Poly Means Many: Lessons learned

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 polymeansmany.com

I’ve written a lot before about how I don’t know what I want and I consider myself a work in progress. Saying that, I have learned a hell of a lot over the years I’ve been doing poly. A lot of the things I’ve learned haven’t been particularly fun, learned through tears on my pillow from screwups which were sometimes my fault, and sometimes those of others. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may not always apply, but it certainly applies with these things I have learned the hard way, which I share now in the hope that maybe some of you might not end up having to go through the same shit.

(1) You don’t know what your boundaries are until you hit them. In theory, you’ll have some idea of things you definitely don’t want and that’s good, because you can avoid those things proactively. The thing is, matters of the heart are always steering a ship into uncharted territory, because every single relationship is unique. And sometimes, you might dash yourself on some unexpected rocks. You find things you love that pleasantly surprise you, but you also find things you never knew you wouldn’t be right for you, and sometimes it can be agony when you discover these things. This is horrible. But, on the plus side, I now have a better understanding of things that are dealbreakers for me, and can avoid that profoundly awful experience.

(2) Poly doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This problem tends to show up more among radical poly types. There is a mindset that doing poly will be utterly divorced from general societal influences if one has read the right books and has the right analysis. This is completely and utterly categorically untrue. This problem tends to manifest in two main ways. Firstly, men treat women badly. They replicate sexist structures, with an added poly twist to maximise the number of women they can fuck over. And secondly, there is often a denial of the presence of hierarchies due to anarchist beliefs. And both of these are very difficult to challenge, because those perpetuating these problems believe that having the right political analysis is enough. The solution here, I’ve learned, is to apply the same critique that I would to anything in which I’m not directly involved, and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction the second I catch the faintest whiff of manarchism. Not necessarily the best solution, perhaps, but certainly the one which has kept me safest.

(3) You will fuck up. Apologise and learn from it.

(4) You’ll never get everything exactly as you like. And that’s OK, because nobody and nothing is perfect. If it feels right, but not perfect, that’s good, not bad.

(5) Seriously. You will fuck up. Just don’t be a dick about it. Accept that you can fuck up, and hurt people, and that doesn’t make you a monster if you don’t do it again. If you deal with it right, ultimately you can become a better person from it. I hope I have.

6 thoughts on “Poly Means Many: Lessons learned”

  1. Ahhh yes, 3 and 5 resonate!

    Also intrigued to poke at this statement “there is often a denial of the presence of hierarchies due to anarchist beliefs”, are you meaning patriarchy or the ‘primary/secondary’ type of poly hierarchies? Just wondering.

    1. Partially the former, and partially the latter. The latter is exceptionally annoying, as it makes it fairly impossible to discuss the shape of the relationship and whether it’s working because of the flat-out denial that that’s how it’s going!

  2. Number three is an obvious one but it needs emphasising because it is from mistakes that one learns. I will never be perfect and I know that so I try instead to be less imperfect instead. But I am a work in progress so that task is an eternal one. I think though the most important lesson in life is to realise that one is fallible because once that fundamental truth has been realised one can use it as a foundation upon which to build

    On a more general note I have just had a quick look at the site and it is very provocative and seriously heavy which is absolutely excellent. I like the idea of anything that makes me think and this certainly does. I cannot be shocked because I refuse to be but I can be convinced by powerful argument no matter how left field or counter intuitive it may be. There is
    an awful lot but that is not a problem though obviously one may have to compartmentalise. I probably will not agree with everything but that is not
    a problem as long as one has an open mind. So many blogs do not get much traffic or have little subject matter but this one seems an exception. Would like to contribute regularly. have to get into it first to see if that is feasible but that quibble aside it should not be a problem. More blogs like this should exist so one is glad to have found it. Keep up the good work

  3. “You don’t know what your boundaries are until you hit them” – Very much this. Can’t believe it took me so long to figure that out (well, to figure out that it was OK to not know in advance), but it’s been a very useful lesson learned.

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