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Amy Shiner

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Not Getting Lost in the Poly Shuffle

Posted: 05/30/2012 7:22 pm

Whenever I have a hard time communicating with a polyamorous partner I remember some words of wisdom my therapist endowed on me. I was having a hard time in relationships and he pointed out communication in even a simple monogamous relationship can get somewhat difficult, but I've always had a "spot" at the table despite me being submissive and poly. In my experience having a spot at the table is great, I require one even if I am not "in charge" in the relationship, but a requirement is not to act like you belong at the kid table.

Communicating needs in a poly relationship is sometimes difficult. Being poly and kinky makes it all that more difficult. The first question that everyone asks is how I have an authority exchange with more than one or two partners. However, rarely does anyone realize that any new partners within the relationship have a risk of causing rocky shifts in existing relationships. In some relationship changes I can avoid rocky ground with Eric; sometimes that is not the case.

A few years ago Eric and I decided we needed to take a break. Well, kind of. Eric and I decided to employ what I would label as "the wrong way" to communicate in ANY relationship, but especially a poly relationship. While adding another partner we decided the incompetency in our relationship could be solved by the blame game. Most of the yelling consisted of hidden agendas and reprimands. The one thing we didn't yell about, which would be at least better than staying quiet about it, was what needs weren't being met in the relationship.

Needs and wants are not supposed to come off as aggression.

One view I have on needs and wants in a relationship that consists of giving authority to another is that the "food chain" goes as follows:

  • Needs of the submissive
  • Needs of the dominant
  • Wants of the dominant
  • Wants of the submissive

Let me make clear: This does not mean the dominant is going to suffer in the relationship. Needs and wants are also two different things. You need water, but you don't need vitamin water. You may want it, but you don't need it. In my relationship with Eric, I need to know that Eric is there for me. I wanted something that because of numerous factors could not be met. At the same time, my needs really weren't met, and made me force my way in the relationship. Even in an authority exchange it is not a one-way street.

Sometimes both partners need time apart. Before communicating needs and wants is some time apart if you have damaged your relationship to the point of non-vocal communication or no communication whatsoever; Eric and I did stay apart from September to the following Valentine's Day.

If you cannot be alone and love yourself, without anyone else there, some self-love helps.

I cannot understand my partner's line of thinking! When you feel ready to communicate needs and wants it's best to keep in mind that everyone has their own way of communicating. According to Bendyogagirl, a BDSM educator, there are two types of communication. There is rules-based, which gives structure and expectations that it will happen a certain way; and intent-based, which lays the foundation but does not go into every aspect. Unfortunately for me, in my relationship with Eric, I'm rules-based and he is intent-based.

What do you actually need and want? When it comes to communicating needs and wants it is important to keep this in mind. Do you want your partner to spend more time with you? Is that the hold up? Do you really have a particular time, or several times, or day of the week in mind? Or do you just want to feel that your partner will be spending time with you? This is where one of the benefits of poly comes in; if one partner doesn't have the same concept of rule- or intent-based information, another one may. To balance out Eric's and my different ways of planning travel, his partner Patricia and I tend to do more of the nitty-gritty planning. For Eric it just doesn't always stick in his mind. It's not a downfall by any means, however.

Note that this is not a way to avoid communicating about needs and wants. It is always important to communicate with the person you want to reach. Using a third person as a mediator may help but make sure there are unbiased feelings involved or search out a trusted mutual friend.

Feelings are feelings and facts are facts. They are not the same, should never be considered the same, and should not be confused with each other. Communicating will only go so far if you are not tackling the elephant in the room. Own your stuff. I know I did some things to make Eric uncomfortable because I was upset. At the same time Eric was accusing me of things that made no sense and I never even attempted to do.

At the end of the day consider whether or not this is a small thing or something that may create large issues. Choose your battles. Not every poly partner is going to meet every need/want.

 

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