Written by Sara Youngblood Gregory.
Art by Alex Mckelly.
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.
Follow on IG: @@sinister.spinster | Follow on Twitter: @s_youngblood_g