Before we get started on this bit, I want to tell you a little more about my relationship style.
I am a cisgendered*, heteroflexible, polyamorous, kinky** woman. I like to date people who identify as male and polyamorous. I like vanillay and kinky guys, and a person's sexual orientation doesn't really factor in to my dating choices, provided the person I want to date likes to have romantic and sexual relationships with women (otherwise, we'd just be friends). My relationship style aims toward long-term stable, fairly serious relationships, (I fall in love really easily); I also believe it's possible to have someone as a lover or partner, even if you aren't having sex with them and don't have any plans to. This is kind of the opposite of a friends-with-benefits relationship, because instead of only doing the sex together, a platonic lover does everything but the sex with you.
Further, I believe in egalitarianism in my relationships. That is, I don't subscribe to hierarchies***, I don't allow my relationships to affect each other (except to the extent that they effect my well-being), and I pretty much make my own rules. I do live with one of my partners, Ten, and we are fully committed to each other, as one would be to a mental institution; but we each maintain a solopoly-ish sort of style based on years of stubborn independence and one of the primary goals of our relationship being that neither of us becomes simply an adjunct of the other. I am not Mrs. Ten. He is not Mr. Empress. It doesn't work that way. With Jack, we're happy at the "dating" step on the "relationship escalator", and that's good for us. We do things socially with shared friends (I've even made a whole bunch of new friends because of him), in addition to going on dates and doing all the normal things you do when you're dating someone. Pond is another story all together, see the reverse-FWB explanation above.
So, that's the basics of my relationship style. I don't make rules, I don't follow rules, and I do everything I can to understand and establish boundaries in my relationships so that we can all not be dicks to each other. I have to say, it's working really well. But, it only works because I took the time to figure it out in the first place.
One of my biggest peeves are people who just decide one day "I'm polyamorous!" without taking the time to decide what that means. I would say that this jump-without-looking philosophy of venturing out into non-monogamy is how people get hurt and why therapists will tell you "oh that doesn't work because blah blah blah". Of course it's not going to work (or not going to work as well or for very long) if you don't know what you're doing! Here, I drew you a metaphor:
|click to enlarge|
1)Tree hears about a thing called books and wants to become something that has a lot of books in it
2)Tree decides to remove herself from her previous way of life and go to the lumber mill where
3)She begins the refinement process by being cut down into fine planks of wood
4)A lot of measuring and investigation is done so that the bookcase will be able to fit in the appropriate space, and be compatible with the kinds of books she wants
5)After some discomfort and lots of hard work, our tree-turned-book-case is ready to start dating some books. She still needs some refinement, and not every book she likes will be a good fit, but at least she has a good place to start
Obviously people are not trees or books*' or bookcases, and once a tree becomes a bookcase there's no going back; and there are a number of other problems with this metaphor*''. However, this isn't the transformation from monogamous tree to polyamorous bookcase, but rather the transformation of the skills required to move from one to the other. The old ways have to die before new ones can be developed. You must go through a period of refinement where old habits are stripped away and new ones can be sanded and varnished into place. Once you've developed your bookcase, you can put as many or as few books in it as you want, on whatever subject you want, but you will never not have made that journey, and you will be able to keep the self-knowledge and relationship skills you gained by undergoing the transformation.
This isn't an Ikea bookshelf either*'''. There are no prefab Planks of Communication, no pre-measured and pre-drilled Dimensions of Self-Knowledge, and while you'll still have pieces left over, you'll have enough material to make something else too. But, sometimes projects like these don't work out, and this metaphorical tree isn't meant to be a bookcase. That's okay too. There are a lot of uses for a self-actualized tree which has already begun going through the refinement process.
*Google is your friend.
***Not to be confused with prioritizing based on desire, time, and level of connectedness, hierarchy establishes that there is a "primary" partner whose needs always come first and who sometimes gets to have a say in their partner's other relationships. I think this is bullshit. I'm not passing judgment or saying "yer doin it rong" if this is how you poly, I'm just saying that we aren't compatible.
*'I, however, am really comfortable comparing my partners to books. I think my books might also qualify as partners...
*''I hear you treehuggers, don't write me letters.
*'''I hear you Ikeahuggers, don't write me letters.