Self-Awareness: Michael Jackson and the Oracle of Delphi walk into a bar...

The punchline to this one is probably cleaner than every other Michael Jackson joke you know.

The punchline to this one is probably cleaner than every other Michael Jackson joke you know.

Many polyamorists will tell you that the most important fundamental of any non-traditional relationship is communication.  "Communicate, communicate, communicate!" has become the unofficial motto of the community.  To be fair, effective communication will get you out of most relationship jams, and good communicators will definitely have an easier time in an open relationship.  However, I think there is one quality that is even more important: self-awareness.

The Ancient Greeks knew what was up.  It was engraved in the wall at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (which is where the Oracle of Delphi hung out): "Gnothi Seauton".  Know thyself.  

Unfortunately, "Gnothi seauton, gnothi seauton, gnothi seauton!" is not quite as catchy as far as mottos go.  What is catchy and says almost the same thing is Man In the Mirror by good ol' MJ (probably a descendant of the Oracle of Delphi).  If the poly community wanted to adopt it as a new motto, I would not complain.

Self-awareness is the step before communication.  If you know your deep-seated desires, insecurities, beliefs, vulnerabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, then you can begin envisioning what your ideal romantic life would be.  You can begin to illuminate what you need or want out of love, sex, dates, or long-term relationships.  You can understand why certain acts or thoughts inspire feelings of jealousy or insecurity or arousal or even compersion!  And the best part is that self-awareness can be obtained by any number of means.  Meditation, self-development courses or books, spiritual practice, therapy, or any other kind of courageous self-examination can put you on the right track.  

It may be tempting to settle for surface level self-awareness.  I usually see this manifest in people who say, "I know I'm way too jealous of a person to ever do that." Or, "That's just the way I am."  If you really dig in to who you are and what makes you tick, you'll probably be surprised to discover that there is no one way that you are.  It is constantly shifting.  The desires, emotions, impulses, and fears that make up you are never static.  One moment is jealousy, the next is peace, the next is compersion, the next is fear, then it comes back around to jealousy, then to gratitude, and so on and so forth.  Claiming that I am a jealous person, or that I am peaceful person, or that I am a fearful person is simultaneously true and false.  Having the ability to clearly see within and observe the changing landscape is paramount when embarking on the vulnerable journey of a non-traditional relationship.

Of course, the path to self-awareness is riddled with embarrassing landmarks.  You will make mistakes in communication, and you will be the victim of other people's mistakes.  As you peel away your layers, strange and uncomfortable facets of yourself may be revealed to you.  But the wisdom and growth you will gain is priceless.  

Get out there, spend some time with yourself, sing some Michael Jackson karaoke, and really get to know the you underneath the surface.  Your partner(s) will be glad you did.