How to Manage Expectations in Poly Relationships

For every couple there is a unique relationship dynamic. Based on the fact that everyone has different needs and different ways of relating to one another, no two partnerships are alike. This is particularly apparent in poly relationships given that one experiences these differences everyday, between every connection that is nurtured. At the start of a new relationship, it can be hard to figure out what to expect from your partner, or even what you’re willing to give. Being open and ready to talk about these things is so important.

Tips on Managing Expectations in New Poly Relationships

Be honest about the amount of time you can devote to each relationship. Unlike in monogamy, there is an inherent understanding in poly relationships that you will be sharing time between partners and that you will not be the sole recipient of your partner’s affections. This can mean that at times you might be faced with tight scheduling or unexpected changes and cancellations. While these disappointments are a part of life, they never feel good. It’s impossible to do away with them all together, but their frequency can be greatly reduced by knowing your limits and expressing them from the start. If your previous commitments dictate that you can only see your new partner once a week, be up front about it. Leaving it up fate or assumption can lead to some hurtful misunderstandings.

Be honest about your emotional availability. Maybe you’re the kind of person who can enjoy fully intimate relationships with each one your partners, or maybe you find the idea to be completely overwhelming. Like the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to each of your partners, it’s important to spell out how much of your heart you’re able to give. If you’re just looking for something casual with a new partner, it’s best to say it right away. If you want something deeper, it’s good to specify that too. You want to avoid confusion and attract the person whose needs will compliment yours.

Be consistent to avoid confusion. If you’ve made your boundaries clear and your partner has developed expectations based on what the two of you are comfortable with, it’s only fair to stick to the agreement and not randomly change things up. Even if one of your other relationships has ended, thereby freeing up your time a bit, or you’ve met someone new, causing you to rethink your availability, you’ll want to talk to your other partners first, before making any changes to things. It’s the respectful thing to do and it will keep everybody in the loop. A change in availability could be misconstrued as a change in your feelings, so be sure to make adjustments mindfully.

Have regular check-ins. Even with all of your boundaries and agreements in place, expectations have a way of shifting over time. It’s always a good idea to set aside time to talk about how your relationship is progressing and if the current arrangement is still working for everyone. Emotions are fluid and no amount of planning or limit-setting can control them. What these measures can provide, however, is a framework in which your relationship can develop honestly and with a lesser degree of conflict. Even if expectations change, you can feel good in knowing you’ve made an effort to manage them in a thoughtful and ongoing way.

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