Relationships, bad stuff and blame

In every relationship, much as we hate to admit it, there is bad stuff as well as good. There are times when you are feeling so sad you want to cry, so angry you want to scream, and so frustrated that you want to smash things. Whether it’s an argument or a break up, bad things happen so… how do we cope with them? Do we blame ourselves and look at how to improve the way we handle a similar situation in future? Do we blame the other person and wish they would change and just ‘be better’? Or do we blame the relationship structure for being bad and wrong?

Strangely, when things go wrong in a polyamorous relationship, many folk assume that this is clearly evidence that ‘poly doesn’t work’. If a similar thing happened with a monogamous relationship, these same people would probably just assume that this one particular relationship is broken. No one ever blames monogamy for the bad stuff. They blame the disagreements, dishonesty, or one/both party behaving like an utter dick. Which is, of course, exactly how it should be.

If I can’t make a relationship work, it’s not because I’m cis female, bisexual, British, white or middle-class. It’s not because I’m monogamous or otherwise. It’s because I didn’t get on well enough with one specific person to make things work at that level. We couldn’t fix the bad stuff or, in the end, we didn’t want to fix the bad stuff. A relationship doesn’t fail because you’re nonmonogamous any more than it would fail because you’re a vegetarian. If you’re both on the same page, where does the problem lie? As Polly Oliver wrote in a recent post on An Open Book:

The reason polyamory can sometimes feel riskier is that there are more relationships, more people, more opportunities for wonder and magic and love, and more opportunities to fuck it up. So, yes, polyamory means you will get hurt. So does monogamy. So does caring and trusting anyone, ever. There is no magic ‘never get hurt’ life choice.

Getting involved with other human beings in romantic and/or sexual relationships means that, at some point, you will probably have to deal with some bad things and hurt feelings. So, how do poly people deal with it? Pretty much in the same way that everyone else deals with that kind of stuff really. Find your coping mechanisms, find a shoulder to cry on, friends to talk to, time to heal. Just try not to assign blame. That’s when the bad stuff really starts to happen.

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 bored-now‘s Flickr photostream.

8 thoughts on “Relationships, bad stuff and blame

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  1. Totally agree with this post, particularly in the light of that terrible attempt to blame poly for the Philpott fire last week. It’s absurd that this blame happens, and I’m glad you’ve articulated this sentiment so eloquently!

  2. Is this sort of writing that I wish more people would read (your post, and the others in the series). It’s cutting through the ‘media’ interpretation brilliantly and, as I find my ‘poly’ feet (ok, that sounds weird) is helping me understand my own thoughts and feelings.

    Love this quote: “There is no magic ‘never get hurt’ life choice.” I can see me using it in the future.

    1. Glad the series is proving to be useful! And I’m glad you liked Polly Olivers words as much as I did 🙂

  3. Such a great piece. It often seems to me that almost everything in life can be traced back to “nothing worth having comes easy”. And no where is that truer than with relationships. It’s hard work.

    Also, it’s true that no one ever blames monogamy for things going wrong; and yet polyamory often gets blamed. I don’t mind blaming relationship models, but then we should be able to see the downfalls of both. Polyamory is no more flawed than monogamy; it’s just different. (And I like it that Dan Savage blames both, when necessary.)

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