A long time ago now, I wrote a blog about relationships states, with being single on the ‘low’ end of the scale and being poly at the zenith, this being the ultimate form of having a relationship.
It’s miserably hot and my mind is wandering even as I try to stay cool and hydrated… and my mind got stuck on this one and, really, more about the mistakes in being poly than the good things relating in this fashion can bring to the table. Once you get past the hurdle of finding others who are willing to forego monogamy for that rare chance to have their cake and eat it, too, my mind reasoned that the biggest problem after getting started is management and more so than being in a monogamous relationship.
No relationship is really self-sustaining; you don’t start one and then it just goes and takes care of itself – we learn, and often, the hard way, that relationships take constant work and attention: They have to be managed. If you think managing a monogamous relationship takes a lot of work – and they do – then the poly relationship will severely test your ability to manage things as well as your ability to either multi-task or compartmentalize.
In a word, it sounds and looks good on paper… but the reality can be the mother of all motherfuckers. I’ve learned that management can be a problem when you’re trying to do your poly thing while holding on to monogamy’s rules; they are not any easy thing to get rid of and understandably so because you’re still pretty much having one-on-one relationships… just with more than one person… and we tend to deal with one-on-one relationships in the same manner we deal with marriage and being monogamous.
Doesn’t sound all that inviting, does it?
There are a few polyamorous bloggers I follow – and I point out that they are women – and you can read their blogs and see both the joys of being poly as well as the migraine-inducing headaches and mostly because management of multiple ongoing relationships is a bitch – I cannot think of a word that would accurately describe it with any more emphasis.
You’re either getting or giving too much attention or not enough; depending on how your poly relationship is formed, even having sex – which one would think is pure joy all by itself – can be problematic; again, you’re either getting too much or it’s not enough.
Management isn’t all about ‘scheduling’ or parceling out your time and energies so that each of your poly partners gets to spend time alone with you; it’s also about managing personalities; it’s about being intimate with each person in ways that have nothing to do with sex. You all might have that shared goal of making the poly relationship work but it’s not entirely about what you’re doing or how you’re doing it – the shape of the relationship – as much as it is about the individuals that comprise said relationship… and that makes things both very different and a near nightmare to manage.
It can be done, though – let’s not lose sight of that. But if people have tried to be poly and have failed, well, I’m the guy telling you where the failure points are. You really do have to be an exceptional person to manage the complexities of a poly relationship; you also need equally exceptional people to not only be in such a relationship but to do their part in the management side of things.
Some have asked me what the most difficult thing about being poly is and my answer has pretty much always been trying to keep everything straight in my head – management. As I mentioned, a ‘normal’ relationship just doesn’t run on its own – it’s not self-sustaining – and each person in the relationship must do their part to push things in the agreed-upon direction. It’s not easy, as a lot of us have found out… but then add another person… then another… then two more and now you see how incredibly difficult managing not only the people but the relationship as a whole can be.
I’d have to say that if you’re doing things right, what others may see is you having a weird kind of relationship – and you’re making it look easy, which is so unbelievable that you’ll get asked just how in the hell you can be doing such a thing – and you get asked that a lot. I know that when people asked this of me, I’d smile, kinda shake my head, and tell them that it’s not as easy as it might look.
Think of icebergs, if it helps; it’s not what you see that’s the problem/danger – it’s the part of the berg that you can’t see. You know it’s there… but you have no idea of how much is really hidden. Think of a punch in boxing: The one you see might hurt you if you can’t dodge it – but it’s the punch you don’t see that’ll knock you the fuck out.
Trust me, you don’t handle the management in a good way, you will get knocked the fuck out. Of course, it all depends on what poly ‘style’ you have adopted or have put in place, the more common varieties are open – anyone can add folks to the mix – or closed – it’s just us and additional entrances are debatable or out of the question. I cannot honestly say which poly state is the easier to deal with; to me, they have their inherent issues where management is concerned.
In a lot of ways, being poly does and can mean “the more, the merrier” – and not really because at some point, you’re gonna find out just how much work maintaining such a relationship can be – it can make being married look easy but just like being married, you have to make it work because just like any other relationship, it’s only going to be as good as everyone can make it.