I know what you’re thinking – “WHAAAA????” Just stick with me here and I’ll explain.
A discussion came up at the most recent SoCal Poly Support Group meeting about poly dating. Somebody was sharing some bits and pieces about their dating life – the highs and lows (as I’m sure most people have experienced, poly or not). This person said that their opinion was that it was easier to date an already established poly couple as opposed to a “singleton” – someone who is dating and perhaps has partners but not an anchor partner. They said it had mainly to do with ambiguity vs. established structure. That when they dated singletons (did I make this term up? Is there another term I should be using? Let me know.) it felt very ambiguous and unstructured. They were unsure of where they stood or who they were to the other person. Yet when they dated established couples OR one half of an established couple, the rules were laid out and they went into it knowing the expectations, etc. for the relationship.
As I sat there and listened – others spoke up – some in agreement and some with opposing views. I thought back to the various poly structures I’d been involved with over the years. I thought about the differences – both in the beginning and as the relationships went on. Somehow my strange mind went to childbirth. I have had two children. One vaginally and one via C-section. I was listening to people say how much “easier” it is to date couples or part of a couple and that brought back memories of people telling me that a C-section was so much “easier” than vaginal birth. They weren’t wrong. Yet they left out the part about recovery and the road being much longer after that “easy” C-section.
Finally I spoke up. “Dating a couple vs. a singleton is like vaginal childbirth vs. a C-section.”
After the initial response of confusion and curiosity and “Huh??’s”, I tried to explain. Dating a couple or part of a couple can seem easier in the beginning due to the reasons this person stated – rules and expectations are already basically in place. Just like the C-section, this initial phase is smooth sailin’. However, in both scenarios you never know how it will be long term. While it’s possible to continue on a smooth course with the couple (or half of a couple) it can also very easily turn rocky. Just as after the initial drugs wear off after surgery – you may just need a couple pain meds or you may end up feeling like if you stand up too fast all your guts are gonna fall out. (true story) This is because you are trying to fit into another established dynamic. That dynamic may be stable or, in many cases it may not.
On the other hand if you are dating a singleton – this can start off with ambiguity and instability because nothing has been established yet. There is difficulty much of the time in creating structure, rules, expectations, etc. from the ground up with someone new. Just like going thru the pain and difficulty of vaginal childbirth. (See where I’m going with this?) However, once you can get through that and establish a solid foundation (yes this can take years) – the long term may come with a more peaceful current. Just as there is some pain in recovery from vaginal birth – it was nothing compared to recovering from my C-section. I was back to “normal” much faster.
It isn’t a perfect metaphor and no example will ever cover all cases. This represents some of my poly experiences as well as others’ I know. It also represents my childbirth experiences which can also be very different for different people. I just thought it was an interesting comparison and, quite honestly, the support group encouraged me to make an article out of it. So there ya have it. Poly dating being compared to how you get a baby human out of your body. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read!
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.