I have always loved workbooks — black and white pages prompting me to write, draw, imagine, and reflect bring me so much joy. If I think back to when eight-year-old me was happiest, it was when I was holding some sort of workbook or novel to occupy my ever-racing mind. That happy feeling tracks for present-day me as well, so I was excited to review The Polyamory Workbook by Sara Youngblood Gregory.
Like the most successful polyamorous relationships, Sara Youngblood Gregory’s workbook is a true community effort, which saves the book from being just another self-help book authored by a white woman with too much privilege and so many damn “answers” for all of us. It’s 2022, and the last thing we need is another white woman telling us how to get free, so the inclusion of other (read: BIPOC and trans) voices in this workbook feels like a breath of fresh air. Youngblood Gregory fuses reflections on her own experience with interviews with folks like Sam (Shrimp Teeth) and Crystal Bird Farmer (Black and Poly), plus dialogue with her own polycule. Nestled between these rich conversations are prompts for reflection and practical tips for engaging with the wonderful (and sometimes messy) parts of polyamory.
Almost a decade into navigating polyamorous relationships, Youngblood Gregory suggests that “freedom [within this context] looks like dealing with the difficult parts of yourself — the jealousy, the pettiness, and the insecurity — and looks toward compassion.” Her prompts, glossaries, and examples guide readers down what might be a rocky road to better understanding ourselves, our desires, and our partners. In true workbook fashion, it seems only appropriate that I leave you with a list of my biggest takeaways and wonderings after reading The Polyamory Workbook:
1. This book is for everyone, not just those interested in or involved in polyamorous relationships.
I opened up The Polyamory Workbook happily engaged, in a monogamous relationship, with a firm desire to continue in that relationship for the foreseeable future. I finished reading the book in the same place. However, the workbook provided prompts that helped me explore my understanding of monogamy, trust, and boundaries, and those insights have already changed how I approach my platonic and romantic relationships. The crux of Youngblood Gregory’s argument about polyamory is this: like most fulfilling things in life, polyamory requires intentionality, commitment, and reflection on your development. This workbook is for anyone who wants to be more intentional in how you move through and within your relationships, whether you’re polyamorous or not.
2. What if we just all operated from a place of abundance?
The third chapter, “Making the Switch from a Monogamous to a Polyamorous Mindset,” offers prompts and examples for folks wanting to truly interrogate their scarcity mindset and shift towards an abundance mindset in their relationships. Recalling her conversation with Sam, Youngblood Gregory reminds us that an abundance mindset allows us “to recognize that constraints are about perspective…You give each other freedom to choose when and how you allocate resources, knowing there will always be more opportunities to share love, time, attention.” Reading through a queer and abolitionist lens, I so appreciated this reminder of the abundant and infinite nature of love that can guide how we see, shape, and engage in all of our relationships. Living in this world, it’s easy for us to default to competition and scarcity mindsets. Youngblood Gregory urges us to “let go of entitlement, fear, paranoia, and defensiveness, and lean into freedom.” After reading this book, I’m definitely learning hard into a more liberatory mindset of abundance in my everyday life.
3. Narratives that conflate queerness, freedom, and polyamory leave little room for those in monogamous relationships to experience “freedom.”
For Youngblood Gregory, “feminism, queerness, and polyamory are inseparable.” And I get it — we all have our own journeys toward what makes us feel whole, seen, and affirmed on this wretched earth. However, there’s this growing narrative in the larger queer community of polyamory or non-monogamy as the ultimate queer freedom-dream, and I’m not buying it. I want to make clear, the author doesn’t outright say this, but sometimes her sentiments in the workbook suggest that engaging in polyamory is the pinnacle of living the queerest, freest, radical life. While reading, I found myself wondering, where do the rest of us fit? Is there room for us monogamous folks within these ideas of radical living, queerness, and freedom?
4. If we all completed the exercises in The Polyamory Workbook, life might be less messy and more honest.
There is a ton of research coming out these days about how our social skills have shifted throughout the pandemic. I have found my own social battery to be forever on “E,” and I (like most adults I know) struggle navigating the awkward terrain of moving from acquaintances to friends.
When I was trudging my way through The Polyamorous Workbook, I found myself making connections to the topics’ relevance in how I navigate friendships, community-building, and even work. For example, in Chapter 7, Youngblood Gregory invites readers to think critically about the boundaries we want to put in place for ourselves in relationships. As I completed the reflection on boundaries, I couldn’t help but think about all of the times in my life when communicating my boundaries would’ve saved me from some intense arguments, hurt feelings, or misunderstandings.
What really hit home for me was the discussing on vetting in Chapter 10. Now of course, I won’t be vetting anyone for a romantic or sexual relationship any time soon, but these days, I have a limited capacity for engaging in any type of relationship — so vetting and/or being really intentional about the people I am committed to supporting and loving is definitely something I want to explore.
I wish I could send pieces of this book to all of the people I have ever loved. We all need to learn how to communicate our needs and desires more honestly.
5. Community over everything – FOREVER.
Youngblood Gregory makes it very clear that polyamory is about more than just sex. She argues that polyamory is a way of making it (and maybe even thriving) in this world, “a way to build a network of care, support mutual investment, and aid.” This workbook is a testament to knowing yourself, finding your people, loving fiercely, and making it through.
Sara Youngblood Gregory’s The Polyamory Workbook comes out on November 15, 2022. You can pre-order The Polyamory Workbook now.