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The top ten skills for polyamory are the top ten skills for relationship, period. Nan Wise. What I will cover. Introduce myself—a brief update of my own journey The important basics of our emotional equipment to understand our 3 brains and seven minds for operational intelligence

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The top ten skills for polyamory are the top ten skills for relationship period

The top ten skills for polyamory are the top ten skills for relationship, period

Nan Wise

What i will cover

What I will cover

  • Introduce myself—a brief update of my own journey

  • The important basics of our emotional equipment to understand our 3 brains and seven minds for operational intelligence

  • The Top Ten habits of effective relationship adapted to polyamory

  • Leave lots of time for questions and discussion

  • And make a bold request for female subjects for my sex studies for the summer

First a quick look at our emotional equipment

First, a quick look at our emotional equipment

  • Three brains, seven minds and the defensive and affiliative states

  • Defensive systems FEAR, RAGE,

  • Affiliative systems LUST, SEEKING, PLAY, CARE & PANIC.

  • We always know what’s on our minds, but we don’t always know WHICH MIND WE’RE IN!

Scientists in the lab of relationship

Scientists in the lab of relationship

  • The pre-requisites and predictive habits of successful relationships have been studied in the laboratory by John Gottman et al over decades of observations of couples

  • They apply to all relationships, and are even more important skill sets to learn and implement for polyamory, with some minor adjustments

Successful relationship is about learning how to master our states

Successful relationship is about learning how to master our states

  • The most important skill that predicts success in relationship is how well we respond when we feel mistreated/misunderstood by our partners.

  • These skills are all about learning how to shift our own internal states out of defensiveness in order to be affiliative and resourceful

  • We can master how to respond well to our partners, and by doing so, powerfully influence how we are treated by them going forward.

When you feel misunderstood or mistreated

When you feel misunderstood or mistreated

Habit #1) Avoid a judgmental attitude. Judgment is damaging to relationships, even beyond the consequences of the behaviors we are judging.(e.g. a partner’s harsh and punitive judgements about a partner’s misbehavior can be as damaging to the relationship as the misbehavior in the first place)

Habit 1 avoiding a judgmental attitude

Habit 1: Avoiding a judgmental attitude

  • Beneath criticism and contempt (which are the horseman of the apocalypse for partnerships) is the assumption that if you are upset, your partner must have done something wrong. Most of us are trained to believe we don’t have the right to be upset unless someone did something to us that is wrong

  • 67% of what couples argue about are generally just matters of opinion.

  • In poly, there are lots of places to potentially judge partners since the behaviors fall outside of what is considered the norm and how we are socialized.

  • Pre-requisite: soft-start up (and why it is necessary because of male predisposition to diffuse physiological arousal). We can do this in how we approach ourselves and each other. Honing this skill alone, will greatly improve your results

  • Note: be aware of self judgment and the impact that has on our relationships with self and other

Habit 2 standing up for yourself without putting your partner down

Habit 2: Standing up for yourself without putting your partner down

  • Key concept, people who stand up for themselves and believe their opinions are important, succeed, if they make it easy for their partners to make room for them.

  • We can learn how to do this skillfully, while treating our partners well

  • Partners are more likely to be influenced when they feel less criticized.



  • When your partner criticizes you—you stand up without becoming critical in response and putting the partner down.

  • When your partner dismisses your feelings or opinions—you stand for there being equally important

  • When your partner puts you down—you stand up to him/her without making a federal case out of the offense—and without labeling them as a jerk.

Pre requisite accepting influence

Pre-requisite: Accepting influence.

  • In addition to being able to deliver complaints softly (and firmly if necessary), and we will talk about the sequence that works to do this later,

    Partners must learn how to respond well to partners complaints and be willing to accept the influence of the partner .

    (Factoid: The willingness of husbands to accept the influence of wives, alone, predicts marital success 80% of the time, but not vice versa)

Habit 3 finding the understandable part

Habit 3: Finding the understandable part

  • Key here is emotional self-regulation: Staying out of FEAR and RAGE, Learn to calm yourself enough to truly get the understandable part of your partner’s behavior, remembering that you have completely different maps, and that all behavior has, at it’s roots, a positive intention, no matter how incredibly triggering it may be to us. If you listen well, you will get a better understanding of how they see the situation.

  • Even if you understand, it doesn’t mean you must give in. Your opinions count, too

4 giving equal regard

4: Giving Equal regard

  • The most powerful form of accepting influence. Opinions count equally. Your partners opinion, even if you don’t agree with it, needs to count as much as your own.

  • Successful partners argue, and also try to convince partners that there view is better. But when you know that when the dust settles, your partner is committed to giving you equal regard, you can argue persuasively without fear that the other person will take risk.

5 offering assurance

5) Offering assurance

  • When stuck in an unproductive cycle, you can ask yourself if your partner may be feeling made wrong or criticized. By reassuring your partner that you may have been feeling judgmental or defensive, but are now willing to work with them to create a more pleasing outcome, and can consider a new perspective, you can shift often the stuckness

  • Offering an assurance is completely dependent on being able to shift from a judgmental to non-judgmental attitude without waiting for someone to make it easy to do that. If it’s to be, it’s up to me..

Habit 6 identifying and explaining what s at stake

Habit 6: Identifying and Explaining What’s at stake

  • Reasons for upset often run deeper than the current situation and relate to something bigger being at stake. Successful relators are able to explain the underlying reasons for upset, and address the bigger issues, calmly and insightfully. Successful relators do their own work to know self and clearly articulate what is at stake for them.

Examples of what might be at stake

Examples of what might be at stake

  • You may be worried if you give in, you will lose something important to you

  • You may be worried where this trend is going

  • You may be restimulated by an event from an early time in your life that needs to be clarified

  • E.g., For poly people, your partner partnering with someone else could potentially be very restimulating. You may feel your relationship base is being threatened or you will be replaced or left

Building the emotional bond

Building the emotional bond

  • 7) Being curious about your partners world

  • Partners that succeed devote more cognitive room to their partners. The spend more time thinking of how their partners are doing and ask more about their partner’s experiences (not to judge, check up on or reassure themselves, but to want to know the partner’s world)

  • What is he looking forward to, what is he proud of, what is disappointing to the partner lately, what compliments or acknowledgments have they received

  • If your partner could follow her heart right now and do one thing she wouldn’t ordinarily do, what would that be?

8 keeping sigh of the positive

8) Keeping sigh of the positive

  • Successful relators are more aware of the positive things that happen in their relationships, and acknowledge them more often.

  • When partnerships are distressed, partners underestimate the positive things that happen between them by 50% as compared to objective raters.

  • People who succeed make a point of noticing and acknowledging good stuff as it happens, and also recall more positive memories, rather than harping on hurts or disappointments

  • Poly people need to develop this even more acutely during periods of relationship challenge: NRE and Jealousy issues

  • Requires good emotional self-regulation and ability to shift attention

9 making and responding to bids for connection

9—Making and responding to bids for connection

  • Embedded in seemingly insignificant communication, the little means a lot. Small tweaks in consciousness in this area will build powerful bonds for poly people

  • Being artful in harnessing attention and giving it powerfully to our partners

  • Taking the time to make and respond to these invitations to connect is critical and very healing to relationships straining under the added complexity of poly

  • Making a point of letting partners know we are thinking of them, even when not with them. Calling partners to say we love them when we are with new partners will pay off big time

10 pursuing shared meanings

10—Pursuing shared meanings

  • Intimate partners need to feel they are on a journey together. Shared purpose, loyalty, making and keeping agreements to uphold mutually agreed upon goals and values. Even in relationships that are not primary in poly, having consciousness about what these connections are about will enhance these relationships and actually contribute to the homebase relationships. Encourages consciousness across the board. What are we up to? How do we want to support each other? Revising these shared purposes key to longevity of relationships. Revise and re-invite

  • (my own evolving partnership with John as an example)

The sequence of habits counts when upsets occur

The sequence of habits counts when upsets occur

  • Self reminder: Do something different. It’s in your interest to respond differently since the old way isn’t working by results. If you respond effectively in this instance, your partner will become more understanding and cooperative

  • Give the benefit of the doubt: avoid jumping to conclusions, assume there is some legitimacy to partners complaint or view, keep open mind, hear partner without defending self

  • Find the understandable part—make a conscious commitment to understanding partners reasoning

The top ten skills for polyamory are the top ten skills for relationship period

  • 4) Think of what is driving your upset, and identify what is at stake. Communicate your upset responsibly and informatively. Get some coaching to become aware of blind spots

  • 5) Offer assurance: you are not saying partner is right or wrong, or that partner shouldn’t be upset, and that you are not looking to have things entirely your own way

  • 6) Ask partner to work with you. Acknowledge that you are willing to make some changes and engage to find something that is a mutually acceptable solution

Now what to do if this doesn t work

Now, what to do if this doesn’t work

7) Maintain your cool. Keep track of your arousal. Don’t make a big deal of the issues at hand or your partner’s reactions. Self-soothe

  • Offer and Ask: Assure your partner you care about their feeligs and willing to work with them, but that you ask they be willing to work with you, too. Hey, I am trying to work with you and don’t feel like you are working with me. Will you partner with me now?

  • Stand up and Engage: If partner continues to criticize or dismiss your viewpoint, let your anger build. You don’t expect partner to agree with you, but you do expect that she work with you. Make it clear her attitude is not okay with you. Don’t back down, but stay engaged and demand that your partner explain why he thinks it’s okay to dismiss your point of view

  • If you partner continues to criticize or disregard, say something like, “ I don’t want to be around you now,: Disengage Reject your partner for the moment

And the most important thing is

And the most important thing is . .

  • 11) Don’t make a big deal about this exchange not working. Deal with letting go of the anger on your own. Your partner crossed the line, you stood up for yourself. Oh, well. No biggie. You can and will come back and try again when you are both calmer

  • 12) Try again later. “So that didn’t go so well. Let’s try again if you are up for it? Don’t make a case for your partner being wrong or recap the missteps. Don’t demand an apology. Go back to the first step, and be willing to stand up again as needed. Keep a sense of humor and compassion.

Special challenges jealousy and nre

Special challenges, Jealousy and NRE

  • Require exceptional operational intelligence, skill and maturity

  • Learn to make and keep agreements

  • Learn to self-soothe and self-regulate

  • NRE needs to be handled as much as jealousy.

  • Take the NRE home and share it with your partner. Be above all compassionate and tolerant of your partner’s feelings of jealousy. Listen and do the steps outlined for the sequence

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