“Shrink Rap!” July 2015
Dennis C. Hartzog, M.Ed., LPC
Hi! Welcome back to “Shrink Rap!” It’s been a very long time since I’ve done this column for the Newsleather. I’m taking this opportunity to use this column to address an important issue within our community. Each month more and more individuals are experimenting with new and alternative behaviors and life styles. That includes Polyamorous relationships. This has been a healthy relationship choice that has enriched their life and those of their partners. For others however, it has been a disaster that has resulted in physical, emotional, and psychological pain. That trauma in not an inherent feature of poly relationships. It is a result of how many folks are going about being poly.
A poly client recently sent me a copy of the transcript below that is a blunt but honest description of the differences between healthy polyamory and un-healthy (in her words: “Fucked Up”) poly relationships. I wanted to use this column to share it with you.
Rachel Greene, (Transcript)
When I tell people I’m in a polyamorous relationship, a lot of times they think I’m talking about this other type of open relationship called “fucked up.”
They think that agreeing not to be exclusive means that my partners and I make a point to sleep with lots and lots of people and have no accountability for each other’s feelings because “well, we agreed to it.” That is fucked up.
Choosing to open your relationship because that relationship isn’t working but you’re too co-dependently tangled up in each other’s shit to admit that,
and then brining a third or fourth or fifth or by extension sixth person into your big sloppy joe mess, which then turns into more of an all-you-can-eat buffet of weirdness and dysfunction, is fucked up.
Coercing your partner into opening your relationship because you are incapable of fully appreciating what you have and only find satisfaction in seeking more, or because you would rather paint an imaginary sunrise than quietly watch as the sun rises, is fucked up.
Widening your web will pull on the threads of trust and understanding you have woven, so polyamory is opening your relationship because these threads between you are strong.
Polyamory is being friends with your lover’s lover, or not being friends with them, or being their lover too, but knowing that you cannot truly gain at their expense.
On the other hand, playing along while muttering incantations to make your lover’s other partners disappear, finding every chance to display yourself like a blue ribbon pig at a fair, or taking care of your partner in ways they aught to take care of them self just to make sure that they need you as much as you think you need them, is fucked up.
Getting tested for STDs is polyamory.
Lying is fucked up.
Communicating with your partners about your other relationships is polyamory.
Not communicating and being passive aggressive is fucked up.
Making the effort to figure out what actually works for everyone is polyamory.
Being a selfish, manipulative shit head is fucked up.
Polyamory is not the man going off to the whorehouse while the woman is stuck at home with the kids. That’s like some kind of vintage-style fucked up.
Polyamory is him/her asking me about my date because he/she wants to share my excitement. His/her jealousy all mixed up with inspiration and transformed into attentive, honest caresses. His/her jealousy is not fists sinking into curved bodies in a sick plea for validation.
His/her jealousy is not guilt trip or ownership or running away.
I have a confession: I’ve done fucked up. And my partners have done fucked up. But it’s hard when all the songs on the radio tell us polyamory is fucked up. Those songs tell me I deserve someone who can “gimme all their lovin’,” but an exclusive mutual ownership contract is not the only thing that allows hearts to be true.
I deserve someone who I can trust enough to watch their heart be free. I deserve someone who can maintain their sense of self-worth long enough to realize that no one person can, or should try, to meet all of my needs for love and connection.
For me, polyamory is freely discovering what unique emergent property we can create when our elements collide, rather than following a frantic quest for perfection in the form of one shining soul.
We all deserve to be loved for who we are, not what someone has always wanted us to be. And don’t assume that our genuine attempt to find what we deserve is somehow fucked up.
Recently I have been very fortunate to work and refer clients to two mental health professionals; Brent Glass, M.Ed., LPC, and Shawn Chrisman, M.S., LPC. who are highly skilled and very open to working with members of alternative life-style communities, including Kink and Poly, who are in need of counseling. One of their areas of expertise is Poly relationships. They have agreed to do a presentation on healthy Poly relationships at the July 7, 2015 NLA Dallas meeting. It is a great chance to come and meet these skilled and caring professionals and also get some factual and useful information on making your relationships healthy! I look forward to seeing you all again, and introducing Brent and Shawn to you.
Warm regards, Dennis H.