I’m in a fairly new polyamorous relationship with my husband and my lesbian partner. Do you have couples nights? I feel like I am walking a tight rope trying to keep both partners happy and if one of them isn’t annoyed with me the other one is! I had an emotional meltdown the other night and really hope you can help.
I remember the early days of my relationship with my partners. We were all so excited and fond of each other that none of us wanted to impose any formal rules, and boundaries felt like a rude barrier to our organic love fest. We wanted things to flow freely, but instead we created was a shit storm of weird feelings and jealousy that haunts us all to this day.
Make no mistake; turning the conventional relationship model on its ear will challenge the nerves of even the steeliest soul. We are doing everything differently than the relationship models we grew up with. I don’t think this means we shouldn’t challenge convention to make our lives richer, but I do think it means we ought to be realistic about what we expect of each other and ourselves.
At some point in a polyamorous relationship, everyone is going to feel jealous. Anyone who tells you they haven’t felt that way is lying to you. We are conditioned to feel jealousy from our very early days in our culture that constantly encourages us to focus on what we don’t have. The media perpetually reminds us that we aren’t enough. Throw the dynamics of your family of origin into that special sauce and we are easily turned into green-eyed monsters. Jealousy will happen. Be patient and forgiving with yourself and your lovers. Let those jealous feelings come, but don’t wallow in them. When you feel them, find something you love to do and do it immediately. Force yourself to reflect on all of the abundance in your life; after all you have TWO people who adore you! You must be awesome. (Do share that idea with your partners too so they don’t have to feel bad about jealousy).
Your relationship with everyone in your life will only be as healthy as your relationship with yourself. This is why I’m a huge proponent of therapy, which is a long process, but the best gift you’ll ever give yourself. There are also some practical measures you can implement to help your poly life flow smoothly.
Make a Schedule
Divide the week like this; time for your man, time for your lady, time for yourself, time for the grown ups, time for the whole family. Before you panic at how insane that seems consider this sample schedule:
Alternate your nights between your two partners. On these nights, you can enjoy a date night out when your budget permits. One of the best things about poly life is that if one pair wants some time out, there’s always a great sitter! Spontaneity comes with what you decide to do with your alone time with your partner.
If possible, and if your space permits, spend at least one night a week on your own. If you can’t spend a night sleeping on your own, make absolutely sure you are carving out time to just have some alone space. If you can afford the space in your home, each adult should have just a little nook to call his or her own.
Spend some time in the evenings with both of your partners doing the things you enjoy, even things as simple as vegging out with your favourite TV show. Encourage your partners to spend time together without you there so they can get to know each other better. Reserve one day on the weekend for family day and chose simple, fun activities to enjoy together. If you have kids, family day should be focused around them and their needs. Keep family ties strong by insisting on family dinners all together, and bed time story and tuck in (if you have kids) with all three partners.
Tend Your Relationships
All of your relationships need tending, and if you haven’t done the math, here’s a breakdown of your relationships and the hierarchy they should be in:
1. Your relationship to yourself – This one is the most important! You must take care of yourself first, and really understand your own needs and wants. Take care of your heart, your mind, and your body so that you will be a well-oiled love machine.
2. Your relationship to your children. If you have kids, they come next. Some would argue that the adult relationships come first, but I think that’s bullshit. Our kids rely on us wholly, so we owe it to them to be as close to the top of the ladder as possible.
3. Your partners’ relationship to your children. This needs to be strong if your poly family is all under one roof. Some poly parents keep their adult relationships at a distance from their kids, but if you are aiming to be one big happy poly family (like us) you must make sure your partners are getting their own quality time with the kids, and that you’re helping to strengthen their relationships with your support.
4 (a & b) Your relationship to each of your partners. You signed up to love more than one person, so you need to make sure you’re doing that in a fair, balanced way. Be careful not to get too caught up in the glow of a new relationship and thereby neglect your more mature relationship with your first partner. One of those relationships may feel like more work than the other, but I promise you that balance will shift back and forth, so you need to make sure you’re tending both.
5. Your partners’ relationship to each other. True, it’s not your responsibility to manage your partners’ relationship with one another, but it is important that you are clear about how important their good relationship is to you. Remind them that you want them to enjoy each other’s company, buy them tickets to a movie or a game, offer to sit back while they go out and hang on a patio. Make sure they know that you want them both to get along. Don’t get in the middle of things if they don’t get along from time-to-time. This will give you ulcers and/or make you bald. Ask Daddy about that one. All you can do is be an ear, and let them know how you feel about their actions/words/behavior.
Be Okay with Being Selfish
Remember how hard it was to learn to appreciate each other’s needs when you were in the early stages with your first partner? Maybe you haven’t even really figured that out yet. Well, now you’re adding layer upon layer of complexity!
Nobody is going to know what you need and want unless you are comfortable asking for those things. You won’t be comfortable asking for anything until you are spending quality time understanding your own needs. You must not be afraid to speak your mind and ask for what you want, even if those needs and wants are really scary.
The three of us made the mistake of not clearly defining and expressing our needs and it led to huge, devastating imbalance in our lives. We aren’t always able to meet each other’s needs, but at least if we know what they are, we can work towards compromise and harmony.
Make Time to Talk
You need one-on-one time to talk with your partners about your relationships, but you also need to create safe emotional space where the three of you can talk with each other about these needs. Beware the mistake of trying to ‘shelter’ the other person from anything you deem threatening or negative. I think most of us would really just address any elephants who may wander into the bedroom rather than dance around them. They will stomp on your head if you try to ignore them.
Good luck with the adventures ahead, and thanks for reaching out. I hope I’ve helped, and I hope you can carve out some quality time where you can focus on all of the loves of your life, including you!
Kisses on your nose,