On Being Transparent
That's why I guess I'm skeptical of people who - with a flip of a switch - suddenly say, "Oh Jesus, wow, I'm Poly!" as if they had a V8 moment and (cue Emeril) BAM! They're poly. I just don't think it happens that way. Being poly takes a lot of practice.
So I guess this is a story about my practice.
My initial run at non-monogamy was under the auspices of the default model. That's to say I was married and cheating, and that was anything but ethical, moral, or transparent. I wasn't supposed to be seeing anyone else. I didn't reveal what I was doing to my spouse because that wasn't how the cheating game was played.
So, when I came around to dabble in Polyamory, I had a lot of built-in behaviors that erred towards concealment, avoidance, and lying. I had a lot of de-programming to do.
I'm not sure if I can speak for other men but I'd be willing to bet that there's a tendency to lean more this way, particularly for those brand new to the polyamorous experience and transitioning from monogamy. There's something in you that wants to gravitate towards the cheating game.
- Maybe it felt awkward to share the details of your time with another lover;
- maybe you wanted to spare your partner hurt feelings;
- maybe you felt your choices would be scrutinized;
- maybe some of the things you did or places you went hit a little too close to home, or could have rubbed her the wrong way;
- maybe you just felt weird about talking openly with your spouse.
Whatever. For me, it was a little of all of these things. They created some pretty bad habits.
Before I'd go on a date with somebody else, I wouldn't volunteer information to my wife on where I was going to go or do. And when I returned, I'd be hesitant to give a full accounting back to my wife.
Over the years, I've mellowed. I thought about the way that I'd want to be treated, and that's not how I'd like to be treated in those circumstances with any of my partners. These days:
- I tend to schedule with my partners in advance. Weeks or sometimes months in advance. And as you know, we share calendars through Google so we can all see our time and availability.
- Regardless, when I'm chatting with my partners in the morning, I tell my partners when I'm going to see someone. It could be a regular, established partner or somebody new, but even though it's on the calendar, I want to be clear about what's on my agenda for the day.
- If a regular partner, a lot of that person is already known and we're likely to be frisky and have sex. If it's a new person or a new date, or if I'm intending to go to a party where adult play might be involved, then I'll try to clarify what I expect will happen.
- I'll usually open up to a conversation at the point with "do you have any questions or requests?" At this point I'm trying to extend an opportunity. If any one of my partners has a particular squick, or, are just feeling a tad insecure about my activities, now's the chance to talk about expectations, boundaries ... actions that I can take that'll make them feel a little more comfortable.
- And sometimes - and you're probably thinking this - conditions change. Expectations run-afoul. The agreements that I have with my partners are to make the best choices I can then follow up with a conversation at the earliest opportunity.
- I try to be back on time, at the time that I promised or said I'd be back, and again, if conditions change, I'm expected to call or text just to let folks know I'm okay. A good example are check-ins for arrivals and departures - I'll often text my partners to let them know when I'm back at home, or, arrived at a party, or, left a date. That way they're not hung up on what's going on.
- Then afterwards, especially if it was a new date or situation, I'll open up another dialog with my partners. How are you feeling? Here's a little of what happened - do you need to know more? Any questions for me?
Some might read what I'm doing here and shudder.
Like, OMG:TMI, or, dude, you're so pussy-whipped, or, Jesus, are you some kind of control freak to expect this out of everyone else in your life?!
I guess I feel that what I do here is, at foremost, trying to give a voice to my partners, and that my activities don't occur in a vacuum. They've got a say and input into what's going on. I'm also extending an opportunity to ask questions in an effort to curb jealousy, envy, or any other negative emotion through communication. I'm also trying to be transparent so that they understand where I'm coming from and what I'm feeling. Finally, I'm trying to build and reinforce trust between me and all of my partners.
Personally, I don't feel controlled or controlling. I try not to meddle too deeply into the affairs of my partners or challenge their personal autonomy. I do want to be a factor in their lives and have some insight into their feelings, their activities, and their shifting emotional landscape; I don't want to be taken by surprise.
Anyway, that's a little of what I've learned, that transparency goes a long way in being Polyamorous, and opens the doors to new possibilities and understandings about yourself and your partners. It's one more step to being truly genuine and honest, and that's the way I try to approach it.