For all that I often make cracks about couples looking for that bi-chick to move in with them for lives of Perfect Poly Bliss, sometimes you really do find someone who might really want to form a family with a couple.
When moving from a couple dynamic to a triad, you’ve kinda gotta be willing to let the coupledom go first. No, stop looking at me like that. I know you’ve been together for fifteen years, and have a house and kids. If the couple part is that damn important to you, do everyone a favor. Be poly, if you want. Form relationships and enjoy them. But stop bloody well looking for someone to “add” to your marriage to “make it complete”.
If you really want a triad let it be a new relationship. You’re really not going to be able to preserve the original couple with exactly the dynamic it had. The dynamics are all gonna change, anyway, and probably in ways you couldn’t have anticipated even if you thought you had all the facts. That’s okay. New relationships are new relationships.
I’d like to offer some helpful ideas to consider if you’re wanting to form a new triad.
· Move into a new home together. Move out of the house the couple shared.
I don’t blame you if this first one makes you squawk. Lemme esplain… No, that would take to long. Let me sum up.
If you have been living in a couple for any length of time, you have your own space. You’ve filled that house to make it “yours”. It’s very difficult to integrate a new family member into the old space. It can be done, but let me ask you a few questions:
Do you have unspoken rules about who gets to touch what and when around stuff?
Does the kitchen sort of “belong” to the primary cook, and is this person even slightly territorial? I was, and didn’t realize it. When OLQ moved in together, it was a very good thing, indeed, that we did move into a new house, as the kitchen wound up “belonging” to the cook of the night rather than have territorial issues between people in the household. Moving all of us into a new home was something we did right. (Yeah, we did things wrong, too, but that wasn’t one of them).
Is there a workbench or garage that is the primary “lab” of someone in the present household?
Do you have a method for filing books/papers/CDs/DVDs?
If you all create a new home together, it’s a good way to get around these issues. I promise you, they’re very real. Don’t think you’re exempt. It’ll bite you.
After observing poly households and listening to various living arrangements for a long time, I begin to think the Oneida Community had the right idea – give every adult member a small bedroom of his or her own.
If you have a “master” bedroom with a couple and then another bedroom for the new member, you’re screaming that there is a hierarchy to the relationship. Maybe you’re okay with that, but the sort of person who is independent enough to deal with a poly live-in relationship won’t be in the long run.
And the whole “all adults in one bedroom” thing? Just… Don’t. Not unless each person has another totally private space of his or her own. I don’t give a damn how extroverted and in love with having people around you all the time you are. Everyone needs some little space of their own. If they don’t get it physically, they’re gonna start creating it in their heads. Not a good thing if you’re looking to keep relationship bonds.
· Establish rules about parenting if there are children.
I’ve written more about poly parenting, I think, than any other subject. Just click on the parenting tag here in this blog and you’ll come up with most of what I have on the subject that I think is really useful. I’m not going to reinvent the damn wheel here.
· Expect individuals to have individual lives (and possibly loves)
Something OLQ did that was radically and horribly wrong was that we tried to be a single unit of four people rather than four individuals with lives who chose to live together. My God, we were so foolish. We did it with the best of intentions. One of us had come from some incredibly tightly-knit generational type family, so the joined at the hip type marriage was all that one knew. Others loved the idea of together, together, together.
Until it started to chafe.
A standard monogamous marriage can just barely stand doing all social things together, taking all vacations together and going to all events together. Even then, I’m not so sure that’s really the healthiest thing in the world to do.
When you’ve got more than two people?
Well, think about it: Even the most compatible of people are going to have their own individual tastes, goals, needs and desires. Make sure that you allow for those however you can. It’s actually good to do things as a family, but make sure that each individual adult has things that are Not Part of the Family that they’re doing as well.
· Don’t try to engineer everything
If your family rules start to look like a corporate merger, you might be stifling things a bit. While I’m all for having things out in the open, talking them out, and certainly writing a property sharing contract, allow for the serendipity that you’re going to find in any effective life. Just because you’ve been studying group dynamics for a long time, can quote all the mistakes you think the Oneida Community made, have elaborate theories on why the Nest system from Stranger in a Strange Land wouldn’t work, and have studied cult theory until you could write a thesis on it without checking any more references, don’t think that this theory is going to trump the infinite variety of human choice. Real people are cranky, cantankerous and gloriously unpredictable. It’s why sociology is more of an art than a science.
I’d actually encourage anyone who wanted to form a group poly household to take a few cues from some business models of relationships. No, no, don’t think I mean that it needs to be all cold and corporate. Believe it or not many large organizations these days are clueing in to the fact that the people are really the important part of any organization and that making sure that everyone’s needs are served is a good way to have a healthy, happy organization. I’ve recommended The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People more than once here, and I’ll beat the drum for it again.
But, don’t by whatever you hold holy, think you can make a triad some sort of “couple plus” relationship. It’s not “just like a monogamy, but with more people”. Let it be what it is and you’ve a better chance at the relationship working out happily.