I was talking with a friend recently and they were having a new benefit of their journey through polyamory. For the first time in a long relationship where on and off both they and their primary partner (who they’d opened to non-monogamy together with) had struggled with mental health, they’d had another partner while their primary went through a bad mental health episode. Having another partner to be the support and the vent that doesn’t go anywhere else in a way that their friends didn’t feel like was a remarkable relief they didn’t expect.
This ‘emotional fringe benefit’ - having an extra trusted emotional outlet to deal with sensitive issues - is something that polyamorous people don’t think about until it kicks in really hard all of a sudden and the relief is palpable. Whether the issue is your own and you’re getting to “spread it out” across multiple partners (my personal experience of this benefit, usually, as someone who has fear of being too much as a near-permanent-condition) or one like this, where one partner has something big you’re helping them carry and you need more processing space than you can pay a therapist for, emotional load spread across a polycule can really improve feelings of internal balance. That internal balance for everyone in a polycule is essential to keeping the relationships running smoothly together.
Another emotional fringe benefit that can result from non-monogamy is being able to have multiple people in your life who share different facets and passions of your personality and life. Unlike my guest on tomorrow’s podcast, who I have recorded as saying that all your partners will necessarily “share 80 or more percent of your passions,” many of us (look, I’ve outed my bias) have partners with whom we have intense connections both romantic and sexual, but only maybe a third of our actual day to day interests. As I noted in a previous post, I’m happy to hear my partner had fun at his stage combat practice, but I don’t do stage combat, I don’t really “get” it and I’m just barely conversant in the language around it. One of his other partners does it with him and really gets it, and they bond over that activity in a way that we don’t. But we bond over books and arguing about them in a way they don’t. Again, it’s all maintaining each person’s internal balance of needs.
Polyamory, when it’s successful, is essentially maintaining that internal balance with the help of your multiple partners (if you have multiple partners at the moment, just one if you have just one), your metamours (if you have any who want to help), and yourself. It’s also helping as many partners as you have, and as many metamours as you have that kind of friendly relationship with, maintain that equilibrium. The light side of emotional fringe benefits are essentially bonuses - moments you didn’t quite realize you were off balance until you are.
On Monday, we follow this blog post up with the dark side of this phenomenon. Tomorrow, a podcast interview with Daniel Greenwolf on Triads, why they’re hard, and why people want to be in them despite this.
As always tips can be left at ko-fi.com/readyforpolyamory, the Patreon for monthly support for the blog and podcast is at Patreon.com/readyforpolyamory, and the latest podcast episodes are at https://readyforpolyamory.fireside.fm/relationship-agreements (6/20, interview with Ken Briodagh), and https://readyforpolyamory.fireside.fm/triads (6/27).