One of the questions I’m most often asked by monogamous or polycurious people is “How do you have time for it all?”
Typically, my reflex is to dive into some time management principles. Talk about different frameworks that can help you to prioritize (for example, Eisenhower/Covey’s time management matrix). Perhaps I’ll discuss the 80/20 Pareto principle, an important element in time allocation, and how having less than 100% of someone’s available time affects relationship quality. (Spoiler: far less than you would expect. Otherwise, employed people would be in deeper relationship trouble than they are by default.)
And of course I always talk about Google Calendar, a consummate presence in my life (a practice so common that at this point it’s basically a polyamorous cliche).
But when I can resist the urge to start geeking out on all of this and instead ask followup questions, I’ll often discover something else: An assumption that polyamorous people need to keep their relationships quite separate for the comfort of everyone involved. People often assume that metamours never meet or at the very least rarely spend any time together. And that anything else would be quite awkward and uncomfortable.
Metamour Comfort and Pop-Tarts
While this may be true for some polyamorous folks, this isn’t necessarily the case. True, there are some people practice a more parallel style of polyamory. But there are other people who really want to meet their metamours and are comfortable spending time with them. So comfortable that they wouldn’t mind sitting down at the kitchen table and chatting with them. This style is known as kitchen table polyamory.
I’ve long been a practitioner of kitchen table polyamory. As I think through it, I realize this is partly because it makes time management much simpler. I’m easily able to spend time with more than one partner (say, at a group social outing to see a baseball game, seeing a play, or attending a party). And the logistics surrounding one-on-one time and dates (where we go, who picks who up, etc.) also become much easier to manage since I’m not worried about anyone running into each other.
In short, metamour comfort is a big time saver. Of course, interpersonal comfort plays into this, whether people can be friends or at least get along. But the importance of comfort with polyamory in general, with the very existence of other partners, cannot be overstated. It’s huge.
It’s frankly the reason that my ideal comfort level with a metamour is “Pop-Tarts.” As I wrote before:
My other perfect utopia picture of polyamory: Being so comfortable with my metamour that if I woke up and Justin and she were having sex on our living room floor that I could step over their naked bodies and come back with Pop-Tarts, asking if anybody wanted one, nonchalantly. Of course, they could have as much privacy as they wanted – I’m not the Big Brother secret sex police! –but what would be amazing is if it was so natural and not uncomfortable that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for any us if I walked in on them…I would probably find myself reflecting often on it with amazement.
Attacking Internal Discomfort Can Be a Huge Long-Term Time-Saver
As I think through my time as a polyamorous person, effective time management also guides another one of my core principles: That whenever possible, it’s better to attack the underlying cause of personal discomfort rather than looking for the quickest way to remedy the immediate situation. In many instances, this involved resisting the urge to lean on territorial markers as proof that I was important to my partner and instead asking myself tough questions about why something caused me to feel insecure and in that process learning how to productively deal with any jealousy long term.
In the short term, was it harder to do that internal work? Did it take some time? You bet.
Would it have been easier and quicker, short term, to just ask for other people to limit or change their behavior to soothe my insecurity? Yeah, probably. But watching other people who have taken that route, I often find that they suffer long term. Similar difficult situations continue to crop up for them. Much like when you clip off the leaves of a weed and leave the root structure intact under the soil.
In my own case, in the long term, doing that difficult self-work (essentially pulling up the weed by its roots) completely paid off. I found myself running into progressively fewer crises. Until one day I was spending virtually no time at all on them.
And cumulatively speaking, the time savings alone was huge.