About 2.5 years ago my partner and I decided to get our newly opened relationship on a solid track by getting some professional poly prep. After settling into our seats my poly mentor Pepper announces that it'll surely take about 5 years to get into the swing of things, for polyamory to become second nature. At the time I guffawed, not believing his words, figuring once we took his lessons to heart only a little practice would be necessary for poly to become completely intuitive.
It isn't until recently that I've started to understand what he meant. A diligent poly disciple (please note I say all these things tongue in cheek) may master Poly 101 in a year, sure. Within that time you read all the books and the blog entries, feel out the difference between jealousy and envy, learn to sit with triggers and communicate in healthy ways, and create and destroy rules and agreements, eventually morphing a visible outline of the kind of relationship that works for you as individuals who want to build something real, loving and bigger together. What does take time is the logistics, encountering every new multi-relationship scenario and fumbling and bumbling through them one by one.
As a 'how-to' junkie that loves to google (read: verb) to prep for the unknown I've gotten real frustrated with the plain fact that a Poly 2.0 manual does not exist and all the 'firsts' just need to be thoughtfully winged. Desperate searches for “after how many overnight stays is it ok to have a beau leave a toothbrush?” and “how do I maneuver an already packed and complicated schedule of holiday dinners with more than one partner?” and “multiple-partner Hawaii vacation check-list” come up with nothing, sending me to do the real job: opening communication with my partners to figure muddle through the new holiday, new concept, new feelings together.
Given the subjective nature of poly relationships I don’t believe a blanket ‘Poly Logistics Manual’ would be much help to those of us in our first 5 years, however I find personal anecdotes and general tips from others in the trenches incredibly valuable. I can say first hand that multiple-partner vacations can work, that the ‘meeting of the parents’ can go smoothly a second time around, that partner’s shoulders can be one of the most comforting places to cry about hard times with another partner.
Prior to embarking on one of my more major firsts I asked Pepper for another round of one-on-one tutoring, in which he gave me three invaluable pieces of advice. First, don’t lose your own agency to that of your partners. Yes, being considerate and sympathetic to their needs and desires is part of compromising, but don’t fold onto your wishes and wants. Secondly, try to minimize the number of ‘firsts’ happening at any given moment. For example, if going on vacation with multiple-partners for the first time, perhaps sleeping in the same bed together for the first time or having sex together for the first time should be saved for later to give yourselves time to do that thing we poly people love to do so much, process. Lastly, instead of mapping out every X factor in a given first, whether it be vacationing or meeting the parents, figure out how best to communicate with each other if things get tough.
Sometimes there are weeks during which I feel like a real pro, doing my day-to-day activities within two long-term committed relationships like it is in my genes. Sometimes the littlest, seemingly most mundane occurrences force me to stop and scratch my head, and with the help of my partners, reevaluate and carry on. While navigating the first few years is not always easy or fun, it is getting easier and, though I know work on my relationships will never cease even after the 5 years, I wouldn’t trade it for any cookie-cutter relationship model out of a any old handbook.