PQ 24.5 — Is this person available to give me what I think I want in the relationship — in terms of time, emotional intimacy, and freedom for the relationship to grow?

a closeup of a bloom on a flowering cactus
Image by Wilferd Duckitt / CC BY

PQ 24.5 — Is this person available to give me what I think I want in the relationship — in terms of time, emotional intimacy, and freedom for the relationship to grow?

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As I look at today’s question, I think it’s one that perhaps people these days are more likely to ask of me. And one that I’m less likely to ask of other people.

That’s because, at least for now, I have a very busy life. And one that I absolutely love. While I’m not polysaturated per se and could likely balance another relationship in my life (but probably only one more), I’m in no rush. As it currently stands, I’m a bit of an emotional cactus, meaning that I can live a long time off small bits of affection. And right now I don’t have a lot of unfulfilled needs.

These days I generally tend to take a very measured approach to partners. I don’t actively seek new partners very often. I only spent a few weeks on online dating 3 or 4 years ago, and that was more than enough for me. The vast majority of the time, the people I date are folks I’ve met socially through other people. New friends or friends of friends. When I feel like I need to meet new people, I tend to go to meetups, parties, or conferences. I make new friends. Some of them stay just friends, others I set up to date friends or partners (I love matchmaking), and yes, sometimes, ever so occasionally I’ll date someone new I meet.

But I’m basically an ent (y’know, like those talking trees in the Lord of the Rings), meaning that I take my time when I’m dating someone new. I’m a slow mover for a number of reasons.

Sometimes this works out really well. For example, my current girlfriend and I took something like six months to go on our first date together (since she had a lot going on), and it’s entirely possible that someone who isn’t such an ent would have gotten irritated and noped out on her. But it wasn’t a problem for me (I had plenty of other things going on between work and my personal life that it didn’t bother me waiting), and so we’re now in a situation where things have been great and we’re still together after a couple of years.

That said, I also dated a person who in spite of having a few other partners already thought that having dates with someone twice a week was “only casual” and seemed quite upset that I lived in my own house (and not an apartment), as it meant that if we decided to move in together that it might be a while before we could do that (at the time, we’d only been dating a month or so and lived about 20 minutes apart).

To me, going on dates with a new person twice a week, especially when you’re both polyamorous, work full time, and have a couple of other partners already, doesn’t mean that things are low key or “casual.” It means that you’re very enthusiastically dating one another. Anything more than that becomes hard to manage unless you’re living together or abandon your preexisting partners altogether.

And while I’m open to having another very serious relationship — someone who is basically another spouse-type person — it’s something I wouldn’t want to rush. Generally speaking, ideally I like to know someone for a while before I even think about moving in with them (it’s a different dynamic).

But everyone’s got different speeds, I suppose. And mine was way too slow for them. It’s interesting though… this wasn’t apparent from our initial talks with one another. Sometimes you can’t tell until you get into a relationship. I wrote about this recently in another post in this same series:

Here’s the trouble: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve initiated those kind of personal values discussions when I’m just starting to date someone, and they vigorously nod their head and cry out “same!” basically every other sentence as I talk about what’s important to me, what matters… only to later find… nope. That is not their values system. And they either:

  • Lack the self-awareness to know what their values actually are and are just agreeing to what I’m saying because it sounds good
  • Want me to like them so badly that they just pretend they are what I’m looking for, even when they’re really not (such impression management reminds me of the sex mirage, honestly)

So that’s the dirty secret. Even if you know what your own personal values are and you can actually competently communicate those to the other person and check in with them about theirs, there’s no way to guarantee that what they’re telling you is the truth. (You can’t communicate well enough for two, or more, people.)

Sometimes you only discover the truth about their values after being in the relationship for a little while and seeing if their actions match up with their words. That’s when you know if their values are actually what they said they were.

Honestly, these days that’s where I find that new relationships fail — not because I didn’t communicate enough or about the right things. Not because I didn’t check in about their values and what’s important to them. But because the person’s communication to me about themselves and my lived experience of them diverge so sharply from one another that it’s just impossible for us to be in the same relationship.

Situations where we can’t inhabit a shared truth about what’s going on between us.

And honestly, I think having similar values is a big part in that and ultimately in understanding one another.

But sometimes you don’t know until you’ve dated for a little while.

It’s not the most pleasant realization, but I’ve learned that while it’s good to ponder the kinds of questions in today’s prompt, especially as a way of clarifying your own personal values and priorities when it comes to relationships, to sort out what’s really important to you, that dating new people always poses a bit of a risk. You can ask all the “right” questions and still receive the wrong answers.

I say this not to depress you, but to make sure you’re compassionate with yourself if someone turns out to not be who you thought they were.

Because it happens to the best of us. Even folks who are doing everything “right.”

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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