“My current poly situation: 31F with multiple separate and distinct partners (each heterosexual males with no interest in meeting each other, two new relationships within the last few weeks, one long-term partner who I was monogamous with first before breaking up and getting back together as poly).
My problem: Time management (which I’m actually really good at but struggling here) where each partner is expecting the same attention (texting, calling, in person) as if we were monogamous. Doesn’t help that I’ve always been independent and introverted already. Almost forgot to mention I’m also working while going to school full-time.
My questions: (1) How do you establish time for yourself and communicate that to a new partner and an old partner without hurting their feelings or denying their needs? (2) How do you handle holidays and special occasions? Here’s a good example: Valentine’s day…
Your Questions: Feel free to ask if it helps clarify and allows for better advice. New to this within the last year so all wisdom is appreciated!”
TL;DR – Poly but my partners wanna stay separate, and it’s overloading my schedule. Advice?
Dear Smiths Falls 32,
Your first question is really two parts: “How do you establish time for yourself while in polyamorous relationship?” and “How can you communicate that with old and new partners without hurting their feelings or denying their needs?”
As another introvert, I definitely relate to needing to establish some alone time to unwind and regroup. For me personally, I try to set aside one or two days a week for uninterrupted alone time where I am not interacting with anyone. I utilize Google Calendar to organize all of my dates and plans for myself. So when I sit down to plan for the upcoming week, I try to squeeze in one or two days to myself after the date schedules finalize. I let my partners know when I’m doing my own thing (whether that is a treat-yo-self spa day or a 10-hour-video-game-marathon day) that this specific day is blocked out for some quality me time, to be uninterrupted. So that might be a way you can establish some time for yourself with multiple partners.
The answer for the second half of that question is a bit more tricky. I personally communicate directly with each of my partners what my personal expectations are in terms of time investment. I simply let each of my partners know that I will be allotting X number of days a week/month. And adjust if necessary. For me, that expectation communication almost always laid out in a take-it-or-leave-it kind of way, that this is really all I can afford at this moment. This way, each of my partners can make an informed decision for themselves on my own level of commitment. It’s really interesting to hear you say that each of your partners are expecting monogamous-level time investment. I would advise to repeatedly communicate your own expectations and hold firm to your boundaries on those expectations.
As for your actual second question, I set aside specific times to celebrate my holidays when I can. So this past holiday season, I ended up hosting a small get-together of my three partners for Thanksgiving the weekend before the actual Thanksgiving. But I don’t think this would be relevant for you since your partners are all parallel. In similar instances, I have just ended up celebrating multiple Valentines Days and multiple birthdays, just not on that specific day. After all, the celebration itself does not have to be on the day, right? This year’s Valentines Day falls on a Friday, so you might be able to get away with doing consecutive dates with your respective partners throughout that weekend.
If you feel restricted due to how thinly you have to slice your weeks, you might also benefit from considering kitchen table poly form where there are some overlaps between your relationships. I go into what kitchen table really entails in a previous column here.
Another option you can decide on is to reflect and accept that if your bandwidth is too full, it is okay to de-escalate some or all of your relationships until you have more space available for those relationships to bloom. You said you’re attending school full-time and manage to do handful of your own independent relationships. That is a hefty load you’re managing there. It’s no wonder you feel so thinly spread.
If you only have enough flour to bake two cakes, making four cakes out of that same amount of flour is going to yield four bad cakes. If you want to learn more about how to de-escalate, you can read a previous column here.
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