Poly Emotional Stress
Black Eagle

Several people have written acknowledging that a poly family (regardless of live-in status) has more potential for stress than a simple monogamous two-person family. Let us assume that cheating is as big a stress factor for both kinds of families and then we can deal with the stresses inherent in polyamory.

Point one, for us (a triad with outside lovers), is the fact that emotional distress cannot be easily hidden. What could be passed over in a monogamous marriage (simply due to the fact that only one person is pressuring another for an explanation) HAS to be dealt with in a polyamorous situation.

For us, this has meant that we have frequent confrontations and "problem solving" sessions than I ever thought about having in a monogamous marriage. These are not pleasant. Still, I find I never go for weeks in misery because a problem is not being addressed and we cannot find a way of dealing with it. There are advantages to having more peoples' experiences and insights to draw on.

Outside lovers are probably our biggest stressors. We have to eliminate potential lovers who are not compatible with polyamory and, on rare occasions, those who come in on false pretenses. Each problem with an actual or potential lover adds stress to the family which has to be dealt with. Not too long ago, I was forced to break off a relationship because my lover was causing enormous harm to one member of the family -- something I simply will not tolerate. Because two of us were pressuring her, she finally admitted what the problem was. She had not wanted to interfere in my new relationship. I'm glad she did.

But, what Ryam [Ryam Nearing - Editor of Loving More Magazine] did not mention (although I'm sure she knows it) is that a polyamorous family has more stress reducers than a monogamous family. When one of us got sick, another could provide necessary care without a major disruption of everyone's schedule -- something that has cost some people jobs in monogamous relationships. Emergencies were easily dealt with because we had more people to call on -- people we were absolutely positive would be there when we needed them.

Shopping and other chores cause less total disruption of schedules simply because so many things can be done at once.

Now -- FORMING a polyamorous family is certainly far more stressful than forming a monogamous family. In a monogamous family, love is the binding (we hope) and substantial problems are covered over and don't become destructive until later. Apparently nearly 50% of such marriages don't cover up major problems, as they last.

In a polyamorous family, the potential for individual conflict is much higher and more effort has to be put into working out methods of compromise and problem resolution than a monogamous family is forced to deal with. That initial shake-down time for our original dyad lasted almost five years. With the addition of a third, it took five months to get the initial balance right and a further year to work out the other issues. We seem to have it pat, now (four years), as we just sailed through a mess that would have destroyed most monogamous families (and certainly would destroy unsettled polyamorous families) with only the briefest of pauses.

We know, for ourselves, what we need to feel comfortable, so solutions are more easily found than they could have been in that first year and a half. We are working on integrating a fourth and expect to take a good ten months to make sure it can be stable before doing too much that would risk the family. Since quads seem to be very unstable, we are being particularly careful about this fourth. The bond with each of us needs to be solid and the commitment to the family as a whole needs to be healthy. We are, of course, looking for a fifth, as pentads seem more stable than quads.

Ours works because there is no boss. Each of us is "boss" in an agreed on area, although we are subject to the disagreement of the rest, so it's not much of a boss. And those areas change as our situation changes. So we remain very flexible, talk about things we would rather not talk about, and get along extremely well by doing so.

I agree with Ryam that there are more stressors in a poly family, but I think it worthwhile to note that, after the initial period where working out how the family is to work has been passed, the stress relievers are probably greater than in monogamous families.

At least that has been our experience.

-- Black Eagle

Black Eagle