April 11, 2013 by aggiesez
Today the Goddess of Java (a.k.a Polyamorous Misanthrope) offered a must-read post, Don’t treat people like things, which was sparked by this brilliant checklist:
Oh, hell yeah!
I’ve written before about how poly people (especially those who have a primary partner) can treat non-primary partners well, and also about how couple privilege can make you an asshole. Those popular posts were aimed mostly at people — especially those in pre-existing and often formerly monogamous relationships — who sometimes behave as though their non-primary partners are less important people than themselves or their primary partner(s). I wrote them because people who behave badly often really do need to be told they’re behaving badly, and also given ideas for how to behave better.
However, people who are at risk of being treated badly have responsibilities too. We all need to look out for our own interests.
It’s not enough to rely on others to treat us fairly; or on crying, screaming or surrendering when they don’t. Exercise your personal autonomy and power on your own behalf. Get clear with yourself about your own personal standards for your relationships — and have the spine to speak up about them directly and stick to them from the start of (and all through) a relationship.
Due diligence may not guarantee good treatment or healthy relationships, but it sure as hell helps.
What I like about this card is it that it deftly, succinctly tackles four key tasks:
- Personal awareness and standards. By highlighting common examples of couple privilege and other kinds of disrespect and devaluation, it encourages current or prospective non-primary partners to value themselves, have their own standards, and speak up about them.
- Wake-up call to people (especially those in pre-existing primary relationships) who previously assumed the behaviors on the checklist were acceptable, normal, or desirable. It’s the tap on the shoulder that says: Hey you: if you think or act like this, you’re being an entitled jerk. And that will cost you.
- It’s funny. Because really, people are more likely to pay attention to important or controversial stuff when it’s also funny. Laughter releases stress and discomfort. Would you rather watch The Colbert Report or Meet the Press? I rest my case.
- Filter. If someone doesn’t think this card is funny (or at least sadly acknowledge that many people really do think and act this way), that’s a red flag. Someone who acts offended, insecure, or dismissive when handed this card has quickly demonstrated that they may present a higher risk of treating a non-primary partner badly. This is highly useful information at any point in a non-primary relationship, but especially right at the start — or even during initial conversations or flirtations. Oh, I adore efficiency!
You can download a pdf of this card, and actually hand it to people with a pen and ask them to fill it out. I love that! I’m going to do that. (Actually, I just did! See the addendum below for how that discussion went.)
If you’ve handed out this card (or shown it to your current or prospective partners online), how did they react? Was this useful? Please comment below.
Yeah, kudos for creating this, guys! Great job!
ADDENDUM: I gave this card to one of my lovers
After I published this post, I sent the checklist to a married poly man who I’ve been dating for a few months. We’ve had really great communication so far, but it’s still worth checking in. Here’s the chat transcript of our discussion:
ME: So if you wouldn’t mind filling out this little form.
HIM: (A minute later) I think it would be blank, except maybe for work… Hmmm
ME: For work? Would that fit under “other?”
HIM: No for the “I will be required to keep the relationship secret from others” item. I’m not very out at work and don’t intend to be. On the other hand, since you live in [Town A] and my work is halfway to [Town B, over an hour away] I doubt you’ll ever be in contact with them.
I suppose that I don’t really require it to be a secret though. I’m in a open relationship on Facebook after all. And the only person from work that you’d end up in contact with is someone I’m out to.
ME: Yeah, that’s more about you keeping the relationship a secret from others, not me, right?
HIM: I suppose so.
ME: Or do you have some expectation/boundary about my behavior I should know about?
HIM: Don’t send letters to my boss dicussing our relationship please.￼😉
ME: OK, noted