This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending, and presenting at polyday london, an annual event which looks at different aspects of consensual non monogamy. For those unfamiliar with it polyamory is a practice/identity/relationship style which believes it is possible to be in relationships with more than one person. If that seems quite a complicated definition perhaps that reflects the diversity of experiences and attitudes towards polyamory.
The event took place in a community center in Battersea, and it was great to see that genuine thought had been given to the diversity of people who might attend. The toilets had been degendered, giving the important information of whether they contained urinals or toilets rather than assuming which gender needed which. It was all on one level, and so accessbile to those with mobility difficulties. There was a break out/chill out room, which many neuroatypical people have told me are vital if they are to attend events. Perhaps most importantly of all there was a welcoming attitude from the organisers which seemed to say everyone was welcome, you did not have to be an expert, or know everyone to attend.
What of the day itself? There were a number of different sessions, as well as my own on doing poly wrong (which I shall write about separately). I would certainly recommend the day to anyone, whether they identify as poly or not, who is thinking about how they do relationships. For example the discussion on jealousy, on how it comes from within us, and should not be laid at the feet of a partner, could have been of use to both non monogamous and monogamous people. The idea that we react to perceived threats to relationships, even if in a jealous reaction we are threatening the relationship was explored with real depth and understanding. Also exploring how we set boundaries for our own self-care was a vital discussion whether we are looking at friends, family, paramours, lovers or partners.
One of the highlights of the day for me was attending the workshop on mental health facilitated by DK Green. Many courageous people shared their own issues, and concerns, from being a partner with mental health issues to breaking out of a rescuer/victim dynamic. It was the kind of frank and compassionate discussion of mental health which is all too rare. Being in a room where over 100 people wanted to tackle stigma, assumptions, share knowledge and learn to be better was a powerful experience I shall take into my client work and personal relationships.
The idea of people wanting to be better, in relationships and out of them, came across strongly the whole day. No one is born good at relationships, we learn from those around us, from the media, books, films, even the songs on the radio. Sometimes to have a healthy relationship in adulthood we have to unlearn certain things. Learning needs to be life long, and conscious. By attending the workshops at polyday people were saying they did not have all of the answers. It takes honesty to admit that, but it is the vital first step.
As well as the workshops there were opportunities to socialize, a great bookstall, a cafe and lots of great conversations to be had. I would recommend anyone thinking about consensual non-monogamy to attend the day if they can. Indeed I am currently wondering about a similar, smaller event in the North East!
To find out more about counselling for those in non traditional relationships, you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org