Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Figure Skating and Polyamory

Our daughter took up figure skating a year or so ago, and it's been going swimmingly well! She's very enthusiastic about it, and, although I don't relish freezing my ass off on a regular basis, it seems that the things that she's learning in the sport are applicable to many aspects of life, and to poly, particularly if you have any perfectionist leanings, as I do! ;)

So how, you may ask, is figure skating like polyamory? Well, even when some one's enthusiastic about it, there's a distinct learning curve involved. A common way to learn a skill is to flub it. Repeatedly. Continue to analyze what could have been done better, and keep trying. Persistence and resilience are absolutely key. You will fall down, you will get hurt. It's the getting back up and continuing to try that is important.

Skills build on each other, so this is why going through the early stages of poly (OPP's, lots of rules to maintain the "safety" of a specific relationship, unicorn hunting etc) is almost a needed step in the process. To learn what does work, often one must try out what doesn't work first. Some people are very happy learning a few basic skills, and like skating at that level. If you're really happy and content with knowing a couple of spins and a small jump or two, is there really a reason to push yourself to be able to throw a double axle? Perhaps not, but for some, the drive for a high level of performance is there, and finding a good "coach" to help you learn and fine-tune skills will accelerate the speed at which you are able to learn new things. In poly, that can look like mentors, support and discussion groups, books, and counseling. I feel driven, as a teacher and student, and often learn by sharing with others.

In skating, even the most accomplished of skaters crash and fall on a pretty regular basis when trying something complex. At other times, even an unseen divot in the ice, or small break in concentration can be detrimental. In poly, no matter how good your relationship skills are, there are factors that are still beyond control, and beating yourself up over a crash isn't the most useful response. There is a program, elements that must be performed. When a fall happens in a competition, getting up and continuing forward is met with applause, because we all recognize how challenging it can be to just pick yourself up and keep going, particularly when people are there to see you fall. It's not the fall that is appreciated, it's the courage to keep going when embarrassment, disappointment and pain would make it feel much easier to slink off the ice. It's making yourself vulnerable by having people observing.

To those observing here: I am dusting the ice off my shapely bottom and going forward with my program. Some day, I'm going to land that stinking triple axle, and maybe a triple/triple combination, then spin until I puke! There are many things that I still have to share, and to learn.


A girl just like any other said...


A lot of what you say makes sense, especially in the idea that when something goes wrong, you pick yourself up and move on, ultimately having learned something and gaining strength from the experience. But there are a couple of things I'm struggling with in the post.

I generally think of that learning curve as a learning curve for life, not a specific poly learning curve (And yes there are issues that arise that are specific to poly relationships, but I've found that the skills I draw on to deal with them are more universal than being poly). I don't think it's always necessary for people to start off insecure in poly relationships With lots of rules OPP, etc.) and work their way towards security. I've noticed that venturing into the poly world has been no easier or harder than venturing into the mono world. The skills learned are life skills for me. (Perhaps this is different because I've approached this as a single, not as part of a couple).

Also, what exactly does "landing a triple axle" look like? I guess I see people as people and relationships as healthy or not. I don't see them as grades of advancement...like one relationship is in "honors level" poly while another might be remedial poly. Relationships that are right for the person and are healthy thrive, and those that aren't right for the person and are unhealthy struggle. There are all sorts of life skills and factors that can contribute to success in relationships. I guess I see it as a bit more egalitarian than "advanced" and "beginner".

polyfulcrum said...

Hiya, a girl just like any other!

Thank you for the additional comments. Yes, I think that poly may be a bit different for many coming from an established dyad, or those coming from a single perspective. I also agree with your perpective on these being life skills, not just applicable to poly, or even just to relationships, however, poly _is_ the topic of the blog, so that's context I come from when I'm writing here in general.

To this point, I have yet to observe anyone whose approach to poly relationships isn't more relaxed and easy-going, with fewer rules and boundaries, after some time spent exploring that landscape.

It's good to hear you share your experience of not noticing a difference, but I'd say that is the exception, rather than the rule. The only other people that have shared a similar take on their entry to poly grew up considering themselves poly, or never did mono relationships to begin with.

Pulling a quote: " I guess I see people as people and relationships as healthy or not. I don't see them as grades of advancement..."

That's a pretty new idea to me as well! In my world, growth is a life-long process, and my relationship skills have improved over what they were 10 years ago. I'm a better partner, with better skills, because I've spent time and energy to develop myself as a person. Sure, I was quite functional, and still pretty neato back in the day, but I have many more tools in my toolbox, and am able to more readily problem solve and give to others. For someone who is interested in the type of relationships that I desire, I'm just flat out better at it than I used to be. Maybe not quite to that triple axel, but getting there! ;)

A girl just like any other said...

Thanks for the reply. Just to clarify, I think what I'm trying to get at is that I see relationship skills as a natural consequence of one's development as a human being, and the skills that can be applied to relationships can be learned in places other than relationships.

I guess I'm measuring my triple axle in my humanity, which includes but is not limited to relationships.