“There’s no One Right Way to be Polyamorous, but there are plenty of Wrong ways!”
— Miss Poly Manners
Polyamorous people are often known to proclaim that one of the advantages of being poly is that there is no “One Right Way” to do it. This allows us the freedom to create our own “designer relationships,” that fit the needs and wants of the individual partners, rather than trying to shoehorn ourselves into a set of “standard” or “societal” expectations that don’t. This is great in theory, but sometimes falls down in practice.* And it turns out Miss Poly Manners is right about all the ways that there are to be wrong.
Deborah Anapol (author of Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, in a recent article in Psychology Today, lists “Five Ways Polyamory Can Fail”:
Pitfall #1 Using the same words to mean different things
Pitfall #2 Taking on more relationships than you actually have time and energy for
Pitfall #3 Agreeing to polyamory and then having a “secret” affair
Pitfall #4 Making promises you can’t keep
Pitfall #5 Trying to transition quickly and smoothly from being discovered engaging in a secret affair to creating an open relationship
You’ll want to read the rest of the article for more detailed information, since (as usual) she has some good observations. The first thing I noticed, though, is that Anapol’s list overlaps with my own 5 Reasons Agreements Fail (from my “KISSable Agreements” workbook series) in a couple of areas. Here’s my list:
Five Reasons Agreements Fail (from “KISSable Agreements,” by Dawn Davidson)
1) Simply Forgetting
2) Missed Contingency
3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement
4) Agreement Was Not Additive
5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work
You can see that in her Pitfall #1 and my Reason #3, we both talk about making sure that when you’re using the same words, you’re actually talking about the same thing! I also cover some of this ground in Tip #2a, in the sub-section “Avoid Ambiguous Terms.”
Anapol also suggests in Pitfall #4 that “making promises you can’t keep” is a surefire way to have Polyamory fail. I agree, and I think it doesn’t apply just to polyamory, but to any Agreements (whether it’s in a polyamorous context or not.) As you can see above, Reason #5 that Agreements can fail is the “Agreement Simply Can’t Work,” (aka “I just shouldn’t have agreed to that”.) It covers situations where you thought you could agree to something and found out later that it’s beyond your capacity to do so, or where some other Agreement got in the way (maybe one to another person that you forgot about in the moment, or that you weren’t completely clear about at the time.) Whether or not you intended to keep the Agreement, though, the fact is that you can’t … and that means you made a promise you couldn’t keep (i.e., fell into Pitfall #1.)
The 5 Reasons posts aren’t up yet (sorry for the delay!), but all of the Agreements Workbook Entries I’ve already posted are here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?tag=workbook. I’ll have the first of the 5 Reasons posts (on the topic of Caveats and Assumptions) up tomorrow (Sat 2/2). :^)
In the meantime, I’m very curious to know… what reasons have YOU experienced that caused your poly relationships or Agreements to fail? What did you do to recover when those happened? As always, feel free to comment below, contact me via my webpage, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box.
May all your poly (or other) relationships succeed more often than they fail!
PS: Did you know I’m running a Valentine’s Day special on my coaching packages? If you’d like to talk more about how your Agreements are working (or aren’t!), I’d be happy to set up a time to meet in person (in the SF Bay Area), by phone, or via some other remote means (e.g., Skype).
[*That brings up a favorite joke of mine: Q: What’s the difference between theory and practice? A: In theory, there isn’t one, but in practice, there is!]
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]