While emotional issues are present in any healthy relationship, some folks living a Poly lifestyle may find themselves experiencing certain issues to a larger degree. There are also many emotional issues specific to living a Poly lifestyle.
Issues currently covered in this section are:
Jealousy is a very real and potentially ugly emotion to be present in any relationship. In a Poly relationship, however, the jealousy that people feel tends to be of a different nature entirely. In a monagomaous relationship, jealousy tends to center around one partner basically being untrusting of the other partner in regards to a member of the opposite sex. Generally a wife becomes jealous if her husband spends a lot of time with another woman, or vice versa. From my point of view living in an extended family, I find myself jealous not of Kriek as a person, but occasionally of the time he spends with Sister Dagger or sometimes even the Relationship Dynamic that they share. (See Relationship Dynamics under the Practical Issues Section for more on this).
Once I find myself starting to feel jealous even in the slightest, I merely step back and look at the subject objectively. Our wife is a fantastic, loving woman who is sharing her life with two men and loving them both equally yet differently at the same time. Knowing her like I do, I know that she is trying to create a balance between the time she spends with both of her husbands so as not to create ill feelings or resentment.
Jealousy, like many emotions, is a healthy one provided that it doesn't fester and become a much worse problem for all parties involved. Jealousy that persists could very well be an underlying indication of a much more serious issue.
I think that it's important to note that while jealousy is an emotion, it's not one that can exist without many other companion emotions living with it. It's more likely a symptom of other issues or emotions then a free-standing emotion all it's own. In order to feel jealousy you must first feel something else. Think of jealousy as the end result of the experiment. What was it that served as the catalyst for this emotion you're feeling? Chances are that you'll never wake up in the morning feeling jealous without having at least one other emotion mixed in there. Every single person feels at least a twinge of jealousy at some time in their life. The sad thing is that many people don't realize it for what it is and chalk it up to something different entirely. Any person that tells you that they aren't the jealous type is making a blanket statement that's pretty hard to back up. The most important thing to overcome when dealing with jealousy is learning how to recognize it for what it is. After that it gets easier; well a little bit anyway.
For more information regarding jealousy, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
Stress is a very real issue in any relationship. You might feel stress about money, domestic issues, or just plain day to day life. However, stress in a Poly family is obviously magnified by however many additional spouses (or spice) that may exist in the relationship. I myself tend to find myself stressing over what people might call the "small stuff". When I say the "small stuff" I mean things like domestic day to day issues. If one member of the family has a higher domestic work load, this can cause stress not only for that person, but to a lesser degree the other members of the family.
We are a family of three adults and one child, and with all three adults working full time you can imagine that there's a fair amount of juggling that needs to be done to ensure that daily tasks get accomplished. Our washer and dryer runs virtually nonstop, and without a dishwasher it's easy to imagine the piles of dishes that can accumulate literally overnight. What does this have to do with stress, you ask? Plenty. No one wants to feel like the maid of the house, and at the same time no one wants to feel like they don't pull their weight within the house.
It's very easy to feel stressed out when coming home from a long day at work only to find dirty clothes and dishes strewn all over the house. One solution that I've found that works to alleviate our stress is that if I have the day off, I make sure that I do at least three loads of laundry before anyone else gets home. This, combined with washing up the dishes from the night before, goes along way to help my spice feel more relaxed when they come home. There's no greater emotional boost then coming home to a clean house and feeling like the rest of the day is yours to rest and relax. If each member of the house reciprocates this favor on at least one of their days off, it will go along way to helping reduce the stress levels that life can dump on us.
Stress levels can also be reduced by talking to your other partners. I know that, for me, my co-husband is a huge outlet for stress relief. We can get together and rant or rave about the little things that bother us about our wife without causing problems that would definitely arise if we talked to her about them. I'm not talking about critical relationship issues here, just the little nit-picky issues that get under everyone's skin regarding their partner(s).
Stress is definitely not something to be ignored if you want your relationship (as well as yourself and your spice) to remain healthy and happy.
For more information regarding Stress Management, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
So you sometimes feel that you have a hard time communicating with your spouse? Try adding one or more additional, yet equal, members to the family and then come talk to me about communication. When you live in a Poly family everything you think you know about communication goes out the proverbial window and is replaced by the need to sometimes say things three or more times.
Just because you assume that the things you tell your spouse will be relayed to the other husband doesn't mean that it will. Conversely, don't assume that something you have told the other husband has made it to the ears of your wife. (Keep in mind that this is just written to suit our context and interpret accordingly.) The point here is that communication reaches a whole new level once you add an additional member to your family and you need to be prepared to communicate on this level while still respecting the privacy boundaries that are necessary for any healthy relationship. (See " Privacy " below for more information.)
Once our wife began working, we began to discover that communication started to become much more difficult than it once had been. All three of us were working, and therefore our schedule's had changed dramatically. We decided to fix this with a rather inexpensive yet very practical and workable solution. We bought a dry-erase board and a set of markers from our local "five and dime" store. This became a permanent fixture for our refrigerator, it's still there as I'm writing this. We use it to communicate phone messages, work schedules, needed groceries, bills that are coming up, whatever needs to be passed along to the other members of the family. This is just one solution that might help alleviate communication problems that are bound to arise in any expanded family.
For more information regarding communication, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
In or Out of the Poly Closet?
This is probably one of the most intense emotional issues any Poly family will need to deal with in their lives. In our family things were rough for the first six months that our family was together. Sister Dagger's immediate family lives within 30 minutes of us, which obviously means that they are a part of our lives almost daily. Her parents still don't have any idea of the true nature of our relationship, but thankfully, her Sister and Brother-in-Law now know the truth. They were both very understanding and accepting of our relationship, which I credit largely to the fact that both have some deep-seeded beliefs in the Pagan Religion.
Despite the fact that our relationship is much more in the open now, that doesn't change the fact that for the first six months we felt the need to hide the fact that we were a family. If you are considering a Poly lifestyle, make sure that you give the Closet issue a lot of thought. I personally found myself not being able to " be myself ", which made me feel like I couldn't open up to Sister Dagger's family. This, in turn, made her feel like I didn't want to know them when in fact the entire Closet issue was the root of the problem.
If you do decide to enter into a Closeted family situation, make sure that you can emotionally handle the results of your actions. You might be living like that for quite some time. The most important thing to remember in a Closeted family situation is that you do all love each other on some level or you wouldn't be doing what you are doing. Don't let other emotional issues let you lose sight of that.
For more information regarding In or Out of the Poly Closet, free to read the following other resources we offer:
When A Discussion Should Be Over (For Now).
I'm not entirely sure that this is an emotional issue, but I put it here because a lot of times emotions are a large part of any discussion. I also think this applies to the area of knowing when an issue is not something you should speak up on. Living in a close knit family group that consists of more than two adult partners is going to create situations that can often become heated. Many times you will find yourself listening to a discussion that doesn't pertain to you and feel compelled to speak up. One word of advice to you. Don't. If it's obvious to you that this conversation is strictly between two of the other members of the family then don't speak up unless you are asked for your input. Despite the fact that you might feel the need to input your opinion on behalf of one of the other members of the family this probably won't help the situation, and most likely could hurt it.
Also, given the fact that in an expanded family there are many more opinions, thoughts, and relationship dynamics at work many times a discussion can evolve to a point where its best to just stop talking rather than risk doing more damage. I sometimes find myself at a point where I feel its much better to just end the discussion until a point in time when emotions are less heated and therefore the outcome might be a more rational one. Of course this won't always be the case, but waiting until a later time to discuss an issue that you feel might be overheating is usually the best course of action.
Emotional Drawbacks of Polyamory
Any healthy, loving relationship is based largely on emotions. Add to the relationship one or more sets of feelings and emotions and you have a potential juggernaut on your hands. While all the items listed in the Emotional Issues section of this Community could potentially fall under this drawbacks section, I'd like to expand a little more on this issue.
When you choose to expand your family and add in the feelings, emotions, and thought processes of other mature human beings you invite potential issues into your life. These potential issues include but aren't necessarily limited to insecurity, jealousy, detachment, and stress.
It's possible that you could lose your siblings, parents, or friends as a result of the choice you made to expand your family. I think this is a very real result that you had better consider before you decide to expand your family. Are you willing to lose those aspects of your life to be with your Spice? Make sure you're certain before you enter into this lifestyle. Keep in mind that you are dealing with individuals that only you know, and their reaction might not be the one you think you will get.
If there are children involved, biologically yours or not, their lives can be adversely affected to. In our family we have the red-headed step-child. He is a fantastic six year old boy that I have come to love immensely. If our family should dissolve, what happens to my relationship with him? This is a very real issue that you had better consider before making any lifestyle decisions.
For more information regarding Emotional Drawbacks of Polyamory, free to read the following other resources we offer:
Feeling Ignored or Detached
This is one of the issues that I feel strongest about. I know that I keep harping on adding additional feelings, thoughts, and emotions into relationships but this is a very real thought process to explore.
Depending on the relationship dynamic that evolves within your family, feeling ignored or detached from the family unit is a very real emotion that you could develop. What I do when I start to feel ignored or detached is to step back and examine the relationship dynamics that exist in our family and then revisit the situation. Many times when one person feels they are being ignored it is more likely that they are simply being left out of the situation at hand. One important factor to consider in this situation is length of relationship. Sister Dagger and Kriek have been together for seven years. They have a much more diverse history then she and I do, which obviously creates a much different relationship dynamic. Many times they are relating on a level that is based on something that they experienced together in their past, this isn't bad per se, but it does lead me to sometimes feel left out as I wasn't there to share that memory with them. This doesn't mean that they are ignoring me or detaching me from the family, it simply means that they are relating on a level that they understand.
Make sure that what you think you are feeling is truly what you are feeling. Living in an expanded family is not like living in a " conventional " family. You must now learn to examine issues from three or more perspectives and this will take some adjusting as well as a possible change in your perspective.
For more information regarding Feeling Ignored or Detached, feel free to read the following other resources we offer:
This could be one of the most emotionally intense issues of any Poly family unit. It could also easily be titled Alone Time. This is an area that I feel our family has a very strong advantage in.
Every person or couple needs privacy and alone time. Whether it is one on one with your Spice, or simply time to yourself to do as you wish; it is important to every person. I'm not exactly sure how to go about suggesting that your family achieve this, but I can tell a little about how our family does. Kriek goes to work at 6:00 am every morning. Sister Dagger gets up with the red-headed step-child shortly thereafter, which leaves me sleeping until about 8:30 am every day. After the boy gets on the bus, this gives the wife about an hour and a half to herself. This is time she has grown accustomed to as her own private time. I typically go to work between noon and 2:00 pm. Kriek comes home about 4:00 pm every day. This usually gives him between two and four hours alone with our wife before I get home, while I have had about that same amount of time alone with her before I left. Once I come home, we have time as a family unit before everyone has to head off to bed for the night. This will be covered more in the Relationship Dynamics section of this Community.
On a separate but equally important note is romantic privacy. We as a family decided from the outset that nothing in regards to the physical relationship between the wife and her Spice would be discussed unless it involved physical abuse. While neither Kriek or myself think the other would ever physically abuse the wife, this was the only detail that either of us felt we would ever need to know. Just like a " conventional " marriage, we feel the need for privacy and don't wish to " kiss and tell ".
If you're thinking about entering into a Poly family relationship, make sure that the boundaries regarding your physical and emotional privacy and alone time are set before you get too far. You'll be thankful in the long run.