Poly life is anything but simple. There are schedules to keep, emotional needs to balance, and sexual relationships to maintain. Some poly people choose to keep things casual, with limited interaction between partner’s partners, and more of a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach. Others, however, choose to buy a compound in the Adirondacks and live as one.
So, what happens when close is too close, and how can you tell if your polycule has crossed the line from cozy to dysfunctional?
4 Signs Your Polycule Is Dysfunctional
1. Lack of Boundaries
Be they physical or emotional, boundaries are important for maintaining a healthy polycule. Do you and your partners respect each other’s time and space? Do you adhere to a set of rules around privacy and transparency?
When your lover is out with someone else, do you refrain from texting them except in emergency situations? If so, you’re doing well on the boundaries front. Polycules that lack guidelines around personal space can become chaotic and even toxic.
It stands to reason that all the chaos and toxicity I just mentioned could eventually lead to widespread conflict. In order for poly relationships to work well, all its members must be given the space to express their emotions fully without interruption or judgement.
Of course, nobody’s perfect and tempers flare, but for the most part you should feel that there’s time between fights to take a breath, and that you’re not being crushed under the weight of constant negativity.
3. Feelings of Being Trapped
No one in your polycule should feel powerless to leave it. If they do, you’re not in a poly relationship. You’re in a cult. Sure, it can be hard to walk away when feelings are involved, but sometimes it’s the healthiest thing to do.
If you’ve tried to break free but have been met with gaslighting, manipulation, or any other kind of abusive behavior, seek help. These are not part and parcel of being in a poly relationship. Healthy polycules allow people the space to do what they need to do for themselves.
Signs of co-dependency include the inability to be alone, the need for your partners to validate you, the need to act for “the greater good” of you polycule regardless of your own personal needs or desires, and a pattern of enabling bad behavior.
Co-dependency exists on a continuum, meaning that just about everyone is bound to exhibit signs of it from time to time. If you feel that it’s a driving force in your polycule, however, you are all probably just a little too close for comfort.