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If you've ever encountered any other Poly page but this one, you've seen the phrase, "Communication, communication, communication".
It's called the Poly Mantra and there is a reason for it.
Poly is about relationships. While any relationship takes time and effort to maintain, remember that the complexity increases several fold with each person added to it.
If you have a couple, it's one relationship.
A triad is four relationships (the unit and then each individual relationship within it).
A quad is sixteen relationships (the unit, three triads within the unit, then each person's individual relationships with the other).
And so on.
As you add people to a relationship, communication in each combination is essential. As any engineer will tell you, entropy always increases with the increased complexity of the system. If you have a complex machine, you often have to lubricate the parts to make sure they function properly and do not break.
Communication is the lubricant here -- not sex.
Communication must be done in love. I don't mean the romantic crap here. As much as I like romance, it's a game. I'm talking about real love. You know, the kind of love that will allow you to call bullshit when someone is fooling himself. The kind of love where instead of getting angry and indignant, you're willing to let yourself feel like crap when you realize you've hurt someone.
It's the kind of love where you're focused on the person. When you're listening, you're watching every facial expression and gesture – every twitch and every nuance of voice.
It's the kind of love where you're willing to be completely honest with yourself so that you can be completely honest with whomever you are speaking. It's the kind of love where you're not using pseudo-"honesty" as an attempt to be cruel and lash out, either. It's the self-honesty and the self-knowledge to know the difference.
This is something that you learn, by the way. It takes constant effort. Love is powerful, but to be truly, honestly loving requires a lot of self-discipline – more than you're likely to have at the moment (I can maintain that focus for an hour or so before I am drained, and it is a conscious effort to begin the process. While my goal is to try to do it habitually, it's anyone's guess whether or not I will live long enough to do so). That's okay, too. The important thing is to work on it, and develop it day by day. It's not something you'll acquire overnight, after all. Be forgiving with yourself without giving yourself permission to slack about it.
Also, be forgiving with your spice. They're as flawed and human as you are. You know how much energy and focus it takes for you to develop the ability to love and communicate well. It may be easier for your spice; it may be harder. You need to be understanding about that.
Offer your spice the opportunity to talk. If reluctant to talk, offer it often.
Sometimes, though, there will be issues that must be discussed, and you're being actively ignored. Try talking to a defensive spouse who's decided that Civilization II is just the diversion she needs at the moment :).
If you've got an issue with a spouse that wants to shut out and another that wants to talk it out, you've got a serious conflict of interest. There are several ways to handle it.
You can make an agreement about when to talk it out. This can work well. Something along the lines of "I am completely spun up and upset and there is no way I can think or talk clearly. Let me go for a walk for an hour or so, then we will talk when I come back." If you offer this, be prepared to follow through. Lack of follow through will generate more issues that need to be discussed.
As with most things in life, if you take care of the little things as they come up, they are less likely to become big things. That is not to say that there will never be arguments, misunderstandings or hurt feelings. PMS is a fact of life, rainy days can make a lot of people grumpy – life has its other stresses.
The odds are sadly against a group marriage working. It is my strong opinion that it is because people go into it seeing all the benefits and forgetting how very, very hard one has to work on oneself to become the sort of person who has the energy and wisdom to be a truly loving spouse to more than one person. Those odds are overcome when you do the work.
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