I swore up and down after my last boyfriend that I was done “training” poly newbies. Then I got a taste of people with plenty of experience who really should know better and realized that any new partner has the potential to be difficult or complicated. I honestly could not tell you which case I prefer, but bringing someone in who is completely new to poly can be a trying experience, and without a little warning could turn one off to the idea completely.

In many cases even those who have never been in a poly relationship have heard of non-monogamy in one form or another. Some have always been attracted to the lifestyle and have never found a willing primary, some have never considered it but are willing to with the right person, and some have even sworn it off. I have experienced all of these scenarios, and each one holds unique challenges.

In the first scenario there can be two types of people: those who really understand and appreciate polyamory and those who think it precludes them from any real responsibility or commitment in a relationship. In the first case people can sometimes be a little too cocky, but in most cases they have done some serious soul-searching and really understand what it means to be open. I have had many friends in this boat, and it can be one that is frustrating for someone who is already in a monogamous relationship. The caution here is to make sure this type of partner doesn’t jump in head first before knowing how deep the pool is. They can often be overresearched and underprepared, because nothing can really prepare you for everything. In the second case be prepared for a lot of alone time. Unicorns and rainbows are great, but few and far between. If you can handle having a fair-weather lover, have a ball, but I need to know that all my partners on are board when I need them. I have a pretty severe allergy to flight risks, and this one causes it to flare almost immediately.

The second scenario is the most common in my experience. This partner is someone who understands the basics, hasn’t had any strong objections or aversions, and usually likes you enough to give it a shot. There is a lot of time, work, and energy involved that could end up being tossed aside should he decide polyamory just isn’t his preference. It can be a pretty amazing thing to watch, though, when it all clicks. You see the epiphanies and the new experiences as they happen, you share the joy and bliss that comes with opening ones heart, and you can act as a guide through the things that might have been a deterrent otherwise. I admit, it’s an exhilarating experience watching someone open up, and it’s pure energy when it can be felt in a loving relationship. There is no power, freedom, or intimacy like it on earth. It makes up for all the small stepping-stones along the way.

The third scenario is a bit precarious, and one I only suggest for those who like to play high dollar slots. It’s a gamble no matter how you play it, and one that historically does not pan out in the long run. I’m not sure why these folks decide to give it a try. Lust? Love? An addiction to failure? These men and women in the past have expected me to jump ship, have hoped I would leave Hubby, and have actually tried to break up my family. Sometimes they pretend extremely well, and sometimes they even succeed in convincing themselves and everyone around them that they’ve changed or evolved. They usually have not. In the end there can be a lot of resentment and negativity on both sides. I’d like to say I’ll never put myself in a situation with these people again.  Aforementioned allergy aside, however, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic with a dash of White Knight Syndrome. I love a challenge, and I like to believe people change. I will continue to put myself on the chopping block, and I will continue to bleed for it. Period.

How does one go about introducing a Poly Newb to a poly household? It’s a process, but for me it’s not much different that introducing any new partner. I do not stand for much awkwardness around meeting the rest of the household, and I will only tolerate the excuse “I’m new to this” so many times. In the end, the basics are not much different from any new relationship, and choices are made from common sense, respect, and compassion not my established marital status or the company I keep. Don’t take this to mean I am heartless or cut throat. I simply expect those who say they love me to act accordingly.

I set up very early on in any new relationship and need for communication with no fear on either side of reaction or retaliation. No love can be born of fear, and nothing can stunt love like doubt. I almost always request that my new partner not start another new relationship at the same time we are building a foundation, a request that can either build or break the relationship. With those new to poly this can be an especially tough request to follow. The temptation is there to express this new freedom and do it with no discretion. This can cause severe poly saturation, confusion, and the collapse of all the new relationships. It is my firm belief that if I am not worth a time of focus and energy then the relationship is not strong enough to hold substance. Newbs sometimes see this as hypocrisy, since I am already married with possibly other partners, but I follow the request as well. I cannot ask anything I would not have the courtesy and care to do myself, especially with someone inexperienced in poly. I won’t even take new casual partners or BDSM encounters during this time. This is the dedication and commitment I am always willing to give.

That aside, it is always my goal to make a partner’s first experience a positive one, not just because it’s a new loving relationship, but also because I know plenty of people who have been turned off of poly forever because their first encounters were with jerks. I do my best to help sort out feelings of jealousy or insecurity, to give assurance that this is a firm and stable situation, and to welcome them into a family that will treat them the same way. This, I think, is one of the most crucial steps in bringing in a partner who has never been a part of a poly household before. We are a family, and starting a new journey with me you start a journey with my family. This means the main relationship is not the only new one forged, as there will be some kind of interaction and rapport built with each member of our household. It also means a support group, not just for poly but about me in general. Who wouldn’t love having a handbook for every new person they date?

While I imagine this feeling can be overwhelming, I hope the overall feeling is belonging. When we made the decision to be poly and I was able to fully embrace it I felt like I was at home in my heart. My hope is to give that to any partner I bring in who is new to polyamory, because ultimately I feel that all the work and processing is worth the love and family that grows from it.