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Polyamory and the Elephant in the Room

I've been a part of the polyamory community for a very long time. In that time, I've seen a lot of folks talk about how they feel when their wives or husbands or lovers or significant others take on a new partner.

Naturally, a lot of people feel fear and angst when it happens for the first time. We're brought up to believe in all sorts of notions like Soulmates and The One and Happily Ever After, so of course when someone we love expresses an interest in someone else, it's a bit scary.

On top of that, a lot of folks feel jealousy, especially early on in a new relationship; the new lover can be seen as competition, the Other, someone dangerous and scary.

But after a while most of us find that our lovers have new partners and, even if there are some rough bits early on, it's not The End of Everything. Our fears don't come true; our lovers don't leave us as soon as they realize how laughably inferior we are in every imaginable way to The New Shiny, and life is still happy.

So folks who've been around the proverbial block a few times generally will say things like "Naah, it's not that big a deal when my lover meets someone new. As long as it doesn't threaten our relationship, I'm totally OK with that."

And that's not necessarily a bad attitude to have. In fact, I think being relaxed about the prospect of a new relationship is, generally speaking, a very good thing in poly relationships. I've talked before about how when we're afraid or insecure about something, we can often make choices that make it more likely that the thing we're afraid of will happen; if we're afraid our partners will leave us for a new person, we might emotionally push our partners away, or try to impose unreasonable controls on their behavior, or just generally act out in ways that make us disagreeable to live with, and then yes, the new person starts to look pretty appealing in comparison.

But there's an elephant lurking in the room, one I almost never hear anyone in the poly community talking about. And that is: Yes, a new relationship really is potentially a threat to the existing relationship, no matter how poly-skilled the folks involved may be.




So there it is, the elephant in the room. Put simply: A new connection, a new relationship, is a threat to an existing relationship...in the sense that any significant change in any relationship is potentially a threat.

Marriage counsellors and therapists have known this for a long time.

A new child often threatens a relationship. Loss of a child, doubly so, or more...many, many otherwise healthy, happy relationships between genuinely loving couples can be destroyed by grief or loss. A change in financial status is a threat to a relationship; I've heard it claimed that more people break up because of financial stress than for any other single reason. And, perhaps paradoxically, it works both ways; couples will often break up after a significant positive change in their finances, too.

An illness or infirmary is a threat to a relationship. Many people find it difficult to cope with stressors like long-term illness or debilitating injury.

A new job is a threat to a relationship. Moving to a new city is a threat to a relationship. A change in the religious beliefs of one or both people can threaten a relationship.

Even something as seemingly simple and straightforward as buying a house can be a threat to a relationship. I mean, hell, I've seen people break up over pets!

The point is, any change whatsoever to the structure of a relationship is a threat to that relationship, whether we acknowledge it or not. Taking a new job in a distant city and deciding to have a child are both significant threats to a relationship, but you will rarely hear people say "Okay, I guess we can move to Denver, but only if it doesn't put what we have at risk" or "Okay, we can try for a baby, but only as long as it doesn't threaten us." We don't think of these things as threatening, even though a glance at the statistics shows that they are.

We do, however, think of new partners as threatening, because they go right to the core of what society tells us is Bad And Scary. So we will say "Sure, you can pursue new relationships, as long as they aren't a threat to our existing relationship"...but I don't think that's realistic. Of COURSE they are! They are a significant change in the emotional focus, composition, time, and attention. That makes them a threat to the existing relationship!




So there it is. I said it. I don't think it's realistic to say "I don't mind new relationships as long as they're not a threat."

However, that doesn't mean that I advise not doing it. Far from it! There are many things which we do all the time--have kids, buy a house together, take a promotion at work, start a new hobby--that potentially introduce stressors into our lives that could threaten our relationships, but that we choose to do anyway because they're worth doing.

Since I find relationships to be one of the most rewarding parts of life, I think it's worth the potential stressor in my existing relationships to be open to new relationships, and to have partners who are open to new relationships.

It's scarier to acknowledge that any new relationship is potentially a threat tan to say "I am OK with my partner having new relationships because I don't see them as a threat." But I think it's better to say "Any new relationship will potentially introduce new elements and new stressors to my relationship. I don't mind, as long as I know that my partner is dedicated to preserving our relationship, and that my partner and I have the skills, the willingness, the desire, and the intention of making choices that will protect our existing relationship."

In practice, there are a lot of things that I can do that will mitigate that stressor. One of those is to adopt a policy of resilience--to know that even if things change in my relationship, I will be OK. Another is to advocate for my needs; if I need something from my partner that I'm not getting, but I don't ask for it, clearly and directly, then it's not my partner's fault if I don't have it. Still another is transparency--always sharing with my partner, even things that might be hard to talk about or that I'm afraid my partner might not want to hear.

These tools don't make it 100% safe for my partner to start new relationships. But then, nothing can do that; there's no choice my partner makes that's ever 100% safe for our relationship, and I think it's time to acknowledge that.

Instead, what these tools do is they make it much less likely that my partner's new relationships will actually end up damaging us. And, as a rather nice side effect, they also make it much less likely that any of life's other stressors will threaten our relationship, too.

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Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
kindredsgirl
May. 9th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
Excellent reminder that none of us has control of the future. Things happen. People change. Relationships change. We can face the future, knowing we can't control it, but living in confidence that whatever happens, we'll talk about it, be honest with each other, and figure out the right thing to do.

*Hugs*

Laura

(Deleted comment)
joreth
May. 9th, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
Whenever people say that they want to "add a third to their existing relationship", I've been known to say that it's impossible. You cannot add a third to an existing relationship, you create an entirely new set of relationships that includes 3 dyads and 1 triad dynamic. Even the existing dyad relationship will be a *different* dyad relationship once the third person comes along, even if it's an equilateral triad.

I think this is related to your post, only I may not have thought it out along those lines.

I prefer to say that I only want metamours who won't fuck my shit up. That's shorthand for a much longer concept, that goes something like this:


I am not trying to prevent you from choosing to date someone else, but should you choose someone who makes my life miserable, that is a problem between you and me and I will remove myself from the situation, and you should be aware of this consequence when making a decision.

In addition, I am reminding you that we both claim to value our existing relationships to the point that we voluntarily choose to self-limit ourselves to relationships with people who seem more likely to get along with all the existing family members than to not get along, in the sense that the new person has exhibited tendencies towards empathy, compassion, & respect for the feelings of those (s)he is connected to through the romantic network.

This is related to the concept of "it's possible to really and truly love someone and not make a good partner for them" - sometimes we might really like someone but a romantic partnership is not necessarily the best option for the 2 people involved due to a romantic incompatibility.

We choose to self-limit our relationship partners, not because we have a rule to follow, but because we value our existing relationships highly and our own peace of mind, and dating people who have exhibited a tendency towards creating chaos and hurt in relationships actively undermines that which we value.


When I say "don't fuck my shit up", I do not mean "don't ever change our relationship and don't do anything to threaten it, because I never believed those were options. I mean to make conscientious and compassionate decisions in dating partners that do not have a high degree of likeliness of bringing more unhappiness into my life than happiness. Sometimes shit just happens and we can't predict it, but we can make educated guesses based on the evidence at hand to inform our decisions ... and one of those is to choose partners who have similar values & desires for the relationship as ourselves to begin with, so that there is a whole lot less "don't fuck my shit up" pronouncements that need to be made in the first place.
khall
May. 9th, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC)
I think, a new relationship can add to the old one. It can make your previous relationship stronger and better. That is ideal poly, to me. Where everybody you add, adds to everybody. Not necessarily dating them. But...if I come home bouncing off the walls and show her the new fruit/food/recipe/candy new_girl and I picked up and she loves it and it becomes her favorite...compersion doesn't exactly cover what I mean, but it's part of it.

K.
joreth
May. 9th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
I still do not believe that you can "add to the old one". I think you are creating whole new relationships. Maybe the new one with the pre-existing partner is a better/stronger relationship than the old one, but the very fact that there is someone else in the picture means, by definition, it is not the same relationship as before.

Doesn't matter if "the new one" is a partner, metamour, child, or pet - the old dyad no longer exists, and a new collection of relationships, including a dyadic relationship between people who had a previous relationship to each other, takes its place.

The *goal*, IMO, may be to add new relationships that add value and/or improvement to the newly-formed relationship between the pre-existing couple(s), but good or bad, the pre-existing relationship is not the same after the change as it was before the change.
khall
May. 10th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
       I don't have dyadic relationships. That is a monogamous structure. I have two parents, 6 siblings, 3 best friends. When I fall in love with a girl, I want to love her parents, and her kids, and her husband, and...the connection is between two...but the idea that...relationships are dyads is...grounded in monogamous thought. It is a structure imposed on our thinking by the meta-society of muggles. I don't think of it that way. A new girl doesn't date me. She dates 'us'. Whether she's actually interested in my SO or not...her world and my world connect. That includes any and all family, girlfriends, exes, and baggage. That's how it works, in my opinion, in the real world.

I'm not saying I'm right. But...your model seems to only work, from the way I understand it, if we assume that monogamy is the norm and the...basic way of doing relationships. That two people are the only ones in a relationship. Which...doesn't mesh with my life experience or...a less 'laboratory/clean room/box' model of human sociology. In the real world...even in mono vanilla relationships, you date their ex, their mom, their first grate teacher and those are just the...shadows they carry around with them, not the actual people in their life that add/change/require attention/etc.

Her boss takes a -lot- of time away from me. I don't do jealousy. But I'm jealous of him. That is a relationship. She might even leave me for her boss, if he offered her $150k a year to move across the country. 40% of people who get married after the age of 30, do so with someone from work. Maybe this seems like a specious argument, and maybe it is...but...everybody has relationships, other relationships, if her relationship with her boss doesn't make me jealous, and I have no reason to suspect that she'll leave me for him, then I see no reason why a new friend, or a new romantic relationship, necessarily has to be weighted or 'loaded' with more meaning. The actual risk to me is not any greater. And...it seems profoundly vanilla and monogamous and thus simplistic to say 'well that's not a romantic relationship'. The whole binary model, on off, one man one woman, in love/out of love...just doesn't work for me in anyway. I don't work like that. In any relationship.

I don't know if I expressed what I'm trying to say, it isn't coming out well, but hopefully it is clear.

K.
suzmonster
May. 11th, 2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Dyads and binary models don't work for me, either. That's one of the reasons Khall and I work so well together. I'm fond of saying we're opposite sides of the same coin, which is a kind of dyad, but I mean more that we're cut from the same cloth. If I believed in dyads I would be getting back with my ex but he comes with a fiance. When I enter a relationship with him I enter one with her, as has been articulated. I can't keep my relationship with him separate from her enough to make it a healthy relationship. It's like relationship soup. A spoiled ingredient will make the whole soup taste bad, or at least give you a sense that something isn't quite right.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 11th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
Reply Part 1:

*I don't have dyadic relationships. That is a monogamous structure. I have two parents, 6 siblings, 3 best friends. When I fall in love with a girl, I want to love her parents, and her kids, and her husband, and...the connection is between two...but the idea that...relationships are dyads is...grounded in monogamous thought. It is a structure imposed on our thinking by the meta-society of muggles. I don't think of it that way. A new girl doesn't date me. She dates 'us'. Whether she's actually interested in my SO or not...her world and my world connect. That includes any and all family, girlfriends, exes, and baggage. That's how it works, in my opinion, in the real world. *

EVERY relationship that everyone has is dyadic. It's not monogamous thinking that makes it so, it's the laws of physics. It seems self evident to me that you cannot have a relationship with someone you don't have a relationship with. Relationships aren't transitive that way. Either you're a party in that relationship or you're not. 

Basically, if you've fallen in love with a girl, then you have  relationship with that girl: (you + girl). 

If you also want to love her parents, then it's (you + parent 1) and (you + parent 2).

If you also want to love her kids, then it's (you + kid 1) and (you + kid 2)

If you also want to love her husband, then it's (you + husband).

So right there, you have six dyads. 

You also have a network of people who are all relating to each other as family, which is lovely, but they're still formed by a series of interconnected DYADS. Because there's only ONE of me and ONE of the other person, whatever relationship we form will be unique and can only consist of the two of us. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THERE CAN'T BE OTHER RELATIONSHIPS. It simply means that each relationship that happens is with a unique person, therefore can be nothing but a dyad.

Now if you fall in love with the girl, and create a dyad with her, that does not make these other dyads automacally form. The girl has to be an agent and the other person has to be an agent in forming them. It's great to have an ideal, but to assume and expect that they will happen denies those other people of a very basic agency that we all have. Which brings me to the next point: 

*A new girl doesn't date me. She dates 'us'. Whether she's actually interested in my SO or not...her world and my world connect. That includes any and all family, girlfriends, exes, and baggage. That's how it works, in my opinion, in the real world. *

In the real world, a person can only date one person at a time because they can only have a relationship with one person at a time. That person they are in a relationship with may carry the effect of all of their other relationships and commitments, but that does not mean that a girl your dating is automatically in a relationship with everyone else in your life. There is only one you. Each of your girlfriends is an individual, not some amorphous blob of people who are inseparable. Now it could be that you would like the girl you're dating to integrate with all of the other people in your life. That's a great thing to have happen and a lovely way to build family. But again, it doesn't AUTOMATICALLY happen simply because she's dating you. You are not all these other people. She needs to build those relationships individually, and to simply expect those relationships to already automatically be there simply by virtue of dating you is honestly rather creepy. 



khall
May. 11th, 2012 04:51 am (UTC)
In the real world, a person can only date one person at a time because they can only have a relationship with one person at a time.

Er...no. I can date a couple, i can date two separate people, at the same time...monogamous-fixated thinking. It is a model, one possible one, but it is not the only one.

By the same token, as a communication major, one of the things we learned was, you can't not communicate. You can not be introduced yet, to my mother. But you can't be in my life and not have a relationship with her. Whether it's 'we don't speak' or 'she's that person I wave to as I pass at family dinners' or whatever. It's a relationship, by definition. She is in my circle. This is the principle of 90% of social networking theory, used to construct and create things like Facebook and Google+. I find those creepy too. But...it's still a valid sociological model.

K.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 11th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
*Er...no. I can date a couple, i can date two separate people, at the same time...monogamous-fixated thinking. It is a model, one possible one, but it is not the only one. *

Monogamous thinking has nothing to do with it.

As you, yourself said: You can date TWO SEPARATE PEOPLE. Dating two separate people who are already dating each other means you have created three dyads: (you + person 1) (you + person 2) (person 1 + person 2).

Sure those dyads can all happen at the same time. I never said they couldn't. You seem really caught up in the idea that two individuals having a unique relationship is somehow monogamous in thinking? Perhaps it is you who is locked into this monogamous thinkiing model.

They are still INDIVUDALS, not some unit.

*By the same token, as a communication major, one of the things we learned was, you can't not communicate. You can not be introduced yet, to my mother. But you can't be in my life and not have a relationship with her. Whether it's 'we don't speak' or 'she's that person I wave to as I pass at family dinners' or whatever. It's a relationship, by definition. She is in my circle. This is the principle of 90% of social networking theory, used to construct and create things like Facebook and Google+. I find those creepy too. But...it's still a valid sociological model.*

You can emanate, but for me, communication in the context of being in a relationship requires active reciprocity and active participation, not passive association. Sure, you can call that a form of a relationship, but it is not one actively being created by the participants. My relationship with my partner is not transitive therefore automatically making me have relationships wiith them. I can have associations, but I don't consider that the same thing.
joreth
May. 12th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
ah, thank you, you said it better than I did.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 11th, 2012 04:45 am (UTC)
Reply Part 2:

*That two people are the only ones in a relationship. Which...doesn't mesh with my life experience or...a less 'laboratory/clean room/box' model of human sociology. In the real world...even in mono vanilla relationships, you date their ex, their mom, their first grate teacher and those are just the...shadows they carry around with them, not the actual people in their life that add/change/require attention/etc. *

Umm, no. Again- creepy.  When I'm dating someone, it's because I am considering romantic involvement or building a romantic relationship. For me, that would include things like sex. If I'm dating a person, I'm most likely not going to consider having sex with their mom or their first grade teacher. The thing is, if I were to have a relationship with them, we'd actually have to be interacting in the real world. If they had an effect on my partner, that does not mean that I know them. It means they have affected the person I'm in an actual relationship with.  Simply because he's been affected by his first grade teacher doesn't mean I can call that teacher up and ask to crash at theirs because, well, hey! We're in a relationship right? I'm dating the kid you taught 20 years ago! Yep. Creepy. 

The real world operates this way: If two people are in a relationship, each person has to be an active agent in that relationship.  ASSOCIATION DOES NOT A RELATIONSHIP MAKE. 

And lastly I feel the need to highlight this point: 

"It is a structure imposed on our thinking by the meta-society of muggles"

I had to roll my eyes at this one. I don't mean to be rude, but PLEASE get over yourself.

Being polyamorous does not make you some magical breed of person that's different from all those "muggles". I'm sure you meant it as just a metaphor, but such word choices really belie a world view that has a lot in common all sorts of unsavory ways of thinking. The sooner you get over yourself and understand that PEOPLE are PEOPLE and everyone lives in the same world and does the best they can with what they have, the better off you'll be. If you really need that polyamorous identy to feel special, then there are bigger issues to contend with.
khall
May. 11th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
Er...at this point I'm done with the discussion. Ad hominem attacks over word choice and "get over yourself" don't a discussion make. At no point did I specifically single you, as an individual out, for any form of scorn in any of my responses. Being rude on the internet over an honest attempt to discover (like the three times I said "I'm not saying I'm right, I'm trying to expand a thought") truth or philosophy through debate and public discourse..."Trust not the crow, for he lies and is black" quoth the raven.

K.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 11th, 2012 05:13 am (UTC)
Well, honestly, your muggle comment was pretty damned rude. I called it out. If you want to dismiss my comment simply because I didn't say in a way you'd like and carry on being rude and dismissive of most people...well, good luck to you. The point still stands, even if you choose to ignore it.

And also, when you say "I'm not saying I'm right" but then follow it with comments such as, "In the real world" and "That's grounded in mongamous thought" and things such as "imposed upon us by a meta-society of muggles" you are belying a real dogma behind your thinking. .

You may want to consider how you're communicating those ideas if you would like to keep the discourse being about the ideas.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 11th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
Also, being blunt is not the same as an ad hominem attack. An ad hominem attack would be something like "You're a naive idiot" I never said or meant anything of the like.

I called out a very specific thought and idea you had and I called it out bluntly. Disengaging from it simply because I said it in a tone you don't like is completely your right. But I find that when people disengage from being called out on their shit, they are losing valuable opportunities for growth, hence I doubt the value of a disucssion to begin with. I find discussions far more beneficial when both parties engage in the challenging bits and have a great deal of respect for people who engage when they're called on their shit.
joreth
May. 12th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
Knowing a fancy latin phrase doesn't mean one understands the meaning of it, as apparent by your use of the term (and implied by your insistence on equating "dyad" with "monogamous"). Ad hominems are not the same thing as tone. It is, specifically, insulting a person's character in such a way that is unrelated to the claim that person is making, and using that insult AS PROOF against the claim.

For example:

"You are wrong because you're a big poopyhead" is an ad hominem attack.

"You are being arrogant because you said these things that reveal arrogance" is not an ad hominem attack.

"You are a jerk AND you are wrong for these reasons" is not an ad hominem attack. Rude, maybe, but not an ad hominem attack.

Then we get to the Tone Argument, which says, simply "I don't like the tone you are taking with me, therefore I will dismiss everything you have to say even if it's entirely valid, just because I don't like your attitude." That's usually the last resort of someone who has run out of defenses.
khall
May. 12th, 2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
*smiles* Again with the personal attacks. Actually, ad hominem attacks are any kind of personal attack that doesn't actually address the argument. For instance, assuming someone doesn't know the meaning of a word, or phrase, calling them creepy, a jerk, or implying that they have some hang up that you've projected onto them, or that they've obviously run out of important things to say, because they ask you to stop speaking to them with contempt. Those all qualify. I am trying very hard not to get into a flame war, in a friend of a friend's journal. At no point have I insulted or attacked anyone, in anyway, including implying that they were ignorant. I would appreciate the same respect back. Or I don't choose to engage in yet another pointless internet debate that is going to inevitably devolve into 'you're a doodoo head' and make me regret wasting the time.

K.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 14th, 2012 10:00 am (UTC)
*At no point have I insulted or attacked anyone, in anyway, including implying that they were ignorant.*

Nope, you've just been rude. You may not understand that you've been rude, but you have been.

You may think it pointless that you are engaging the practice of othering when it comes to trying to put yourself as an entirely different breed of person than those who practice monogamous relationships, but I happen to think it isn't pointless to bring that to your attention.

Again, feel free to dismiss it. Choosing to do so only shows disingenuousness on your part. So if that's your goal, well done. Best of luck to you with your degree in communication.
joreth
May. 12th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
Every relationship you have is with an individual human being, complete unto themselves. That makes it a dyadic relationship between you and that person. It has nothing to do with monogamy, which is having one spouse in a lifetime, or the more modern use, one sexual partner at a time. To ignore that you have dyadic relationships and to believe that you ONLY have relationships with groups of people is to ignore the individuality of the people you are in a relationship with.

Dyad is not interchangeable for monogamous. It describes the relationship between two individuals, it does not presume to be the only relationship or to exclude any other dynamics. Saying you have a mother does not imply or exclude you having a relationship with anyone else. It only describes your relationship to this one person you call "mother".
khall
May. 12th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
No, I don't agree. It is possible to have relationships with one other person. But it is also possible to have a relationship with a group. I have had gaming groups where I only related to them as a group, not to the individual members in anyway. Or dated or just been friends with a couple, where...there was no separate relationship between us. It was 'us three'.

K.
seinneann_ceoil
May. 14th, 2012 10:09 am (UTC)
I fail to see how a person can be related to if they aren't even regarded as in individual person. I am a teacher and relate to classrooms full of kids, but at no point do they ever cease to be individuals to me. If they did, I would no longer be relating to them.

This is even less functional in a romantic context. I can't imagine being romantically involved with someone who wasn't relating to me as an individual.

But then again, this is exactly why the message boards are littered with so many failed attempts on the part of couples when they try to date as a unit and not as individuals. It's not a desireable way to be in a relationship for most people.

And you have failed to make a convincing argument for why any of this is inherently "mongamous" thinking.
chaizzilla
May. 9th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
Not just mitigate, but make wonderful.


Have you already written about transparency esewhere?
zzzsleepyfoxzzz
May. 10th, 2012 06:45 am (UTC)
This was beautiful. Thank you for posting this.


I had a conversation recently with someone I was very interested in that went a little bit like this:

ME: I'm interested in you.

THEM: I think I'm interested in you, too, but there's this other person I'm in love with who feels nervous about me getting involved with someone new.

ME: That's totally understandable. It's a risk. Adding a new relationship to an existing structure always destabilizes that structure. I'd like us all to take things slowly enough to build foundations that can withstand some instability.

THEM: OH! That makes so much sense! Nobody's ever pointed that out before. ...WHY has nobody ever pointed that out before?


Thanks for pointing it out in a visible and linkable way. :)

Edited at 2012-05-10 06:46 am (UTC)
much_ado
May. 10th, 2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
I linked to the post on FB, and the resulting comment discussion has brought forth the argument that people *do* evaluate risks when contemplating other Big Life Changes, like moving out of town or across the country, or having a baby. When I think about it in my own experience, I know I've done the risk evaluation process on relocating across the province when Matthew was still in Ottawa. I know I've done the risk evaluation (several times) on having children.

And yet, I have ALSO been the person to make the statement, "I don't mind adding other people so long as it doesn't threaten *this* relationship*", both with and without doing the risk evaluation in real depth.

I like joreth's approach to reframe future additions as fundamentally changing things from a dyad or a dyad+1 to 3 different dyads (even if two of the nodes don't ever directly interact, they will react *to* the presence of each other, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes overtly), as well as a triadic structure, and being ready to re-evaluate needs and expectations on that shift in framework.

In the same way that a job or a child or another family member or a hobby or an addiction becomes a third entity in dyadic relationships to which all parties must adapt and react, there's no way to add another partner on any level of investment without there being implications and adjustments that probably *should* be evaluated as fully as possible. Even in monogamy, the tools don't make adding a new relationship 100% safe; if you're not practicing Risk-Aware Love(tm), you're... well, *at risk* :-P

Thanks for posting this; it's both good general food for thought, and timely on a personal front.
joreth
May. 12th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
Something that keeps this concept firmly in mind for me (the idea that you can't add a new person to an existing relationship, but rather you rewrite the existing relationship to a NEW relationship that incorporates all the ripples that occur from the addition of the new element) is the Poly Formula. It's a math formula that works out all the possible relationships for a given group of people, assuming there are more than 1 person in the group.

For example, if you have two people, you have 1 relationship - that which is between the 2 people. If you have 3 people, you have 4 relationships - 3 dyads and 1 triad relationship (ignoring who is having sex with whom, for the moment). If you have 4 people, you have 11 relationships - 6 dyads, 4 triads, & 1 quad. Etc.

What doesn't happen is you don't get 2 people = 1 relationship, 3 people = 1 relationship, 4 people = 1 relationship, etc. It's not only a reminder, to me, that my own relationships will be affected as new elements are introduced, but that I now have a potential relationship (or association, at the very least, as seinneann_ceoil was saying above) with the new elements, or people. It reminds me to be considerate of them and to treat them as people that I have a relationship-responsibility towards, rather than as job applicants, insignificant elements, or foes.

But, as I was implying above, it also reminds me that change is inevitable, and I should, instead, learn how to deal with the change, rather than pretending I can do anything to stop it & therefore be caught without safeguards or backup plans when it inevitably happens.

Maybe it's true that, when my partner takes a new partner, there is very little change that happens. Maybe our newly re-written relationship really is incredibly similar to the old relationship before the new element was introduced. But anyone with even a passing knowledge of chemistry knows that adding a single element often makes a significant change. Maybe it's a subtle change, maybe even one that goes unnoticed, or unremarked, and is absorbed into the relationship with hardly a bump, but it is still *different*, and sometimes those differences can have a significant impact on the final mixture.
james_the_evil1
May. 10th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
I think positive financial change can do that because so often one of the 2 people in a relationship desperately wants out but is worried about making it alone money-wise, so a positive change signals the ability to escape.
(Anonymous)
May. 18th, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC)
"if I need something from my partner that I'm not getting, but I don't ask for it, clearly and directly, then it's not my partner's fault if I don't have it. Still another is transparency--always sharing with my partner, even things that might be hard to talk about or that I'm afraid my partner might not want to hear."

Hear, hear.
allburningup
Jun. 11th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
I suspect people tend to be optimistic about the effect of having children on their relationship in part because the child(ren) will be shared by the parents. Perhaps connected to why some couples transitioning from mono to poly feel safer seeking out a shared partner.
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