My best friend fell in love, got pregnant and moved to Spain within the space of a year. She was deliriously happy if a little nervous. When she announced it to me on the phone I said,
'Wow that's brave of you. But how exciting.' Then I took a deep breath and said
'We're also doing the same thing. Moving I mean. To England to be closer to our poly partners.'
At the time my husband and I had just come out of the polyamorous closet. We'd fallen madly in love with another couple and just couldn't see any other way to continue the relationship in its current dynamic. The choice was either to move and take a chance on love, or to risk losing the relationship altogether. It meant quitting my job. Traveling from Italy to England every month was taking a huge toll on our respective budgets, familial backlash was relentlessly severe and there was no organizational support in a country where cheating was the norm, but open relationships were cursed. We needed each other if were to make the venture work.
There was a frosty silence at the end of the phone. Until eventually she replied
'What on earth are you thinking? It's not at all the same. What you're doing is totally ludicrous.'
Ludicrous is as ludicrous does.
We were both suffering from a heady mix of oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine and noepinephrine. In lay terms, we were in love. It makes you take decisions you wouldn't otherwise take. Later I learned that polyamorous people call it New Relationship Energy. It makes you do stupid stuff. If only I had known beforehand... would I have done anything differently?
Learning from other people's lessons
Giving you the prior knowledge of the stupid stuff you do is the focus of Cunning Minx's eBook (available on Amazon) 8 Things I wish I'd known about polyamory (before I frakked it up). Cunning Minx has been podcasting since 2005, which is before I had a twinkle in my eye for any plural relationships. It joins the illustrious ranks of up and coming open relationship books like More Than Two and kicks off with a quote from author Franklin Veaux (do they all know each other over there in the US of A)?[Note. Since writing this, Franklin Veaux has been called out for harmful behaviours towards at least ten of his former partners. In my capacity as the journalist helping on this issue, I would suggest reading up on the case before following any advice from him. And even then, you are the expert on you.]
More than Two is loooooong. It's a dictionary versus Cunning Minx's primer. But the primer is all the more useful due to its length. If More Than Two is the exam length classic, 8 things is the study guide. Like her tips on NRE.
Cunning Minx says...'A good rule of thumb is not to pack anything larger than a suitcase during NRE. Do not pack up the moving truck with all your belongings and move across town, across the state or across the country to be with your new love. Do not quit your job or change jobs.'
Cunning Minx says...'During NRE, consider yourself to have the judgment of a teenager whose frontal lobe is not yet completely formed. Remember that if you really love this person, you'll still be in love with him in a year when the chemicals wear off and you can apply more critical thinking skills to the situation.'
She's right of course as she is about the rest. And yet unless you are already extremely self-aware (which let's face it most of us are not), you will not be able to separate yourself sensibly from the teenager whose frontal lobe is not yet completely formed. Those chemicals are just too potent (I know, I've been there).
The challenge lies then, not with this book (which is quite frankly the best intro to poly problems I've found), but with human nature and the way we create our knowledge; Clue...it's not just from other people's experiences.
Life's challenges bring change, and those challenges that we overcome do change us for the better. Challenges show us who we are and what we are made of - 8 Things I wish I'd known about polyamory
Only with challenge do we grow as human beings to achieve the kind of emotional intelligence that many polyamory pundits say is necessary before embarking on a [polyamorous] relationship. Whereas we can enforce driving tests before anyone drives a car, you cannot prevent people from creating relationships and falling in love in the same way. And once they do, if they do not have 'a higher level of self-knowledge' or 'the ability to ask for what [they] want' or 'the ability to embrace change'...there is little chance of stopping the car crash.
Does that mean that less 'grown' people deserve love any less? Of course not. No one has the right to prevent people from loving one another, more than you would judge anyone unqualified to have food. Does it mean that they might experience more hurt in their quest for love? Of course.
It's why books like 8 things are absolutely necessary as educational tools if viewed as part and parcel of the growth journey.
As Yoda might say, "Feel or do not feel. There is no 'should.'" Just accept every weird or inopportune emotion you have as part of the wonderfully complex machine that is you. - 8 Things I wish I'd known about polyamory
Luckily Cunning Minx is, well, cunning. She uses also 8 Things as part of an educational programme (you can catch it if you're in Seattle).
The advice given in this book is extremely sound and as it's a short eBook I'm not going to give much more away. But in a small space it covers a vast amount of ground, from how to own your shit, to how poly is intensely personal (more than you think)...plus a fantastic bonus template at the end which will help you define your own needs, preferences and desires. For 5 quid it's a pretty valuable addition to your Kindle.
The question remains though... if I had known these 8 things, would I have done anything differently?
No. But maybe I would have realised sooner what the hell was happening and it may have just helped save our first relationship. Buy it if you need a short sharp shock just as soon as you realise you - like all of us - have not been trained in relationship skills.
But just remember... in the words of Cunning Minx's partner Lusty Guy, “The goal of any relationship is to make the people involved better versions of themselves." The way this happens is a personal and ongoing journey.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes and learn about the things not to do. Not because you have to, not because you have to be 'grown' to deserve love, just because you and everyone around you will be happier.