In talking about polyamory relationship success, I do take as a given that you’re a rational grown-up. Relationships are for grown-ups. If you’re not a grown-up, fix that, first. Own your own shit, realize the world doesn’t revolve around you, have some basic self-knowledge and the ability to communicate honestly. If you don’t have those things, this article isn’t going to be worth a damn to you.
Okay, now that the children are upstairs listening at the doorway, I want to talk a bit about the single factor that makes the most difference in the success or failure of polyamory relationship success – partner selection.
I want it clear that you are a grown-up. You know better than to map “good partner for you” to “good human being”, right? There are billions of good people in this world that would make a crappy partner for you. Got it?
Poly partner selection breaks down into two basic classifications. The first question you need to ask is, “Is this person a grown-up?” Only date grown-ups. That’s flat. You might make a badly-informed decision otherwise, but if you restrict your dating to grown-ups, even the mistakes will be considerably less painful and will not involve peripheral drama and nonsense. Really, if you follow the rule of only dating grownups you’ve solved a good 90% of the problems right there.
- Owns his own shit.
- Tells the truth.
- Knows how to set appropriate boundaries
- Knows that ultimately he is the one finally responsible for getting his needs met.
- Knows how to ask for what she wants.
- Knows the difference between a request and a demand.
- Knows that the world does not revolve around him, so is not quick to take everything personally.
There. Really you can stop reading. If your partners meet those criteria, you’ve eliminated a lot of problems. Even so, sometimes even two grownups are not a great match, though. Once you’ve gotten past the “Is this person a grown-up?” the questions start getting really individual. You need to know yourself and your personal tastes. Here’s some good questions to ask:
- Do I like socializing best one on one or in a group?
- What sorts of things do I like to do? Does the candidate for a relationship with me like to do any of them?
- How okay am I with people doing things without me? If Significant Events in your life are ruined without the presence of all your partners, not only do you need to be up front about it, you want to select partners within a small geographic area who have few commitments outside of the relationship. (This almost borders on “Not a grownup” in my book, as the joined at the hip paradigm is often an unspoken expectation. But I let it slide because if you ARE up front about it and select for it, you’re owning your own shit, which means Grownup).
- Do I favor a communication form? What kinds of communication make me happiest?
- How important are spiritual beliefs and practices (or the lack thereof) to me?
- How much time do I need to spend with a partner to be happy?
- Does the candidate actually desire to give and have that level of time to give?
- If the candidate wants more time than you were thinking of giving, do you have as much time as the candidate is happiest having and are you happy giving it? Be cautious with this one. Relationships are great, but we poly people tend to have a strong creative component to our lives. Keep time to draw, knit, paint, blow stuff up, build siege engines, etc. Yes, this can be something you do with a partner, and you’ll be getting a Cool Partnership with Extra Sprinkles. It’s awesome when it happens and might even be something you want to look for.
- How strongly do I feel about kids or the lack thereof in terms of socializing with partners? Is this in harmony with the candidate’s actual life? (Hint: If said partner has kids under 12 and lives with the kids full-time, if the kids are not a huge factor, he or she might be avoiding parenting responsibilities in favor of extra-curricular activities. i.e. Might not be a grown-up. Just sayin’ Be careful and aware).
- Do you agree on what’s “quality time” together? You might find sitting together watching a movie a great thing to do together, or you might consider it a waste of time when you could be interacting. Make sure you know what’s quality time for the both of you. You might have differing views and that’s okay. If you know and are cool with mutually meeting those differing needs, it’ll work out. But not knowing can be a recipe for disaster, even among grown-ups. Make sure you’re actually cool with it, though. If you’re tolerating it for TEH HAWT SECKIN go up a few paragraphs. You really don’t have to compromise on that when looking for good relationships.
Are you patting yourself on the back and saying, “Oh I can get along with anyone and can make my style match anyone else’s for a good relationship?”
Stop pattin’. No, seriously, stop it. Either you’re so tapioca bland and tasteless that you aren’t worth having a relationship with, or your self-knowledge needs some work. You do have tastes, desires, things that make you happy, and things that don’t. If you pretend you don’t, that nonsense is just gonna explode all over the place one day like an overripe zit. Even the most easygoing of people have tastes and preferences, for pity’s sake. Don’t sell yourself short. Choose wisely and your relationships will be awesome.
And if you don’t, realize they’re learnable skils.