I’ve been honoured to host some fab guest blogs on ethical nonmonogamy over the years – like this guide on how to cultivate compersion or this lovely piece about the realities of open relationships. Often, though, it’s as intriguing to learn from other people’s mistakes as their successes. So just as I’ve tried to write guides on how to be bad in bed before, this week’s guest blogger, Alex, is here to tell you how not to do polyamory. Or in his own words…
How to be polyamorous while being a right fucking prick about it
It’s finally sunny again, everyone is horny as all hell, and we’re not allowed to leave our houses on the pain of literal death. What better time to get involved in the wonderful world of polyamoury? Go outside! Put a sex on someone who isn’t your primary partner! Put your tongue into the mouths of actual strangers! Truly, there never has been a better time to get mad rutty and swap fluids with folks than right now.
[Note from GOTN, because sometimes people do not understand sarcasm and I get letters: do not actually do this]
But wait! Before you fling open your front door and start frotting against the postman, there are a few things you need to know about navigating the tricky waters of open relationships.
Good, clear communication is incredibly important when it comes to juggling multiple partners – after all, the “open” in “open relationships” doesn’t just mean shagging. To this end, it is incredibly important to remain open, honest, and communicative. I’ve found that the best way to do this is having one chat with your primary partner about it all, and then blindly stumbling through life operating on a series of vague assumptions and pub reckons of what is and isn’t appropriate. This leads nicely onto point two.
As with all relationships, trust is key. When your partner says that they are okay with you seeing other people, the best thing to do is absolutely not take that at face value, and instead whip yourself up into an anxious frenzy. Learn to become afraid of talking about prospective other partners. Convince yourself that, even though they said that they are fine with it, they secretly aren’t. This means that every time you want to bring up the possibility of going out for a snog on someone, you find yourself struck with terror, convinced that even mentioning it will lead your partner to thinking that they aren’t enough for you, and that you’d be happier elsewhere. By applying your own worries and insecurities to your partner – and not trusting that they mean what they say – you’ll find yourself springing things on them at the last minute. Who doesn’t love that?!
It is important to establish ground rules. While these may change over time, having a framework of boundaries and expectations can help your relationships grow. A bit like having a trellis for plants, but with bums and hand stuff. Make sure that these rules are as vague and nebulous as possible. If rules are open to interpretation, and you’re following the communication advice above, you’ll find yourself lying awake at three in the morning wondering whether that snog was actually allowed. From my experience, the best way of framing rules is in the style of a logic puzzle where the answer is derived from inference. If Lucy is allowed to kiss James, and James is allowed to do hand stuff with Michael but not with Lisa, who is Emma allowed to fuck? A good rule of thumb is that, if you’re in a situation where you’re thinking “should I check this with my partner, or should I let my junk do the thinking?”, always let your junk take charge.
Finally, the most salient advice of all…
Allow yourself to think that you’re behaving in an appropriate manner, and dismiss any nagging concerns with mental handwaving and a shrug of “it will be fine”. The only alternative is actually facing your fears and insecurities, and having open, frank dialogue with your partner, and any additional partners whose emotional wellbeing you find yourself partly responsible for. These talks are hard. Exhausting, even, and require an astonishing level of honesty and emotional maturity to ensure that no one gets hurt, and that everyone is acting on good faith.
Who’s got the time for that?