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You Can Date Your Friends, But Don’t Date All of Your Friends

·1010 words·5 mins
Polyamory Relationships

Sometimes people ask me how I got into writing books about relationships, blogging for a large audience, giving advice.

People always seem to be hoping for some backstory in which I had some kind of grand vision. In which I shot forward with the unbridled determination of an activist and an ideologue for kink and non-monogamy.

The truth is that I started relationship coaching without really meaning to.

I’d just moved to Cleveland after a few years of dating actively in a complex polyamorous relationship system, exploring the kink scene, figuring myself out.

Due to an awful series of events, I had gone from dating five people to only seeing one in a handful of months. At the time, reeling from the pain of so many breakups in so short of a time, I thought for certain that I was doomed, that everything I touched would turn to disaster, and that the sole remaining relationship I was in wouldn’t be long for this world.

I was very wrong about this. Eight years later, I’m still in that relationship.

Anyway, I found myself in a very curious position at that time. Due to stressful events, I was once again functionally monogamous but it was a very different brand of monogamy than I had practiced prior to my social life becoming so enmeshed in alternate relationship communities.

I was only dating one person but had all the values and relationship opinions of someone who was actively polyamorous.

And a good three-quarters (or more) of my friends were also polyamorous.

Some folks in my position might have gotten right back on the horse. Gone right back out and started dating again.

But I just didn’t have the heart for it. I was exhausted from all the breakups. And decided I’d take the opportunity to work on myself. I went to therapy and went back to school and studied to become a psychological researcher. I continued to date just the one person, who mysteriously didn’t leave me (challenging my assumption that I was a fundamentally flawed universally un-date-able person) and if anything seemed delighted to be dating me.

Together we worked hard, paid off bills, and focused on building a life together. (We agreed that all it would take to re-open our relationship up would be a single conversation, a simple heads up so that neither of us would be caught off guard.)

A Friend Who Really Got Polyamory and Kink But Wasn’t Dating Anyone You Were

During those years of being functionally monogamous, another funny thing happened: I became a rather hot commodity for advice in my local polyamorous community.

There was a need for someone who was conversant with the ideals and values of polyamory and/or kink. Who wouldn’t automatically default to blaming non-monogamy and/or BDSM as the problem in relationship conflicts. Who didn’t need to be brought up to speed on the terminology.

Sure, there were polyamory and kink-friendly therapists. But not every issue reached the threshold of needing the hand of a therapist. Some confidences were more appropriate to be discussed with a friend.

(Note: For any readers who are looking for a polyamory and/or kink-friendly counselor, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has  a directory of Kink Aware Professionals available. If you find once you’ve searched their listings that’s there no one in your area in the directory, you can also  contact NCSF via their website and ask if they can locate one for you. )

A friend who was this conversant with polyamory and kink but not a partner or metamour of anyone that they were talking about was rare. But there I was.

So I quickly became the person that everyone confided in. The friend who was asked for advice.

This blog grew out of that work, work that I continued to do after my relationship eventually reopened (taking great care to avoid conflicts). Work that strangely grew into a career.

It’s Important to Have Friends You Aren’t Dating

In any event, there’s something I’ve seen quite often in the lives of friends and clients I’ve helped as well as in my own: There’s a paradoxical danger when you’re polyamorous of ending up socially isolated. Paradoxical, because you end up quite socially connected if you and/or your other partners date a lot.

But with multiple connections can come many dual relationships and resultant conflicts of interest. You may wake up one day and find that the person you typically confide in is suddenly at the middle of a conflict you need help troubleshooting — one you can’t really trouble-shoot with them because they’ll be too biased and defensive as a major actor in that dynamic to do that.

And you might find that you wake up one morning and all of your friends are either dating you or dating a partner. You might have some monogamous friends — but they might not be ones who understand or approve of consensual non-monogamy (please note: there ARE plenty of monogamous people who are supportive of consensual non-monogamy, but you might not have those friends).

It’s at this moment that you’ll end up in a state of conflicted polyamorous isolation. Coming back from this can be truly difficult. It typically sneaks up on people before they’re fully aware.

You Can Date Friends, But Don’t Date _All _of Your Friends

It’s another reason that I advise polyamorous people to not simply rely on dating apps to meet partners and to focus also (or instead) on making polyamorous friends. Typically, polyamorous meetups are the best way to do this. (I tend to also meet a lot of new friends through my existing friends.)

Even if you never need the services of an advice friend to help you gather your thoughts, it’s a good idea to have people around who can appreciate and understand what you’re going through and who are removed from what’s happening in your love life.

I’m all for dating friends ( especially if everyone involved has good breakup skills), but don’t date _all _of your friends.


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