Polyamory Is Not for Perfectionists, But Neither Is Happiness.

a cracked drinking glass
Image by studio tdes / CC BY

I’m very interested in polyamory, but one thing holds me back. I worry that it’s not possible to have multiple relationships and have them all be as deep and invested as they possibly can be. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I pride myself in working hard at everything I do, as hard as I possibly can. I put a lot into my business, into arranging my home, and into my relationship. Won’t I be sacrificing in each relationship by having more than one of them? I crave more connection with others, but I worry that I can’t have multiple deep relationships. 

Perfectionism Doesn’t Play Well with Polyamory… or with Happiness

You’re right. Perfectionism and polyamory aren’t a great mix. But neither are perfectionism and happiness.

I get it. I was raised by two perfectionists. And I’m a recovering people pleaser.

But I can honestly say that giving up the need to be perfect was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

It was terrifying at first. It felt like the fast track to Slacker City. How could I possibly achieve if I didn’t demand the absolute best from myself?

How could I stay ambitious and hungry if I was satisfied with less than perfection?

Simple. I put the emphasis on the effort instead of the result. And made the goal showing up consistently and focusing on continual improvement.

Optimizing Instead of Perfection and the 80/20 Rule

It’s not a simple dichotomy: Perfectionist or slacker.

Even if you’re not a perfectionist, you can be an optimizer.

One of the cornerstone ideas in time management (and time management is the perfectionist’s and the optimizer’s best friend) is what’s known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule suggests that you identify your 20%, those productive tasks that will give you the majority of your yield, and focus on that. That’s optimizing instead of perfecting.

And when it comes to polyamory and quality time, the 80/20 rule applies as well.

The time you spend with other lovers? Takes nothing away so long as you have that 20% locked down. It’s not even necessarily literally a fifth of the time. But instead it’s whatever works. Whatever you can do that gives you the most bang for your buck.

The overarching point is that splitting your time between multiple partners doesn’t take anything away from those relationships provided you can work out a balance that meets everyone’s core needs.

I haven’t met anyone who enters polyamory without already doing some juggling.  In fact, your email provides a good example of this. You aren’t just doing one thing, are you? You talk about running a business, keeping a home, and being in a relationship. You’re already weighing and prioritizing these things and likely applying a bit of 80/20 magic.

You can still be a good partner if you’re non-monogamous. Special and only are different things. Otherwise, we would say that parents of multiple children don’t love their kids.

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