“Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.”
Whatever You Do, Don’t Be a Ferengi
“Oh great,” my friend says. “Another married couple newly opened up. How original.”
I smile. But uncomfortably. Wondering if my friend judges me for my past. She’s solo poly, long single. And not open to couples. In fact, she adds, she gets sick even thinking about dating a couple.
“I know I couldn’t get past feeling excluded,” she says. “Like I was less a part of the relationship since I wasn’t one of them.”
“Well, you know I’ve dated couples myself,” I reply. “And if you feel that way, it could be that you’re not cut out for couples, sure. But for me, it’s always been more a sign I’m dating a shitty couple.”
“I just know myself.” She sighs. “So many freaking couples looking for a third.”
Me and hubby are new to poly, the forum post reads. How do you go about meeting females who will join your relationship? We’re looking for someone to share our lives with.
I find that “female” or “females” in its noun form is never a good move. I invariably read it in a Ferengi voice. And I’m yet to meet unicorn hunters with the lobes to pull that off.
183 commenters have already let the OP know every other thing they find troubling or annoying about the post. “Hubby” is such an infantile term, one says. Several others criticize her for “share our lives with.” Because it’s so good to know she and hubby can tear off a piece of their own life together like a piece of stale bread. A slice of crouton thrown to a starving bisexual babe orphan.
I cringe. For everyone’s sake.
Luck Was a Lady
When Seth and I opened up our marriage in 2009, we weren’t the polycurious forum newbies getting eye rolls from the vets.
But there was an unusual reason for this: We found out about polyamory from a girl that we quickly started dating. There was no unicorn hunt. A unicorn had basically wandered onto our front lawn.
Megan was our introduction to polyamory. She was a married friend we had known for years. She and her husband had been discreetly polyamorous for quite some time. None of us knew they weren’t monogamous.
So Seth and I lucked out. We discovered polyamory and very soon after had a willing partner with which to explore it.
That triad ultimately didn’t work out. Megan wasn’t as into me as she’d hoped to be, though she hit it off great with Seth. It stung of course. But these things happen. Sometimes you love a person, and they don’t love you back. Not in the same way anyway.
Seth and I had entered into polyamory with your standard package deal arrangement. We dated a person together or not at all. But after the triad’s breakup with Megan, I couldn’t help but see how much Seth and Megan missed each other. And how foolish it was for them to be apart just because Megan didn’t have those kinds of feelings for me.
So even though it was hard at first, and I certainly felt left out (I really had been in love with Megan, even though she didn’t reciprocate beyond a friendly love), I insisted that they date each other. Without me.
It would be easy to be self-congratulatory on this point. That we transitioned so quickly from package deal to autonomously dating others. But honestly? I had it easy. I knew Megan. Knew her very well. She had been a friend for years. And I was intimately (literally, intimately) acquainted with Seth’s and Megan’s relationship. Since we’d been dating and fooling around as a triad for months.
So there was no fear of the unknown here.
Megan was a good person, one I trusted and who I knew would be good to Seth. Who had a lovely, stable marriage to her husband Pete.
Sending Megan and Seth off on a date night? Quite a different beast altogether than kissing my husband on the cheek and wishing him well before a Tinder date with a stranger.
No, my introduction was quite a bit more gentle than all that.
Everyone Has to Start Somewhere, Plus John 8:7
And even given the relative gentleness, I have to acknowledge how difficult it was for me at first.
Even if it seems strangely easy now to date as a free agent. And not a package deal-er.
As you get further away from something, it’s easy to forget how much you once struggled with it. It’s something in your past. A flat, 2-dimensional object in the rearview mirror. Something safe to mock because after all, you’re not so close to it. They call it a safe distance, don’t they?
I often wonder how many of us there are out there. Folks who started from a place of the problematic poly newbie. Asking all the annoying questions. Making all the wrong assumptions. Stumbling out into a relationship culture we couldn’t possibly understand without experiencing it first. Our fresh mistakes becoming tomorrow’s lessons.
I wonder how many of us reflexively roll our eyes at the misguided shit newbies are saying but catch ourselves mid-roll remembering we were janky once.
It’s like Jesus says in John 8:7: “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.”
I try not to judge. And certainly not to ostracize. Even though some of it might test my patience. And I might take offense to something they said.
Because I remember myself when I was new to polyamory, wide-eyed and curious. But also afraid. And I can only imagine how terrible I might have sounded to the person I am today.
Besides when a new hire says something incredibly stupid during their onboarding, you don’t fire them on the spot.
And sure, it’s not any given seasoned poly person’s job to educate the newbies. Poly sherpa duty can be the worst kind of thankless scut. But someone’s gotta help out the freshman class. Today’s newbies are tomorrow’s community members. And I for one would like them as informed as possible. And less likely to rage quit and then head back out into the wild with tales of how jacked up those polyamorous freaks are.
Thank You for Sherpa-ing
So to those of you out there who patiently explain what’s wrong with what was said in kind terms? Who link to appropriate materials helpful to newcomers? Who take the time to answer questions you may have heard a million times?
Thank you for not judging.
You might not always get the satisfaction of knowing how much good you’ve done. The emotional closure of knowing that you’ve educated someone or improved things.
But what you do matters.
Even if you, like me, occasionally can’t help but laugh at some of it. And catch yourself mid eye roll.