Hello, dear readers of the Gaint! Before I get started on answering this edition’s agony, I thought I would introduce myself a little bit. I have an adorable nephew, and to him I am his Auncle - a mixture of “aunt” and “uncle”. It’s a name I wear with pride as my family’s resident queer. Otherwise, I am an ex-Albany resident (RIP), reader of tarot and lover of podcasts - including Dear Sugars, which was part of the inspiration for this column.
If you’re feeling brave and kind enough to send in your agonies to me, please fill out this google form:
Dear Agony Auncle,
I’m looking for some relationship advice. I’m newly polyamorous, which seems to be somewhere between newly married and newly deceased. I came to polyamory after a series of long-term relationships in which my partners and I became far too co-dependent in one way or another. Since my last break-up, I’ve tried to foster romantic relationships where everyone can be autonomous. Unfortunately, I’ve struggled to show my partners I care for them in different ways, and I worry it hurts them more than I know. Further, there seems to be a pressure to establish a hierarchy when it comes to romantic relationships, and I don’t know how to establish bonds that aren’t based on their relation to other bonds. How do I let someone know that I care, and that valuing their friendship as well as their romance is a key part of the relationship for me? Any advice would be appreciated.
A Perplexed Polyamorous Ponce
Firstly, thank you so much for writing in. I want to start by congratulating you on recognising the negative patterns of your previous relationships and taking what sounds like some great steps to breaking those patterns. Also, remember that you’re learning anew what it means to form romances without these habits. So, you can’t expect yourself to have it all worked out just yet. Equally, you can’t expect to have polyamory perfectly worked out yet. Proceed gently with yourself!
There seems to be two sides to your current issue: one is showing that you care; the other is not wanting to establish a hierarchy. To start with, letting people know that you care about them - especially if you’re trying to express a specific form of care, and if you’re new to doing in a healthy way - is hard. I feel your pain. My first piece of advice is, if you’re finding it hard to show that you care in subtle or emotional everyday ways, just be obvious about it. Saying something specific like “I love holding your hand” or leaving a little note after seeing someone could help you to open up. Beyond this, you seem like you’ve got a fair handle on where you’re at, so communicate that to your partners. If they’re not able to hear you and meet you halfway, maybe this isn’t the relationship for either of you to be in right now.
On the point of hierarchy, I think you need to consider that maybe the pressure that you’re feeling isn’t yours to bear. If hierarchical polyamory doesn’t feel right for you, then it doesn’t feel right for you. I did some research into alternative styles of polyamory and there’s plenty out there that I’m sure you’ve come across. You might want to look into relationship anarchy (if only for the name) or non-hierarchical polyamory. In terms of practicality, how you allocate your time needs to be a conversation between you and the people in your life. Throughout these conversations, let them know that you care, and try to strike a balance between what feels right for you, practical time constraints and their needs. Easier said than done, I’m sure.
You asked how to let someone know that you care, and that valuing their friendship as well as their romance is a key part of the relationship for you. This, I think, comes back to my earlier advice about just going for it when expressing yourself. Saying something simple like “I love that we’re also such good friends” to a romantic partner, or “I love you and I love our friendship” could be a way to talk about what it is you value in your relationships. This way expressing what you value doesn’t have to come from a point of renegotiating the relationship any time you want to talk about it. Phrasing your expressions of love like this might sound a bit clunky at first, but I think it’s a good way to be explicit with your partners. I’d also much rather hear clunky truths than feel like my friend or partner isn’t communicating with me. You can work on honestly communicating in a beautiful way later!
Throughout all of this, bear in mind that St Andrews can be quite a limiting place, especially in terms of finding people to strike up a romance with. There is hope though. I did a quick google for polyamory community groups in the UK and it seems like most major cities have them. This is something you might find useful for building a support group with people who understand where you’re coming from, and who can help you work out how you want to practice polyamory. So, just remember there’s a whole wide world out there for you to explore, and it’s full of so many people who’ll be on the same page as you.
Finally, I did a little 3 card major arcana tarot card reading while considering your question and this is what came up:
Internal state: inverted wheel of fortune - signifying difficulty in going with the flow.
External influences: the devil - a calling towards unhealthy vices; watch that you’re not leaning on destructive crutches. May also be unwittingly signing up to a contract with unfair terms.
Advice: inverted hierophant - it’s time for you to let go of society’s constraining ideas of how you should be living your life.
You’ve got this Perplexed, I believe in you. I hope this was useful.
Sending you big love,