Being an empathetic and considerate human can be great qualities for polyamory - when they’re coupled with healthy boundaries. Without asserting your own needs alongside supporting meeting the needs of your partners and metas, you end up holding up everyone else and forgetting yourself - disappearing into the furniture. Being an emotional couch or coffee table, while it holds a room together nicely, in terms of décor, doesn’t keep you from having stuff piled on you. So, unless that’s pretty short term (for a very big life change you’re supporting and the dynamic will go back to everyone being people soon), or a VERY carefully negotiated BDSM dynamic (and that’s probably only with a partner, you should have some other relationship to metas and other partners), we should figure out how to assert our own needs and not be the end table all the time. I’m including myself in this because, as my therapist reminds me, I sometimes backslide into “bad boundary hygiene.”
I’m prone to the “well I’m going to be considerate and other person’s need is much more important than mine” thought pattern, repeated across all my relationships - not just the ones in a polycule, but it can certainly apply there. When I’m not careful, it grows to a fever pitch of “we haven’t met ANY of my needs in so long and ALL of everyone else’s are met, how on Earth is this fair?!” and I get snappy and awful and resentful. But if I haven’t let other people know I have those needs, they can’t meet them - and if I insist on meeting all theirs before I address my own, that’s bad boundary hygiene. It’s not acting like I’m worth the energy and time to make sure those needs get asserted and met. If you recognize the feeling of “I do everything for everyone and no one even asks what I might want to do,” without having offered the suggestion of what you want to do… you might have the same issue sometimes.
It’s a pretty common pattern. If you get enough of us in a room (or a relationship) you can avoid it to a certain extent because we all ask to double check on everyone else first often enough - but that’s definitely not guaranteed in life. Most things in life can be accomplished by people being kind to one another and compromising - and so long as your needs aren’t diametrically opposed there should be a path in any situation to find - but it shouldn’t always be one person “compromising” to everyone. That isn’t actually compromise at all. Make sure you give your partners and metas - and all your relationships - the chance to really meet you in the middle. They can’t if they don’t know where you’re coming from.
I’ll be teaching my Beyond the Kitchen Table: Modes and Models of Parallel Polyamory class at Tethered to Wifi 2.0, the digital version of Tethered Together, on Saturday March 20 from 11:30am -1pm. The con as a whole runs from the 19-21 and you can get tickets at tetheredtogether.net. Tickets are $30 until sales close the day before the event. There are a lot of great presenters on topics ranging from relationships to movement to rope and a couple cool shows; come play with us!
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