by writing about them) include the hope or intention to contribute to the normalisation of poly. If there are five people writing about poly on the internet, they are crazy and out there and deluded and can be easily dismissed. If there are five thousand people writing about poly, they are a bit weird and they don’t all seem to agree on, well, anything really, and they’re still kind of out there and maybe we ought to pay attention and Ban This Sick Filth. If there are five million people writing about poly, then oh god it’s yet another damn poly blog, and actually it’s mostly sort of dull, and do you know I think most of these people are kind of ordinary and worrying about whether work is going well and which family they’re going to see at Christmas and are they about to run out of peanut butter and is the pharmacy open late and how soon can they reasonably leave that boring drinks reception?

Divorced women – worse, divorced mothers – used to be whispered about behind neighbours’ hands, with divorce seen as shameful and humiliating and an excellent topic of gossip. Now? No one (except perhaps the Daily Mail) bats an eyelid. We have done this before, with so many things, and we can do it again.

I truly don’t think poly is all that exciting, objectively. It’s amazing as a personal experience, of course, just like falling in love is amazing as an experience but not (despite how it feels at the time) novel or world-changing or particularly interesting to anyone other than the people directly involved. Polyamory is one way among many of arranging your relationships and drawing your boundaries, that’s all. I have no interest in diminishing anyone else to make myself feel happier or more secure, and personally I feel that it diminishes many long-standing and happy monogamous relationships to imply that they have somehow taken less communication or negotiation to get to where they are. It’s not a competition. You don’t get a trophy at the end if you prove you worked the hardest on communication or scheduling.

Every single relationship goes through difficult patches. The ones that come out the other side, the people who have gone through the fire together and come out shining brighter, are the ones who communicated with clarity and love and empathy, who negotiated kindly and carefully, who knew themselves well enough to state clear boundaries with love and care. When people have climbed emotional mountains together, when they have weathered storms they could never have imagined in the giddy days when they first met, then whether or not they are monogamous seems like a tiny consideration by comparison.

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9 responses to “Poly Means Many: Negotiation

  1. Pingback: » Negotiation Poly Means Many

  2. *applauds* Well said indeed 🙂

    Me? I read blogs for interesting writing and a different voice to my own. Yours definitely has that.

  3. Like Lori, I read blogs to see a different view on things. At present, because my poly relationships are ‘new’, it’s all exciting/challenging/scary so reading that it’s not really any different from what I already know helps.

    Like you, I figure out things when writing too (which is why I’ve been writing about poly stuff as well) and I really like the idea of making poly ‘normal’.

    I do disagree on the notion that poly is no different from any other relationship, by it’s very nature there are always more than one other person which brings obvious challenges in comms, negotiations and all that other stuff, but I guess they are mostly mechanical challenges rather than anything that is specific to poly.

    • “I do disagree on the notion that poly is no different from any other relationship”
      Well, there are specific issues that come up with exploring anything for the first time, like becoming non-monogamous, and polyamory does lend itself to a more fluid and changeable experience (as opposed to the common – and unfair – stereotype of monogamous couples who settle down and promptly stop learning, developing or changing). And yes, on the surface there are specific poly issues that don’t come up anywhere else (like ‘my metamour fancies me but I don’t fancy them’, ‘do I need to meet my girlfriend’s new partner yet?’ ‘I feel jealous – does this mean I’m not really poly?’ and a billion more).
      But none of these are actually novel scenarios. Everyone can understand dealing with an imbalance of attraction with someone you care about but don’t fancy, or wanting to make sure a close friend’s new partner feels welcome in a close-knit friendship group, or feeling torn between wanting to be happy for someone and wanting what they have for yourself or fearing you’re going to be left behind.
      This is what I mean – on the surface these can look like special poly things, but in reality the skills you need are skills that most people with friends and family already have.

  4. This post makes me happier than I can reasonably say. Like, this encompasses so much of what I want and how I feel. It is has actually cheered me up immeasurably. ❤ Thank you.

  5. Your blog, with its consistent clarity, contributes to the normalisation of polyamory. You’re right: being divorced or being gay, happily single, a woman ‘in a man’s job’ or vice versa etc, all defy the norm of forty/fifty years ago. Now these statuses are all normal and quite irrelevant in ‘news’ terms. I admire you and your fellow bloggers for showing how polyamory works, or maybe sometimes doesn’t. Open-ness is the key.

  6. I sort-of know you offline, but I don’t think that has much to do with my reading, because you don’t write about your life. Obviously your experiences flow into it, but what you write is general.

    I read because I find it interesting, I guess.

  7. Hello! Just saw you blog for the first time – love it! We write a poly blog (Jack of all triads) – that looks very different from other people’s poly blog because…there’s a lot of different ways to do this. But ultimately, we mostly write about what it means to love and be human and live in the world. You know, like everybody else’s blog. I agree with you that poly is not inherently interesting, BUT I think that many if not most of the people who practice it are because it takes a special something to jump out of the box and negotiate what happens next. Look forward to reading you in the future.

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