Navigating poly relationships can have seasons of complexity. This doesn't mean it will always be complex. There will often be times when things feel more complex as you come across something that wasn't predicted. The best way to handle this will be to have open and honest communication around feelings and practicalities as you work out how to handle this.
So I thought I would make a little list of topics I've seen coming up lately that will help navigate some of those situations in poly relationships.
How much freedom do we need within our relationship? When I think about freedom within a relationship, I'm using it to describe how one feels. One person might feel freedom by having the ability to make decisions on the spot. Another might feel freedom from having moments with another partner. It's important to discuss what freedom looks like to you.
How do we handle the possibility of another relationship? What are our "rules?" Do we ask permission from the other person first, inform them of our intentions, inform them after we have started contact with the other person, or do we have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy? Figuring out how to proceed will help reduce problems before the happen.
Often we don't know how we will feel until it happens so if something comes up that we didn't realize would be a problem, how do we address it? Do we put things on hold and give the opportunity to discuss and "re-negotiate?" Do we have veto power and the other person doesn't need to understand what is upsetting you about the situation but just needs to respect the fact you are bothered?
What are some situations in the past that might impact how we view our relationships now? Understanding where things have gotten off track in the past (either in this relationship or others) can give us empathy for our partner's positions now. If you understand that a past partner would use ambiguity to "break the rules" then you can understand why your partner now wants to limit ambiguity.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list but it was just a few questions that I have been thinking about lately and decided to put it out there in case it helps anyone.
When discussing any topic within a relationship, I always recommend taking the I approach. Only speak for yourself and how you feel. Any time you try to tell the other person about themselves, as in "you only care about.." etc., it always puts them on the defensive and communication breaks down. And when communication breaks down, it's pointless to have these conversations. So make sure you're only speaking for yourself and let your partner take care of themselves too.
Corrin Voeller is a couples counselor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She specializes in couples counseling, marriage counseling, discernment counseling and sex therapy. She lives with her husband, children and extremely fat dog.
Want to schedule an appointment?
Click here to send me an email.