I had someone comment that an article I wrote on great polyamory relationships wasn’t poly-specific.
I agreed heartily. It wasn’t. You could have used the principles for a great monogamous relationship, a great friendship, or even used some of the principles for having good relationships with your parents or kids.
Rather than take that as a big criticism, I took it as a compliment. Why?
Friends, relationships, even ones with sex in them, aren’t sex-specific!
Treating people well, loving them, getting to understand them down into their bones… None of those things have a great deal to do with binkie-rubbing. It’s not that sex and romance aren’t important or wonderful (’cause they’re delightful!), but if you’re only capable of loving someone, knowing them well and treating them well if you’re fucking them (or intend to), you suck and are a rotten person.
But there’s a flip side to it. Ever given someone a free pass on crappy behavior you’d call a friend out on because of some mind-blowing sex or being insanely in love? I’m guessing if you’re over 25, you probably have. It’s probably because you’re giving the binkie-rubbing way too much importance. (We all do it at least once. It’s whether or not you learn from it that’s really important.)
Real relationship skills have almost nothing to do with sex or romance.
- Can we talk?
- Can we negotiate?
- How do we handle it when we disagree?
- How do we handle it when we screw up?
- How do we handle it when the other person screws up?
- How do we have fun together?
- How are we supportive of each other?
- Can we voice when our feelings are hurt?
- Are we willing to listen when someone approaches us with hurt feelings?
- Are we willing to be vulnerable?
- Are we able to spot tenderness or vulnerability in the people we’re close to?
Not one of those things, and these are the basics that drive whether or not a relationship is good, has a damn thing to do with sex or romance at all, much less sex or romance with multiple people. They’re the same skills I apply to relating to anyone I care about.