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The Autobiography of Russell
Life from a different perspective
Being Poly in name and theory
My last post makes a nice segue into this topic. During Penguicon I attended one of the Poly panels called "The Lighter Side of Poly" which was supposed to focus on the positive and potentially humorous aspects of being in a poly relationship. There were some serious conversations and stern warnings about what poly was/wasn't, but overall it accomplished the goal of being light and humorous. The salient point to this topic, though, is that during this panel they asked the audience how many people considered themselves poly. I raised my hand, of course, but at that same time I realized something.

I've never actually been in more than one relationship at a time. I'm still a poly-virgin.

My relationship with Ben was supposed to be considered Poly, but that really wasn't how it turned out. At the start of that relationship there was someone else I was supposedly seeing, but I only ever saw them one more time before that fizzled out. I kept an eye out for potentials, but very few of them panned out to even a first date.

One of the big guidelines given in many poly relationship guides is a strong recommendation to not get into a poly relationship with someone who hasn't been in a poly relationship before. It's with good intentions that is said, but it creates an exclusive club like the 'you need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience' catch-22. I have such a hard time getting into one relationship that getting into more than one seems practically impossible. The closet I've come is nibbling around the edges of poly and being friends with people who are poly/open.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
mai_neh From: mai_neh Date: April 29th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't mean to sound flippant or unhelpful ... neither of the fellas in my poly lifestyle were ever in a poly relationship before I came along. Yet, if I were giving standard advice, I would advise somebody who wants a poly lifestyle to look for people with experience in that lifestyle for dating purposes. Just because breaking in a newbie can be very difficult! Yet, I fell in love with newbies and broke them in. Gotta start somewhere!

Yet, I didn't look for either of them. I met Tod via a mutual friend on a random night out. I met K via Tod, they met working out at the gym, struck up a conversation in the sauna, thought they had music interests in common. When Tod met K, K was in a monogamous relationship. They fell in love anyway. Then K's partner forbade Tod and K to see each other. K eventually left his partner, in part so he could date Tod, but also because we had introduced him to the idea of open/poly relationships and K never wanted to be monogamous again.

So ... here I am neck deep in a poly lifestyle, and it happened totally randomly, or arbitrarily, simply by being open to poly relationships, and by refusing to form a monogamous relationship along the way.

If I were suddenly less partnered tomorrow, I'm not sure what I would do next. But I'm certain I would not ever promise to be monogamous again.

I guess I define polyamory not by having poly relationships, but by refusing to commit to monogamy. Even if I were single I would consider myself poly, and would refuse to get into monogamy. So, maybe that's the starting point? You consider yourself poly. But finding people to be poly with -- I don't know how this is done, for me it just happened, eventually. Without particularly looking for them.
zimzat From: zimzat Date: April 29th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Telling people to only look for people with experience gives the impression that those without experience should be disregarded or given less of a chance. It can make people less open-minded and potentially create a blind spot. That's the primary point I was trying to make with that.

I didn't delve into it, so it may sound like I was suggesting it, but I would never consider starting a relationship with the expectation of being monogamous again. I only had to think for about it for two seconds before knowing that in a year or two, when the next potential relationship comes around, I'd just be hurting myself. It also wouldn't increase my chance of finding a relationship, either, as someone I'm likely to get along with is also likely to be open to alternate relationship arrangements. The mentality that often comes along with a monogamous relationship of people who don't know any better would suffocate me.

It's like the gay thing. You gotta start somewhere with your first guy, and someone has to be the first guy (*raises hand* Been there, done that, with several newbies) even if they're unlikely to stick around until the concept truly gels in their head.
mai_neh From: mai_neh Date: April 29th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hear what you are saying about how that advice will come across to a newbie. But I think it is natural to search for experienced people? Sort of like with BDSM, if you are just starting out you might want a mentor, or a play partner who knows the ropes, until you have figured out how to play safely. But I never got to date an experienced poly person, and I've never had a meaningful BDSM scene with an experienced BDSM person. And I'm not sure this advice of what to look for in a potential date works anyway. I know there are entire industries devoted to helping people find dates, but in the end you are just mixing yourself with other humans to find out whether you like them or not. You can't know this ahead of time, you can't specify a bunch of observable characteristics and then automatically like the person or fall in love or survive the periodic crises of intimacy that will inevitably come along. I think the Internet is great at helping people with similar interests to meet each other, but you might meet somebody in real life kinda randomly and like him more than anybody you've ever searched for online.

So, I hear what you are saying, the advice sounds unfair, but does it matter? Are there poly people who are refusing to date you because you aren't experienced? Somebody who takes the advice that seriously, and doesn't even give you the time of day because of it, is closing himself off from the world and everything it has to offer. You deserve somebody with an open mind, who is willing to take a risk. And I have no idea how to select for such a person from the crowd. You have to be open to risk taking, and mix yourself up with other humans, and see what sticks.

So, reject the advice! :-) I did. And now you've illustrated that if I ever give that advice again I'm creating a trap for newbies. So I won't.
zimzat From: zimzat Date: May 21st, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's okay to look for experienced people and ask them for advice. I don't see anything wrong with asking them for a personal demonstration either if the situation is appropriate. If there's a subject I don't know much about but want to get more familiar with then I don't limit myself to applying only to companies that do what I want to learn (as they're highly unlikely to hire me), but to go read articles, books, demos, view open source projects, etc in order to learn more. I might even pick up a project and start experimenting with it.

I think the above translates well to the dating, sex, etc scenes as well. I've done a lot of reading about poly and going to Q&A meetups, so I've got a pretty good idea what to expect and how to handle situations. It's not the same as having actual experience ("In theory there is no difference between in theory and in practice. In practice..."), but *shrug*
legolastn From: legolastn Date: April 29th, 2013 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well you've done some poly dating, at the very least...
zimzat From: zimzat Date: April 30th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, something like that. I'm not sure what to call the Arizona/etc experience. That's what I was thinking of when I said nibbling around the edges. :-P I had an ex who was poly but at the time we were together we were monogamous. Since then he's gone monogamous LTR.
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