Drama can find its way into any kind of relationship. When dealing with polyamory and polyamorous relationships, things can get complicated fast. With multiple relationships, there are multiple personalities, multiple emotions, and multiple potential triggers. All of which can increase the chances for poly drama.
Many people who curious about polyamory are determined to avoid drama in their lives and in their polyamorous relationships. They do whatever they can do to move around any emotionally charged situation in order to stay drama-free. The problem with this is that when we avoid emotionally charged situations, we tend to limit ourselves to our experience of how something should be, rather than how it really is. By focusing on how something “should” be, we miss out on what’s happening in the present moment. This limits our opportunity to create an alternative solution in our polyamorous relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that anyone dive into an unhealthy situation and stay there. I’m a big fan of nipping unhealthy behaviors and situations in the bud sooner rather than later. I have learned, however, that there is a middle ground between diving deep into and being consumed by poly drama and avoiding it completely.
This middle ground is based on three principles:
- Get present with what’s happening in the moment.
- Find ways to express what’s happening in the moment.
- Express in a way that creates a connection with yourself and with others.
Time and time again, I see drama show up in polyamorous relationships as a direct result of what happens when we let emotional energy gets out of hand, either by expressing it in unhealthy ways or not expressing it at all. (Note: The energy can be positive or negative. For the purposes of this post, I’m choosing to address the perceived negative emotional energy).
Let’s consider two common scenarios:
A couple has been struggling in their polyamorous relationship for a long time. They are aware they have issues and these issues have created distance between them. Their attempts to address the situation has created conflict and misunderstanding. After multiple painful attempts, they enter into a perceived no-win situation and give up on the communication in order to maintain some level of peace. In choosing to avoid the perceived poly drama, they are choosing to silence their voices, silence their experience, and silence themselves in their poly relationship. Over time, this build-up creates an intense amount of pain and suffering for everyone. At some point, the intensity cannot contain itself anymore. The emotional energy explodes and poly drama spews from all directions. The level of dramatic energy is too much for them to handle. This is where many polyamorous couples either seek support in restoring their poly relationship or walk away completely.
A couple is just starting out dating and wants to explore polyamory. One partner seems to be more excited about being in a polyamorous relationship than the other. The more interested partner wants to move fast while the other partner needs more time. What tends to happen in this situation is that the newly polyamorous couples begin to lose connection with each other because they are on different ends of the poly spectrum. Soon these differences take charge of their relationship. This tends to happen more unconsciously than consciously. Unconsciously, they begin to blame their poly partner for not meeting their needs and not supporting what they want in their relationship. Again, the energy builds over time and can lead to an implosion or an explosion within the relationship.
So what’s an individual or couple curious about polyamory supposed to do?
When I talk with polyamorous coaching clients, I listen to their story. I ask specific questions. I gather information to get a better understanding of what is going on for them. With that base understanding, I look for ways to emotionally meet each Poly-Coach client where they are and guide them to where they want to be. It looks something like this:
Create a safe place to communicate
Invite your polyamorous partner to have a conversation. Get clear with yourself on your intention. Share your intention with your partner. Take a moment to reveal any feelings that are coming up for you in this act of inviting. Something like, “I’m aware that we need to talk about a few things. I imagine it will be challenging to address some of the issues we’ve been dealing with and the feelings we have been experiencing. I feel a bit nervous bringing this up because we seem easily triggered. I know it’s better to at least try to understand each other rather than avoid addressing what seems to be taking up so much space in our relationship. Would you be willing to set up a time to talk through some of these things together?”
Practice speaking and practice listening
Consider setting a timer so that each person has a set period of time to speak and to listen. For example, Person A has 5 minutes to talk while Person B listens. Person A’s job is to speak what is coming up for them in the moment. Person A can report sensations, feelings, thoughts, emotions. Person B’s job is to listen as openly as possible, observing whatever thoughts and feelings they may be having, without doing anything about them. When the timer goes off, partners switch roles. Now it is Person B’s turn to talk and Person A listens. Person B now reports sensations, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Person A listens to Person B. Person A pays attention to any thoughts, feelings, and judgments that arise and consciously chooses not to act on them. Partners may continue this exercise for a few rounds. Keep in mind, the intention is in the practice of speaking and listening. You may not solve anything during this time. What’s important here is to find the place in yourself where you can speak what is most vulnerable and you can hear what may be hard to hear. This is challenging work. It is in an exercise like this one, that we begin to see how much emotional energy we carry and what happens when it is released. The key is to find ways to release it without causing any more pain or suffering.
Find a way to understand what it’s like to be them
When we practice speaking what’s true for us and listening to others doing the same, we begin to create more space in our field of awareness to see the bigger picture. Rather than see the person opposite us as someone to blame, we might begin to view that person as a human that is wanting to be seen, heard and validated for their experience. We may become clear that underneath the story and the poly drama is a need, a desire, to love and be loved. This shared reality opens the door to true understanding and compassion. This is what fuels connection and liberates us from the drama in polyamorous relationships.
Take time to get present with what’s happening in the moment. Find ways to express what’s happening in the moment. Express in a way that creates a connection with others. Doing this, we allow ourselves to experience a new kind of polyamory and polyamorous relationship with ourselves and with others. With practice and awareness, we begin to see more clearly that we are in charge of the emotional dramas and the roles they play in our lives, not the other way around.