Monday, 4 February 2013

Poly Means Many - Communication in the Information Age

When thinking about what I wanted to write for this month's topic (communication), several different ideas came up, but most of all, I wanted to write about how I use technology and the internet to manage poly relationships. Namely, I wanted to talk about a few different ways that technology and the internet has helped and some that have hindered.

People who practice polyamory often tote that communication is key. It is the number one cornerstone of being poly aside from, perhaps, honesty. These days, in the so-called Information Age, we have dozens of ways to communicate with each other, often instantly, or at the touch of a button. How does this influence the way polyamory works?

No talk on this topic would be complete without a discussion of Google Calendar. In internet terms, this is the glue that holds poly relationships together. It is a tool that allows all parties involved to have varying degrees of knowledge as to the schedule and whereabouts of other people. It is a great way to be able to pick out a free night to have with a partner. Within a few clicks, one can see that their partner isn't free on, say, Tuesday, because they have a date with another partner. It is a great way to keep track of dates, sleeping arrangements, group events, and generally just keep up with what is going on. It saves a lot of trouble, because it ensures that all parties involved know the score. As wonderful as it is however, it can sometimes create problems, but the best way I have learned to circumvent these, is to ensure that you are discussing things directly with your partner(s), and not letting them find things out for the first time, via your calendar.

Anyone flicking through profiles on the equal parts beloved and hated OKCupid website will notice there are a lot of non-monogamous and poly people on there. It seems like a bit of a haven for those of us in alternative relationships. Because of this, it is often the first port of call for poly people looking to date and meet new people. I have used it to varying degrees of success and I have to say that I’m a fan. It is nice to be able to put out there that you are poly, first and foremost, knowing that whomever you get in contact with knows this, and hopefully you will only be approached by other poly people, or at least those who are ok with it. Some would argue that giving a laundry list of things about yourself before even a first conversation ruins the ‘romance’ of the getting-to-know-you phase of dating, but I quite like being able to weed out the deal-breakers (ie: someone who is not poly, or not ok with it!) before investing any time.

Perhaps our most frequently used method of communication is social media. Most of us have a Twitter account and a Facebook account. I myself use Twitter a great deal. It is a simple way for me to keep up with friends, find interesting links and articles, and share bits of my life with those who care to read it. Social media can be a bit of a minefield in poly relationships though. It quite frequently transgresses that those within our greater poly circles are on the same networks as you, and this offers situations where you are privy to conversations, flirtations and plan-making that you otherwise wouldn’t be. This can create potential for confidentiality issues and jealousy, so I would advise caution, especially when looping in new partners, or during times of instability in relationships. That aside, it can be a great way to keep up with partners you might not see as frequently, and for them to be able to be a part of your daily life when they are not there; a way to feel included.

My favourite form of electronic communication is email. I love it! In the early stages of relationships, I find it a useful way to express myself succinctly. Whilst nothing will ever replace the intimacy and clarity of face-to-face conversation, email and messaging creates an opportunity to reflect on what you want to say, review and edit before hitting send. It is a great tool if you are having trouble getting your point across, or want to talk about something difficult. I often use it in early conversations about sex. Because of my own issues and hang-ups, I sometimes find it hard to verbalise my wants and needs, and find the ability to write things down hugely beneficial.

Also, it is common in poly relationships that you have a partner you don’t see as often. Perhaps they live far away, or they have partners of their own who they spend more time with. It can sometimes be difficult not being able to share your daily life with these partners, but electronic communications make this a lot easier. You can fire them a tweet wishing them luck for their upcoming interview, or post a funny picture if they are having a bad day. You can send them a long email telling them how much you miss them, or what you want to do with them when you see them next. The internet has given us a hundred ways to keep in touch with those we care about, and if used in a healthy way, these methods of communication can make all the difference in multiple relationships.

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at

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