• Laura Boyle

Emotional Fringe Benefits of Multiple Partners - The Dark Side

On Friday, on the blog, we talked about the positives of having multiple partners - of spreading emotional loads across polycules and of maintaining your own various passions with different partners and of being able to let connections go where they will. Over the weekend, my podcast had the privilege of talking to Daniel GreenWolf about triads and what’s good about them and what’s hard about them. Today, we’re going to talk about the downsides of the things that can be benefits under good conditions - the dark side of situations that can yield emotional fringe benefits.


But, Laura, you might say, gentle readers, how can benefits be bad?


What if, in the first example from Friday, your partner who wasn’t depressed really didn’t want to hear about your partner who was? They could once in a while for you, but it couldn’t be constant. If you don’t negotiate it, but you assume because they did it once and it felt GREAT for you, that it was also great for them, you can set up a really bad situation for the metamour of your depressed partner without realizing. Down the line it sets you up for a bad situation too.


If you communicate clearly about everyone’s limits and intentions? No problems. If that communication doesn’t happen? It’s pretty easy to trip on. One person wants to help, but you don’t want to break a confidence; or you want to spread the load around, but one or more partners can’t or won’t right now for reasons of their own - and suddenly there isn’t a fringe benefit someone might have had in the past, and a broken assumption or expectation is there in its place.


Broken assumptions, unmet expectations, and a need for partners to help us maintain equilibrium are the boogeymen of polyamory. In a way, the more partners you have, the better for this, since it gives you practice at the communication and negotiation that you need to lay out your expectations for these situations, but honestly, the maxim of “‘relationship broken, add people’ doesn’t work” remains true no matter how many people or how complicated a pattern you add them in.





I personally find there are fewer expectations and assumptions that are brittle or break in more “complicated” or constellation-like polycules than in triads or quads for two reasons. First, that the “everyone involved with each other” tends to add assumptions about intensity and type of feeling that don’t exist in a chain or a constellation style of relationship; and second that people who choose to enter into constellation-type polycules, especially those with multiple relationships near the center of them, tend to already have many of the communication skills needed, whereas triads and quads are often idealized as “easier” monogamy+1 or +2 relationships. Mostly, this means they are the equivalent of their high school sweetheart of their polyamory journey and they often have the communication toolbox to match.




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