I’ve been actively polyam for more than seven years, and I’d been learning about it before that. I’ve had as many as five partners at a time and as little as zero. I’ve lived with multiple partners at once, I’ve done long-distance, I’ve done the meditations and readings and therapy and drama. I’ve had the fights, the feelings, the joy, the pain. And I still don’t feel like an expert. In fact, I know I’m not an expert! And I feel extremely nervous around anyone, no matter how long they’ve been polyam, who says they have it all figured out.
When I first heard that a press was interested in working with me on a polyamory-focused relationship guidebook, I was nervous. I’d been writing about polyamory professionally for a few years, in addition to my main journalism beat of sex, kink, disability, and wellness– and particularly how those topics intersect with queerness and culture. I was comfortable working through articles on a tight timeline, but a workbook of more than 30,000 words was an entirely different undertaking.
Before I said yes to the project, I thought very carefully about my experiences with polyamory. Did these hard-won lessons have value outside of my own life? Was I qualified to give strangers responsible, reasonable advice? What might others expect from me and from this book? Was I okay with those expectations? Was I open to being wrong, criticized, or falling short despite my best intentions?
Ultimately, I decided to go ahead with the project and in a few months, I wrote The Polyamory Workbook. Revisiting my own writing and my favorite books on polyamory was easy, like catching up with a friend. I reread all the zines, and writings like Polysecure by Jessica Fern, All About Love by bell hooks, Linked by Daemonum, and Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown that I love.
What was most difficult were the visits with my mistakes, past relationships, and failures. I went back through my own personal writing about non monogamy that were meant primarily to help me remember what I’ve learned, have a space to vent, and think about my own relational to patterns to try to apply them beyond my own life. I was forced to take a long, uncomfortable look at my own behaviors and patterns. I looked back on them not just as a person, but now someone intent on finding the meaning of those experiences. Why do I base my worth on my desirability? Why do I fear abandonment and then act out? When have I self-sabotaged? Why do I struggle to communicate under pressure? What was my anger trying to tell me? How can these experiences help me to help others?
When I took on the project, one of the most important commitments I made to myself was that the book would question expertise. I don’t want anyone to read The Polyamory Workbook and think there is only one way to have happy, healthy non-monogamous relationships or to think that my way is the only way.
Polyamory is something you co-create with others. It can’t happen in a vacuum and especially not when you’ve judged your efforts before even giving it a try. Simply put, to begin the process of creation you need tools— not ego, not expertise and not a rigid sense of black-and-white judgements. I approach my tools and the opportunity to learn new ones with humbleness. Sometimes, I am caught off-guard by everything I don’t know and what I still have to learn. Humility keeps me grounded and skeptical about my own urge to dig my heels in and say “I know better.”
When I struggle, I want resources that ask me to be flexible, compassionate, responsible, and reflective. The Polyamory Workbook is this kind of invitation, and this kind of tool. It helped me and I do hope it helps you, too.
About the Author
Sara Youngblood Gregory is a lesbian writer and poet. She covers sex, kink, disability, culture, and wellness. Sara serves on the board of the lesbian literary and arts journal Sinister Wisdom. A current staff writer for POPSUGAR, her work has been featured in Vice, Teen Vogue, HuffPost, Bustle, DAME, Cosmo, Jezebel, and many others. You may also know Sara as @sinister.spinster from Instagram, where they talk about kink and sex ed.
Sara’s debut nonfiction work, THE POLYAMORY WORKBOOK, about navigating ethical non monogamy is forthcoming November 8th, 2022.