1. To take on an authoritative tone and a righteous attitude while explaining to someone how to do polyamory “properly”.
2. To assume one doesn’t understand how to do polyamory and proceed to tell them in a condescending way.
Anyone who has attempted any form of non-monogamous relationship knows, right in their brains, that there is no “right” way to do it. There are ways to mitigate the fallout and take care of people in the process, but no real formula for success. Each and every person is different and unique, just the same as each and every relationship is different and unique.
I think about relationships a lot. I read about them, talk about them, write about them, talk about them some more (communicate! communicate! communicate!) and think about them. All. The. Time. With this in mind, I’ve come to some conclusions about personal growth, conduct, ethics, and consideration. I have settled on some ideas. I have come into my idealism. This is important to note because the ideals I have are mine, and based on the way I see the world, and view my place within it and the lives of the people closest to me. I think things, as it turns out, and I think them pretty strongly.
The rub is that a lot of the time, I think I’m “right”.
I think I’m “right” because when it comes down to it, I’m very rarely wrong, but nonetheless, it is a power I only believe I have. That power is fallible, but in my righteousness I don’t see that. I think that because I’m very confident about my self-awareness, and about “my” poly. This translates into a form of “splaining” that really sucks for my partners who are less experienced, or have thought/read/talked about these things less than I have. That gives me a form of power too; it gives me a window within which to educate.
When I’m in “poly educator” mode, I’m not advocating for myself, I’m advocating for ideals. As it turns out, we’re not there yet.
It is often said in our community that relationships move at the “pace of the slowest person”, meaning that whoever is needing more time, space, or care is setting the pace for how quickly things move around them. We hope. I think this principle can be applied to knowledge as well. When you’re a world class swimmer, or you think you are, to shove someone off the high dive after they’ve just discovered water for the first time and tell them they have to be a perfect swimmer RIGHT NOW is not considerate. Thus, patience must be applied, and information shared at the “pace of the slowest person” is a more measured approach, I think.
People are going to screw up. They’re going to make mistakes and not think of the way you see things (they don’t know, unless you tell them, and they still translate that to their lens…). The experienced poly people owe it to their new-to-poly partners, and to themselves, to be kind and have compassion through this process. We have all been new, and we know it’s hard. We just found a gold mine of life choices and we’re excited, until we realize we’re tripping, and taking out people as we fall on our faces. Everyone has been there.
The silver lining occurs when we find our footing, get it right(ish) and make progress within ourselves to be better. Being present for that as someone else goes through it is more rewarding than we may think as we’re nursing our wounds after our partner just screwed up. “Minding the Gap”, as Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux in their book “More Than Two” mention in reference to Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly“, is important. There is space between where we want to be, ideally, and where we are presently. Righteousness expects “idealistic” poly, not “doing the best i can right now” poly.
It is not easy being “right” almost every time for yourself, and watching people you care for find out where their “right” is the hard way. This goes with the other “prices of admission” in non-monogamous relationships, right next to communication and self-awareness. In between these two necessities is forgiveness.