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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What can I say?

We all know (right?) how small the poly community can be sometimes. The mild shock that comes when you find out someone you know, and may have dated, is dating someone else you dated. Maybe it is more than a mild shock when you find out it has been going on for a while, or didn't know the two people even knew each other. And of course, the rumor mill can inflate things beyond your wildest imagination if you let it keep running.

So what do you do when you get one of these mild shockers?

The first thing that will probably happen is something like "Really? You are dating him?" or "Wow! Didn't see that coming!" will pop out of your mouth. The result is usually a lot of questions from the person sharing their wonderful news with you. How do you answer those questions?

Let me say it again. . .the poly community can be quite small at times. Even more so when it comes to information about who is dating whom. Expect the answers you give to sift through the community and very probably change as they do. Yes, you are now in a minefield.

Navigating this landscape can be treacherous at best. At the worst, you can end up alienating friends or potential lovers, even finding yourself ostracized by some.

This is the point where I try to step back and think about a couple of things. . .
-Would I want the other people being talked about sharing the dirty laundry of a relationship I may have had with them? It really isn't anyone's business but ours, right?
-I assume they will be adult, not badmouth me or our relationship, so I shouldn't either.
-When all else fails; take the high-road.

I think that way because I truly believe that 99% of the time nobody is at fault for a relationship failure. The simple truth, in my mind anyway, is that we *try* to have relationships and sometimes they just don't work. Whether it is incompatibilities between personalities, outside influences, economic or health factors, it doesn't really matter. I have to believe that when people enter into a relationship they do so with good intentions. They don't plan for it to blow up, they aren't hoping to hurt you or waste your time, nor are you doing those things either. Sometimes people are just incompatible.

That is close to how I answer questions about previous relationships when the questioner is or is becoming involved with a previous partner. I let them know that while we all have reasons for relationship failures, and we almost all universally believe it wasn't our fault (or at least, mostly our fault), probably nobody was at fault. Either of us may have made mistakes or overlooked things when we entered the relationship, we may have grown apart while in the relationship, or it simply could be that as we got to know each other we found incompatibilities and that we didn't meet each others needs.

Often I will follow that up by letting the person know that just because I failed to build a viable relationship with someone, that doesn't mean they will have the same results. Everyone is different and it is entirely possible they will be able to build a wonderful, lasting relationship with the person.

The results. . . usually people will respect my giving them an answer that doesn't either share details or assign blame. I've even been thanked for my respect in handling such matters. But every once in a while someone will push for details or even be upset that I'm not giving them the dirt on someone else. Try to stand tough in that situation and remember that anything you share may come back and bite you.

In the end, your relationships and the things that happen within them are your business not theirs. You aren't responsible for helping someone else avoid making their own mistakes.

As always, love well.


  1. Thanks for the great post!! We have come across this already as well, and have tried to stay clear of any negative talk. The only time when we strayed from this is when it concerned a matter of safer sex and honesty about STI status. Thanks!

  2. Sellwood Couple,
    Thanks for the comment :) Glad you found the article enjoyable.
    Good point about safer sex and STD's. . . that can make avoiding the conversation more of a moral dilemma for sure, and a lot more dangerous.