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Uncategorized

I Have Multiple Partners… So Who Do I Live With?

todayFebruary 9, 2022 29

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Anne Shark

Apr 15, 2020 · 7 min read

Society pressures us to take a certain path in our relationships — date casually, date exclusively, move in together, get married and finally have babies (in more or less that order) — i.e. “the relationship escalator.” When you make the decision to start living an Ethical Non-Monogamous or polyamorous life, a lot of things change. Suddenly this path becomes merely a suggestion.

Some of you may have read my pieces, “Polyamory is Uncomfortable” and “I Want to Bring my Partner over with my Boyfriend Home” about how my live-in partner, Drake, and I are working out how to share space in our polyamorous relationship. This has been an ongoing conversation, and some of your responses have inspired me to look at the conflict from other angles.

A couple of people have asked why Drake and I don’t just live separately. While that’s an option, we’ve been living together for most of our eight-year-long relationship and I really enjoy living with him. I don’t want to move apart if we don’t have to.

To take a step back from this issue, I thought I’d explore the various ways poly people live, taking a look at some of my poly friends and other past or current partners.

Living solo

Pros:

The main benefit to this setup is, of course, that you don’t have to navigate space with anyone else. Your space is your own, and you can use it the way you want to. If you want to invite a friend or partner over, you don’t need to check in with anyone else. If you want to spend time alone, you always have that choice.

Cons:

The downsides are that the cost of your own place can be prohibitive, especially if you live in a pricier city, and if you’re a social person, you may get lonely.

In sum:

If you’re comfortable with being alone much of the time and can afford it, it’s probably the option that causes the fewest conflicts around managing multiple sexual relationships.

If you date someone living with this set up:

I’ve dated a couple of people who live alone and it’s nice to have the option of spending alone time with a partner. I do find that people who live alone tend to really value their space and time alone. This might be a sign of how available they are to a close, ongoing relationship.

I’ve been seeing Andrew, who lives alone, for over a year, and I still feel like he keeps me at arm’s length. Andrew told me that he lived with a partner once, but that he’d likely never do it again because it was “too much.” I respect his ability to know what is too much for him.

The fact he lives alone is one way Andrew expresses his relationship values: “We are our own people with our own lives and I don’t want to integrate my life too deeply with someone else’s.” My relationship with him is fairly casual and simple, which can be nice, but I do sometimes wish for more intimacy.

That said, this is just one example. Some people may live alone but still enjoy having people around a lot, so look at the way someone uses their solo space as much as the fact they have it.

Living with roommates

Pros:

Living with a roommate is cheaper than living alone but offers a similar amount of independence around your dating life. Plus you have company at home without the complexities that can arise from living with a romantic partner.

Cons:

You may not find the perfect roommate who understands and supports your lifestyle. In this case, navigating space would be a challenge. Even if you’re lucky enough to find a roommate with a similar ENM lifestyle, there may be other complications that arise… such as your date flirting with your roommate and triggering some not so fun feelings.

In sum:

Like any roommate situation, it’s probably a good idea to make sure your lifestyles are compatible. If you are, living with a roommate can strike a nice balance between the independence of living alone with the perks of cheaper rent and having company.

If you date someone living with this set up:

People who choose to have roommates tend to be social people who are skillful at working through challenges of relationships and setting boundaries.

I’ve dated a couple of people who lived with a roommate or three, and for the most part, I enjoyed the communal feeling of their lives. There’s certainly a type of poly person to whom polyamory is more than just multiple sex partners, but a way to add to a close, loving community — something I value.

Of course there’s a difference between people who choose to live with roommates and those who need to due to their financial situation.

Living with a partner

Pros:

You have cheaper rent and potentially more intimacy and support from this partner.

Cons:

Navigating shared space with a romantic partner around bringing over other partners can be a challenge. If you and your nesting partner have different ideas about bringing other people over, it can cause problems in your relationship.

If you date someone living with this set up:

People who live with a partner have either developed some very strong communication skills in order to make this work, or they’re in the process of developing those skills.

I was dating someone who lived with his wife in the early stages of their polyamory. I watched as they worked through the feelings that came up from having other people over, and they did it with grace and maturity. They already had some strong communication patterns in place, and they continued to build on that foundation.

I slept over several times and for the most part, if a door was closed, they left each other alone. In time though, things got a little more relaxed. When my partner’s wife walked in on us naked in bed together one morning, I was uncomfortable for all but two seconds before it felt totally…. okay. It was, for me, the ultimate okay.

That said, it did take some willingness on my part to be present as they worked through this dynamic. In the beginning, my partner asked me to leave before his wife was up because, while she was okay with me spending the night, she didn’t want to feel obligated to socialize in the morning. But as I mentioned, over time things got much more fluid and natural-feeling and the “leave by 7” request dissolved.

As for my own living situation, Drake and I have different ideas about what is comfortable for using our space. He is okay with people coming over as long as I’m okay with him going out when they are there. I hate making him feel “outed” by my dates, but he hates the social pressure of being at home. We’re still working on it… and anyone I date will have to understand this if they’re interested in coming over.

And then, some live with their parents.

Pros:

Saving money and potentially having the emotional support of your family.

Cons:

You may have to sneak around in your dating life, something I haven’t done since high school.

In Sum:

Be ready to enjoy the youthful feeling of sneaking around someone’s parents.

If you date someone living in this set up:

Yes, I’ve dated someone who still lived at home, a dating scenario I thought was well behind me. She was younger (26), and still developing her career. It was also more common in her family’s culture for children to live at home longer.

Though she invited me over a couple of times when her dad was out, I never took her up on the offer. I felt like I was done with the days of sneaking around behind parents’ backs to make out with a lover. She was also much younger than me, which in itself wasn’t entirely comfortable. Our relationship was short-lived, but she still holds a warm place in my heart.

My ideal way to live is with a partner and potentially, with roommates.

I haven’t lived with roommates since college, and that was hit or miss. When it was bad, it was terrible — think passive-aggressive, anonymous notes of complaint left on the mirror about noise and cleanliness. When it was good though, it was great — someone to check in with, movie nights, shared meals, chores and expenses.

For the time being, I’m sticking with living with my partner and challenging myself and him to push our comfort zones just a little bit at a time.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out other stories by Anne Shark:

 

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