Ask Polyamory Paradigm

Check out my new question and answer blog!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Is communication REALLY the problem?

If you are reading this and have a clue what polyamory is about then you likely know communication is regularly touted as an important component. Often however, I believe focusing on communication is the easy way out and does nothing to solve the underlying issues.

For example, I ran across this gem of a question…
If you and your primary have an agreed boundary, should that be communicated to the (your) other partner(s) if it involves them even slightly? Example: a boundary which prohibits a specific sexual act from being performed with another partner. Should that other partner be made aware of the boundary? Where do you draw the communication line with your partners?  (For context, this appears to be coming from the non-primary partner and is due to their breaking a rule/boundary/agreement the couple never communicated).

The resulting discussion, in a group which presents itself as educational but often looks more elitist, focused completely on communication as the issue. Included were a plethora of comments that; the boundary/rule should have been communicated and the couple failed. The non-primary partner was not at fault, it wasn't their rule. The rule/boundary should be negotiated by all parties. And my favorite; although the rule/boundary should be communicated, the reasons behind creating it in the first place need not be shared with anyone outside the couple creating the rule/boundary.

Is communication of the couples rules/boundaries really the issue? I don't think so. But, if we insist on framing this as a communication issue; everyone in this mess is at fault. The couple should have clearly communicated to the non-primary partner, and the non-primary partner should have asked up front what boundaries/rules the couple have in place.

Of course, that completely ignores the underlying issues and likely only delays the problems this relationship configuration will experience eventually.

Control. Limiting activities your partner can have with their other partners is nothing more than an attempt at controlling the relationship. Both yours with your partner, and with their other partner. That's shitty relationship management.

Autonomy. Rules like this remove your autonomy. You are not able to explore and enjoy your relationship(s) without the approval of existing partners. You are an adult with control over your own body, right? Extending this further to the idea the couple does not need to explain their reasons for the rule to the non-primary; this prevents the non-primary from understanding the WHY of the rule making it exponentially difficult to respect its intent. Instead it creates a trap where eventually the non-primary will violate the rule simply because we can't imagine every scenario, people and relationships change over time, and the intent of the rule is not understood.

Lack of personal growth. "You can't have oral sex with other people. Only me." Why? There is no good reason for this kind of rule. It usually springs from insecurities such as fear of loss, inadequacy, and others. The person asking for the rule is essentially refusing personal growth, instead choosing control to protect their fragile emotional state.

Those are just a few things that point to everything except communication being the problem. I'll add some links below to help you find more information if you so desire.

The question shouldn't be when to communicate rules/boundaries. The real questions are; Why as the non-primary would you agree to a relationship with these rules? And, why as the Primary would you agree to give up control of your body and relationships to someone else? And for the person requesting the rule; why do you feel the need to control those around you?

What this really shows me is a lack of understanding about the philosophy of polyamory which focuses much more on open communication, honesty, autonomy, freedom as an individual, and respect as opposed to rules, boundaries, and protecting emotional immaturity.

The links as promised…

More Than Two - Couple Privilege:

More Than Two - Relationship Bill of Rights:

Unicorns-r-us - Info on Unicorns and adding partners to an existing relationship:

Solopoly - How to treat non-primary partners:

Love well,