After a couple of years of being polyamorous, and a fair share of successful relationships, bad break ups and bad choices, I thought it was high time to reassess what I want, and don’t want in polyamory. Inspired by this post: http://www.polyamorousmisanthrope.com/2007/03/04/embracing-the-inner-hardass/, I decided to write my own set of dating rules.
1. Don’t date couples new to poly. Harsh, but true. We all have to have our first poly relationship with someone, but unless I know you as a friend very well, and can see for myself that both you and your other partner(s) are secure and emotionally mature, you won’t get to learn this difficult shit on me. Been there, done that, got the horrendously painful t-shirt in my first poly relationship, and I don’t ever want to go there again. Hand-holding a single new to poly person might be do-able, but trying to navigate a couple through this stuff isn’t something I have the time, patience or emotional energy to do.
2. Don’t date people who are having significant difficulties in their existing relationships. Whether this be that they are having a bad patch, are dealing with life issues or are in the death throes of their relationship. I won’t be getting involved in that. I am not the plaster for your relationship, or the scape-goat for when it eventually fails.
3. Don’t date people who have significant baggage/issues. Such as serious mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse, a history of violence, crime or some other such difficulty. Selfishly, I don’t want to inflict that on myself or my partners, and I will not be able to support you properly. Sort your shit out before you get involved in this kind of relationship.
4. Don’t date people who need me to be their primary. I know of people who don’t have a hierarchy, which works great for them. Many people, myself included, do have a system of hierarchy. My husband comes first and always will. I don’t envisage ever having a poly household, but I don’t completely rule it out. Therefore anyone approaching me for a relationship needs to understand and accept that whilst we can be vomit-inducingly madly in love, see each other regularly, have fantastic kinky sex, hold hands, share Valentines, birthdays and Christmases, the relationship is always going to be somewhat part time in logistics. Anyone who wants someone to settle down, get married and have kids with will not be able to have that with me.
5. Don’t date couples/groups. I date individuals, people. I am not a unicorn, I am not remotely interested in getting involved with people who come as a package deal. The couples looking for the “hot-bi-babe” to spice up their relationship aren’t polyamorous, but are possessive and insecure people and need to get the hell out of my face.
Getting involved with a triad or more can be a recipe for disaster if one or more of the individual relationships fail. Be wary of that, and ideally, talk beforehand about what would happen if two or more of you decide to stop dating. Personally, I prefer to stick to individual relationships with people. If I end up dating one or more of the people in a couple/group, awesome. If we decide to have group sexytimes, even more so. But it’s the exception, not the rule, and I would still consider myself in individual but connected relationships with individual people, rather than a group relationship.
6. I date people, not dynamics. You may be in some form of D/s relationship in your other relationships. That’s cool with me. With proper negotiation, openness, clarity and communication between all parties, D/s relationships do not preclude polyamory. However, I will not have my relationship subject to ongoing D/s control of your other relationships beyond the initial pre-agreed limits and boundaries. I am dating you, not your dom. I do not consent to them dominating me into the bargain.
7. The relationship with the metamour is key. Being on at least civil terms with your metamours makes poly life about a million times easier. The ability to see actions without ulterior motive, to be able to communicate openly and directly with your metamour all make things much easier and smoother not just for you, but for your mutual honey too. Sometimes your metamours can become great friends and confidants, even sometimes lovers. Whilst this is fantastic if it develops, it’s entirely dependant on the people involved.
However if the metamour seems reluctant to meet you, or speak to you directly, refuses to recognise your existence or your relationship, this is usually a sign that they aren’t really cool with their partner being polyamorous. DADT situations aside, a partner who doesn’t want to engage with me is a huge red flag, and something I avoid. Similarly, if dates with my honey are repeatedly interrupted, delayed, re-arranged or cancelled last minute as a result of the metamour having some kind of emotional tantrum/meltdown/guilt-trip, red flags are also waved frantically before my eyes.
8. Look for the right person for me. This covers a lot of things, but essentially boils down to compatibility. I could have a moderately happy relationship with someone moderately suitable for me, but ultimately the payoff is poor, and not worth the effort. I’d rather be picky and invest in only the creme de la creme of relationships. Sometimes this means I need to walk away because you don’t knock my socks off. Being honest and clear about what qualities I desire in partners is key.
9. Date people who are emotionally mature, good at communicating, negotiating and forming mutual agreements. Some people can learn this “on the job” if they really want to. Some people seem born with those abilities, some people have worked hard to gain those skills. From experience, trying to be in a poly relationship with someone who doesn’t have these qualities is an uphill struggle. Every basic negotiation feels like a battle, every request is interpreted as a dig at them and eventually communication grinds to a halt. Seeking partners who are mature and good at communicating will make this all a hell of a lot easier on everyone involved.
10. Look for people who are honest, reliable and do not promise what they cannot consistently give. One thing I value highly in my relationships (of all types) is honesty. Don’t tell me I look great in this dress if it makes my ass look huge. Similarly, don’t tell me you can’t come on our date because you have your period if in fact you are busy fucking your new boyfriend. Don’t agree to something you know you cannot deliver on, and don’t tell me lies, even to spare my feelings. Whilst being told my ass looks huge in that dress, or that you would prefer to fuck your new boyfriend than see me can hurt like a bitch, I know you respect me enough to be honest with me, and that makes me trust you. Lie to me about the small things, and I won’t trust you about the big things.
However, be aware that anyone who consistently blows me off to spend time with their new and shiny won’t get chance to do that for long. Whilst I accept that NRE is powerful, and I want you to have awesome times with your new honey, you need to invest in our ongoing relationship too. If your focus can only really shine on one person at a time, perhaps you aren’t really suited to polyamory.
11. Date people who value me for me. I shouldn’t really need to say that, but sadly I do. I promise to only date people who think I am freaking awesome. People who want to spend time with me, find things out about me, hear my opinions, know how my day was and adore me as much as I adore them. People who want to snuggle up to me and watch Star Wars. People who think I am adorable making monster noises in a morning. People who can accept I don’t shave my legs every day and who think I am beautiful with or without makeup. Essentially, people I can be comfortably myself with. There’s a few people I have this with, and it’s something I treasure.
12. Date poly people whom already have a primary (or who don’t want one). This one will make me unpopular in some circles, but for me, after bitter experience, it is true. Every time I have been involved with a single poly person who was looking for a primary, problems arose when they met one. In all the cases, it was because the new primary didn’t like the pre-existing relationships and were unwilling to negotiate on that, or accept that they came with the person they were getting involved in. Essentially, they gave the person an ultimatum, and as a secondary, you are the more dispensable. For people who already have a primary (or who are damn sure they don’t want one), this problem won’t ever arise, and they are hopefully less likely to accede to ultimatums.
I’m sure I’ll add to this list over time and with more musing on the subject. But for now, that’s my list, and my promises to myself, and my partners for a brighter, happier poly future.