Responsible Poly takes an inordinate amount of work, emotional stability, internal and external honesty, and self-awareness. Sadly, far too many people suffering from mental illnesses are drawn to poly largely because of their fear of intimacy, fear of commitment, self-esteem issues and need for attention. They use multiple relationships and drama to avoid doing the work of their own healing, and ultimately cause harm and emotional damage to those who get close to them.
These people give their partners mixed messages – the actions imply romance and love, but the words (especially when called on the behavior) backtrack quickly… They want the “head trip”, not the relationship. When the expectations and demands for real emotional intimacy surface, they quickly become cool, and refer back to their “words” around the relationship expectations, cry desperately that that they are a helpless victim, denying any culpability for the fact that their actions were often seemingly in direct contradiction to those words. “I want to be single..but with you” becomes their mantra.
Responsible Poly’s do not continue relationships with people where there is a clear imbalance of feelings, expectations, or ability to meet needs. It’s not acceptable for poly people to claim “lies” are “mistakes” are a way to expect instantaneous redemption for unethical, dishonest, discourteous behavior. It’s not acceptable for “poly” people to lie, betray or otherwise use and abuse their partners, and then think that nothing more than the words “I’m sorry” should resolve everything.
I’m tired of poly people who ignore or try to hide from the fact that when push comes to shove, you have to make a choice about who comes first in your life. You can’t be in two places at once, and you can’t do something knowing it will hurt another partner without being willing to accept the consequences of that (like the loss of the relationship). They do something damaging, “make a mistake”, sneak around and even lie, and then blame the loss of the relationship on the other person for having unreasonable expectations or “issues” (like wanting honesty and consistency or commitment). It is a colossal cop-out.
Poly people who think that just because someone is poly, it means it’s open season for them to hit on a primary partner and close friends. Especially the sycophantic types that immediately target/come-on to any new partner someone gets involved with. this is no more acceptable in Poly relationships as it is in Monogamous ones.
I would add that “Safe Poly People” are people who don’t avoid problems by dishonesty and betrayal of trust, but have the strength of character to work (and yes, suffer) through a problem in order to solve it. They don’t copout and blame their inability to deal with a problem on the other person’s “anger” or because they “fear confrontation”.
“Responsible” means keeping relationship agreements and sticking to your word, even when you really WANT to do something different – in other words, not sneaking around behind a partner’s back just because your commitment is now uncomfortable.
- “Responsible” means being honest and mature enough to sometimes change your plans (delay gratification) to show care and consideration for how your actions might affect your primary partner.
- “Responsible means talking to a partner in advance when you know that something you are about to do is going to adversely affect them. (and willful ignorance just doesn’t cut it in my book).
- “Responsible” means *talking* to a partner when you have made a mistake, apologizing, and genuinely showing consideration and compassion for the partner’s feelings as well as attempting to repair the damage and help heal the hurt.
- “Responsible” does not mean invalidating a partner who has been hurt by your actions as if somehow the very fact that they have expressed any pain is an unreasonable infringement on your “rights”.
- “Responsible” means telling your partner the truth when you are having uncomfortable feelings instead of encouraging them to do something, and then complaining that it hurt you after the fact.
- “Responsible” means being honest and not having a hidden agenda. It means talking to your partner openly about expectations. It means telling your partner the same thing you are telling other people.
Also be mindful of anyone who ideologically justifies Polyamory: If your new person (in this case a man) is really “progressive”, this man can quote The Ethical Slut. And since his predecessors in his spiritual lineage had multiple wives, certainly he should have them. While he is free to enjoy his spiritually-sanctioned dalliances, you’re in big trouble if you call him out on his ridiculous justifications. He has so much spiritual mojo that he is simply gifting it to all the women he’s intimate with. How dare you refuse his gift!?
People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), make people around them crazy and are unsafe people to be involved with in any kind of relationship. Unfortunately, it seems that poly attracts BPD’s (and those suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histronic Personality Disorder) because they think they can get more of the attention they crave through multiple relationships.
Whether monogamous or non-monogamous, there is no need to rush into any relationship. Keep your eyes peeled, and trust your instincts. If something feels off, or if it’s too perfect, it probably is.
Dr. Victoria Hartmann
January 16th, 2016