But it’s all supposed to be very dramatic and torrid and one partner’s supposed to be womanly and hard-to-get and the other’s supposed to be manly and pushy and you prove your love via sex or money respectively and by being super possessive and then you get married and never have sex again—and despite this being a very specific set of circumstances, it’s supposed to magically happen all on its own because if you do any of it on purpose then it isn’t romantic anymore.
Polyamory throws a lot of that out the window. Again, this isn’t really about the “dating multiple people” part, because you can totally do that and still be terrible at relationships (oh my God I have stories), but poly communities, the people who really geek out about polyamory, have gotten really good at normalizing the idea of deciding and communicating about what kind of relationship you’re going to have. Because you can’t just waltz in one day and say to your partner “oh, by the way, this is Susan, she’ll be moving in with us, don’t worry, you’ll still have a spot in the bed on odd-numbered nights.” They will have questions.
And the answers to those questions are reached by communication and mutual agreement. There’s no conventional path-of-least-resistance way to date three people, so you have to work it out among yourselves. Which is, I’m not going to lie, really painful if you’ve soaked up any of the traditional ideas about relationships. The first time I sat down with my boyfriend and his girlfriend and said, “we need to get some clarity about what we want this relationship-thingy to actually be” I was putting my heart down on the table. I mean, less poetically, I felt like I was probably going to barf. But when we started really talking, and we could tell each other what made us feel lonely and what made us feel loved, and then we went out and did the loving parts—that was worth it. It was so worth it."
Polyamory aside for the moment—I got burned in sort of a related way and right now thinking about that is the mental equivalent of touching my newly-scalded tongue to my sharpest teeth—this kind of thoughtfulness, maturity, and communication is the thing I’m looking hardest for in my next relationship.
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