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Think of a polycule as a complex lake system

Polyamorous networks have many points of overlap, but that doesn’t mean they have tons of failure points, necessarily… more that they have complicated currents if there’s a storm somewhere in the system.

Picture a series of overlapping lakes. It’s not as simple as multiple rivers all flowing in a similar direction - everyone’s boundaries don’t always neatly intersect to feed into one flow down to the sea, so a storm can churn up interesting ripple effects across the system- unexpected flowback over into a different lake, a small twist or underwater current you might not realize is there unless you’re trying to boat or swim, but someone two lakes over could have told you that it poured rain over there yesterday and it’s still rough waters evening out, so of course everyone in the system is affected in reaching equilibrium.

This slightly overwrought metaphor is a polycule. It’s really easy for a fight to leave a hinge partner off balance and for that to affect metamours and by extension a whole polycule. I’m not arguing for anyone to be a perfect compartmentalizer (I don’t think that hiding our emotions is particularly healthy) but dumping the side effects of a negative interaction out on our other partners also isn’t an ideal coping mechanism, and I think you’ll agree with me on that, readers. There’s a lot of middle ground to be found and that’s the sweet spot that I think we want to try to land in, as hard as it sometimes is. Most of that comes down to resolving our conflicts without dumping into our polycule too hard, if possible.

(The too hard is operative - a little whining is usually OK, especially if you check with your partner that they’re in a headspace to receive it.)

Not setting up your telemour or metamour to try to go boating and drown in your metamour or other partner’s metaphorical lake is easiest if you and they have good boundaries, but it’s also made simpler if everyone involved in a given relationship works to communicate directly and in good faith, with an attempt to meet each others’ needs made. Not only is there less need to dodge consequences rippling out when there are fewer Big Fights that are happening, but if there are situations where the conflict is unavoidable, good boundary hygeine is easier when everyone feels like there was a good faith effort made before there was a critical failure that resulted in an argument - it’s much easier to talk something out rather than lash out in all directions about it when it feels like an honest mistake. Having close friends you can talk things out with (or a good therapist, or both! Both is great!) also lowers the tidal pull of various partners in a system creating these invisible underwater currents and patterns that can catch us unawares.

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