The Polyamory Workbook Offers Practical Tips for Navigating Any Relationship

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.


Before you go! It costs money to make indie queer media, and frankly, we need more members to survive 2023As thanks for LITERALLY keeping us alive, A+ members get access to bonus content, extra Saturday puzzles, and more! Will you join? Cancel anytime.

Join A+!
Related:

shea wesley martin

shea martin (they/them/theirs) is a brilliant, queer, gender-expansive writer raised at the intersection of gospel and go-go (shout out to the DMV). With southern roots and Black queer magic, shea writes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry that smells like your grandmama’s kitchen and sounds like a deep blues moan. Find them dreaming on Twitter.

shea has written 20 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. oooo thank you shea!! i also think this book would be good for me and i am not planning on poly romantic or sexual relationships anytime soon. re space for monogamy and being ace, Dr. Kim Tallbear of Critical Polyamory blog helped me realize that monogamy, and living a full life with no romantic or sexual relationships, are just subsets of what happens when consenting adults arrange our romantic and sexual and friend relationships in ways that work best for us. poly describes another subset of these. and since dominant culture proscribes polyshaped relationships, ppl who want these have to do more work (which benefits me too, like this workbook!) sign me up for an umbrella of intentionally, consentfully, creatively arranging our relationships and allowing them and all of us in them to evolve.

  2. I think it’s a really interesting choice to have a monogamous person review this book. I can understand being peeved by the (indeed often-occurring) assertion or implication that non-monogamous relationships are the pinnacle of queerness. Queerness, freedom and nonmonogamy indeed are not all 100% exactly the same thing!!! At the same time, I can imagine that (unlike many other books about relationships) this workbook was not written with a monogamous audience in mind. Either way, I loved this review and I’m really excited to try out this workbook (my first workbook ever)! I am desperate to operate from a place of abundance in my life!

    • I agree with you. I think to answer the reviewer’s question of where do monogamous people fit, they are already affirmed by most media representation (even of queer people) and also by the dominant narrative of romantic relationships, at least in Western culture. This book isn’t specifically for a monogamous reader, and so of course it doesn’t center the affirmation of monogamous relationships, but I don’t agree that that should be included as a criticism of the book because the goal wasn’t to talk about all relationships types. I would have loved to see a poly person’s review of this book since it was written with us in mind.

      • I also would have been very interested to see that. I also just saw that in one of the sample pages for the book (page 44, do’s and don’ts of polyamory) it even says explicitly “Don’t assume polyamory makes you better than monogamous people” !! So I am really curious to see how much this review lines up with my own experience of reading it.

      • Well said. I completely agree.
        It’s not for monogamous people. I totally understand the frustration with many polyamory folks seeming to think they are more “enlightened”. I get it. Choosing either relationship style doesn’t mean it’s best, it just means it’s the best for you specifically. However, I have found it difficult to find a polyamorous book that is also queer, so to see it reviewed from a monogamous lense is disappointing. Many conversations with mono folks about polyamory frequently turn to, “well what about us?! Our relationships is great too!” But that’s the point. It’s not about monogamy, it’s about NON-monogamy and why people love it. I’d love to see a queer polyamorous person’s perspective.

        • Sorry I’d really like to add that I do appreciate Shea taking the time to read this book. They provided a sound analysis and have convinced me that I definitely do want to read it as well. Overall great review, minus the part mentioned about. Thanks!

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!