It's a pretty standard (and occasional pet peeve) question to polyamorous folks who choose to live together - "Where do you all SLEEP?" Sometimes delivered with a wink and a nod to lean uncomfortably into sexual territory, sometimes earnestly asked by a family member who isn't sure if they get it, sometimes delivered in well-meaning disbelief by an old friend who's come by the new house for the first time, it's a very personal question.
Where monogamous people get the assumption that if you live together, you share a bedroom, and get to be shockingly different by having separate rooms (have you ever had someone bashfully confess to you that they and their monogamous partner sleep separately because of snoring or bedtime? It's charming), polyamorous people get a mix of reactions. They can get the same one as monog folks if they don't share a room "wait does this mean it isn't a REAL relationship?" or "are things on the rocks?" or, alternately, they can get disbelief that more than two people would ever want to share space - "I can barely share a bathroom with my husband, you have three people's things in there? How?"
In reality there are as many different configurations as there are people, houses, and groupings of these. That may be a slight exaggeration, because we can sort WAYS people do these things - but everyone implements their set up in their own unique ways. The number of people living in a space, whether you're moving into an existing house or finding one that suits your ideal, whether all the people moving in with one another are in romantic relationships, your chosen amount of alone time, your number of partners who don't reside with you but come by, whether or not your house also makes space for kids, and your budget all play into choices you might make about how to reside with multiple partners. Do you have a big master suite that could fit multiple beds? Do you like "sleepovers" with partners but also having space to retreat to alone some nights? Is making sure kids have their own rooms and personal space more of a priority than making sure adults have doors that can close from each other? Would you rather have a house with lots of smaller rooms that are mostly bed but everyone can close a door on their own private space and choose who to bring into that space, whether they live with you or not? Is sharing a home a cost saving measure for you, so there are fewer rooms than your ideal but you figure it out to stay within your budget and to better afford other parts of your life?
As Corwin and I discussed on the podcast, there are lots of methods by which you can organize your space when you're polyamorous. Lots of folks, having opened a previously monogamous relationship, continue sharing bedroom space and use a guest room to see other people at first - and then have to grapple with re-configuring how they sleep if one or more other partners move in.
When I lived with my partner and ex-metamour, we would joke that our hinge partner was "nomadic" because he didn't have his own room - half his things were in each of "our" bedrooms, and he'd run back and forth between closets when getting ready in the mornings. We had a comfortably sized bathroom on the hall between the two grownup bedrooms, and a second one between the living room and the kids' rooms that was our "kids and guest bathroom." If my other partners came over, it would be on a night that the hinge was with my meta - so there was a lot of checking schedules for the week and planning who slept where when. Our hinge partner didn't mind not having his own bedroom most of the time- his private space was his office with big gaming computer, and he was cool with that. Other people might not have been.
As discussed in that podcast episode, at one point Corwin lived in a triad that wanted to share a room and feel able to spend time together but hated being tall people crammed into a bed so they built "megabed" - two large mattresses next to each other so that everyone could fit comfortably in the master bedroom. They had a guest bedroom that sometimes got used if someone had a shift transition (some of his partners did medical-field jobs with occasional shift changes) or wanted to sleep by themself for any reason, as well as for guests. When their triad opened up, the guest room became a place to spend time with partners outside the triad without putting nesting partners out of their room, as well. Again, this setup wouldn't work for everyone - not every house is going to have the kind of space you need to put two mattresses in the main bedroom, and not everyone wants that - but it worked for them and that's what matters.
Choices about these matters are both individual and practical. Some people feel very strongly about feeling close to partners by sharing bedrooms. Some people feel as though all adults should have their own private spaces with the option to fall asleep in them; others think you can build alone time in without bedroom spaces being affected. Folks who own their homes have done interesting renovations to make space sharing easier, and others have changed to renting bigger spaces to allow for four or five polycule members to fit in without feeling like it isn't their home.
I've known people who dealt with the space concerns of being polyamorous in many different ways. Anything from multiple tiny houses on a piece of land, to sharing a bedroom and bathroom in a small house, and everything between, is possible. If you live with multiple members of your polycule, how do you live?
I'm working on a book about polyamorous cohabitation, and I want to know more about how folks live! If you're living now (or have lived) in a household with 3 or more members of your polycule, please take a minute to fill out this 10 question anonymous form. If you'd be willing to talk to me further on this subject, please include your email in the answer to the last question, and I'll be in touch within a few days. Thank you so much for helping out!