First off, I’d like to thank you on running a great blog. I’m pretty new to polyamory and having this resource really helped me out a few times. I have sort of a general question about feelings of poly saturation. I have a primary and a secondary, and have been thinking about taking on a casual relationship with one other person, but I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed while talking to this third person about a possible relationship. While I don’t want to hurt them by outright rejecting them, I really think I’m biting off more than I can chew. Have you got any advice?

Thanks again for great information!

Too many feelings

Dear Feelings,

Ah, the old question about poly-saturation! Juggling three relationships certainly can be challenging, especially for a beginner at poly. But if each relationship brings you joy and happiness, it can be very satisfying and rewarding too.

So from the way you phrased your letter, it sounds like the part that makes you feel overwhelmed is the actual talking about a potential relationship, not the hanging out and spending time with this new person. So the easy solution might be to table the “relationship negotiations” and just enjoy a casual friendship for now. There’s nothing wrong with saying to the new person, “Look, I really like you and I want to keep spending time with you, but I’m just not ready to talk about entering a formal relationship with you right now.”

Love may be infinite, but your time is not.

A big part of being poly is recognizing and respecting what each person is willing and able to give you in terms of time and intimacy, and deciding if you want to accept it or not. Everyone has the freedom to choose, and everyone has boundaries. Negotiating what you want within these parameters is the key to making polyamory work successfully.

So step one is to decide what you want. If you want some kind of new relationship, is it going to mean giving up time with one of your other sweeties in exchange? How will they feel about that? Are you willing to give up some of your “me time” instead? Will having less downtime negatively impact all your relationships?

Of course, a new relationship doesn’t HAVE to take more time. Your boundaries could include a limit on the time spent together with your new partner. Again, they might not find that acceptable, so you’ll have to negotiate. I can easily see how this can get overwhelming quickly.

But if you feel like you have a genuine connection with someone, there’s no reason to reject them outright. If you’re not ready to pursue it, put it on the back burner until you are ready to give it the attention it deserves.

Leon, what’s your take?

Great question – and I agree with most of what Mischa wrote. The biggest problems when entering the poly world can involve jealousy, or communication, or simply shaking off the shackles of traditional expectations – but perhaps the biggest problem for people who are experienced with polyamory tends to be scheduling! There are only 24 hours in the day for each of us, and both cloning and string theory still have quite a ways to go before we can expect to be able to be in more than one place at once.

The fact you’ve gotten this far – where you’re making poly work for you and feel comfortable with what you’ve got – is a good sign that you’re doing things right, and sometimes you need to trust your gut when it tells you something is a little off. If you’re feeling like this third relationship might be too much for you, you might want to spend a little time figuring what it is specifically that’s giving you cause for pause.

If it’s really a time management issue, figure out how much time you have to spare for exploring with this third person while keeping your other relationships strong, and decide whether or not you feel comfortable committing it – especially if you’re not sure where you want it to go and how much time it might eventually absorb.

Otherwise, look at it clinically. Do they fill a need or desire you have but aren’t currently getting from your current partners? Or is it more of a curiosity about a/this new person? Is it the potential for New Relationship Energy (NRE)? Conversely, might it be a situation in which you don’t feel comfortable saying no?

There’s a lot of potential depth and many angles here, but I think the most important point to take is this, in which it seems Mischa and I are both agreed: first find out what it is you want, then take steps to get it in a way that respects your current relationships, with your partners and with yourself. Only you can tell whether or not adding someone new to the mix is a good idea – or prevent forest fires.

Good luck!