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Shattered Possibilities

Time management for poly relationships is hard. Everyone who has thought about being involved with multiple people realizes this; it may be the single thing the poly community can actually agree on. I thought I knew what that meant and I thought I was doing a reasonable job. On the immediate level of balancing time and actually seeing people I think I was.

Recently I've been thinking about long-term commitments—about what I want going forward and about what relationships make sense. I guess one approach might be to avoid long-term commitment: spend time on each relationship and allow the priorities to float as they will. If a relationship doesn't seem to get enough time then perhaps it should fade away. Perhaps but that approach is not for me. I don't see how you would build families under such an approach nor how you would work through hard times in a relationship. So long-term commitment is desirable. Clearly there are a finite and small number of commitments you can have just as
there are a finite small number of relationships you can be in. So again a time and resource management problem arises.

I've been pondering how to manage this issue. Interestingly, I have not really wanted to do a bunch of research into how others have solved the problem. I may do that now, but I felt it important to find my own solution first. The results have been painful. First, I'll take a look at how this works in a sort of idealized model of a monogamous relationship. Typically people spend some period of time trying to see how compatible they are. Dating serves an important winnowing function: is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with? At least if you are looking for a life partner, you eventually move on to something like engagement or move on to another relationship.

Of course there is some of the same going on in a poly relationship. It's always possible to find out that you cannot stand someone you're dating. But things are more complicated. You can
determine that the relationship has limits: you might find that you would never want to form a family with someone. Just because there are limits doesn't mean that the relationship should end. Instead I find I'm faced with painful decisions. I need to balance commitments based on comparisons against existing and potential future relationships. This is good for us is no longer sufficient reason to commit to something; it is impossible to avoid comparing to other priorities. For me this has been very painful because there are some ways in which I am not able to just treat each relationship as its own experience.

Inherently, there is going to be a lot of getting close to people, and making tough decisions about how long things should last and about balancing an ever decreasing set of resources. But you cannot let the possibility of future pain limit how close you get to people. Doing so would make it impossible to discover exactly the sorts of relationships I'm looking for. So, I'm faced with
a life of growing as close to people as I can only to find that there is a probability of painful decisions and realizations at the end. I think this is the point where a lot of people would admit that time management really is too hard and perhaps a less painful lifestyle is in order. That's just not me: I could not give up the ability to continue to grow close and to love.

Comments

(Anonymous)

wrong focus

You say:

"I think this is the point where a lot of people would admit that time management really is too hard and perhaps a less painful lifestyle is in order. That's just not me: I could not give up the ability to continue to grow close and to love."

Most people realize that it's not time management that is hard, it is hurting people that is hard. You are balancing your growing closer to someone and loving them with the hurting them when there is mismatched expectations or desires. If you do not wish to form a family with someone and they do wish it, you hurt them. Getting your poly partners onto the same page for desires and expectations takes time. But it is not fundamentally about time. It is about balancing joy and pain.

You may find it is you if your desire for a stable family ramps up. That seems to be when poly people discover they need to make a family, and have playful friends as well. Different world than your current one, but it's a common destination.
You said: "But you cannot let the possibility of future pain limit how close you get to people."

It may be useful to think of this as a continuum, or something even more complex, and not an on/off thing. If I kick you in the shin repeatedly every time I see you, you may find that you want to limit how close you get to me. On the other hand, if you decide to avoid all persons with feet so as to avoid the possibility of getting kicked, you might be missing out. Extreme physical examples, sure, but I think they convey my point.

You also said: "I think this is the point where a lot of people would admit that time management really is too hard and perhaps a less painful lifestyle is in order. That's just not me: I could not give up the ability to continue to grow close and to love."

I am wondering if you could say more about this (here, or by email, or next time we visit, whenever). I'm curious what change you are imagining that would require you to give up the ability to continue to grow close and to love.

(Anonymous)

Poly

The Oneida Colony poly experiment was a failure, so they switched to making silverware which was a success.

--arley