Everyone thinks they want to be a hinge. Especially those who don’t have any experience with polyamory. “Two partners, that’d be great!”
It’s their partners having other partners that they think would trip them up. At least in theory.
But the fantasy of being a hinge — i.e., a person in two or more relationships with partners who are not involved with one another — can be quite different than the reality.
Once upon a time, I was seriously dating five people at one time (seven if you count the comets). These days I really only see one person regularly — although my love life doesn’t resemble a monogamous person’s whatsoever. I have a lot of… inappropriate friendships, let’s call them.
And in the interim, I’ve had periods where I’ve dated two or three people at one time. But never have I dated five people at once again.
Why? Well, it was stressful. For starters, I had no alone time. Sleep was hard to come by.
But it was also very difficult in ways that are hard even now for me to express. I was, by definition, caught in the middle a lot.
Hinges Should Do Most of the Work
Okay, taking a step back from the Great Poly-Oversaturation Event of 2011 (a wild time for me), let’s take a look at what it means to be a hinge.
To do that, let’s simplify the hinge role in its most basic terms. If a person is dating two people who aren’t involved with one another, that relationship structure is known as a “V” or “vee.” This label is named after the letter and its shape. The shared partner is the hinge.
If there are issues in that dynamic, no matter which parties are having them, the hinge will have to be involved somehow. Because everything that happens affects them. So if they’re having issues with one partner and then their two partners are having tension with one another, then it all affects the hinge. Or Godzilla forbid that both relationships are having issues — and something is off in the metamour (a term for your partner’s other partner) relationship. In that scenario, the hinge now has three problems.
And because of this, even if every single issue is resolved equitably between all the parties it affects, the hinge will typically have to do more work.
Which by the way is totally fair and sensible, because they’re getting the benefit of all of those relationships.
However, this is a hidden cost of being a hinge that most people don’t consider when they’re fantasizing about being involved in multiple relationships. The strain can be huge, too, especially if issues come up (and since real life happens, they usually do).
With Great Hinges, Comes Great Responsibility
Curiously, I’ve seen certain hinges try to sidestep this. Instead of doing the work to try to resolve issues, they’ll decide that a metamour conflict has nothing to do with them (even if they are directly involved).
“Handle it yourselves!” Even if the issue also involves them.
Or worse, hinges can go avoidant, low contact, basically checking out while they hope that the problem magically disappears.
While these are choices someone can make, I’ve never seen it turn out well. This can very well be how hinges end up alone.
Instead, the work must be respected and embraced. Because with great power comes great responsibility, as Mister Spidey Man said.
And if you don’t want to have to possibly do that amount of work, you shouldn’t be in that many relationships — especially ones in which you’re the hinge.
In my own case, I had to take a close look at what my healthy capacity was — not my absolute max capacity, not what I could force myself miserably through — and to really dig down deep and consider what I really wanted out of relationships, instead of feeling like I had to date whomever expressed an interest in me, to give them a shot out of fairness (a huge issue in my past but something I’ve worked hard to vanquish from my personal calculus).
And as I did, I worked on relationships, noting which ones did seem like they weren’t workable or functional in a way that cheated everyone involved. Look, when I noticed that, I had to be honest with myself and other people in a method that was uncomfortable, for everyone.
But I have no regrets. And these days I am very thoughtful about the relationships I’m entering and the work I could be inadvertently taking on by doing so. Which means I date a lot less than I used to, but that I’m happier.