User manuals, an introduction.

The user manual is a concept that has been around in the poly community for several years. It is the idea that you could have a document that offers people an insight into how you work.  It can include the things that are most important to you, how you like to connect with others, how you function in relationships, bugs and features and anything else you feel is important.  This post will answer a few frequently asked questions, and future posts will be about how to get started and things to think about.

What is it for?

Excellent question! I think the purpose of a user manual depends on its author.  Some people write them as a self-reflection exercise. Other people write them to give to prospective partners, almost as a weeding out exercise or to work out what kinds of things are important to them in relationships so they can share these with their people.  It could also be a way of flagging important incompatibilities up front.

Who are you supposed to share them with?

Whoever you like! Some people keep their user manual private and don’t show it to anyone.  Others show it to only romantic or sexual partners or prospective partners.  I have shared mine with my important people, including family of choice and people with whom I have intimate relationships with. Cunning Minx has shared elements of hers with the world.  Ultimately, user manuals are a piece of deeply personal writing and it is up to each individual who they feel safe sharing it with.

Who should write one?

I think it is a useful tool for everyone to have, and I don’t think relationship style, sexual orientation or gender is a key factor in working out whether you should have your own. If you are interested in how you relate to other people, factors that facilitate and cause conflict in your relationships, and the kind of relationships that you want to develop then I think it is a great idea for you to write one.  If you aren’t particularly interested in relationships, perhaps it isn’t for you.

How do you know when it is finished?

The idea of finishing a user manual is an odd one.  We grow, develop and change at an astonishing rate.  I like to think of my user manual as a work in progress. It won’t be done until I stop changing.

There are a few other posts in this series.  One on getting started, one with 5 writing prompts and one on mapping your relationship constellation.