I Have To Be Alone?
One of the surprising things (to me) about having multiple relationships is that you have to be or get good at being alone. When people ask me stuff about poly.. well they ask about the sex. But after they’ve exhausted that, they ask about the handling jealousy and finally about how it actually works. It’s a lot of scheduling. Most poly people use Google Calendar, for a couple of good reasons. You can access it anywhere.. any computer or smart phone or whatever, and you can share calendars. When your lives get a little entwined and you’d like to see each other’s schedules you can “share” your Google Calendar. Some of us call this “Google Official”. It’s just a little joke, like getting Facebook official.
Anyway, even with all of the planning and scheduling in the world it’s going to work out that most people have some nights when their loved ones are otherwise occupied and we have to either be already good at or learn to be good at being alone. It’s ironic, right? 2 or 3 partners and you’ll usually spend at least a few nights finding ways to entertain yourself. A good number of couples try to have dates just when the other one does. It’s certainly preferable to maximize scheduling, but that never seems to work perfectly. So, there will generally be nights as a polyamorist that you spend the evening alone or sleep alone.
I came to polyamory already pretty independent. I was a Navy wife for 13 years. I’d certainly done nights here and there when he had duty, and nights when he went on a conference trip or whatever. Weeks on occasion, months on occasion, two war deployments, and a lot of exercises at sea made me good at sleeping alone. I’ve always been a really social person, but I also need a little alone time here and there for quiet and reflection. I like to read and play on the computer, write my LONG IGNORED novel and paint. I like to take walks and go to coffee shops and eavesdrop and do little projects like refinishing furniture or making things. Sometimes I just like to sit.
I wasn’t naturally good at times alone. I learned to love it. Today when Traveler left I looked at my long empty Sunday and at the week ahead when he will be traveling. Unlike the short trips my husband used to take, I’m not happy Traveler is going because it will give me some time to myself and my little things. I see Traveler a good amount of time, even more so these past few weeks and months, but I have lots of time in my week already that isn’t his. I see Cleveland fairly regularly and Boss on occasion too. Even with that, I’ll miss him a little. So, I kissed him goodbye and turned to my empty apartment, had that thought flash through my mind “well now what?” and smiled. Silly girl. I have a LOT of things to do.
I could have called my friends. (It’s good to cultivate friendships with people you are not dating.. part of that whole person thing) but I didn’t really feel like going out. I’m nursing my cold still, so I decided on a nice quiet day and evening in. I’ve watched some stuff on Netflix and played some WoW (World of Warcraft) and sketched a bit for a painting I’m percolating. If I were feeling better I might have walked down to the junction and gotten some coffee or a pastry. I’ve chatted briefly with Cleveland and Peaches and talked with Quinky Girl. I played WoW a bit with them too, and just generally had a nice quiet day at home.
Now Now.. It’s Not Just Us Poly Peeps
It’s totally possible in monogamous relationships to have autonomy and independence. Polyamorists don’t have the market cornered on this, but it’s maybe more of a must for those in poly than those in monogamy, so it’s a skill that is good to consciously hone. It’s an option in monogamy to spend every evening together (assuming you aren’t in the military or something). And there isn’t anything actually wrong with that, with spending most of your time with your partner, but it can be unhealthy if we don’t have the ABILITY to be alone.
What Does Being Good at Being Alone Do?
In poly, this is my answer to a lot of questions. How do I handle jealousy? Sometimes not that great. Sometimes it’s easy. I process my feelings and do the work, but I also know that idle minds are evil, so I stay busy if I’m alone and I’m disturbed. These days I don’t really need to concentrate on. It’s just something I do. But, if I find things eating at my mind.. I give them better things to chew. I work-out or write or paint or explore something. Once I baked a zillion tiny pies. I was really upset and it’s healthier than sitting there fretting. I got over it and had lots of little pies to give as gifts.
How do I manage time? Sometimes better than others. I’ve learned to try to communicate, use google calendar and be good at keeping myself entertained. Lucky me, because I’m easily entertained.
But I NEED You…
The other caveat is that we simply can’t have our partners every time we want them. If it’s not an emergency I can’t expect people to cancel their dates and cater to my whims. I’ve heard of this happening to friends of mine. The live-in girlfriend is angry about something and he cancels his date with his other girlfriend to tend to that. A fight is not an emergency and generally speaking I’m against giving into cancelling because of upset partners, because it’s like rewarding bad behaviour. Obviously there are exceptions to this. I have some friends who had maybe the worst fight of their relationship and really had to cancel the date. If it’s not all the time, and not done lightly.. dates can and should be cancelled or changed on rare occasions in my little book of the world, and we should make efforts not to usurp other relationships our partners are in. I’m not trying to sound like an expert on this or arbitrate for anyone with any hard line. BUT… regularly cancelling dates because someone else is upset or picked a fight or had a bad day is no bueno. If you’re having your standard Tuesday fight about the laundry.. maybe think about keeping that date and fighting with each other later. It’s not kind to stand people up that have been looking forward to your time.
It’s also not a bad idea to explain to the person why you are cancelling or changing the date. It avoids a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. 🙂
So, When Is It Cool?
One nice thing about having partners that get along with each other is that sometimes a really nice compromise can happen. A few weeks back Quinky Girl had a tough day and just kinda wanted to hang a minute with me and Traveler. We were on a date and she texted me to ask if we could all get a drink before Traveler and I went our merry way. It was just an invitation for her loves to see her for a little bit. That sounded like fun to everyone and we all had a nice drink and enjoyed each other’s company. It didn’t have to be any big thing. It was just a nice thing. Had Traveler and I been busy or unable to meet or had other plans, we could easily have said so and it would have been totally cool. Because we know Quinky Girl can take care of herself and has a good support network, we didn’t have to feel pressured. Everyone wins. There have been lots of little situations like that. We’re careful not to take advantage, but it’s a really nice perk that I think we all enjoy.
When Is It Not Cool?
Now having said all of that.. sometimes I have to suck it up. Sometimes I could really use warm sweet hugs from my loves and they just aren’t available. Maybe I can settle for a short phone conversation or something, or maybe I need to rely on other parts of my support network or my ability to soothe myself. I’ve been there. It is NOT okay to ruin my partner’s dates because I have the feels. Sometimes it’s time for big girl panties. Or ice-cream. I can NOT call and text and email and harass someone or make shit weird for them because of my feelings. My feelings are real and they matter, but I am not the centre of the universe. Sadly I’ve heard of this happening quite a bit. This girlfriend is upset or jealous or whatever and spends the entire time the boyfriend is on a date losing her damn mind on the telephone. Then he is forced to answer her texts and pleas or face wrath or whatever because he ignored her. It’s crazy damn high-school drama. No. Just.. No.
Are There Resources?
Hell to the Yeah there are. Google “dealing with jealousy” or “self-soothing”. Some of my favourite sites have been Polyamory.org‘s message boards, Life On The Swing Set.com, or MoreThanTwo.com. I’m also overly fond of Polyamory Weekly’s site and podcast. There are something like 350+ posts on a variety of topics there and dammit if they haven’t covered what you are looking for. They aren’t making new ones anymore, but I also really like pedestrian polyamory for good advice on a lot of things. Other than polyamory resources (which I named very few) there is also a ton of great stuff under self soothing. Look into breathing exercises, journaling, yoga, exercise, distraction, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization. (Those aren’t as frou frou as they sound). If you’re science minded.. look up evidence based self soothing. All that googling will keep you busy and give you LOTS of good tools.
It isn’t always easy and there is a lot less instant gratification in multiple partner than one would think.
And last.. remember you aren’t alone. There are lots of great polyamory blogs and lots of people who have been through where you are. It’s hard for me to remember when I’m there.. but I’m not alone and neither are you.