I never had a dream of being a writer. I wrote and edited for my school newspaper, and I churned out beefy research papers that would be the pride of any academic. But I was never the image of the passionate author. I was never Jo from Little Women, sitting in the attic and scratching out chapter after chapter until the sun came up. (With the exception of a brief fanfiction phase I had in early high school. To this day I still pray that no one will dig up that shameful skeleton.)
Today I’m going to introduce you to the One Penis Policy. If this term is totally new to you, it may conjure images of some kind of civil policy, much like China’s recently repealed one child policy. My brain thinks of a fun, government-subsidized sex toy distribution program to encourage sex positivity. I’m pretty sure it was Herbert Hoover who said, “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a dildo on every bedside table.” I still have to fact-check that quote, but seriously,
I hope I live to see the day there are government subsidized dildos.
I’ve ruined a number of relationships in my day. I’ve also had the great pleasure of creating a number of well-functioning, healthy, high-quality relationships. I’ve gone through phases of hopelessly lamenting to my friends, “I’m just no good at this interpersonal connection bullshit.” And I’ve had equally lengthy phases of demurely bragging to whoever would listen (usually a captive first date) that, “I like to think I’m pretty good at relationships.” My periods of romantic bliss pretty well balance out my crash-and-burn experiences. Both the highs and the lows have contributed to an ongoing lifetime education and research project--a perpetual attempt to figure out what the hell this “relationship” thing is, why human beings are drawn to it, and how to make it both awesome and not-sucky.
On Monday I made a bittersweet departure from Greece. It’s hard to believe that a whole month has gone by, and toward the end of my stay it felt like not nearly enough time. Besides hitting all the usual well-worn spots (The Acropolis, etc.), it was an intriguing experience getting to know the everyday side of Athens. Hopping on the metro, shopping for groceries, settling in to work, breaking for coffee in the afternoon, making dinner--all events held in common with most Westerners, yet marked with unique, subtle differences in each country.
On the evening of my 28th birthday, I was sprawled on the bed in a tiny hotel on the Greek island of Crete, soaking up the cool air being pumped out by the little Japanese air conditioner mounted on the wall. My place back in Athens had no climate control, and just the day prior it hit 106 degrees with sauna-like humidity. Just to be able to spend 2 minutes without sweat dripping down the small of my back was sweet relief.
Being in a time zone 10 hours behind, my friends and family back in the States were just starting to wake up, and the birthday text messages and Facebook notifications were rolling in. A text message from my best friend from high school popped up:
In last week’s blog post I addressed 4 habits that are present in most successful poly relationships: the ability to make decisions and talk about safe sex, willingness to embrace vulnerability, a high sense of commitment, and the ability to be flexible. Let’s dig in to the last three!
5. You love getting to know yourself.
First dates. Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of the process of just getting to know someone. Beyond discovering surface-level similarities between you and your date such as favorite movies, musical preferences, or a shared love of Vietnamese food, I love asking my date questions about their upbringing, about their craziest, wildest hopes for their life, their deepest or weirdest fears, their philosophies surrounding spirituality or self-development.
Everyone knows that romantic relationships can be challenging whether you are gay or straight, monogamous or polyamorous, and anything in between. If you were raised in a culture with very traditional views on relationships, it can be even more difficult to open yourself up to anything that falls outside of the paradigm in which you were raised.
Most people in poly relationships made a lot of mistakes when they first started. Gaining experience and getting “good” at open relationships generally comes with a long history of trial and error, making lots of mistakes, and consciously keeping in mind sometimes painful lessons.
However, it’s not necessarily a requirement to stumble on every pothole in the road in order to learn what it takes to have relationships that are healthy and successful. After several years of experience in my own poly relationships, witnessing others’ relationships, and making an embarrassing amount of mistakes, I’ve found these personal habits to be prevalent in those relationships that were the happiest.