June 11, 2014 by aggiesez
Something cool happened to me, and it’s giving me some new stuff to say here in the SoloPoly blog.
In the past couple months I’ve begun a wonderful new relationship that’s led me to grow in new directions, and challenge my comfort zone. This has sparked me to write about the basics of poly/open relationships — specifically from the perspective of a solo person or other nonprimary partner.
I think the solo take on poly basics is sorely needed. Typically, such information is written by/for people starting from a basis of couplehood, or who are pursuing the relationship escalator goal of deep life enmeshment with partners (whether exclusively or not).
My new sweetheart, IO, is a thoughtful, deep, compassionate, practical, independent and buoyant poly man currently in a semi-long-distance marriage. He splits his time between my town and a rural town several hours away, where his wife, Cora, has lived for over a year. In a few months, he plans to shift to spending most of his time living with her, while still visiting my town periodically. They’ve had an open marriage for awhile, and his wife is in a significant local relationship that’s lasted over a year.
As it happens, I am IO’s first intimate partner outside of his marriage — as well as his first new lover in many years. Neither he nor his wife has been very engaged with the wider culture or community of polyamory. So although they’ve been poly/open for awhile, in many ways they haven’t yet had much opportunity to develop poly experience, context and skills.
In conversations with IO and correspondence with Cora (I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting her due to distance, but hope to soon), I’ve discussed my take on some very fundamental topics concerning polyamory, relationships and personal values. This isn’t intended as a remedial seminar, but rather to foster basic interpersonal understanding — and to help provide a foundation upon which we can each identify what we want and need, and negotiate and collaborate peacefully and compassionately. Much of this is also more generally useful to the readers of this blog.
In turn, IO and Cora have been sharing their perspectives with me — all good groundwork for future negotiation and collaboration. We’re all starting from different places, and need to understand each other. Everyone’s perspective counts, here.
So far their marriage has uniquely blended hierarchical primary-style life partnership, egalitarian openness, and soloish autonomy. Since they’ll be spending much more time living together soon, they’ve been focusing on strengthening their own connection — while Cora also maintains an existing additional relationship, and while IO embarks upon a new relationship with me.
I value learning from people whose experience and approaches differ significantly from my own, even if that process can be bumpy or even riskier in polyamory. And yes, we have hit our first bump in the network, and it did seem that couple privilege was a factor, but it didn’t end up steering that situation.
I have no idea how my relationship, and the network into which it is emerging, will evolve over time. I don’t want to tell this love what it should be when it grows up. My connection with IO could prove to be anything from a passionate short-term fling, to separateness punctuated by periodic reunions and shared adventures — to a resilient, abiding connection which adapts to accommodate geography and other shifting factors in our lives, as well as in who we each evolve to become.
That last possibility is ultimately what I desire from connecting with IO. But I’m not attached to that outcome. Simply having IO in my life at all is a total win for me. I won’t let possible impermanence tarnish that.
…OK, sure, impermanence does concern me a bit — I greatly value and enjoy IO, and I’d rather not lose what we’ve begun to share. It is possible that this could fizzle if mutual interest wanes, or if geography or communication prove untenable. Or it could blow up if intractable incompatibilities emerge. But these risks exist in any relationship, regardless of structure.
I find that consciously acknowledging the breadth of possible outcomes, and believing that the very best of them are indeed possible, helps me to dwell in possibility more than fear.
One outcome is utterly certain: No matter what happens with this relationship, I am — and will continue to be — just fine. My life is pretty freaking awesome, in fact. Feeling so strongly grounded in my own autonomous life, while also perpetually open to possibilities of connection (through polyamory), gives me a sense of personal stability and resilience that enables me to explore territory which strongly challenges my emotional comfort zone. That’s OK, growth is a good thing, I don’t ever want to stop growing.
What I don’t want to do is to predefine my relationship to IO — constraining it to become, effectively, a bonsai relationship. Similarly, I do not want to be relegated into said dwarf bush by others.
That is always a risk when a relationship network involves some element of hierarchy. I’m admittedly quite aware (and rather wary) of this possibility right now. Couple privilege can be insidious, even where intentions are good. But I’m no solo poly novice; I can handle myself well enough to probably avoid getting run over by couple privilege — while keeping my relationship with IO intact. This, too, is entirely possible.
Time will tell. I’m willing to explore, see what happens, and learn. My one certainty here is that IO and I have already formed a deep bond of sincere friendship that is, I believe, likely to endure — and friendship is the crucial basis of any intimacy I’d care to share. If our friendship was to vanish, that would be the only true loss I could imagine here.
Yes, we’re all facing the certainty of discomfort as well as the risk of great pain, in this exploration. Speaking for myself, staying comfortable was never my goal. I learn from pain too — that’s why this blog exists, in fact. I’m not saying pain and loss are fun, or trivial. But they’re better than not learning, and not sharing.
So, stay tuned for some upcoming poly/open relationship basics posts, rooted in my unfolding experience. As well as some posts rooted in what I’ve been sharing in the Singleish and Solo Poly Facebook group (now nearly 3,000 members strong).
Don’t say I didn’t warn you…