You and your partner just made the bold decision to open your relationship. Hooray! That is so awesome!
One of these days, I hope I can add, “NOW WE ARE LEGION!” 😉
Now that you’ve made this decision, you’re probably wondering where to start.
There are as many ways to go about poly as there are poly couples; every poly arrangement is a custom job. What appears consistent is that the first year of poly often brings feelings of surreality, overwhelm, and even panic (“what the fuck am I/are we doing?!”). Over time, things will become more routine, and you’ll find what works best for you and your partners. For now, let me share a few things that can help you and your partner get off (pun intended) to a good start.
Before either of you sets up their online dating profile, take time to establish the ground rules for these new and evolving relationships. Ground rules will guide you and your partner through this experience, and they will help you avoid hurting one another (to the degree that you both are open and honest with one another).
Do you understand what you hope to gain from additional relationships?
Do you understand what your partner hopes for?
Can you both express this clearly to one another?
Are you okay with your partner’s motivations, and they with yours?
Do your partner’s motivations cause you to feel hurt? Does your partner feel hurt by yours?
Do you or your partner need something to address this hurt, and if so, what? Being aware of the effect opening-up has on our self-esteem can help us manage our emotional responses.
What things constitute ‘deal breakers’ for you? Your partner? (Marital bed off limits? No sex with meta until you’ve met them?) Be specific and be clear.
What things may not be deal breakers, but make you or your partner uncomfortable? How can you help one another ease or address this discomfort?
Do either your limits or your partner’s cause concern for the other? What do you need to do to resolve this?
Are there areas in which you’d be more open to compromise than others, and what are they?
What things do you expect from your current partner, and vice versa? Do you need to hear every detail of their time spent with a meta? Do you want to meet and get to know their metas? Think about what helps you feel safe and secure, and what will help when jealousy surfaces.
Do you and your primary need “sacred” time; specific dates, or perhaps a frequency of days to spend time with each other?
Are there assurances either of you needs to know that all is well? What do these assurances look like? (For example, you and your primary are still having sex X times per week). These can be helpful when dealing with one another’s NRE.
How will you address concerns like jealousy with one another? Have a protocol for dealing with things that hit your hot buttons so you can raise concerns without reacting to intense emotion.
Under what conditions would you or your partner ask the other to discontinue a relationship? (Significant change in health or home situation, concerns over a meta, etc)
Your Ground Rules will help you build a strong foundation for new relationships, and will strengthen and enhance what you already have. Just remember that relationships are dynamic. Boundaries, desires, and expectations can shift over time; always be prepared to talk about it.