Communication: Up front and personal

Effective communication in relationships is a tricky business. How do you know what to say and when? Is that little thing important, will they take offence and… should I just say it anyway? It can be tricky to get the right balance, but the more you talk (and listen!) the easier it becomes. However, the trickiest bit can sometimes be giving advance notice. If you’ve planned a date or two, when do you tell an existing partner about this? If a casual fling looks like it’s becoming more serious but you’re not entirely sure, when and how do you tell the people closest to you?

The best thing is to put yourself in your partner’s place for a moment. You’re in a relationship with them so, chances are, you know what they’re like. You know if they care about the small things that you think are irrelevant. You know if they like to get stuff fixed in their diary in advance. Do they love hearing about dates that you’re going on, or do they only really care about what you’re doing when the two of you are together? Are they spontaneous, or do they hate surprises? That will all make it easier to work out how and when to talk to them about anything new. Even if you don’t know them well enough yet, just assume that you probably need to tell them things unless you’re instructed otherwise. Say that you’re not sure whether this needs explaining, but figured it was better to check, and they’ll appreciate the trouble you’ve taken to ensure they don’t get hurt.

Google Calendar is one of the most useful tools for a polyamorous person to have, but it can also be a source of much upset and frustration. Checking your online diary is not the best way to discover that a partner has a series of dates with someone new. Sitting down to find an evening that you could suggest for dinner with a friend, you don’t expect to discover that your partner has scheduled something sociable for a weekend that you’d asked to go away with them.

There are times when it’s not possible to have a conversation before plans are made, but it’s always better to find a little way to show that you care. A quick text message to say that things are going well and you can’t wait to tell them about what/who is making you so happy. A direct message on Twitter to say that something’s gone in the diary and you’ll explain when you see them, reminding your partner that you care for them deeply.

It’s so easy to avoid conversations that you suspect might be difficult to have, but more hurt can be caused by not having them at all. Not being open and honest with your advance communication can leave partners thinking that you no longer care about them. After all, polyamory is supposed to be ethical nonmonogamy and it’s so easy for something that wasn’t talked about to look like something that was intentionally hidden. If a partner doesn’t tell you about their new squeeze, it’s easy to assume that they don’t give a shit how you feel about it. If they don’t care how you feel, that’s not a good basis for a relationship. So, bring a halt to the downward spiral of assumption and hurt feelings by being up front in the first place. We’re all human, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right all the time, but do be prepared to apologise and learn from your mistakes. After all, communication’s about listening as well as talking.

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

Image via erikadotnet‘s Flickr photostream.

9 thoughts on “Communication: Up front and personal

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  1. Spot on, beautiful. šŸ™‚ Lovely, straight to the point, and pretty much exactly what I think. I think in spite of how straightforward it seems to some of us, it’s the biggest hurdle for many. This is ace. <3

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Difficult though it may be, I feel it’s always better to err on the side of caution – volunteering openness, unless otherwise requested not to! Great post.

  3. Glad you both liked the post. I still find it hard to remember what I’ve said outloud and what has only so far been a discussion in my own head, but that’s another aspect entirely! It’s better to tell all (and then rein it in as needed), rather than it appearing like you don’t value someone enough to tell them things. Email is your friend, right? Not just Google.

  4. I feel like I need to start taking notes… treading carefully into non-monogamy (that seems to have just organically happened to me!) is very interesting. And these posts are so so very useful and valuable. Thank you.

    1. That was why Poly Means Many was started. Not everyone has a large circle of friends who they can ask questions of, so we thought it was worth sharing knowledge. It also helps to remind us all that everyone has a different perspective too. There’s no single way of doing things that’s ‘right’.

      1. It’s so true, in almost everything. I keep saying “we need more relationship models”, which is true – but it’s also something of a revelation to realise your relationships are never going to look exactly like someone else’s model.

  5. Great post, and relevant right now for me. Amazing. Bookmarked.

    I too have trouble remembering what was said. And to whom! Terrible stuff, really must do better.

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