Welcome, welcome! Step right into the wonderful world of polyamory! I see you have your annotated copies of The Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and More Than Two. Good for you! Oh, and you went to a couple workshops or classes and did a ton of online research? Excellent. You’re ready to dive in and experience all the fun sexy times with your multiple partners and their partners, and this is going to be grrrrreat!
Until it isn’t.
You see, no matter how prepared you think you are to explore polyamory, you’re going to fuck it up. I’ve been practicing some form of non-monogamy for over 15 years, and I’ve made more mistakes than I can count.
You cannot predict what will happen when you pursue different relationships simultaneously and allow yourself to love multiple people. Boundaries and limits can be maintained and honored, but all the rules in the world won’t stop you from having unexpected feelings. You can’t legislate emotions; you can only control how you respond to and act on them.
Becoming polyamorous requires translating theory into practice. Nobody is going to do that flawlessly 100% of the time, especially when they’re new and inexperienced. Human beings are fallible. At some point, it’s going to suck.
You will have to make decisions and set boundaries. They are going to affect others, as well as their relationships and dynamics, particularly if kink is also involved. You are going to make mistakes. Those mistakes are going to hurt people, including yourself.
I don’t say these things to discourage you. I say them in the hope that when the inevitable challenges arise, you will remember you are not alone. All of us stumble at one time or another. You aren’t a total fuck up. You’re not necessarily “bad at poly” or ill-suited to it.
You made a mistake; try to learn from it and avoid making it again in the future. Even if your mistake causes a relationship to end or fundamentally change, this is not the end of the world. You will survive.
Polyamory is HARD, and we don’t have a lot of positive examples, role models, or templates to follow. Even if we did, the exponential nature of polyamorous relationships means there are infinite variations of entanglement.
But it is worth it. For all the missteps I’ve made, I wouldn’t change anything. Some of the painful lessons I learned along the way were necessary. I needed to understand them empirically. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am a better, kinder, more authentic person now than I was when I began my poly journey.
You can do this. It won’t always be non-stop cuddles and orgies and happy metamours and warm fuzzies, but it won’t always be awful, either. So, if you’re deep in the middle of a difficult poly moment, take a deep breath. Forgive yourself. Then resolve to do it differently next time. Allow yourself some grace. It’s going to be ok.