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Compatibility is Less Obvious Than You'd Think

It seems like the primary problem for a polyamorous person would be “do we get along well enough to date?” and then “are they interested in polyamory or already polyamorous?” and if both are a yes, everyone is all set. While that’s certainly the first question, it’s unfortunately not the last.

Compatibility in a polyamorous relationship can be complicated by all the same factors as compatibility in monogamous relationships - are you looking for something serious right now? If so: Do you want kids/Do you have kids? Are you good with money? Do you keep house in comfortably compatible ways? Do you intend to move soon or travel as part of your lifestyle? Do either/any of you have issues with addiction that will complicate your relationship to the point of incompatibility?

And compatibility is additionally complicated by uniquely polyamorous problems: are you looking for relationships to fit into similar structures or can you handle being a connection between differing networks? Do you have enough time and energy to give each other the relationship you want without neglecting the other relationship(s) you’re already in? Are you prepared to help each other address jealousy head on?

I think many of us are “trained” from a pretty young age to make sure we know our answers to the monogamous questions as if they’re universal. A lot of them do transfer over, so it’s good if we’re self-aware enough to have paid attention and noticed them. Some of them, like if you’d live together well, you won’t know until you’re quite deep in with someone unless you’re starting to date a long-time friend, but it’s good to note that they matter and try to keep them in the back of your mind.

The two ways that relationship “structure” can matter is in the matter of hierarchy or non-hierarchical relationships and kitchen table to parallel relationships. I think the latter is much more easily overcome; but for some people, a casual relationship with someone who considers them secondary where they don’t use that term in their own relationships generally is fine, so long as they don’t make a larger habit of it.

Time and energy (or, combined, “bandwidth”) for a relationship you’re adding can be a pretty hard thing to judge if you’re swept up in feelings and NRE. It’s important to try to look at your schedule and be realistic about how often you’ll see someone while maintaining your connections with other partners. Most polyamorous people are understanding about a few weeks of excitement and less time while you’re seeing someone new a little extra, but long-term shifting of priorities can leave people feeling lost and forgotten.

This can mean that newest partners gain time in your schedule slowly, especially if your partners don’t prefer a kitchen table model of polyamory - so both or all of you being prepared to talk over and process jealous moments can be important. As we’ve mentioned before, jealousy is a reminder to see what’s happening, and can be harmless or serious depending on the moment, but the checking on it matters.

It’s really tempting to believe that any nice polyamorous person willing to go on a date will be compatible with us, but there are other dimensions and some of these are polyamory specific. I hope I’ve given you a little sense of what those are and reminded you of the overall compatibility tests we need to apply, still, because shared community isn’t always shared values.

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