I’ve been doing the whole polyamorous relationship thing for about 7 years. I love your blog because it’s such a good mix of levels. There are plenty of beginner articles that I can send to friends who are curious about poly or just getting into it, but there’s also a lot you write that gets to the heart of what it feels like to be a long-term poly person. It’s something I haven’t seen much before.
Anyway, I’m having an issue, and I don’t think you’ve written about it before (correct me if I’m wrong about that), so I wanted to see what you thought.
I’m currently dating someone who is brand spanking new to poly. I’m usually pretty hesitant to do that since it can be hard work being someone’s first poly relationship. Answering questions, serving as a role model, helping them work through insecurities that they haven’t yet built coping skills for, AND trying to date them all at the same time can be totally exhausting.
I did it a few times in the distant past and swore it off forever…but here I am again.
I’m giving it another shot in spite of a frustrating history because I met someone I really like. I like her so much that it scares me a little (it’s been an awfully long time since I felt this way about someone new).
And so far it’s going pretty well…except for one thing. It’s pretty minor, but I’m finding it bizarre, and I want to get your take on it.
She can’t stop telling these really bad jokes. Ones that are so unfunny that I feel weird even calling them jokes and I wouldn’t think of them as jokes if I saw them written out, but the tone of voice she uses makes me think she’s trying to tell jokes. Basically, my girlfriend keeps making fun of herself and everyone around her. “We’re so poly!” “Just a bunch of sluts here.” Or responding to basically any decision with, “Why do we have to choose? We’re poly!” Even when it’s something pretty mundane like what soda she wants to drink.
If she’d only done it once, I wouldn’t have even noticed, but she’s doing it over and over again.
I’ve also noticed that when it’s just the two of us hanging out one on one, she doesn’t do it all. It’s only when I’m hanging with her and her other partners or she’s hanging out with me and mine that she starts churning out this same tired unfunny stand-up routine.
It’s really starting to grate on my nerves, but I can’t pin down exactly why.
Have you ever heard of this before? What do you think it’s all about?
Thanks for writing. The answer is yes, I have heard of this before. I’ve actually witnessed this same exact behavior a few different times — once in a partner I was dating and a few other times from metamours (a.k.a., partner’s other partners) and friends’ partners. Looking over those situations, there were definitely a few common factors:
- The person was newly polyamorous.
- It seemed to happen only when they were in novel social situations that we don’t have societal scripts for, including what you described: When metamours were all together.
Jokes are an interesting form of communication. Sometimes jokes are told to entertain other people and make them laugh.
But other times they aren’t intended to be funny. For example, a person can joke about something as a way of testing the waters, say something in jest and see how the person responds, and then if it seems like it would be received well, they might then say, “Well, you know, I wasn’t really kidding,” and go from there.
And there are other times that a joke isn’t about being funny. They can also be about relieving tension or anxiety. Looking at all the times that I’ve personally witnessed this kind of constant unfunny joking, that seemed to be the case. A newly polyamorous person was anxious about an unfamiliar social situation, and to deal with that anxiety, they started making really unfunny deprecating “look at us, we’re so poly” jokes almost as a nervous tic.
It’s really understandable on a certain level that a person new to polyamorous relationships might find themselves anxious in the presence of metamours (or anxious when their partners are all in one place, if they’re a hinge). Our entire lives we are told that people cannot happily date the same person and get along. We’re bombarded with media that shows us cultural depictions of unhappy love triangles. Jerry Springer fights on stage. High drama Movies of the Week where a mistress and wife are bent on murdering one another.
None of this helps.
That said, I do feel your pain as those kind of “jokes” can get pretty annoying, especially when done over and over.
Without knowing your partner personally and the kind of reassurance that would be helpful to her (preferred Love Languages, intensity, timing, etc)., it’s tough to get terribly specific in terms of what you can do to help. Thankfully, time and exposure to polyamorous social situations will do most of the work (metamour hangouts will seem progressively less weird the more she experiences them), as will any work on building up personal security that she does.
And I don’t know about you, but knowing why someone is doing something annoying helps me to be a bit more patient with them — especially if it’s an understandable reason.
Obviously, you have the option to address this directly, to come right out and tell her that the jokes bother you. Typically, I advocate first for clear communication. However, if the jokes aren’t bothering you that much, it might be best just to wait a bit and see if they taper off naturally as she acclimates. Both are sensible courses of action.
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