How to: Support your Poly Friends

TL;DR: (Yeah, I had a lot to say here, #sorrynotsorry ) Be kind. To all of us. About our relationship. We like pizza and laughing so… less drama and more pizza please.

When we came out we knew the news would be a surprise for a lot of our friends and we were prepared to be patient while they processed this change in our lives.  We couldn’t have fully explained then exactly what we needed or wanted from them that was any different from before – we were in the midst of understanding this ourselves.  However, now that we’ve had some time to live this life and experience what it’s changed and what it hasn’t I have some thoughts I want to share.

In most ways being a supportive friend to any of the four of us hasn’t really changed. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that what we need from our friends didn’t change, just the number of people supporting us did. We’ve all been blessed with friends who included our married partners in the friendships and made sure they always recognized loving us meant loving our marriages.  Well there’s more to love now.  If you loved us and our marriages before please remember we have more partners we want to involve now.  Maybe it won’t be everyone together all the time – we don’t always travel as a group. However, we do travel as a group a lot of the time and it’s awkward and disheartening to think there are spaces where we aren’t welcome to be all of us.

Maybe I should note here that if there’s a real reason you want to invite one or two of us in to a space but not invite all of us, just talk to us! We’re pretty understanding about circumstances.  But if the limitation is being placed just because the plural nature of our relationship makes you uncomfortable, why are you inviting any of us to anything? This is a huge part of who we are.

Think of how you generally show support to your friends: spending time with them, keeping up to date with their lives, listening when they need an ear, offering advice when they need it, and yes, having some sort of friendship with their partner – even if its only because they’re dating and not because you would choose that partner as a friend for yourself.

I think maybe that last bit has been the most complicated for people in our lives, but we’ll get to that.

I want to stress here that I’m writing this with the greatest affection for everyone in all our lives and the deepest gratitude that they want to support us and be a part of our lives. Our friends aren’t the only ones figuring out “how this works” exactly, so we’re here to support them supporting us.

Spend Time with Us: We all have our own lives. Don’t worry – we didn’t become like a single-minded entity that can’t function unless we’re together. We still have our own friends and our own interests.  However, we love our time with all of our partners and we are protective of that time – we only have so much time with each person in a week – so maybe we’re a little picky about how we prioritize, especially when it means less time for our relationships. Try not to hold it against us if we can’t make a certain day or certain something work because we need to be home that night.  If we say we want to make plans work with you, we mean it.

Stay Up to Date with Us: Just ask us what’s up, what’s new, what’s happening.  We are busy, busy people and we’d love to share all the little things that bring us joy, stress us out, drive us crazy and make us laugh in a week. We have stories about the quirks of dating each other, about the side effects of living under one roof, about our various jobs and of course our hobbies.  We want to catch up – let’s pick a time. I think people hesitate to ask us what’s new because they just don’t know what to expect so let me reassure you – it hasn’t changed that much. It includes more people now. But if you’re afraid we’re going to bombard you with awkward amounts of detail about our sex lives or something you can stop worrying.

Let us Talk: You’re our friends – we’ve always been able to vent and rant and just talk with you.  We really highly value being able to speak freely about our lives without holding back when we want to switch from a story about one partner to a story about another.  We crave the ability to and the space to express ourselves without hiding any part of ourselves and our happiness.  But this is pretty well tied in to the next piece…

Give us Advice when Asked for or Needed: Except… don’t discount our relationships. I think it’s easy to assume poly is the root of all problems in our lives but we all have people at work that cause us stress, frustrations with our hobbies or other activities, and generally a whole lot of life that isn’t defined by our relationships.
We live together. We love each other. If we’ve come to you for advice on any topic, just know the recommending a break up is never the answer.

It feels like any time one of us expresses stress it’s easy for people to question if we should rethink our relationships. This gets frustrating because our relationships are a source of comfort, confidence and strength in our lives. Think of your own happy and healthy relationships – regardless of how they’re configured or defined – what do they bring to your life? I hope they bring you happiness, laughter, inspiration and that they feed your soul, feed your fire and enable you to be all that you are outside of those relationships. That’s what our relationships do in our lives.

When people suggest that our relationship structure is the reason we’re stressed about one thing or another I think it just kind of saddens us that maybe that person isn’t seeing how happy we are.

Including the Partner(s): Hey – you didn’t pick them. Your friend might think this person can do no wrong and you might think they’re all sorts of wrong.  That doesn’t change the fact. Friendships, in my experience, work best when friends respect and include a serious partner regardless of if they would pick that partner as a friend for themselves.  In case us living together isn’t the hint you’re looking for: We’re serious about this relationship and each other. You don’t get to pick your monogamous friends partners, and you don’t get to pick which one of us is coming to dinner.  If you message me saying we should get together for dinner and the invite is open to my partners – then it’s open to my partners. When you specify which partner or partners are invited and which aren’t it leaves me with the feeling I’m not really accepted by you. There’s a whole part of my life, a whole person who makes me crazy, insanely happy that you’re trying to ignore just because there are other partners you can focus on and really, that just doesn’t work. Maybe sometimes you want one on one time with me and that’s great but if this is an open invite for partners, it’s open to all of mine, or none of us.

Stop waiting fo the Break Up: Seriously. How much more do I need to say? Regardless of if a relationship is monogamous or not, holding your breath for us to break up because you’re not sold on the relationship is one of the absolute rudest behaviours I’ve ever witnessed in a friendship. You want me to be happy, yeah? Even if it’s not the exact happily ever after you imagined for me? (Otherwise, why are we friends?) Well then, start breathing because this relationship is built to last and friendships that don’t accept us can’t.

We’ve all gotten less tolerant of “friends” who add stress and drama to our busy lives

There might not be a super cute way to say this one. People who add stress instead of relieving it, people who make us cry instead of laugh, people who manipulate, spread doubt instead of encouragement, and who generally can’t bring themselves to be a positive part of our day… we’ve got less and less time or patience for those people.

And if our attitude shifting in a way that makes us okay with those friendships fading is a problem – if it’s a problem that we’re really over negativity and negative people – well, then our attitude changing really isn’t the reason the friendship is ending.

Carmen

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