Loving poly newbies: risk, reward and powerful exceptions


July 10, 2014 by aggiesez

I believe in giving people chances to demonstrate their character by observing how they choose to behave, and how they treat and affect others (including me). There’s often merit in giving people some room to learn from missteps.

One thing I love about being both solo and polyamorous is that this approach to life and relationships allows me to be highly flexible and resilient. It helps me be more willing and able — on occasion, when I really think it’s worth it — to give lovers and metamours who are trying something new with how they handle relationships at least a few chances to do things well.

That’s important, since few people handle new emotionally loaded situations well the first few times out of the gate. That’s especially true in polyamory. Fortunately, some people who are functionally new-ish to polyamory (like my current sweetie) also show amazing, compelling promise. They can be the “powerful exception” that makes me more willing to stretch and give, to wait and see.

I like that I have the flexibility and resilience to offer my partners room to make some mistakes, and to learn from them — as long as I don’t personally put more at risk from their conduct than I can afford to lose.

…Not that I’m perfect. I make mistakes too. Like anyone, I sometimes fall short of my own values and goals. My heart doesn’t always keep up with my head. Where that happens, I try to learn from it and do better. I’m grateful for the patience and compassion others have extended to me when I’ve screwed up.

Part of what I’m willing to risk, on rare occasion, is serious heartbreak — caring deeply for someone who stands a fair chance of disappointing me or proving incompatible (either through their own flaws or limitations, or through the people and circumstances in their lives that sway their choices).

This is exactly why many seasoned poly folk (solo and otherwise) often avoid dating poly newbies. Being someone’s training wheels usually means you wind up being their crash test dummy at some point, too.

In the past few months I’ve grown pretty emotionally invested in a relationship that frankly holds significant heartbreak potential for me. That’s because it involves a partner and metamour (married) who mostly lack experience with the level of communication, negotiation and awareness that is generally required to a poly relationship network working smoothly, to the benefit everyone involved. And also because, before long, this will become mostly a long-distance relationship for me.

I am consciously choosing to take this emotional risk. That’s not trivial. I’m not pretending this isn’t making me fragile and insecure at times. Fortunately, I’m good at self-soothing. I’m also honing my skills for curbing my expectations — while also leaving the door open to the possibility that this love could work out very well, in several different ways. I’m developing a healthier relationship with hope.

Fortunately, my lover is working hard to develop good poly skills. Also, since his marriage opened up a couple of years ago, he’s done a lot of hard work on personal growth, to expand his comfort zone to include his wife’s ongoing relationship with her lover. And to generally be strongly grounded in himself.

Even if my new relationship doesn’t last very long, my experience so far is that this love is by no means a sunk cost. Rather, it has inherently enriched me, and helped me to grow considerably in just a few months. (Seriously: For years I’ve had a totally shitty relationship with hope. That’s changing, and it needed to change.)

Last night, a conversation with a new friend led me to question the wisdom of risking significant heartbreak in this fairly new and risk-apparent relationship. My answer is no: taking big risks with my heart simply is not wise.

But I’m doing it anyway, because sometimes it is necessary. When a powerful exception shows up.

As much as heartbreak can hurt, it is rarely fatal. Meanwhile, I’m well grounded enough in my own life and support network to know, from experience, that I do bounce back from heartbreak. I have done exactly that, and thrived in its wake.

I’m also sufficiently well grounded to know when I’ve given enough, extended enough chances, done enough hand-holding, made enough temporary concessions. I’m willing and able to walk away when I see that a relationship (or relationship network) isn’t likely to develop into something I’m comfortable with long term. I don’t need to blow love up or run it into the ground in order to let it go.

… Not that any of this is easy. Yeah, another fucking growth experience. Joy. (And I mean “joy” with both complete sarcasm and utter sincerity in this case.)

3 thoughts on “Loving poly newbies: risk, reward and powerful exceptions

  1. Reblogged this on Evie the Rabbit Responds and commented:
    Heartened to see this kind of openness and willingness to be patient extended to nubes like me. As someone who is new to poly, I am very well aware of my status as a risky partner. It may, in fact, make me a little overzealous with communication: I’m trying to prove I can do this well and ethically, despite any newbie challenges I may encounter. 🙂

  2. Harper Eliot says:

    This is all so understandable and so true. And ultimately you are doing something I wish everyone would do: you are taking the freedom you posses to do whatever you want to do, but making your decisions in an informed and conscious way. Brava.

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