The Sharing Game

2017-04-11-18-54-52

black couple

"The Sharing Game" was designed by Dr. Arthur Aron as a way for complete strangers to develop close bonds or even romantic connections in just under an hour. This "game" explores vulnerability and transparency in a way that results in accelerated emotional intimacy, and interpersonal closeness with others through introspective sharing, and deep communication.

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What Are You Looking For?

Originally written in 2013, Ron Young poses a series of question that may help you or your potential mates gain a better understanding of what you're looking for in a relationship.

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girl in yellow dress

Consider your Ideal Relationship

  • Sum up your relationship in a quick sentence.
  • How many partners do you have?
  • What kind of connections do you have? e.g. primary, secondary, casual...other?
  • How many partners would your partners have and how deep are the connections?
  • Would all of your metamour be your lovers, too? Or would none of them?
  • Do you or your partners have casual sex and/or swing?
  • How important is this ideal to you, and how strongly do you pursue it?
  • What sorts of poly relationships will you not get involved in, and what might you consider reluctantly?
  • What nature of partners are you interested in? (sexual, BDSM, M/s, casual sex, casual play, emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, live-in, take out only, shared only, only not shared)
  • Do you have hierarchical relationships? If so, how does that hierarchy work? Are you open to a changing hierarchy or are you committed to keeping particular partners in particular roles?

 

Communication

For the following questions, assume you are having a difference of opinion or a disagreement with a partner.

  • Do you address it or just let it go? What determines your choice?
  • Do you prefer to talk about things immediately, or wait a while? If so how long? (days, weeks, hours, years?)
  • Do you believe you should 'never go to bed angry?' What does that mean for you?
  • How would you feel about your partner talking over these issues with someone else that you know (a friend or metamour or whatever)?
  • If you reach an agreement, how can it be changed and how long is it in effect?

 

How You Work in Relationships

  • How do you define "faithful," "commitment," and "cheating?"
  • Have you ever cheated on anyone? Is there anyone in your past who would disagree?
  • How do you manage your time?
  • How long have you been actively poly? Do you consider poly part of your nature, something you are experimenting with, or something else?
  • Do you actively seek more partners? If so, how? If not, how has your poly been realized? How do people become your partners?
  • How do you feel about long-distance relationships? Live-in relationships? Local relationships? Do you have particular restrictions on what sorts of relationships you can have with someone you do not live with? How about someone you do live with?
  • How do you feel about your partner embarking on new relationships after the one between you is established?
  • How would you be most comfortable dealing with changes over time? What are your feelings regarding rules, boundaries, and limits, whether stricter or more open?

 

Feelings

  • How are you feeling right now? Explain as you would to a partner.
  • What are three things that make you feel loved?
  • What are three things that hurt you deeply?
  • How can a partner support you when you're having a hard time?
  • What do you do to take care of yourself?
  • What kinds of emotional support are you good at offering?
  • What are your ideas about spirituality? How do you think those ideas are a part of your intimate relationships? How do you accept, respect and deal with diversity around spiritual beliefs and practices?

 

Children

  • Do you have children? What are your policies and agreements about your or others' kids and poly? At what point, and in what context/role do you you want your partners to meet your kids? What kinds of relationship would you want to have, or not want to have with partners' kids?
  • Do you want to have future children? Do you have thoughts on with whom and when?
  • What will you do in the case of an unplanned pregnancy?
  • Does what you would do or expect in an unplanned pregnancy change with the nature of the relationship? How?

 

Metamours

  • What range are you comfortable with, regarding the amount that you know about your partners' other relationships, and what they know about yours? Every sexual detail? Nothing except that the other partners exist and maybe their first names? Whatever the metamour chooses to share with you directly, but very little via your common partner?
  • What kind and level of involvement do you want among your partners? Is it important to you that they get to know each other, like each other, and/or become involved with each other romantically or sexually? How flexible are you on these desires?
  • Do you perceive your relationships as affecting each other? Do you keep them completely separate and work to see that they have no effect on each other? In what ways do you perceive your relationships having an effect on each other? How’s that working for you?
  • If a partner breaks up with you, how would you feel if they kept seeing a metamour of yours?

 

Transitions (Breakups)

  • What is, or what would you want for your relationship to your exes? If you do not know, how do you think/want it would look? (For instance, do you stay friends, do you never want to see or hear from the person again?) How has that worked for you in the past?
  • What is your transition/breakup style ? If you do not know, how do you think/want it to look?
  • How long have your relationships lasted in the past?
  • After the dust has settled on your breakup or transition, have you ever made an attempt to reach back into that relationship? Not for your selfish desires of wanting to rekindle things, but to find TRUE GENUINE COMPERSION and friendship in that person whether or not they hurt you or you hurt them?

 

Have you asked these questions of yourself and your partners? What would you add?

Making the Most of Poly Meetups

If you are looking to expand your poly connections, a Meetup is a great way to meet like-minded people. This article will give you suggestions for how to make the most of your experience in the real world of polyamory.

Find your group

Black & Poly has several official groups on Meetup.com. Check out our official list, and if you don't find one, try searching for “polyamory” on the site. Facebook also has groups geared toward in person meets. Read the group description carefully to see if it is primarily a discussion group, a dating group, or a social group. Outside of B&P, the majority of poly Meetups are majority white people, but you can still find people you can learn from and be friends with.

Go with the right intentions

Go to the first Meetup just to get an idea of the atmosphere. Be aware of the group rules and how they apply you. Interact with the leadership and long term members so that you have an idea of how the group operates. If you are more introverted, sit back and watch how people interact. Do most of them appear to be friends outside of the group? Does one person dominate the conversation? Do people have poly configurations that you are interested in?

Whatever you do, don't go with the intention of finding a date right off the bat. Things can happen, but seasoned poly folk are hip to people who only come to hunt. Avoid monopolizing the time of the person you find most attractive. leadership will notice if you are too focused on one person. Spread your attention across the room. This will give potential partners an idea of how you interact with others and the chance to make friends.  This is especially true when you are at a mixed race Meetup. Feel free to make conversation with the other black people there, but talk to others to avoid giving the impression that you are part of a clique.

Come back

After you attend one Meetup, attempt to attend at least one other before giving up on the group. You may not like the vibe at one meeting, but you might enjoy it with a different mix of people. Attending other events lets the leadership know that you are there to be a part of the poly community, not just to find a date. Regular members become trusted members, and within time others may recommend people who you might be compatible with. You will also learn a lot about the different types of poly and common mistakes to avoid in relationships.

If you are a couple, try attending Meetups separately. Many poly people bring their partners to Meetups because they know they will have at least one person to talk to. However, you risk being viewed as unicorn hunters when you sit together the whole meeting and only talk to the same people. Separate yourselves and interact as individuals. Admit it if you are new to poly and unsure about process. Once again, do not try to pursue a date at your first Meetup. Have a conversation and tell them you hope to see them at the next one. If the person is showing interest, ask if you can contact them after the meeting. Do not assume that because someone spent time talking to you that they are interested in dating you.

But what about dating?

Once you have attended three or four Meetups, you will have a sense of the diversity and scope of the group. This is the time to focus on people you have a connection with. Keep an open mind: they may become partners, or they may become good friends. Try not to burden new friends with complaints about the dating world. Everyone knows finding compatible people is hard, and dwelling on it makes you seem desperate. Instead, talk about your shared interests and positive events from your life.

If you are a man or male-identified, do your best to allow the other person to take the lead. Women and femme-identified people are usually turned off by someone who asks a lot of personal questions, especially those related to their dating life and what kind of person they are looking for. They will volunteer that information if they are comfortable. If they like you, people will either seek you out at future events or ask for your contact information. That is not to say that you can't ask to contact them in the future. Just be aware that you may be misjudging their interest. If you contact the person a few times and do not get much response, move on.

The same rule applies for couples. Do your best to talk to different people at events so you are not seen as inseparable. Even if you are looking for a triad, learn from others about their poly styles and experiences. Never ask a woman if she is “single.” If she's at a poly event, she's most likely already dating or looking for open configurations. It's up to you to decide how to approach a person for a triad, but always be upfront about whether that person is going to date just you or both of you. Have that conversation after you have gotten their contact information and received a positive response back. Having this conversation at the Meetup will make the person feel cornered and uncomfortable, and the leadership may flag you as a possible bad fit for the group.

What if I hate talking to people?

Introverts are just as welcome at Meetups as others! Show your interest in being a part of the group by showing up to the events where you feel comfortable. Make an effort to connect to one or two people, and volunteer to help with something if that means you will feel less awkward. Follow the same advice if you are interested in someone as a partner. Ask if you can contact them later, or--if you are really shy--ask a mutual connection if they will contact them on your behalf.

Final thoughts

Meetups are a great way to connect with your local poly community. You will not always find someone you're interested in dating--in fact, you may never meet someone who returns your interest. You will, however, build up a group of people who understand your situation and can provide advice or support. Leaders and regular members are highly aware of the people who show up at one meeting, don't find what they are looking for, and never show up again. Don't be that person. If the group is a good fit, stay active and be open to connections. The poly community is small, and your reputation will get passed around the more you are involved. That just might be the difference in finding fulfilling poly relationships.

What are your suggestions for getting the most out of a Meetup?

When Do I Reveal That I’m Poly?

I just started talking to a person that I’m interested in dating. When do I tell them that I’m polyamorous?

Polyamory is often described as a way of being, a “lovestyle,” and an orientation. In that sense, polyamory is as integral to our identity as gender, sexual orientation, and race. So when should you reveal that you are poly? As soon as possible.

Polyamorous people who date online usually state somewhere in their profile that they are polyamorous. It usually helps to weed out people who don’t know how polyamory works or know that they are monogamous.

For those that don’t read profiles, it’s important to tell them by the first date that you are in relationships with other people (or plan to be). Monogamy is the standard in the world, so many potential partners will be unaware that there is another option. Even if they are, it might be a dealbreaker. There is no need to waste emotional energy on someone who doesn’t view polyamory as a viable option. Let them know before the first date, and if not then, tell them during the first date.

Ways to bring up polyamory are to ask what they know about it, and then to describe your dynamics and correct misconceptions. You can throw the book (More Than Two) at them, or you can say simply, “I have romantic and sexual relationships with other people.” At this point, it is the potential partner's decision whether to continue dating you or not.

There are those who, upon hearing this, say they are down with polyamory but are lying. These people are intentionally or unintentionally dishonest because they want a relationship with you and believe they are good enough to become your primary or only partner. Beware of engaging with these people, but don't treat all potential partners with suspicion just because of one bad experience.

Polyamory is about openness and honesty, and by revealing your poly status as soon as possible, you are showing every potential partner that you believe in those values.

Meet the Metamour

Having lived a poly lifestyle for over 10 years, I am familiar with metamour relationships. I have made both friends and enemies with metamours, so I have my own spidey sense when it comes to whether a relationship will work based how the conversation with the metamour goes. Many of you will disagree with my approach to metamour relationships, but I think this method promotes honesty and openness that is key to polyamorous relationships.

Step 1: Meet the potential partner. When I meet a new polyamorous person, I am interested in their personality, desires, and needs first. I have a specific set of needs that I look to fulfill in a partner, and I don’t proceed with a relationship if none of those can be met by the particular person.

Step 2: Ask about their other partners. I do not need to know their name, age, orientation, or even where they live. At first I just want to know that they exist. One sign of a healthy polyamorous relationship is that all partners are dating others (unless the metamour is mono). If one partner is dating and the other is seeking without success, that is a potential yellow flag to me. It is often difficult for men to find other partners immediately, so I make room for that possibility. A red flag is when my potential partner has not dated any other people or has only engaged in sexual activity with people and their current partner. To me, that indicates that the person is new to poly or ineffective at dating. It would take another post to explain why I don’t date people new to poly, but the short reason is that they may not be emotionally ready to handle the complexity of polyamorous relationships.

Step 3: Communicate with the metamour. I usually ask to communicate with the metamour when the potential partner and I have a good rapport going. I do not need to meet them in person ever, but I do want to know how they feel about their relationship with the other person. During our conversation I will ask how long they have been poly, what their poly style is like, and how they like their other partners. Red flags during this conversation are clear: if the person is not really interested in seeking partners, not sure they want to be poly, or only doing poly because their partner is, then that tells me my potential partner may not be doing a good job communicating and listening to their partner. It is difficult for me to be in relationship with someone who has not attended to the needs of their original partner. Another red flag is signs of codependency in either partner. As a recovering codependent, I do not have the emotional energy to relate to codependent people or their enablers. A good book to read if you are curious about codependency is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. 

Step 4: Circle back to the potential partner. After I talk to the metamour, I want to know how the partner thinks about their current partners. Unless given consent, I don’t talk specifically about what the metamour has said to me, but I make my concerns clear if I have heard things that are red flags to me. I hope that the potential partner is willing to listen and work on issues with their partner, and at that point I may start dating them. If the partner ignores my concerns or doesn’t believe what their partner has told me, then I cross that person off the list. I am not a guru of poly, but I have been in enough relationships to know that someone who is unwilling to listen to feedback will be difficult to have a relationship with.

How do you interact with metamours at the beginning of a relationship? Are you interested in getting to know your metamours, or do you ignore them and focus on your partner?

Black and White

I’m a white man and I want to date black women exclusively...is that so bad?

 

I have no problem with a specific man wanting to date a specific woman. In my personal polycule, many of my male-identified partners are white. I do have a problem when white men say they want to date black women. (Insert other races and it’s the same problem, but that’s for a different post.) My blackness is integral to my identity, and when I meet a white man, I know he is primarily seeing my blackness first. He doesn’t know that I’m intelligent, disabled, liberal, or kinky. He may assume a lot of things about my behavior in the bedroom. He may be well-meaning or he may be straight up racist. I’ve met enough white men to know that many of them are simply ignorant.

White men have been objectifying black bodies since before slavery. Imagine National Geographic covers of women with bare breasts in “uncivilized” parts of Africa. Now remember that hundreds of thousands of black women were brought over to the US and ranked based on their ability to bear workers, nurse white children, or do manual labor. Remember that even after 1863, black women did not have choice over how their bodies were treated for disease. Now in 2017 a woman who has a lot of sex is still derided as a slut. Now imagine a white man who says he wants to date black women. He is bringing with him all the privilege of his culture to the trauma of my culture. It’s a wonder we don’t run away screaming. (We don’t, because after hundreds of years of subjugation we know how to “make nice.”)

So no, it’s not bad that a white man is interested in a black woman. The problem is when that white man has not examined the reasons behind his interest, and when he hasn’t dismantled the entitlement he feels about why black women should be interested in him. (I went on a date with a white man who told me he was really interested in talking about race. I told him that after hundreds of the same conversations, I no longer talked to white people about race. He said, “But we have a lot to learn from each other.”

I have spent 32 years learning about the white race. If anyone wants to talk about race with me, I expect them to shut up and listen.) At the end of the day, every black woman chooses whether she will date a particular white man or not, and it’s on the individual to understand what worked or didn’t work behind their interactions. But, speaking broadly, it’s not OK for a white man to announce that he wants to date a black woman and expect to hear applause or a stampede of high heels. Treat people as individuals and take their culture into mind.

Do you have questions about starting a polyamorous relationship? Ask us!

How Do I Convince My Partner?

Polyamory is becoming more and more mainstream, and more people are recognizing that they have the capacity to include more romantic and emotional relationships in their lives. What happens when your partner has not come to the same conclusion as you have? How do you convince them to try polyamory?

The short answer is: you don't. Polyamory is a personal journey of discovery and self knowledge. Some people believe it is an orientation and not just something you do. Below are suggestions for talking to a partner about polyamory when you think they may be reluctant.

Before you bring up polyamory to your partner, know the reasons you have for doing so. Consider these three questions and understand the consequences of bringing up polyamory if you are having marital problems, have cheated, or have a specific person in mind. Those three situations are not only the most common, they are the most likely reasons married couples fail to find healthy polyamorous relationships.

Another step to take is to be informed about the world of non-monogamy. Understand the difference between swinging, polygamy, and polyamory. Your initial idea of a poly relationship will most likely not be what you end up with. Polyamorous people have the freedom to define and redefine their relationships as time goes on, so prepare to be flexible about who you are looking for.

Spend even more time understanding how you want to be polyamorous. Many black people choose polyamory as a way to rebuild the black community. Others choose it because they recognize they are able to love multiple people. Others desire multiple sexual partners with the choice of how to engage emotionally.

Know yourself beyond the desire to date outside your marriage. Many men start the journey once they decide they would like to date two bisexual women. Go deeper. Why do you want your partners to be bisexual? To what extent will you share your home, finances, and children with each partner? What if they have no desire for threesomes or sexual relationships with your other partners? What if they are asexual? What if they are dating other people, including men? What if your partner is nonbinary or dating someone who is gender non-conforming? The more you understand about how polyamorous people define themselves, the sooner you will find what you are looking for.

Once you have a good understanding of what you want and why, it's time to discuss polyamory with your partner. This is never a one time discussion. It is an open-ended conversation that takes into account your current situation and your partner's desires. At every step of the process, you must be open and honest. Polyamory is not about surprises or ultimatums.

Start by explaining what polyamory is to your partner. Have them read the FAQ if they have misconceptions. Allow them to digest the information. Most people who grow up monogamous believe that love is a scarce resource, and, if you want to love others, that means you don't love them. That's why it's important to maintain your current relationship with communication and outside counseling if needed. Your partner will never be comfortable with polyamory if they see it as a way to replace a deficit they have.

After the initial conversation, begin to talk to your partner in the language of wants and needs. Ask your partner about their wants and needs. Talk about what you can do to meet those needs. Acknowledge that you are not always able or willing to meet them. If you agree with the areas they see you lacking in, do the work to meet them halfway--not in a temporary way to get them to agree to polyamory, but because you care about them and desire a better relationship.

This kind of negotiation is the key to any relationship. As their partner, you are agreeing to meet some of their needs and desires. It is up to you to decide how you will meet them, but you must get feedback on how you are doing. If you come to a point where you do not want to meet a particular desire, you are free to say no. This includes sexual relations. Marriage does not obligate anyone to perform actions that they are not comfortable with. Use open communication to explain why you are not comfortable and what you can offer instead. Your partner may react negatively, but maintaining your boundaries is another key skill in a relationship. These intense discussions about wants and needs will prepare you for the work of maintaining multiple polyamorous relationships.

Do not begin a polyamorous relationship without your partner’s consent. Above all, polyamory is about openness and honesty. You must do the work within your current relationship so that your partner feels that their needs are being met, even if yours are not. Only when your partner feels loved and desired will they understand that polyamory is a multiplication of love, not a deprivation. If you break your partner's trust, you will move your poly journey ten steps backwards.

It's also possible that your partner may never believe that polyamory is a good idea. If they are convinced of that, you have the ability to end the relationship. Divorce is painful and difficult, but it is often the right thing to do when people are not able to meet each other's needs. The joy of being a polyamorous person is that you do not have to cut ties with your partner. If you still love them, you can maintain a relationship with them at the level they are comfortable with. However, recognize that your partner may want to disengage completely if you have decided that you are polyamorous and are leaving them because they are not. Do not continue any relationship that is abusive or unhealthy for you.

Recognize that everyone has the right to choose their own path. Your partner may or may not choose polyamory along with you, but with courage and communication, you can begin your poly journey the right way.

What If I Get Jealous?

It's my right to be hellish. I still get jealous.

-Nick Jonas, Jealous

Jealousy is common in all human relationships, and if you're transitioning into the poly world, you may wonder: how do I deal with jealousy? In this post, I'll explain that polyamory is not about avoiding jealousy, but processing it in a healthy way.

Monogamous relationships are all about status. First kiss, social media pictures, dinner with the parents--many significant events in a relationship center around when a couple is official. Online forums obsess about when you should have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk. Modern society believes in an invisible line you cross when you go from single to partnered. Marriage, of course, is the ultimate expression of status. Once that line is crossed, partners are not even supposed to look at other potentials.

Jealous girl meme
Shutterstock's description is: "Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl"

Society conditions us to feel jealous when our relationship is in potential danger. If we suspect that our partner may cheat or leave, jealousy kicks in and tells us to fight for the status quo. The bad news is that our fighting is not likely to change our partner's behavior. It will only cause drama and distrust, and it may drive the relationship to its end.

So how do you overcome jealousy when you choose the polyamorous lovestyle? First, recognize that you will feel jealous. When a female partner starts getting more dates than her male partner, he is likely to feel jealous. Insecurity may also be a factor. Many people worry that they're not good enough for their current partner. Once that partner starts dating, their imagination runs wild as they imagine the partner having more fun and better sex. 

When you run into jealous feelings, the key is to let yourself experience them. Don't try to ignore or explain them away. Sit alone on your couch and feel them. Rant with a friend (not someone you or your partner is dating). Cry into a pillow. Process your emotions. Once you do this, you'll realize the jealousy is covering other emotions. Perhaps you do feel insecure about your body or sexual performance. Perhaps you've always had low self-esteem and have tied most of your identity into your current relationship. Perhaps your needs for attention, sex, or touch are not being met. Analyze why you feel the way you do and come up with a solution.

Most of the time, your jealousy is not about your partner, but more about yourself. That means that any fixes you put in place should focus more on you and less on them. Consider therapy or couples counseling with a poly-positive therapist. Start looking for activities or meetups to keep you occupied and grow your self-esteem. Don't create restrictive rules about who or where your partner goes. Instead of demanding your partner text about their every move, ask that they check in before they head out with someone or give you extra cuddles when they get home. Its essential that your partner can say no to any of those requests. It's never their job to make you feel secure in the relationship.

If you find yourself still experiencing a lot of jealousy and are not getting your needs met, consider ending the relationship. Polyamory is a journey of self-knowledge, and even when long-term partners open up, they may realize they are better off without each other. Jealousy is not a relationship ending emotion, but it can be used to transform you into a healthier, happier poly person.

Do you have questions about starting a polyamorous relationship? Ask us!