Choosing the Right Partner(s) in Poly Relationships
Making good choices in who we partner with is so important. Poly or mono, we’ve all done it: fallen for the wrong person. We have all, at one time or another, fallen in love with a person that we knew, going in, was not going to fit into our lives, or was not going to be available for the depth or type of relationship we are seeking. In the poly world especially, this can be very detrimental—your relationship choices affect not only you, but potentially every other member of your poly group/network/relationship/web.
I was reading on FetLife the other day in one of the polyamory groups and ran across a post by a woman that said she was looking for a certain kind of relationship dynamic. She was very clear and specific about what her needs are, what kind of relationship dynamic she is seeking, and why, and this, to me, seemed to be a perfectly legitimate way to go about “searching” for the one or ones who might fulfill those needs.
There were several good responses, and then came the reply that seems to be (aside from “communication, communication, communication”) the standard poly mantra: “Look for the right person or people, not the right situation.” This is conventional wisdom in the poly community for the most part—you should not be searching for a person to fill a “role” in your head, like trying to fit a piece into a “you” shaped puzzle, but should be getting to know people that interest you and that are interested in you; the role itself will develop organically.
While I agree that we should not attempt to fit people into preconceived roles, and in fact tend to fall into the “organic” model of relationship-building myself, I do think there is a strong case for being specific about what our needs are in a relationship, and for making choices about who we date based on those needs. This is especially true in poly relationships, where what we do has the potential to affect so many more people than just you and the other person, but it holds true in mono relationships as well.
Take, for instance, in the mono dating world, the thirty-two year old woman who is ready to settle down, find a lifetime mate, maybe start a family, but keeps dating twenty-five year old men. Or in the poly world, the woman that keeps dating couples, saying she wants to be a casual playmate, when what she really craves is one person to be “hers.” Neither of these women, unless they get very lucky accidentally, are going to have their relationship needs met, in the long-run. And they will both probably blame the other person for not being what they want, rather than looking at their own complicity in the situation. Neither of these women was honest with themselves, and probably not with their potential partners, about what they really needed in a relationship. And unless they are, they will probably continue to fall in love with people that fall short of the expectations and needs—and they won’t even know why.
Another issue I have with this is that the other person or people involved are also being misled. By not being specific about what she wants and honest about what she is looking for in a relationship, the woman in these examples is not allowing her potential others to choose to be in relationship with her based on what they want in a relationship, either, or on what they believe she wants. They base their expectations on false information, and so none of them are ever going to have their needs met.
So to me the woman that advertises that she is seeking a certain type of relationship is much more likely to find what she needs, as opposed to one who hopes to “accidentally” find the mate or mates that are also interested in forming the type of relationship she desires. Yes, it’s a bit more clinical, perhaps, and yes, there is the possibility that she will miss out someone that doesn’t fit into the role but who may be willing to explore it, but, at least in my experience, this method will give one a much greater chance for finding a relationship that is successful in the long run and meets everyone’s needs.
(Originally posted on Eden Cafe.)