PQ 18.8 — Can I build a relationship that respects the agency not only of each of us, but of others who are involved as well?

a photograph of Arcadian County Park in Los Angeles County, California. The photo features a grassy area with picnic tables and trees that are casting long dark shadows.
Image by Brian / CC BY

PQ 18.8 — Can I build a relationship that respects the agency not only of each of us, but of others who are involved as well?

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“You know, it’s funny,” I say to Justin as we’re out taking a walk together. “Sometimes I’ll get asked questions about you when I do interviews. Especially with monogamous reporters or podcast hosts. They’ll ask me something like ‘Doesn’t your husband feel neglected?’ because I see other people. And at the time, it seems like the strangest, most foreign question because you rarely have difficulty, at least not bad enough that you feel like you have to raise it with me. I think it’s really only been twice in 8 years.”

“Sounds about right,” he says.

“And even then, you haven’t even framed it that way — You don’t ever go ‘Hey, you’re neglecting me.’ You’ve just let me know when you’re having a hard time. If anything, you’ve always been a person who encourages me to let go a little more when I see new people. You encouraged me to spend more time with my boyfriend and argued that I should enjoy NRE more instead of fighting it like I tend to do,” I say.

He doesn’t say anything.

“I mean, maybe I’ve got it all wrong,” I continue. “Maybe I’m missing a lot. You are an introvert, after all. A tough read.”

“No,” he replies. “Basically I try to do for you what I’d like you to do for me if I were in the same situation.”

And as we stroll around the park, we talk a bit more about what we’ve both learned from watching the other navigate polyamory and our other relationships, before naturally turning to other topics: It’s crowded tonight. An uneasy wind and an eldritch sky hint at a thunderstorm hitting in an hour or two. I wore the wrong shoes, but I’m so lost in the scenery and our private jokes that I don’t notice until I’ve sprouted gnarly blisters on both heels.

The next morning as I wake up with both heels aching, I smile anyway, thinking it was well worth it.

How Would I Want Them to Behave Were Our Roles Reversed?

There’s been one question that I always ask myself that’s been an excellent guide in my time as a polyamorous person — no matter whether I’m thinking about interactions with my partner, a metamour, or someone else:

How would I want that other person to behave were our roles reversed?

The answer invariably is that I would want my agency respected.

Now, many people’s stress response involves attempting to control others. In some ways, this makes sense. People tend to be most afraid of the unknown. If we can dictate the way that events unfold, then in a sense we know the future and other people — therefore those things become less scary and those situations less stressful.

And sure, it might be tempting to take this route, to attempt to control others to make myself feel less stress and to be less afraid — but it’s completely against my values system and the whole reason I have polyamorous relationships in the first place.

There are likely as many reasons for being polyamorous as there are polyamorous people, but for me, autonomy and choice have always been key. And people being allowed to have freaking fun. Everyone. Because for me at least, unfairness kills fun. Kills it dead. In the face.

So even though it’s not always the easiest thing to trust other people (it can be downright scary), I lead with trust. Especially with people who I’ve known and have seen to be trustworthy towards me and others.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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