Tips & Advice

Individual Relationships within the Poly Dynamic

Couple Cuddling on Couch

If you’re thinking of entering into a ploy relationship, I’m sure you’ll be asked some variation of the following: “How can you handle the complexities of two relationships? I can hardly handle one!” I never know quite how to answer this question because there are so many factors that go into maintaining any relationship, poly or otherwise, and that trying to explain how it all goes together is like trying to narrate a string quartet.

One thing I can say is that my poly relationship feels remarkably similar to many of the monogamous ones I’ve been in. The only real difference is that there are more people to consider and more emotional impacts to be felt as a result of my actions. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, but often it’s just a case of managing individual relationships within the context of the greater poly dynamic, a practice that’s not too far removed from any other form of interpersonal effort. The following are things to consider about maintaining the many individual relationships that make up the poly whole.

Be Prepared for the Connection
This is the obvious and sometimes difficult first step to being in a poly relationship, at least in the “kitchen table” variety. It might take some soul searching to discover if you’re truly comfortable with being so intimately connected to your partner, your partner’s partner and the ever expanding constellation of other partners that may exist. If you’re not ready for it, the amount of personal interaction that is required of you could be a complete nightmare. Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle it before you find yourself wanting to shut down and run for the hills.

Offer Support and Accept Help when Needed
Part of being open to the multiple connections of a poly relationship is acknowledging that there will be times when you might be called upon to offer support. It’s important to make an effort to be present and available in times of need as it shows everyone in the relationship that you care, and that you’re not just in it for yourself. For the same reasons, you want to be willing to accept their help and support as well. It can be scary to open yourself up like that but the benefits are great when you consider the deep connection that comes from being vulnerable, multiplied by all the people in your poly relationship.

Be Willing to Listen and Compromise
Sometimes you might be required to consider the concerns and wishes of one particular person in the group, even when they affect the relationship between you and your partner. In my case, we have been dealing with the diagnosis of an STI and have agreed to abstain from sex far longer than the doctor deemed necessary so that this person can feel comfortable. In some ways it’s been a struggle, but in other ways it’s been relationship-strengthening as it reminds us that we are all in this together and that we truly care for each other’s health and happiness. Of course, there’s always a limit to how much you might be willing to compromise and it’s okay to be up front about that. The point is to be honest within each of your relationships and to find the balance.

Watch this inspiring video on the power of vulnerability:

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