Yes, you can.

How not to have an open relationship. Go read this Stranger article first, so the rest of this post makes sense.

I don’t agree that a relationship can’t evolve from one state to another if those states are determined (by whom?) to be too different. Shrews and warthogs share a common ancestor – all that separates them is a tiny handful of gene mutations and many, many years.

Time. This is the all-important factor, wherever the relationship is heading. In a situation where one person wants to be poly and another is set against it, you either have the conversation and possible separation now, or you say “Maybe we’ll be poly in the future”. If the anti camp still feels the same when the future arrives, you’ll likely separate then instead.

But… time does change things, not least warthogs and shrews. Sometimes when a person says “Yes, but not now,” they really mean what they say. Rather than assuming that means “Not ever”, patience, understanding, baby steps and a willingness to pick yourself up from the falls can help you reach a place where things really have changed.

I know cos the boy and I lived it. “One day” was the point we worked towards for many years. It wasn’t a case of “No, no, no” followed by a day when we stripped off our clothes and tripped naked through fields of third parties. Rather we got there in small steps.

Things didn’t always work out the first time, but that didn’t stop us trying again once more magical time had passed. Things didn’t always go at the pace I’d like, and yeh, sometimes I was impatient and bratty about that, which was hurtful. But I never doubted that we wanted to get to the same place, and that certainty plus a belief in the parts of our relationships that didn’t involve a poly label, meant the invested time kept ticking by.

Eventually enough of it had passed that our relationship looked very different. To labour the evolutionary metaphor, we changed to become adapted to the environment we’d chosen to live in. We’re red in tooth and claw, baby, and raring to go.

And having talked specifically about change at the macro level of monogamy or polygamy, I think there’s a pretty important message in here about change at the micro level of day-to-day happiness, however you structure your relationship. If you don’t accept that the first is possible, you are presumably more likely to overlook the second.

By accepting the small changes that happen daily, you make your relationship reflexive and responsive. You’re far less likely to look up one day and wonder where the warthog reading the papers came from.


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