May 8th, 2009

Poly Seminar in Washington

Last weekend, I spoke at a polyamory seminar organized by some friends in Washington state. It probably wasn't worth going out there for a one-day seminar, but going out to see friends, introduce them to Zoe and attend the seminar definitely made a worthwhile trip. Discussions of group relationships rather than multiple pairwise relationships featured more prominently in the seminar than they tend to in poly discussions in the Boston community. I'm not sure if that was sample size or a different emphasis in what communities are looking for.

The seminar opened with a cute icebreaker game. Everyone got a card describing their relationship constraints and had to find people who had compatible constraints. Then the resulting relationship graphs were drawn on the board. (There was one fully connected sub-graph and one other network; this was a factor both of the cards and of a couple of decisions people made.) What I found most interesting is that everyone (including myself) found the icebreaker very effective and positive. Amusingly though, when I try to describe lessons one might draw from the experience they're fairly negative. I could use that game to illustrate STD risk, or to illustrate how in poly relationships, your life can be influenced significantly by people several steps away from you. However, I don't think anyone there was thinking about it that way, at least not as their primary focus.

The discussion was well worth participating in and was of high quality. Multiple groups there had experience with parenting, dealing with families, communications, and the other sorts of issues that tend to get discussed at poly panels. I found one part of the communication discussion really fascinating. The speaker was talking about not drudging up old examples of behavior when discussing a problem. I completely get why this is important; when your past mistakes become a burden of ever-lasting inadequacy, it destroys the ability to feel that you are a respected and valued partner in a relationship. However I found myself in conflict with the advice because pattern analysis is a critical part of how I approach problem solving. If someone is in a hurry and doesn't get a chance to clean up after themselves, then I'm happy to pitch in and help out. Some day I'll need help too. However if someone is rarely able to find the time to clean up after themselves, then it's worth discussing. Either they need to adjust to what they are doing or I need to change my expectations. I need to think more about how to balance these concerns. I definitely appreciate discussions that give me something to think about.

My friend who organized the event did a great job! She is good at organizing conferences.r