When a Partner Wants to Disengage from the Poly Group

It’s been quite a year for my polycule. We’ve traveled together and had lots of conversations about the future. We’ve also had a couple of instances when one or more of us has needed to pull our chairs back from the kitchen table a bit.

The truth is, for those of us who are introverted or dealing with our own issues, it can feel exhausting to be so intimately involved with a whole group of people. Sometimes we need to take a little break, and there’s no shame in that. If understood and handled well, it doesn’t even have to create a huge rift in the group.

How to Handle a Partner’s Request for Time Out

DO listen fully. Try to understand what your partner needs and why. It can be hard to listen to things you don’t want to hear, but it’s important to try. Getting defensive, or interrupting the conversation with your own concerns will only drive your partner to want to isolate themselves more.

DON’T force the status quo. If your partner doesn’t want to hear about what you and the rest of the polycule talked about over lunch, don’t make them listen. Don’t share stuff if it’s going to make your partner feel disrespected or overwhelmed. Even if it’s something you’ve always talked about in the past, make an effort to adjust to the new normal.

DO respect the new boundaries. They’re there for a reason. So your partner doesn’t want to be so involved with the kitchen table aspect of your poly life? It’s their choice. They might decide to come back into the fold at some point, or they might not. Either way, you need to let them have the life they want.

DON’T sacrifice your own happiness. That said, if the new dynamic between your partner and the rest of the group is making you miserable, you need to speak up. It’s a sad thing to consider, but you might need to break things off with that person, if you can’t find a way to deal with their new demands. While it’s true that being poly requires you to balance a lot of different needs, your needs are still important.

DO accept that relationships change. I know it sucks, but even the most solid relationships shift and change over time. Poly relationships are probably even more prone to upheaval, simply because there are so many moving parts to them. If you can learn to embrace the changes, you’ll be much happier and more receptive of the positive things that can come as a result. When you allow everyone the freedom to pursue their own needs, good things do happen.

DON’T take it personally. It’s easy to feel hurt when someone in your polycule asks for space. You might feel it’s in direct response to something you’ve said or done, but more often than not, it’s about stuff that person is dealing with in their own life. Depression tends to make us pull away, or overwhelming feelings of stress. It’s best to let them go until they’re ready to return, if they are at all. Tell them you care about them, but try not to make it all about you.

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