Polyamorous Dating and Raising Standards
There's a lot of talk in polyam spaces about "allowing relationships to be whatever they will be" and not being "limited by labels" - and all of this is real. But what can also be real is polyamory allowing you to raise your personal standards, to not settle for relationships that aren't what you need and want. Having fewer limitations on relationships that would normally be labelled as "friendship" and very strictly bounded by social requirements can allow you to manage your own needs more fully and not dive into relationships that would typically be labelled romantic and expected to fulfill all your needs without examining whether they really work for you.
As someone who doesn't identify with solo polyamory by philosophy, but currently lives separate from partners, it keeps me from dropping my standards for the kind of relationship I intend to have with a nesting partner - I am not approaching those relationships from "single and wanting to be partnered above all else," I am approaching them from "I know how to meet my needs in community but it would be nice to have this shape of relationship back in my life if I meet the right person or people." Polyamory is not the only way to reach this headspace; some monogamous people I know build robust community and meet their own needs between themselves and friends - but polyamory encourages this, and doesn't push friends away or "down a level" when relationships seem to go well. The transfer of needs from intimate friends to partners isn't as expected - it might happen or it might not, and delaying it is more typical than in any monogamous relationships I've seen.
Polyamory lets me take my time on partner selection and not just go "oh this person is cute and the right age and available, I'm done!" There are ways that it is more challenging sometimes, too - needing similar approaches to polyamory as part of compatibility shrinks my dating pool; so does wanting partners to have some interest in my major interests; and needing folks to have a certain amount of self-awareness and emotional processing ability has definitely ended relationships early for me. But being polyam means I'm not losing my primary support system and restructuring my life if I try a relationship and it ends - I get to hold firm early boundaries and see how things are going before I start giving parts of myself and my needs to new relationships, and trust that my existing partnerships (labelled or not) and community will help me meet those needs when asked.
Over time I've become more comfortable with this reality and more certain that I need to keep all my standards in place - partially because dropping them has always ended in a headache, but also because it's become clear that actually, I can stand on my own and all of this is optional. My partners don't determine my social circle and it's easier to be independent with many legs to my emotional and social support; there's no pressure to be a closed world of a nuclear-family-creating couple. (Or, at least, none from the people whose opinion I most worry about, and the parts of the outside world that apply that pressure are getting ignored on several front already, so it's easier to add it to the pile.) Sometimes it's hard or scary when a relationship starts working and starts including more real love and support - between a history of relational trauma and a cautious nature, it's easy to feel like another shoe is going to drop for a while - but it's a worth it kind of scary to explore until I accept it. I wouldn't have many of the closest friendships in my life if not for polyamory, and I likely wouldn't have grown into my ability to accept real love and reject the push-pull of toxic environments yet. Repeated experience is a good teacher of limits that need to be set and which parts of other people's reactions and emotions are theirs, not mine to deal with.
I'll be teaching two classes digitally in the next two weeks, in cooperation with Pragmatically Kinking, who offer kink, mental health, and relationship education at sliding scale prices (between $5-$20) to keep it accessible. Beyond The Kitchen Table is on Tuesday Sept 27, at 8pm ET, and is a class on recognizing our boundaries around relationships in our polycule and how to build intentional relationships with metamours. Tickets and info can be found here. On Tuesday October 4, at 8pm, I'm teaching Just the STI Facts, Ma'am, which is a class on sexual health risks and mitigation strategies, and the conversations we should have around them in relationships both polyam and monogamous. Those tickets are here.