Is it being disrespectful of the secondary relationship(s) to expect the person to finish their household chores before they focus their energy on that person/ those people? I’m not talking about saying hi and letting them know you made it home safe. I mean full-on in-depth, could take hours, talk about anything and everything conversations. If so, how long can the person go before they’re being disrespectful to their primary relationship and household?
Here’s what I want you to do. Pretend that your partner isn’t someone you’re involved with romantically but is instead your roommate. And let’s say that this roommate just got into a new relationship and started neglecting their share of the chores. How would you feel? Miffed, right?
Being miffed is a natural reaction when someone doesn’t complete their responsibilities. You get a little peeved.
Is that because you’re disrespecting your roommate’s new relationship? Nope. You might even like the new person they’re dating. You are literally irritated because they didn’t do the chores.
Your nesting partner might be your sweetie, but it’s important to remember that they’re also your roommate. And 100% capable of doing annoying roommate things that need to be addressed regardless of the cause.
In polyamorous situations, especially if we’re new to having multiple relationships at once, it’s not always an easy process to sort out all those different varieties of expectation (roommate concerns, romantic concerns, etc.). It can be extra tricky when we have multiple roles with the same person. In the case of a nesting partner, they’re not only someone we’re dating but also someone we live with, possibly even sharing finances or raising children with them as well. And it can be an awkward transition when you open up a previously closed relationship to one in which you both date other people, as you learn to balance all of these roles that connect you AND try to be autonomous in dating, all at the same time.
The Good Roommate Standard
One tool I’ve found extraordinarily helpful in this process is the Good Roommate Standard. When in doubt, I ask myself the following questions:
- A simple self-check: Am I being a good roommate to my partner by doing this?
- A check for others: Is this behavior I’d tolerate from a roommate?
It helps you focus on what’s most relevant when it comes to chore management: If your partner is being a good roommate to you (and you, to them).
Ditching Respect as a Go-To Metric
I’ve found this approach tends to lead to better problem-solving than running around in circles in my own head trying to suss out who’s respecting whom (and who isn’t) in a relationship web. Especially since respect is ambiguous, means different things to different people, and is really tough to prove (or disprove) one way or the other. Agonizing over whether someone respects this or that tends to turn into an exhausting and fruitless chase for answers.
But a sink full of dirty dishes? I know that for sure when I see it.
How Long Can a Person Go Without Helping Before It Becomes a Problem?
Everyone has a different cutoff for what’s acceptable when it comes to cutting other people slack on chores. I’ve found that for me it’s one thing for a roommate to be a few hours late on a chore every now and then, but if they routinely leave the dishes rotting in the sink for days, then that’s another matter altogether.
You know your usual cutoff point. Let that be your guide.
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