Yesterday, David and I both read the first chapter or two of The Ethical Slut and decided to do the first exercise in it which was to list all the people you can think of who are non-monogamous, be they a friend, acquaintance, famous or fictional person, then list the positive and negative things you think of in relation to their non-monogamy. As we’d agreed to do them together, we then discussed the people we’d written down.

The first interesting point was how we wrote our thoughts down. I listed the person and then wrote next to them the thoughts which sprung to mind. David wrote people down mostly in pairs and didn’t write down his thoughts as he said he might as well just say it as we discussed them. His list was also longer than mine which really interests me as I’m the one who has experience of open relationships. Most of the people on his list are people I know, but I wonder if to me they’re less noticeable because I don’t consider them different?

There were two exes of mine cropped up between our two lists, plus my parents, several friends and a few famous people, I was rubbish with famous people as I don’t pay attention to the kind of news where their relationships get discussed.

The discussion largely focused around a few points which kept cropping up with a reassuring regularity. On the positive side they were honesty, confidence, and balance, on the negative, jealously/envy and self-esteem issues.

Honesty seemed the biggest point. Honesty both within the relationship and frankness with those outside of it. Those who are more honest and better communicators seem to have fewer problems with jealousy and envy and resolve them quicker when they occur. By being honest with people you meet about your relationship being open, they know that if they’re interested in a more intimate connection, the answer won’t automatically be no, which probably makes the chance of being able to act on and enjoy your openness far higher. Probably most important in honesty with yourself about why you’re doing it and what you want out of it, which ties in to the negative point about self-esteem below.

The happier open couples we know all have a feeling of confidence about their relationship, which is based on trust, supported by honesty. They have the ability to tell people what they want in a manner that isn’t aggressive or threatening but is clear.

Balance seems vital. Mental balance, in that if you aren’t a calmer happier person you have healthier relationships. The balancing act between the demands of the live-in partner and the play partner and between your need to satisfy your own desires versus those of the people around you.

Much like the positive points, the negatives seem to me to be linked. Jealousy/envy – I’ve listed both because as David frequently reminds me, they’re not the same. You guard what you have with Jealousy and you envy what others have. Both of these seem to cause problems for non-monogamous people. They can be envious of how much sex their partner or other poly people are getting, they can be jealous of the time spent with their partner and not be willing to let go enough to allow their partner the freedom to meet others and experiment.

Self-esteem issues crop up in a few ways. They can be a cause of Jealousy and anxiety, where a person worries that their partner will like other people more than them. We are also fairly sure that one of our named people sleeps with so many people at least in part to prove to himself that he is attractive and desired. I think that a responsible poly person should probably take a long hard look inside themselves and work out why they want what they do and the effects that is going to have. Needing support is part of being human but if you need a crutch, you should probably work out why rather than involving and potentially hurting other people.

Overall the conversation left me with a slightly unsatisfied feeling. I know we’ve got so many things to work through and I just want to get on with it so that everything can be fine again and this felt like on dipping a toe in the water. What I have to remember is that I have already had open relationships. This concept is nowhere near as scary for me as it is for David and taking things slowly and doing lots of talking is probably the only way to open a relationship without more than the minimum of pain and angst. I’m really pleased that we talked though, there was no arguing, I think we both listened to each-other quite well. (We’ve both been guilty of not really listening at times, just waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that we start)

I have already made the decision that I value this relationship enough to work through this and support David while we try this awfully scary but hopefully rewarding thing. I need to remember that different people learn at different speeds and some of us have a long way to go and have the patience to go at the right speed.

As a final note, I’ve been asked for a bit more info on what we’re like, and I promise that post is on it’s way, I just wanted to get this off my chest first.