I sincerely think that the hardest way to join the ranks of open relationships is through opening your existing relationship. Having to overcome what society has taught us about relationships is difficult. Overcoming those societal views and how they have affected your existing relationship is even more difficult.
This is not meant to chastise or criticize anyone. Opening relationships involves a lot of trial and error to find what works best for you. These are some of the mistakes friends, partners, and myself have made when first opening relationships. That isn’t to say that people can’t make some of these styles work for them, rather that these cause problems for a lot of couples.
1. Trying an Open Relationship with Closed Lips
(DADT) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
It didn’t work for the military and isn’t likely to work with your new open relationship. When a couple initially opens their relationship they have trouble hearing about their partners with other people. As a result, they put in place a don’t ask don’t tell policy where they consent to their partners seeing other people but don’t want to talk about it or hear about it.
Why can it be a problem?
Addressing jealousy head on helps you get past it. If you are DADT to avoid feeling jealous is it is likely that those bad feelings will bubble up anyway. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing isn’t the best way to avoid jealousy.
For me, polyamory isn’t just about having more than one partner. Polyamory, to me, is also about community. DADT means you can’t build that same community. With DADT you miss out on a big part of your partner’s life and possibly amazing friends and community.
2. Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want
Not Figuring Out What You Want
A lot of couples dive into polyamory without talking about what they want. I know couples who have been to polyamorous events without even discussing how they felt about flirting in front of one another. They were broken up a week later. I see other couples, again and again, start dating new partners before figuring out what they want.
So why is it a problem?
It isn’t fair to the people you date. If you hop into a serious (or even casual) relationship before figuring out what you want you are kind of guaranteeing that your partner will get hurt. Don’t use people as experiments and stop seeing them as people.
3. Veto Power
“The second either of us is uncomfortable we will stop.”
“If I am not okay with someone you have to break up with them.”
Veto Power is the power of one part of a couple to make decisions for their partner’s dating life. Sometimes they can veto people or situations. Again, this may look like a good way to protect your feelings. Again, it isn’t.
When I date someone I want to date that person. I want myself and them to be the only people making decisions for our relationship. Not their partner. When you allow your partners to make decisions for relationships they aren’t involved in you are hurting yourselves and anyone who dares to date you.
Vetoing things almost always from a place of insecurity or jealousy. When things are vetoed you may become more comfortable with the situation, but polyamory may never work for you if you don’t ever work through your insecurities or jealousy. Working through them both is so important to having multiple relationships; you can’t simply skip this step. Becoming uncomfortable is how we grow, so rethink the veto.
4. Avoiding Your Metamours
Metamours are our partner’s partners. Similar to don’t ask don’t tell relationships, many people consent to an open relationship but don’t want to meet their metamours.
An argument for meeting your metamours.
Often when we get jealous of our metamours we put them on a pedestal. Meeting them helps us realize they are a human with faults, just like you. Meeting metamours almost always helps with jealousy.
You already have so much in common, your partner that connects you, that often metamours get along wonderfully. I often become good friends or even date my metamours. If I never met my metamours I would have missed out on meeting so many amazing people.
5. You Can Only Have One Penis In Your Life
One Penis Policy
A one penis policy is usually a rule in heterosexual relationships and basically means that the bisexual woman can only date women and the man can date women too.
There are so many things wrong with this.
It says that relationships or sex between two women is not equal to heterosexual relationships. OPP lets men date anyone they are attracted to, but not everyone women are attracted to. It is sexist and simply unfair.
6. Unicorns Are People Too
Unethical Unicorn Hunting
Unicorn hunting is when a couple tries to find a bisexual (unicorn) to add to their couple. It can be done right, respectfully, and ethically -but it usually isn’t.
The mistakes unicorn hunters make.
Couples often expect the unicorn to come in as less than their relationship. Couples often treat the unicorn as a sex toy or relationship tool rather than a person. I dated a couple once and even though they were with each other all the time and I only saw them every once in awhile because of distance, they expected me to date only them (and didn’t communicate this). Basically remember they are a person and treat them as such!
7. Only Date The Same Person
A lot of couples only date the same people, but sometimes that can be even harder on the relationship.
How only dating the same people as your partner is limiting.
Finding someone that one person is compatible with is difficult, finding someone who is compatible with you and your partner is close to impossible. When you add in the common expectation that all relationships with this new person have to advance at the same time and in the same way- then it really is impossible.
You are your partner are different people (I really hope you realize this, but for some reason, some of you still share a Facebook so you need a reminder). You may be compatible with each other but it is unlikely that you will find the same people attractive, be drawn to the same personalities, or that the same people will be attracted to both of you. Only dating the same person is hugely limiting your dating pool and is going to make polyamory very difficult for you.
You may have noticed a pattern. A lot of the rules we put in place to protect our feelings aren’t protecting feelings at all. Rules about safe sex and abuse are, of course, exceptions. Rather, these rules keep us from growing as people and addressing our jealousy and insecurities. When we put off dealing with these feelings they grow out of control. They make polyamory hurtful, instead of how wonderful it can be.