So I think it went well.
The basic message was that regardless of mono or poly, starting at a place of looking for connection and dropping the labels is what makes it evident that the relationship is worth pursuing. Like any relationship there will be things that each person just doesn't get about the other. We decided that its just best to let that go and see the other as if they are from another culture.
We talked a bit about how it might feel for a person who is mono and their partner comes out as poly... almost like they have always been Wiccan and the partner has decided their calling is to be born again Christians. That would completely rock a persons world and throw everything they know up in the air only to wait to see where it all falls. TERRIFYING if you ask me!
Here are our notes in case anyone is interested.
- we're going to share with you today some aspects of our experiences and what we've learned living through this personally as well as observing and talking with others in similar circumstances
- we have experience first hand many struggles in our relationships and witnessed others struggles
- we want to share our thoughts about approaches to mono/poly relationships that we think can help them be successful
- the approach we're going to be sharing with you is our own - it's not the one and only way. Hopefully you'll find some value in the perspective and the tools we are going to share
The format for this workshop
- we're going to divide this presentation into two parts.
- The first part will be all about starting on the mono/poly journey
- The second part looks at issues in established mono/poly relationships
- To keep the flow from being interuppted, please keep your questions until the end.
- the presentation is around 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by 45 minutes of questions and discussion
1. Starting out on the mono/poly journey
before starting out on a mono/poly relationship, ask yourself some questions:
- Why would you go this route, given all the choices available to you?
- consider if you have any hopes or expectations of converting the other person to the same relationship style as you. This includes both the poly side and the mono side.
- work at identifying what kind of relationship style you want. Do you want to be in a small closed group of relationships, or something more flexible and wide open? (this may be an important factor in how a mono/poly relationship fits together
- has the mono partner had past relationships where there were able to do things that (maybe) won't fit so well with the poly partner?
- both people need to do this work
Discuss preferred relationship styles
- both people need to really explain what style of relationship they want.
- What things do they find desirable, acceptable, unacceptable, or negotiable
- don't rely on labels - like monogamous or polyamourous - to communicate about these preferences. It needs to be descriptive.
- is there a reasonable fit of expectations, goals, and desires? Do they conflict heavily or is there a good core of common desires with some workable differences?
- one large challenge in the early stage is opening ourselves to possibilities and leaving aside our preconceived notions of what is or is not possible. For someone who has never heard of polyamory, it may be hard to imagine a relationship that is not sexually or emotionally exclusive. For someone who is polyamorous, it may be hard to imagine that being with a monogamous person could work.
- the question is can we get out of our own perspectives long enough to connect as people?
- when trying to initiate a relationship with someone who identifies as mono, language is important
- using unusual language (special terms) create a barrier between people. The person who is not familiar with your special terms has to learn what they mean before they can understand what you are trying to convey
- for example IT "geekspeek" or engineering terms. If you're trying to understand why your computer systems crashed, having the IT expert telling you it was a RAM memory leak is not going to help you to understand
- instead of using terms like poly, describe using common language how you want your relationships to be. We might use words like: non-possessive, flexible, freedom, etc.
- terms can come later once a basic understanding has been reached and there is some common understanding about what the terms mean
2. Established mono/poly relationships
Attitude towards one another
- for mono/poly relationships to work each person has to respect how the other sees the world
- there has to be acceptance, trust
- there has to be the understanding that you will not relate about relationship style and "get" why the other person is either mono or poly
- it's almost like there's a cultural difference between the people in mono/poly relationships.
- Imagine going to a different country. How would you relate to the new culture you are experiencing? - Would you spend your time judging the way this culture does things? If you did, would you notice what beauty it has to offer? And what if you tried to tell the locals about some amazing things about your country, and they dismissed it? Each has something to offer and teach the other
- we may not totally understand one another's differences, but we can work to accept them without making the other person "wrong"
- we need to move beyond being hung up on our ideas about how our partners SHOULD be and notions of our relationship style being better or worse than other relationship styles.
- like all kinds of relationships there will be boundary negotiations. What makes mono/poly relationships different is not that there are boundaries but the nature of those boundaries
- we might think that mono people have very firm, tight, rigid boundaries just because of their monogamy identification but this is not necessarily so
- the boundaries people have may have a strong individual component more related to what they need to feel safe and loved
- for some people having their partner form a strong emotional connection with someone else may be more challenging, for others the sexual component may be more challenging. We might be fine with our partner having sex with someone else, but have a hard time if they fall in love, or vice versa
- each of us may need tighter or more open boundaries, this is true of people who identify as poly or mono as well
- sorting out boundaries goes in cycles of negotiating, compromising and establishing. Then the cycle starts over again.
- In an established mono relationship, when one partner decides that he/she wants to pursue other relationships, the impact can be huge
- it's huge because it means a whole re-negotiation of the nature of the relationship. It means scrapping all the agreed upon expectations, roles, etc and reformulating the relationship as a different relationship. It means changing the relationship contract
- it's like converting to a different religion
-the impact of ANYONE coming into our lives as a partner can be huge, not just someone who is monogamous.
- making mono/poly relationships work is a matter of working on ourselves and the relationship
The myth of monogamy
- maybe there's a myth of the "monogamous" person as if everyone who is mono has the same expectations, desires, hopes, - in other words that all mono people want the same thing
- there may be the idea that if you are poly in a relationship with a mono person that the mono person will expect you to be monogamous with them
- just as there is not one form of poly, there is not one form of monogamy. For example some (self identified ) mono people might not expect sexual exclusivity but might expect emotional exclusivity
- we could imagine a scenario where one partner of a couple spends a lot of time travelling for work and is allowed to have sexual flings while away
- in other instances a mono person may expect neither, for example if they're not looking for a serious relationship and prefer to just casually date, they themselves may be dating multiple people at the same time
- do not assume because they are mono that they expect you to be exclusive with them.
- for example they may themselves not want other partners but may have some flexibility with you having them
- what they are ok with depends on the mono person, where they are at in the lives, what they want, etc.
- don't turn your backs on connection with people because of assumptions about their labels
- when someone tells you that they're mono, don't assume that you know what that means. There is no one thing known as monogamy, the same way there's no one thing known as polyamory. Be curious and inquire about what they want and value in relationships
- unwrap ourselves from labels to connect better as people
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