The Perils of Playamory

July 22, 2011

Later this summer you might be heading to a big, week-long event in the Nevada wastelands, where a bunch of awesome and sexy people will be walking around in awesome and sexy outfits. It’s a place where many previously monogamous people take the opportunity to expand their relationship agreements. Some partnered people just a free pass for the week while some couples officially open up their relationships.

Unfortunately, the playa can exacerbate the problems of nonmonogamy. The heat, exhaustion, and intoxication make for bad decisions and the off-the-grid state of communication out there can exacerbate mistakes. To help head off playa breakups, I’ve put together the following tips for happy playa nonmonogamy. Go ahead and expand your horizons, but take a look at these first.

First, be sure to have the hard relationship talks and make sure everyone’s expectations match *before* heading out to playa. Nobody wants to renegotiate their relationship parameters while coming down from an all-night bender, and trying to change the rules mid-week tends to throw people off-kilter in an already wildly off-kilter environment, assuming you can even find the time or the person involved.

Second, grudging acceptance is always a bad sign, and often results in after-burn breakups when people realize their partner actually went and did whatever was half-heartedly approved of. If the approval you get sounds resentful or vague, then it’s probably not approval at all. Be sure to get very specific about what exactly is okay: flirting? sex? specific types of sex? falling in love?

Third, it is best to err on the conservative side. Your partner or partners are much more likely to be happy if you stay well within your agreements rather than pushing them or skirting around them. Sure, you might miss some opportunities, but if you do this right, you’ll get another chance next year.

This all applies not just to newbies but also to seasoned, polyamorous peeps. Experienced folks are still taken by surprise in the playa crucible and this sometimes resulting in big poly drama. The smart poly Burners I know go through convoluted negotiations around who is sleeping where, which nights are date nights, and social dynamics among partners. If you are looking for nonmonogamy advice on playa this year, feel free to stop by the Poly Asylum camp, where I and some of these poly Burners will be on hand to answer your questions.


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