I recently began a polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend. We dated previously, but things didn’t work out due to extenuating circumstances, but we remained friends. We’ve recently gotten back together with a different foundation to the relationship. She had not previously had any interest in non-monogamy, but is now much more open to it. What advice can I pass on to her that may help her better establish her thoughts about the topic and follow through on meeting other people?
— Boyfriend with Benefits
You’re wise to give her the space to decipher her own thoughts about an open relationship at her own pace. You’d be even wiser to not hold the expectation of her going out and meeting other people as an end goal.
Why? Because putting the pressure on our partners to force relationships with other people is generally tied up in other baggage. For example, will it reduce your guilt around seeing other people if she’s doing it, too? Does a tit-for-tat polyamorous agreement really suit everyone involved, or does that create a structure more focused on a scorecard than on the humans in the relationships?
Perhaps your girlfriend’s hesitation to see others is based on her fear of how you’ll take it. To reinforce what you’re saying in theory — that it is truly okay to enjoy other partners and come back to the security your relationship — be sure to maintain your usual level of affection and attention to her if/when she does go out with others.
But first, give your girlfriend some resources to help her sift through her own suitcases. Morethantwo.com is a website packed with poly gold as is their accompanying book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. I also recommend Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which is well-suited to new-to-poly readers.
But don’t let yourself off the hook just yet, Boyfriend. It’s easy for me to empathize with the excitement of a newly open relationship. You’re excited to get out there and just need your girlfriend to catch up! But the tired poly paradigm of “if you could just” then “we could just” has been doing damage for a while now and it’s time we all slow our collective roll. Instead, create space for a messy poly process — and with editable relationship agreements that are based on real experiences rather than predictions.
When it comes to love, sex, and the multiplication of all of that within a single relationship system — in a small town, to boot! — making predictive relationship blueprints does little more than provide you with some fancy paper to lay on the floor when the shit inevitably hits the fan. Don’t rush it.
Instead, make a draft. Test it out. Consider each other’s feedback. Revise. And try again. Practice makes poly-perfect, but ultimately the process, rather than the end-product, will determine your success. For her, start with Taormino’s “self-evaluation worksheet” for folks considering non-monogamy for the first(ish) time. I’ll let you in on a little secret, this worksheet and many other resources can be found on my polyamory workshop resource list at yanatallonhicks.com/polyamory-open-relationships. The password is: compersionimmersion.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.