Originally posted in Black and Poly BDSM Style a cross-posted to the Poly littles and their Caregivers page.
Let’s make one thing exceedingly clear.
Non-monogamous and BDSM relationships are designer relationships. Unlike monogamy, designer relationships don’t have a set framework agreed upon by society as a whole. At its base, we can agree that a monogamous pairing is a partnership. There are certainly variables to monogamous partnerships, but generally, if you know someone is in a relationship you understand that there is another partner and they are likely exclusive to that person to an extent.
With non-monogamy, however, it gets extremely complex with the variety of groupings and types of relationships just one person can be in as one hinge to multiple people.
This is what makes these relationships designer. Not because polyamory and D/s are often branded as for the well-off and white. It is because we actually have to construct what our relationships will look like by figuring out who we are and what we want and need.
The great thing about this is that it creates a pretty little picture in our head of what our ideal polycule will look like. The bad thing is that a lot of us don’t have the emotional literacy or realism to understand that that image is a fantasy. When real people and their emotions, mental health, and baggage come along it breaks that fantasy.
What most people don’t understand is that you don’t have to chuck the whole idea, just the unrealistic parts that objectify and erase the reality of your partners having personhood, and it is a hell of a lot of hard work for a fraction of the good times.
But is worth it to you do a lot of individual and group processing to have your ideal eventually?
It is achievable.
So what kind of work am I talking about? Let’s list a few key concepts.
Communication is not a skill you are born with. It is something learned and it not just that you necessarily pick up through socialization.
Communicating is a constant multi-step process.
SMART GOAL setting
Fusing reality and fantasy into something healthy and stable is a long-term goal. I actually teach people about goal setting on a regular basis, it part of my job. One of the first things I ask people is if they are familiar with the concept of SMART goal setting.
So what does SMART answer?
Specific- answers the questions who and what. What EXACTLY do you want?
Measurable- answers the question how. How will you know you reached your goal?
Attainable- is your goal realistic? Can it be achieved in the time you set?
Relevant- does this goal fit in with your overall vision?
Timed- goals should have a clearly defined time frame.
Asking yourself these questions helps you to ground yourself. It gives you a chance to pause and meditate on your choices and the desires to determine if it is really what you want if you are ready for it, and if you have the emotional and cognitive ability to take on the personal responsibility for the fallout of your actions.
Active listening is also one of those actions you have to learn. If you have ever had a conversation with someone only to have them say ” You aren’t paying attention” or some similar statement you could probably brush up on active listening.
The term active listening means:
It means that you listen to comprehend the perspective given to you, then respond and remember what you are told.
Surprisingly it is not that easy for a lot of us to do. We often listen to respond. We skip everything else that listening is supposed to aid in – information collection, learning, enjoyment, bonding.
So what can you do to become a better active listener?
- Teach yourself to pay attention while reducing distractions. If you are too busy or know you are preoccupied, it is not wrong to convey that and address the expectation that you actually listened to your conversation buddy. Wait until they are done speaking to take the time to process the information. Pay attention to their body language and their words so you can note any emotions that are being managed by the speaker.
- Use your body language to show that you are actually listening and engaged. Let them know that they are being heard.
- Give them feedback by repeating or paraphrasing, asking for clarification, asking them how they feel, or understand a situation further.
- Going back to the idea of reducing distractions, wait before casting judgment or assuming the overall point of the message being conveyed. Make sure they have stated their opening statement, main points and evidence, and that they have made their conclusion before you assume the conclusion. Allow your conversation buddy to finish speaking before you interject.
- Be sure to give yourself time to respond appropriately or admit that you don’t know the proper response. Being honest about your comprehension and emotional response is better than allowing the entire solution of the situation to be misinterpreted.
Developing your emotional literacy
I already wrote a post about the basics of this here.
Learn what a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship is.
In all honesty, people are quick to charge anything that is different from the way they prefer to a relationship as inherently unhealthy. That is inaccurate. A healthy relationship is between individuals and what is healthy for one person can be detrimental to another person, which is why relationship negotiations are a must, not an option.
This is by no means a concise list for messing fantasy and reality in healthy ways. There is a lot to it, but for my experience, they are some very foundational tools to learning order to be able to start the long journey into creating your designer relationship.