Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More on dating someone who is already in a relationship

So, I mentioned in a previous post that I have been concerned with understanding (and ensuring) that any other person that I, or my husband, or both of us were to date would be treated with respect, honored, loved, and know that their needs in the relationship were as valid as anyone else's.  I sent out a request for feedback on this issue to my local polyamory discussion list, and got a few great responses.  Here is one more whose writer recently gave me permission to share.

Thanks to S for a thoughtful response, and for permission to share!

To me, it's not about fairness in this scenario, it's about being honest with
your partners about your emotional availability and what you want from each
other. To me it seems obvious that, if you are dating a married person,
their legal spouse will have something you don't. Namely, they will have the
1400+ legal benefits of marriage and the years of being a relationship with
your partner that you will never be able to match (though the difference may
grow to be negligible eventually)....

My advice to someone contemplating dating a married or otherwise committed
person is to know your relationship needs very well and articulate them
early. If your potential partner can meet all your needs, does it matter to
you that the situation is technically "unfair"? If they can't, can you get
those needs met by seeking another relationship? If your needs are
incompatible, well...
I realized that I don't think of "fairness" in terms of "let's each weigh how much time we have, what we are given, etc., and make sure we each have the same amount."  Years of being a parent to multiple children has taught me to think about fairness differently.  Fairness means everyone's needs are valid, heard, and addressed in the best possible way.  Fairness means every person counts, is loved, and has a say in their own futures.  In my mind, anyway, I completely agree with S on so many points.

First of all, honesty.  If you are honest with your potential partner about what you have to offer, what you would enjoy, and what you need at a minimum, there's a much higher likelihood that your needs will be met than if you didn't talk about it.  But that requires TALKING about it, which is something that a lot of people don't do.  In some cases, maybe our culture has made dating a married person such a taboo that people feel like that can't talk openly about it, exploring ideas for what a relationship might look like, together.  Then, lacking good communication, they go and assume what they think your answer will be (or what they think your partner would think or feel about it), and act on those assumptions without ever confirming or disproving them.

Secondly, I love the second paragraph, which ties in nicely with what B wrote yesterday about relationships that aren't designed to lead to marriage being disparaged in our society.  If a relationship with someone who is married or otherwise committed could meet your needs, and you otherwise like the person and are attracted, and everyone is upfront and honest about what is going on, WHO CARES if the relationship structure is different that the norm?  If you want to seek another (less "complicated") relationship to get those needs met, that is more than fair!  But if you aren't seeking (or feeling satisfied) by other relationships, and you aren't morally or religiously opposed to polyamory, maybe considering the mutual attraction that is already right there would be a perfectly acceptable choice, even if only for a time.  Who knows?  Every person is different.

And it is a really big deal to eschew social norms and just do what your heart knows (or feels strongly) is right.  And maybe it's not for everyone.  I dunno.  I know there are some of those social norms to which I feel somewhat bound, and a handful of people in my life I really don't want to disappoint.  I'm not immune to worrying about stuff like that.  I just feel kind of sad over the idea that anyone (including my partner, me, or someone about whom we care) could miss out on a really lovely, caring, special, healing relationship just because of social norms.  If it's not for you, and doesn't meet your needs, that's fair.  I'd never want anyone to be in a relationship with me (or any other partnered person)  if they felt it wasn't good for them.  It's just about knowing what you want, and learning how to tell if something is going to meet your needs.  If it's not, we shouldn't feel obligated to get into something we don't want.  And if it is, wouldn't it be lovely if we had the courage to do what fulfilled us without fear of judgment?

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