More Than Two Chapters 8 & 9 Study Guide

Note: While this outline will give you some things to talk about actually reading More Than Two is probably going to be incredibly valuable. I have outlined and asked questions about the things I have found interesting and thought-provoking, but you may find different things more helpful to yourself.

This was made for use by The Denver Nontraditional Relationships Meetup. Feel free to use it for other groups or for your own use as long as you credit Poly Talk. Going through it with a partner or your polycule might be especially helpful!

If this tool has been helpful please consider donating to our group so I can create similar tools, hold discussions, and pay for Meetup fees. Google Wallet: polypretzels@gmail.com or Patreon: www.Patreon.com/PolyTalk

Chapter 8: Taming the Green-Eyed Monster

Wibbles– temporary or fleeting feeling of jealousy, usually over something small. Sometimes these are just remnants of monogamous programming rather than feelings that need to be worked through and discussed.

Jealousy is given power other emotions are not. We rarely hear people say “polyamory, I could never do that I would get too angry/sad.”

Jealousy can make us feel like we are being wronged when we aren’t. Have you had this experience? Have any of your partner’s taken their jealousy out on you and your relationships? What can this look like?

Jealousy can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk about it. How have you fought this feeling to communicate effectively about your jealousy?

The feeling of jealousy may come up without us being able to control it, but we can control how we react to it. What are some of the ways we shouldn’t react to jealousy?

Jealousy isn’t always obviously jealousy- sometimes it looks like anger, betrayal, sadness, loneliness, etc. We have to see it to address it. How do you identify when you are feeling jealous out of these other emotions? What signs do you watch for in yourself and others?

We also can mistakenly identify jealousy as a culprit when it isn’t the real problem. Have you ever made this mistake?

 

Triggers for Jealousy

  • Fear of losing social status that comes with being a couple (what does this say about couple privilege?)
  • Physical affection or flirting with others
    • Often jealousy arises from comparing ourselves to others

What has triggered jealousy for you and your partners? How have you handled it without trying to dictate other’s behavior?

Blaming triggers won’t help us overcome this behavior. We have to dig deeper. That is why rules limiting triggers don’t actually help.

 

Listening to Jealousy

Often, we treat jealousy as if it is an evil feeling and try to suppress it rather than tackling it head on. But the feeling itself is not the problem, negative and controlling actions are. You are not bad at polyamory for getting jealous, it happens to nearly everyone.

Being polyamorous for a long time does not mean that jealousy will never pop up, but it gets easier. Those of you who have been polyamorous for a while, has this been your experience? How did you get past that initial jealousy?

Jealousy is a feeling, not an identity. People who say “I am just a jealous person” are giving power to that emotion by making it a part of their identity when they could work past it. What advice do you have for people who feel this way?

 

Step By Step Approach

Is anyone struggling with jealousy they want to volunteer to work through as a group as an example? If not, any past cases of jealousy we can work through? Remember to stay positive and supportive!

    1. Accept the feeling
    2. Separate triggers from causes
    3. Understand the feelings
    4. Talk about it
    5. Practice security
    6. (NOT IN BOOK) Talk about how you can address these feelings even better next time

 

 

Does this closely match your ways of dealing with jealousy? If you do something differently, what is it? What can you do better in how you manage jealousy in yourself and others?

FOMO

The fear of missing out can be another motivator to jealousy. Evaluate why we don’t feel this for some things and others. When has FOMO motivated your jealousy? Was how you handled it different to other jealousy?

Actively seeking out compersion can help in these cases. If you find that activity attractive, your partner probably does and is likely enjoying themselves. Trying to focus on their happiness rather than you missing out can help. Missing out on someone’s first doesn’t make that first with you any less significant. Is there a situation in your life that applies to this situation? How can you look at it differently?

 

Keeping Score & Comparisons

Keeping score and comparisons are the fastest way to problems with jealousy. For example, it can be easy to get caught up in who is having more sex with your partner. But we forget everyone and sex with everyone is different. How do you stop from comparing yourself to your metamours? How do you keep yourself from making negative comparisons between partners?

Keeping score keeps us from communicating our needs.

Realize that people, including yourself, are not interchangeable. How can we make sure we don’t treat people as such?

Comparisons can be helpful for identifying how people and relationships are unique. What is an example of comparisons that can be positive?

 

When Is It Jealousy vs. An Indication of a Problem

Warning signs:

  • When there is a lack of empathy
  • Unwillingness to talk through your problems
  • Attitude of entitlement

How can you tell the difference? How can you be compassionate with partners who are feeling jealous without enabling bad behavior?

Chapter 9: Boundaries

Boundaries, rules, agreements are often used interchangeably but really don’t mean the same thing. What are the differences?

We recommend focusing on boundaries- because they pertain to yourself rather than controlling others behaviors. For example:

Rule on Safe Sex

You cannot have unprotected sex with other people.

Agreement on Safe Sex

We won’t have unprotected sex with other people.

Boundary for Safe Sex

I won’t sleep with people who have unprotected sex.

Boundaries are the best to focus on because they dictate only your behavior and doesn’t threaten the autonomy of others.

What are some physical boundaries you have? Mental? How do you keep these needs focused on yourself rather than others?

Self-awareness is key in these boundaries. How can you get to know yourself better?

Sel-compassion is also important in creating and maintaining boundaries. How do you encourage self compassion? How do you stand up for your boundaries? Has there been a situation in which they have been challenged? How did you react?

 

Dear Poly Land,

A while ago I wrote an article called “Is Solo Polyamory Ableist?” where I concluded that as a whole solo polyamory isn’t ableist. However, there are some attitudes and people in solo polyamory that are. Well, if you need an example of some of the ableism that surrounds solo polyamory, there are some volunteers in this response to my article.

I am not entirely sure they read my article because they argue with my post like I did conclude that solo polyamory is ableist- all while being more ableist about solo polyamory!

Featuring: the argument that I can’t get a date and am just bitter, hiding behind strange pen names, citing the one disabled person they know to attempt to discredit my experiences, saying that we shouldn’t bother changing the status quo, and dinosaurs for some reason. Obviously, I had to reply! Enjoy:

1. “Not wanting to be expected to be another person’s caretaker is about as ableist as being asexual.” This doesn’t make sense and I don’t understand the hate towards asexuals here and throughout the piece. 

2. “She expects consideration for her disability, but she does not expect that he will be her caretaker.” Honestly, I am far more interested in her perspective than yours. I don’t know if you are disabled or not, but in the same way that it is important to hear people of color’s views on racism, disabled voices need to be amplified in discussions of ableism.

Using one disabled person’s life on social media to attempt to discredit another disabled person’s experiences and opinions is just gross. All disabled people are whole, different people who experience ableism differently. I just know my experience, that years ago when I was figuring out my ideal relationship style I experienced a ton of hate keeping around the solo polyamorous identity because I am disabled.

People who have mental conditions aren’t able to definitively talk about the ableism physically disabled people experience and vice versa.  You can’t fully understand an -ism without being a victim of it. Therefore, one voice on ableism never should be used to drown other’s voices out.

And where did I say anything different from this point you are making? I argue that disabilities should be considered, and that we should do all we can to accommodate everyone- not anything more. Trying to limit ableism is not the same as expecting people to be caretakers of others (but what is so wrong with wanting to help others?). If you seriously think that is what arguments against ableism are, then you don’t even have a basic understanding of what ableism is.

3. I am not solo poly and have never been. I just know that when I was determining what relationship style was right for me, solo poly was off limits because of the ableist way many people talk about it. I’ve never tried to force myself into a relationship style that isn’t right for me. That doesn’t mean I can’t share my experiences with ableism in solo polyamory.

Solo polyamory isn’t morally superior to any other relationship style; RA is, and always has been right relationship style for me.

4. Poly saturation is more my problem than having trouble meeting partners. I’m analyzing a problem with solo poly because there is a problem- not because I can’t get a date. 

5. I’m getting really sick (haha) of this statement people keep making. “That can’t be ableist, or treadmills/rock climbing/etc. is ableist too!” One is a sporting/ recreational event and the other is how we treat fellow humans- how are those comparable?

There are going to be things that are off the table for people with disabilities- at least for now. We just haven’t gotten to the point in innovation to make everything accessible to everyone. However, there are so many things we can easily change to make more accessible to more people. Such as relationships, how we speak, and how we treat one another.

When we don’t attempt to make something accessible that could be easily made accessible, when we exclude people from something just because they are disabled- that is ableist. So like in the case of solo poly- stop gatekeeping the label just because someone else’s solo poly is different from yours. Stop excluding people from being solo poly just because they can’t live alone. Solo poly doesn’t have to look a certain way. It is more about how you see relationships, yourself, and independence than following a certain one size fits all (live alone, don’t combine finances, never marry, no kids, etc.) recipe that excludes people with disabilities.

6. I literally conclude solo poly isn’t ableist- just some of the comments and attitudes surrounding it are. You even quote this and then argue like I concluded all of solo poly is ableist? I did not.
7. A real actual quote from this says, ‘When the reality is “hey, this isn’t something I can do therefore I… shouldn’t do it?”’ Right, why should we try to make the world and ourselves a better place? Let’s just accept the status quo. Let’s make no attempt to better the quality of life of a disabled person. Everyone who has ever changed the world for the better has fought against this “well we can’t so we won’t” sentiment from others.  I guess I’m the kind of person who wants to make the polyamorous community and world a better place.

9 Tips for Building a Bi+ Community

Bisexual support and social groups are of utmost importance for bisexuals. Bisexuals are often unwelcome in the straight and gay world; we are seen as too gay to be straight and too straight to be gay rather than a whole, valid sexuality. The LGBT community we are supposed to be a part of too often shuns us, sometimes for the same bigoted misconceptions that gay people have been fighting against for decades. With a world telling us we don’t exist, that our sexual orientation isn’t valid, or erasing us altogether it is so important to meet people going through the same struggles; we bisexuals need each other.

Right now, bisexuals struggle with higher rates of intimate partner abuse/ rape/ stalking, poverty, and health problems than straight and gay people. While the cause of these statistics cannot be positively identified, it is likely that a lot of these problems have a lot to do with bisexuals not having the same opportunities for community in the way that lesbians, gays, and straight people do.

Starting and building a bisexual community might seem like a daunting task, but you are not alone and will really be helping people. I reached out to people who are working on building a bisexual community in their area their tips for starting and growing a bisexual community are below.

If you have a bisexual group and have more tips to add, please email me at codi.coday@PAVESnonprofit.com and I will add them. If you are wanting to build a group and want someone to talk to or bounce ideas off of you can email me as well. We are also looking for leaders to develop groups outside of Denver for PAVES.

If you aren’t sure whether there is already a group in your area check here.

1. Wording & Description

“Use the word Bisexual in your title.” -Latina Bisexual & Lesbian Amigas Meetup

“Use the term [bisexual] in your description.” -Leaders of the Latina Bisexual & Lesbian Amigas Meetup

“Oh, and don’t expect everyone to read your instructions/help, no matter how easy and obvious you make it.” -John G., London Bi Meetup

“After so much of the bisexual+ community has experienced queer gatekeeping, many of us don’t feel bisexual enough or queer enough to attend meetups. Including questioning or possibly bisexual in descriptions helps people feel like they can come to the event even if they don’t feel bisexual or queer enough.” – Codi Coday, PAVES

2. Group Goals

“Decide the group goals: support, social, or educational? The more specific the better, but if your group is the first in your area, then it’s OK to start broad. Type up a mission statement.” -Dr. Mimi Hoang, Co-Founder of Los Angeles Bi Task Force, amBi Los Angeles, and Fluid UCLA

“Identify who you want your group to made up of based on the needs of your community. Check and see what groups already exist and who they are serving or who they are missing. Being more inclusive is better, but sometimes the existing community has holes that need to be filled. Do all bisexual and pansexuals, no matter their race, gender, relationship style/status, ability, income, and age have a place in the existing community? What can you do to help make the answer to the question yes?”

-Codi Coday, PAVES

“Decide the social/political mix you want your group to be.” -John G., London Bi Meetup

3. Recruiting Members

“Recruit members by creating a group on Meetup.com or Facebook. Schedule events, which could be in public settings like coffee shops.” -Dr. Mimi Hoang, Co-Founder of Los Angeles Bi Task Force, amBi Los Angeles, and Fluid UCLA

“Publicize your group by e-mailing friends, then notify your local LGBT center, or other local progressive organizations (e.g., feminist or social justice orgs). Utilize other bi+ groups like BiNet USA.” -Dr. Mimi Hoang, Co-Founder of Los Angeles Bi Task Force, amBi Los Angeles, and Fluid UCLA

4. Be Patient

“Be patient, it takes a few months for people to hear about the group and get it on their schedule.” -Camille Holthaus, Bisexual Organizing Project, Minneapolis, MN

“Be VERY patient, because the bi+ community struggles with a lot of stigma, and it takes longer than other groups to gain momentum.” -Dr. Mimi Hoang, Co-Founder of Los Angeles Bi Task Force, amBi Los Angeles, and Fluid UCLA

5. Inclusivity

“Inspire an attitude of inclusivity and nonjudgment in all activities. I accept trans women, coupled women, non-Latina women and butch women. Every woman welcomed.” -Leader of the Latina Bisexual & Lesbian Amigas Meetup

“Work on being inclusive and tolerant in the words you use, books/courses/online multimedia/other LGBT communities can really help.” -John G., London Bi Meetup

“Make sure your events are inclusive to members with disabilities. Include whether the Meetup has stairs, whether it is wheelchair accessible, and whether it is accessible to blind and deaf people as well in each and every description.” -Codi Coday, PAVES

6. Vary Events

“Don’t forget people have other interests.” -John G., London Bi Meetup

“Keep your events varied to fit a variety of personality types. Plan hikes, coffee, brunches, nights out, game nights, happy hours, etc. However, don’t try and host anything that doesn’t come naturally to you. For example, I’m not really into games; luckily my co-organizer is and she hosts a lot of game nights, which have become well attended.” -Lisa Brodsky, Denver Metro Bisexual Social Meetup

7. Find Help From Within

“Eventually find some trustworthy active members to help you with leadership. You don’t want to burn out.” -Dr. Mimi Hoang, Co-Founder of Los Angeles Bi Task Force, amBi Los Angeles, and Fluid UCLA

“My advice for anyone starting a bisexual support or social group is to find a partner to do it with you! You may find there are times you feel burned out or overscheduled, but if you have someone else planning and hosting events the meetup continues and doesn’t “go dark” if you’re busy.” -Lisa Brodsky, Denver Metro Bisexual Social Meetup

8. Don’t Take Setbacks personally

“Don’t take it personally when people leave the group.” -John G., London Bi Meetup

“I think the most important thing to tell yourself for the first year is to stick with it no matter what. Don’t beat yourself up if you have some poorly attended meetups. Community takes time to build!” -Lisa Brodsky, Denver Metro Bisexual Social Meetup

9. Encourage Enthusiasm

“Always keep a lookout for and encourage enthusiasm from members to get involved helping out.”- John G., London Bi Meetup

“I always try to make sure I greet new members when they first show up to an event and explain the basics, how casual/formal the style is (so they don’t end up waiting for a big announcement/formal start if there isn’t one).” -John G., London Bi Meetup

 

5 Tips for When Coming Out As Bi+ Goes Badly

This article was also featured by the Bisexual Resource Center for Bisexual Health Awareness Month 2017.

The first person I came out to as bisexual, my best friend at the time, said something along the lines of “Ew gross!” and never spoke to me again. It absolutely crushed 18 year old me who had just discovered her bisexuality. My best friend’s response sent me back into closet crying. At the time, I didn’t know any other bisexuals and my area didn’t have any bisexual social or support groups. I felt disgusting, dirty, wrong, and alone and had no one supporting me or telling me otherwise.

My other friends were wonderfully receptive to my coming out once I built up the courage to come out to them more than a year later, but my ultra conservative family was not. I grew up within an environment that was a constant barrage of hate towards everything gay and bisexual. I got the message that gays and bisexuals were sick, broken, wrong, and even deserved to die. I only came out to them once I was safely across the country from them in the hopes that learning their daughter was one of those bisexuals would change their viewpoint. It didn’t.

My family took my coming out as bisexual as a confession that I was sick and a sex addict. I didn’t have the resources or ability to explain through my shock and pain that bisexuality has nothing to do with promiscuity.

I came out four years ago and nothing has improved with my family since. I rarely see or speak to them because it feels like they only love and accept a part of me, while hating and condemning another. I have worked hard to accept who I am and refuse to go backwards. Right now, that means limited contact with my family. I hope someday that changes, but I am no longer waiting for their acceptance. What they think of me no longer has anything to do with the way I see myself.

On the whole, it has been a really difficult experience. It took me a few years to figure out how to cope with coming out going badly. Here are a few of the things I wish I knew at the beginning.

1. Educate Them If You Are Able

A lot of times intolerance comes from a place of ignorance; education can help people become more tolerant and empathetic to other’s struggles. Most people don’t understand bi+ identities. They see them as all the negative misconceptions surrounding them rather than what they are – valid and real sexual orientations.

While it is not your duty to educate others if you are neither willing nor able, providing resources such as this, this, and this can help people learn what bisexuality and other non-monosexual/romantic identities truly are, learn to be more understanding, and provide tips to help support the person coming out as bi+. Sometimes it is hard to get people to read the resources, but providing them can encourage people to educate themselves. Make sure the person you are coming out to knows it would mean a lot to you for them to learn more.

2. Give Them Time

Many people don’t respond well when people first come out as bisexual. Their knee- jerk reactions can range from strange to cruel. Thankfully, many of these people come around. They calm down enough to ask questions and try to learn and listen. Often, in the end, their love for the person coming out as bi+ makes them care enough to learn and do better, transforming their previous oppressive mindset.

Taking a step back from someone who doesn’t respond well to your coming out as bisexual is important for both of you. For them, it is important to process the information, learn about bisexuality, and not say something they will regret. For you, it is important to remove yourself from a possibly hurtful situation and get support from people who do support your sexual orientation in the meantime.

Not everyone comes around. I don’t want to provide false hope here. However, enough people do that it is worth giving someone a few weeks, sometimes months before accepting that they won’t be in your corner. I have even heard of people, usually parents, coming around after years of being bigoted and unsupportive. It is at least nice to imagine as a possibility.

3. Get Support Elsewhere

Having someone respond poorly to your coming out can be a really hard thing to process. For some of us, like me, it throws us back into the closet to hide from further rejection. It is important to seek support from someone else in these situations, whether it is family, friends, or a mental health professional who understands and supports bi+ people. If you have the access, seeking help from a mental professional is especially important if the person you are coming out to reacts in an abusive way.

4. Reach Out to the Bisexual Community

I have only met a lucky few bisexuals that have had amazing, wonderful responses from every single person to whom they have come out. Most people in the bi+ community have experienced the harsh rejection of our identities – to differing degrees. Therefore, most people in the bi+ community will understand what you are going through.

Being a part of the bi+ community after a bad coming out helps to make you feel like you aren’t going through a hard time alone. Being a part of the community also helps you remember that your sexual orientation is valid and that being bisexual does not mean there is anything wrong with you.

There are organizations, like PAVES, the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and many local organizations, support groups, and online spaces where you can find educational resources, bi+ culture and history, and bi+ people from all walks of life to remind you that we exist, you’re okay just as you are, our issues matter, and our contributions to this world are important.

5. Move On

At a certain point, you have to move on. Accept that the person you came out to isn’t going to be positive or supportive of your sexual orientation anytime soon. You don’t have to give up hope that they someday will change or cut them out of your life completely, but you can’t wait around for them to be supportive forever.

Only you can decide what this means to you. Maybe you need to remove them from your life completely for your mental health. Maybe you can handle having someone in your life who doesn’t accept an important part of who you are. Either way, there comes a time when you can no longer wait for them to come around or you will be hurt over and over again. Remember, you can never rely on anyone’s opinion of you for your self- worth.

5 Reasons Why Oversexualizing Bisexuality Is Not Supportive

(Content Warning: sexual assault, corrective rape)

This article was also featured by the Bisexual Resource Center for Bisexual Health Awareness Month 2017.

Bi+ people, especially bi+ women, are often oversexualized because of their sexual orientation. Just signing into a dating website as a bi+ woman for a few minutes proves this to be true. Immediately, we are bombarded by couples asking for threesomes and men demanding that we let them watch us hook up with women.

Bi+ people struggle with others not seeing our sexual orientation as real or legitimate. People also tend to believe bi+ people are more promiscuous, more likely to cheat, incapable of monogamy, and greedy. A lot of these problems and misconceptions arise from the pervasive oversexualization of bisexuals.

1. Bisexuals Are People, Not Objects

When people are reduced to their orientation, race, or gender with the sole purpose of using them to fulfill someone’s sexual desires, they are being treated as a sex toy – not a human being. Frankly, objectifying people is not and cannot be supportive. When people fail to see the entire person attached to an identity, they fail them. It is impossible to support someone while treating them as an object or need-fulfillment machine.

2. Double Standards Are Sexist

I often see women say things like, “My boyfriend is so supportive of my sexuality. He lets me do whatever I want with women as long as he can watch.” In reality, this isn’t supportive at all.

There are two reasons why this happens and both are unsavory. Firstly, he may allow her to have sexual interactions with another woman because it turns him on. Don’t be fooled. He isn’t doing her a service, as he may try to convince her; he is “allowing” this behavior for purely selfish reasons. He is thinking about his sexual gratification, not her well being.

Secondly, he may allow same sex interactions because he doesn’t see them as a real threat. In this case, he is proving he doesn’t think same-sex relationships are as valid or valuable as heterosexual relationships. That is a huge red flag proving he isn’t truly supportive. In both cases, selfishness and bigotry are at work rather than support, acceptance, and love.

3. Bisexual Identities Are Not A Sexual Tool

Many people think that sexualizing bi+ people means that they are supportive of our orientation. This is similar to when men oversexualize, for example, Asian or trans women then claim they aren’t actually racist or transphobic. (Hint: they are.) If a part of someone’s identity is only supported in sexual circumstances, it isn’t truly supported.

For example, there are many people that oversexualize transgender people, but who do not support their rights. They aren’t supporting transgender individuals; they are supporting transgender people to be used for their sexual gratification only. This leaves transgender people vulnerable to violence. The oversexualization of bi+ people perpetuates violence like this as well.

4. Increased Corrective Rape & Sexual Violence

Corrective rape is a problem for bi+ people. Corrective rape is when someone is raped due to their sexual orientation, in order to “correct” their behavior. These rapes often occur as an effort to conform to heterosexuality and common gender norms. Men are not the only ones who commit corrective rape, but they are the most common perpetrators. Bi+ women are more likely to spend time with or date men, end up in abusive relationships without a support network, and to experience social isolation. This means that bi+ people are especially at risk for corrective rape.

According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Study, “61% of bisexual women reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.” Comparatively, 17% of straight women and 13% of lesbians have experience one of the above. Likely, these terrifying statistics are at least due in part to the oversexualization of bi+ people.

Bi+ people are used and seen as sexual objects rather than human beings with choices and opinions. Too often when people can’t control bisexuals they use rape, violence, and intimidation. Because of bi+ antagonism and misconceptions that bi+ people are slutty, unreliable, selfish, indecisive, dishonest, and more likely to cheat, a lot of bisexuals don’t report these crimes. Sadly, when bisexuals do report crimes to the police, “they are three times more likely to experience police violence than people who are not bisexual,” according to the Movement Advancement Project. That likelihood is increased if they are also trans, a person of color, or disabled.

5. Bisexuality Gets Conflated With Sex

One of the biggest reasons people hate bi+ people is because they conflate bisexuality with sex. In reality, bisexuality has no more to do with sex than being straight or gay does.

However, with the way that people often respond to someone coming out as bi+, they might as well be graphically describing a threesome. We often hear comments like, “Keep your sex life private! I don’t want to hear about that!” when we have only mentioned our sexual orientation and nothing about sex. Gays, lesbians, and straight people are usually able to discuss their sexual orientation without these comments – bisexuals should be no different.

Being out as a bi+ person means explaining over and over again that bisexuality is not the same as promiscuity. No, we aren’t more likely to cheat. No, we aren’t greedy. No, I don’t want a threesome with you and your girlfriend. No, we aren’t more likely to have STIs. No, you cannot watch.
Even OKCupid, a popular dating website and app, flags only the term “bisexual” as possible inappropriate language. This just goes to show that the oversexualization of bi+ people is everywhere – individuals, companies, media, advertisements. This oversexualization of bi+ people that reaches far and wide certainly isn’t support. Supporting bisexuals means not seeing them as sexual objects, treating bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation, and not conflating bi+ identities with sex.

More Than Two: Chapter 6 & 7

Note: While this outline will give you some things to talk about actually reading More Than Two is probably going to be incredibly valuable. I have outlined and asked questions about the things I have found interesting and thought-provoking, but you may find different things more helpful to yourself.

This was made for use by The Denver Nontraditional Relationships Meetup. Feel free to use it for other groups or for your own use as long as you credit Poly Talk. Going through it with a partner or your polycule might be especially helpful!

If this tool has been helpful please consider donating to our group so I can create similar tools, hold discussions, and pay for Meetup fees. Google Wallet: polypretzels@gmail.com or Patreon: www.Patreon.com/PolyTalk

Chapter 6: Communication Pitfalls

Foundations of communication

  1. Trust
  2. Respect
  3. Understanding other’s needs

 

Fuzzy Language

This is why us discussing terms & semantics is a good thing.

Have you ever been in a situation where you applied different meanings to the same term and it caused a problem?

Does everyone in your discussion apply the same meaning to:

  • Sex
  • Love
  • Consent
  • Commitment
  • Relationship

Likely, these are different for different people.

How can we have a discussion in our relationships about what these terms mean to us to limit miscommunications?

 

Slippery Words

Words attached to baggage.

Ex: Everyone must respect the primary relationship.

Existing commitments come first.

Everything must be fair and equal.

Reasonable, Success, Rights, Healthy

Do you have any agreements or rules with terms like this? How can you clarify what you really mean better?

 

Dishonesty

Most common reason for dishonesty is a lack of emotional vulnerability. Reasons for dishonesty:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of ridicule
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of hearing no
  • Fear of being found less desirable
  • Not wanting to hurt your partner
  • Incapable of being honest with self

Dishonesty by concealment often is a way to seeking to control information as a way to control their partner’s behavior.

Lead with hopes rather than fears. What are some times you have struggled with one of these barriers to honesty? Did you overcome them? How?

You are going to be wrong sometimes. Do you allow this or fight it? Can you admit it? When does the refusal to accept that you are wrong cause problems?

How can you make it easier for you partner(s) to talk to you despite these issues?

 

Passive Communication

Passive communication- communication through subtext.

EX: Saying “I want to go out for Thai food.” vs. “Hasn’t it been a long time since we went out to eat?”

Are you more of a direct or indirect communicator? Which one is/are your partner(s)? How has passive communication led to problems in your relationships?

Passive communication can easily turn into manipulation. Passive communicators often see subtext in a direct communicator’s language- even when there isn’t any. Has this been an issue in your relationships?

What can you do to become better at direct communication? How can you encourage partners that are passive communicators to be more direct?

 

Storytelling

We are likely to interpret other’s motivations as less favorable than our own. We are just reacting to a situation while they are exposing a flaw in their character.

How can you recognize this bias in yourself? Has this played a role in any arguments or judgments you’ve made about people?

 

Triangular Communication

When one person’s concern regarding another person doesn’t go addressed with that person, but with another third person.

Where is the line between venting to another person/ seeking validation and triangular communication begin?

Sometimes caused by one partner wanting to control the passage of information to another person.

Triangular communication leads to diffusion of responsibility (so is veto power.)

It is likely that you have been at every part of the triangle at some point. The person seeking a third person to talk to, the person in the middle, and the person who was not talked to directly. In each situation, what could you have done to better direct communication?

 

When We Don’t Want To Communicate

Communication is most difficult when it is most important. Assumptions, embarrassment, and vulnerability can lead us to not want to communicate.

“If you are afraid to say it, that means you need to say it.”

What is something you’ve been/ were afraid to say? Why? What was the outcome?

How can you be receptive so your partner feels more comfortable saying the hard stuff?

 

Coercive Communication

Coercion- when the stakes of saying no are so high that you can’t reasonably say no.

If we think our partners owe us something this can occur. If you think you are owed sex you might think you are just communicating your need for sex when you are really demanding it.

Respect boundaries even when you don’t understand them. They are not the same as rules.

How do you distinguish between boundaries and rules?

Sometimes boundaries can be used to control, in emotional blackmail people may withdraw to punish someone. How do you make sure that your motives for boundaries are healthy?

Active listening can prevent this. It is:

  • Genuine
  • No leading questions
  • Listening to understand, not to respond
  • Repeating back what is said for clarification

Be wary of shifting responsibility for one person’s emotional state to the other person. EX: Why would you have sex with someone else when you know how much it hurts me?

 

Chapter 7: Communication Strategies

Communication Toolbox

99% of us are ‘lousy communicators.’

Active Listening

  • Listening to understand, not to respond
  • Repeating back what is said in your own words for clarification

Direct Communication

  • Be direct in what you say
    • Without subtext, hidden meaning, or coded language
  • Assume directness in what others say
    • Don’t look for hidden meaning or buried messages

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

Put aside assumptions about other’s motivations and look at your own emotional response. Have each person in your discussion group come up with a difficult situation they had trouble communicating through and go through each step together to determine what you would do if practicing NVC. Do not be judgemental about how they handled the situation, only encouraging about figuring out what could be done better from now on or next time.

  1. Observation- made without judgment or assumption
  2. Feeling- focus on what you felt (I statements)
  3. Need- share what you need
  4. Request- request for communication

Make sure NVC is not used as a tool for control.

 

You Me Her- Good or Bad for Polyamory?

Warning: Contains Season 1 Spoilers

You Me Her is a new show that tackles one couple’s stumble into a polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous people are thrilled to finally have a show focused on a triad rather than another love triangle. However, there are so many problems with the show that it might not be the best introduction to polyamory- unless you use it as a tool to learn what not to do.

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Most couples make many mistakes when they start polyamory and architect Emma and Counselor Jack from Portland are no different. The show opens on them at a doctor’s office and the therapist asks about how often they have sex as they are trying to get pregnant. They are obviously having a dry spell. One of Jack’s friends recommends an escort to spice up their marriage and Jack meets Izzy. Then Jack comes clean to Emma and Emma meets Izzy as well.

One of the problems people report with polyamory is that it is for rich, white people. You Me Her only reinforces this conception. Jack and Emma live in a rich, white suburb and are obviously well off. Izzy is a student and is a little less well off, but Jack and Emma are willing to pay quite the price for her services. Jack and Emma throw their money around in attempts to control Izzy. Basically, the stereotype that polyamory is for rich, white people is very much confirmed by You Me Her.

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Unicorn hunters are a couple looking for a bisexual woman (sometimes a man), unicorn, to join their relationship. Unicorn hunting can be done ethically but couples new to polyamory usually are selfish, insensitive, and unfair. They often expect the new addition to their relationship to always be second best, to fix their relationship, and to fall for both of them at the same rate. Jack and Emma are these unethical unicorn hunters- to a T.

Jack and Emma talk about their triad without Izzy almost exclusively, treat her as an object and only occasionally remember she is not, and make decisions about their relationship without Izzy. Izzy puts herself out there again and again, but Jack and Emma lead her on only to discard her harshly later. Jack and Emma are so profoundly terrible to Izzy that she gives up on school and is ready to move back to Colorado. Izzy is no way without blame, but she isn’t actively hurting Jack and Emma like they are to her throughout the first season.

You Me Her is a wonderful example of what not to do for unicorn hunters. Izzy is a great example of the hurt that can happen when unicorns get treated poorly and when unicorn hunting goes wrong. However, I worry that their unethical behavior is being romanticized rather than criticized.

Another theme that seems to prevail throughout the story is selfishness and being self-absorbed. Even the title sequence has “ME” large and in the middle while “YOU” and “HER” are smaller and being pushed out of the way.

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Their triad starts out as cheating- from both Emma and Jack. Polyamory is not cheating, but You Me Her blurs the line between cheating and polyamory that confuses too many people.

After one particularly frustrating scene where Izzy feels rejected, and rightfully so, Emma suggests minutes after Izzy has left sobbing that Emma and Jack should have a baby. Jack tries to shut down the relationship even though Emma and Izzy are happy. Izzy uses a guy who really likes her, Andy, only to make Jack and Emma jealous.

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While the characters are charming and there are a few adorable scenes, I was left with the feeling that Jack, Emma, and Izzy have a hard time seeing past their selves. I feel that is already a misconception about polyamory- that we are all selfish and using each other. However, the least selfish people I know are polyamorous. The majority of us care about other’s feelings and try to be better people. Only a bad few of us don’t learn from our mistakes and continue to use people. I am curious to find out if that will be the case for Jack, Emma, and Izzy.

There isn’t a single issue within the triad that couldn’t be solved by them all sitting down together and communicating what they feel. Instead, they guess and mislead each other. This is too often true of other issues people run into in polyamory; they just need to be talked through.

So is You Me Her a good representation of polyamory? Not exactly. However, it is a good representation of the mistakes that people new to polyamory make when they take it on on their own. What is sad is that there are so many resources to avoid the mistakes the triad in You Me Her made- especially in Portland which has a large, active polyamorous community.