Popular Poly Miscommunications – #1: “I didn’t tell someone something because I thought someone else would”

I’ve decided to start a series about popular poly miscommunications. I’d like to go on the record as saying that these happen, folks. They just do. Even when everybody is doing their best, miscommunications happen for totally benign reasons.

For each miscommunication, I’m going to mention if I’ve been a part of it, and if so, which side(s) I’ve been on.

The biggest thing about talking about these kinds of miscommunications is that it’s really important to take them as a sign that we’re all human, we’re all forgetful, and that mistakes can happen that do NOT and SHOULD NOT in any, way, shape or form be taken as a “sign” that someone doesn’t love you, loves you less than someone else, or is out to get you.

If part of your way of handling communication is to look for signs instead of asking directly, you should get out of the Poly Pool. You should probably go into the shallow end of the Relationship Pool in general, and start to seriously consider WHY you communication with signs instead of directly, and possibly look for therapy and/or self-help books until you can communication directly with people.

(side note: having decades of therapy and a whole big pile of self-help books that I’ve bought throughout my life, the above is not meant to be flip or snarky. I’m quite earnestly serious when I say that communication works best when all parties and direct and use small, easy-to-understand words to communicate feelings, understandings, and desires.)

All that said – here is Popular Poly Miscommunication #1 – “I didn’t tell someone something because I thought someone else would”. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Melissa is dating Jared and Joan. Jared and Joan are metamours (We often call this “V Polyamory”). Jared tells Melissa some important news about his life. They both agree that Joan needs to hear this news too, but they don’t realize that neither of them actually said “So I’ll tell Joan”, and both of them assumed that the other would tell Joan. Jared expects Melissa to tell Joan, because Melissa is the person dating Joan (so Melissa is Jared’s link to Joan). Melissa expects Jared to tell Joan, because it’s his news. Joan finds out (either sooner or later) and may be hurt that neither Jared or Melissa told her – are they hiding things from her? Are they forgetful? Is it something else?

I’ve been Jared, Melissa and Joan. I’ve been the metamour that thinks communication should come from the shared partner – sometimes it’s happened because I was still a little afraid/gunshy of my metamour, and so I was wussing out a bit on communicating clearly with my metamour, because of that fear. Sometimes, it’s that I know our shared partner is going to see their metamour way before I do, so it seemed easier to just pass the news through him/her.

When I’ve been Melissa, and I haven’t passed news on, it’s always been for fear of either stealing the thunder of my partner’s news (if it’s good news, and I want him/her/hir to reap all the good reactions personally). If it’s bad news, then I want to give my partner the time to get his/her/hir feelings together and organized before sharing something that’s going to be difficult. If it’s not major news or if it’s neutral news, then I’ve just assumed that since it’s my partner’s news, it’s their news to share.

When I’ve been Joan, I’ve been scared that not being in the know was a sign that something is going on behind my back. Sometimes I’ve been a little hurt that I wasn’t looped in. I’ve been freaked out that maybe someone *did* tell me, and I somehow forgot, or I misunderstood them so grossly that I didn’t even realize that news that they were sharing with me. I’ve also been just mildly annoyed that someone didn’t tell me something in a timely manner.

So what do we do when this comes up? In my book, the proper things to do are these:

– If you’re the Melissa or the Jared: Apologize to the Joan. Let your partner/metamour know that you didn’t mean to leave them out, and you are sorry for that.

– If you’re the Joan: give yourself time to be upset, if you’re upset. After the upset has faded, have an honest conversation with yourself about how Jared and Melissa (and yourself) are all human, and mistakes happen. Did it hurt? Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. If it did, give yourself time to get over the hurt. Talk to Melissa & Jared about how you feel and why. Did Melissa and Jared mean to hurt you? If your answer is anything other than an unequivocal “no”, then you have problems beyond what we’re discussing in this post, and you need to really think about that separately. Hopefully, the answer is “no”, and that’s important. It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re all human, and we do all make mistakes like this. And it’s OK.

No matter who I’ve been in this situation (and who you’ll be), I  want to try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. So I’ve initiated the talk where we all try to remember that when we’re sharing news, after the “oh yay!”, “oh no!”, or “ok, good to know” part of the communication has happened, we also need to have a quick talk about who else should know and who is going to tell them.

Does that mean that this kind of miscommunication is nipped in the bud, and won’t happen again? Nope. It will. Trust me, it will. But hopefully, by trying to stay mindful of it, it will happen less, and when it does happen, Melissa, Jared, and Joan will all handle it with kindness and understanding. And re-vow to not let it happen again – into infinity and beyond!


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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