There are a lot of norms when it comes to relationship, so naturally there are also lots of ways to queer your relationships. Other writers have covered many of them in much more details. I still think it is worth outlining some ideas. Who knows, it may inspire you!
1) Value, prioritise and categorise your relationships for reasons other than sexual or romantic content
Upon declaring that you’re poly, the first question most people ask is how many relationships you are in, or how many partners you have. We all know that noone is really interested in writing partners, yoga partners or climbing partners. The question is really about how many people you spend sexy time in the bedroom with. There is a lot of pressure to categorise relationships in this way, and refusing to do so might result in assumptions that your relationships aren’t serious, meaningful or deserving of respect. It can also mean that your close people with whom you do not have a sexual connection may feel more valued and that you rely on a wider support network.
2) Get off the relationship escalator*
The relationship escalator is a set of social expectations about what relationships should look like and how they should progress. Amy Gahran has a great blog post about what precisely the escalator entails here. Doing things that get you off the escalator include:
- Rejecting monogamy,
- Rejecting hierarchy,
- Allowing your relationships to change over time in ways that increase and decrease time spent together and sexual intimacy
- Engaging in relationships without the expectation of a ‘happily ever after’
- Limiting life merging such as shared bank accounts, homes, pets and other important life stuff
- Limiting the extent to which you identify as a member of a couple
3) Treat people as important and not disposable
It seems like an unspoken rule of monogamy that once you are no longer sexually or romantically involved with someone that you should no longer speak with them, especially if you start dating a new partner. It is true that a period of no contact can help with the healing process, but permanently disconnecting from ex partners as a matter of course basically means treating people like objects to be picked up and put down. Considering what you might want to hold onto and what you might want to change when a sexual or romantic connection ends allows you to make choices that are conscious and not just follow the well trodden path. That may mean consciously deciding not to be in contact because a relationship was abusive or reinforced unhelpful patterns or thoughts for you, or it may mean transitioning into a different kind of relationship. Either way, choosing in the context of that relationship is far more respectful of the connection you had than following some default script.
4) Have conversations about what you and your people would like to get and give to your relationships
Customising connections means that you get to really think about what you want and how to get what you need from your people. This means you can consciously decide how you prioritise your time, and the kinds of things you want to do with different people. You might decide that you want to deepen some relationships, or to look for more people to share a passion or interest that you have. This is about taking stock of how the connections in your life feel to you and how you want them to look and feel.
5) Challenge expectations about who you bring to family, work and social events
The couple centric nature of most events and get-togethers is a constant reminder that when we don’t exist as part of a couple we are outsiders. Still, often we try to fit within the couple paradigm by bringing one person with us to all these things, or sometimes deciding noone at all would be best. Whether it is bringing a climbing partner to a family gathering you’re expected to bring your live in partner to, or switching up who comes with you to work drinks, deciding not to allow the assumption that you operate as one half of a 2 person show is really queer. Bringing a friend to a wedding shouldn’t be the preserve of singles if a friend is who we would enjoy most in that context. Deciding that family do’s are better with our housemate than boyfriend is totally valid. We can create more choices for everyone when we refuse to make one person the default.