Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Doomed from the Start

Something that's fairly common in Western cultures is the assumption that women are supposed to do all the emotional housework in a heterosexual relationship. A woman is supposed to be understanding, recognise what the heart of the issue is in an argument and be able to fix all emotional problems, even if the man in her life is emotionally illiterate.

Well, that may work, on a temporary basis anyway, in a monogamous relationship. If all else fails, the woman can choose to bite her lip and put up with it, in the process committing that bizarre form of relationship suicide known as 'keeping the peace.' Not that 'keeping the peace' necessarily leads to divorce, but it certainly does lead to a terminal lack of emotional intimacy in any relationship in which it is regularly practiced. Men in these relationships will typically tell you that their wife is their best friend, while the women, if they are honest, will tell you the name of a close female friend.

But lack of emotional literacy in any partner in a poly relationship seems to be a fast track to a break-up. Poly relationships are more complex than mono relationships simply because there are more people in the relationship, and every person has individual needs which have to be met. A scenario I have seen happen in several heterosexual V (FMF) poly relationships goes as follows:

1) The woman is interested in poly and reads up a lot on the topic, particularly on problems that commonly arise in poly relationships, and on the best way to ensure their success. She looks for a suitable poly partner.

2) The man is interested in poly, and looks for a suitable poly partner.

3) One of them finds a woman who seems suitable. She seems like a friendly person and is attracted to the man. The man is attracted to her.

4) Girlfriend has never before heard of or considered poly, but she's willing to give it a go.

5) They start a serious relationship and sometimes even move in together, probably too quickly. (That's a whole other topic!)

In this scenario, the poly relationship is pretty much doomed unless the man and/or girlfriend do some pretty fast thinking and reading up. This is because neither the man nor the girlfriend has a clue how to manage the emotions that arise in such a situation. It goes like this:

Communication is very poor: this is because the girlfriend complains to the man every time she has a problem with the woman, with the children or with any household arrangements, rather than discussing it directly with the woman or suggesting changes in open three-way discussion. Variation: She may also never discuss with the man problems she has with him, sulking instead in the hope that he will somehow figure it out.

1) The man, who has very few skills in dealing with emotional issues, is completely lost, getting caught up in the problems presented by the girlfriend and unable to resolve them. He wants his new girlfriend to be happy, so she won't leave him, and is distressed that she is not.

2) The man takes the problems to the woman and demands that she resolve them. Because the girlfriend spoke first and is emotional about the issue, he takes her complaints more seriously than the points that the woman tries to make in response.

3) The man does not have the skill to recognise that he should not be interfacing between the two women, but should insist that the girlfriend takes her problem to the woman, if her problem is with the woman; communicate openly with him if she has a problem with him; and raise her problem openly and equally with both of them if the problem is with the children or a household arrangement.

4) The woman cannot fix the situation, however emotionally skilled she is, if the man will not insist on open communication between herself and the girlfriend. She is faced with an unending flow of (usually trivial) complaints and starts to feel resentful. She may recognise the heart of the problem, but is helpless to resolve it.

5) The girlfriend starts to feel that the man is on her side and the woman is the enemy. She leans on him more than ever.

6) The man, listening to an endless list of complaints, starts to get annoyed with the woman for persecuting poor girlfriend and not helping her to feel more at home.

7) The relationship ends. Either the man leaves the woman and stays with new, exciting girlfriend. Or he leaves the girlfriend and stays with the woman. But unless he grows emotionally, he never quite forgives the woman for taking his new, exciting girlfriend away from him.
There is a legacy of resentment. Usually against the woman, regardless of which of them he chooses to stay with.

When the girlfriend has deliberately chosen poly and has read up on it in advance, the problems should be less severe because both women have some basic knowledge of the kind of emotional housework necessary.

But I would argue that for a successful V poly relationship, it is absolutely necessary for everybody involved to have at least strong basic communication and emotional skills. I also think it is essential that everybody wanting a poly relationship should find out as much as possible beforehand, men and women both. At the very least, both partners in a couple should spend a lot of time reading up on poly before starting a poly relationship. And if they meet and love someone who has no prior knowledge of poly, they should encourage her / him to read up and think deeply about the issues also. Before they get serious.

My advice to couples

· If your potential partner has never previously considered poly, forget it unless s/he's prepared to learn a lot, fast.

· If your potential partner is deeply attracted to just one of you and is prepared to practice poly in order to have him/her, but has no emotional commitment to the other, or personal commitment to poly, forget it.

· If your partner will not read up on poly; if s/he says s/he doesn't have the time to learn or cannot even see why you think there might be problems; then please, please, forget about having a poly relationship.

*It is not worth the risk to your relationship.*

Natja's advice to single people

1) You should feel a strong emotional connection to both people in the couple, even if you are only sexually attracted to one. Anything else is just too hard.

2) Read up on poly, and expect the people you are dating to have done the same.

3) If one partner in the couple you are dating complains that the other bottles things up and doesn't ever 'share' and tells you that s/he finds it frustrating, seriously reconsider whether you want to be in a relationship with them, you will have to deal with the same issues.

4) If one partner in the couple confides to you that his/her partner lacks qualities that you make up for, so together he has 'one perfect woman / man'... Run....that is evidence of so much wrong with his or her thinking.

5) Similarly if one partner admits a previous deception by the other but excuses the behavior as something that 'men / women do' or says it is due to his/her upbringing... Run..... It is the best evidence that one of them is not taking emotional responsibility in the relationship and the other is making excuses for him/her, thereby allowing them to abdicate their responsibilities.

*It is not worth the risk to your heart or your mental health*

Adapted from posts written by Deorccwen and Natja on SisterWives Yuku

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