There is a reason I chose "paradigm" as one of the words in this blog title; I like the concept of looking at things from a different perspective and trying to understand a viewpoint or need that I previously didn't understand or even knew existed.
I had a nice paradigm shift recently when I was asked the following question; "What are the obstacles to entering a relationship, creating a Vee, with one partner of a married couple?"
The question itself, and how it was worded, gave me the impression the questioner was anticipating problems with the OSO in a Vee configuration. I hadn't really thought of it from that perspective so I enjoyed having a nice paradigm shift as I thought about answering the question.
I've always viewed my relationships as independent of one another, at least early in the relationship. I hope that my partners will get along, but it isn't necessary. And if they get along well enough to be friends, that is just awesome sauce on the top! For that reason I also approach new relationships a bit differently. I view them as independent, regardless of pre-existing partnerships, and hope to be friends with any OSO's, but don't feel it is a requirement.
So how do you enter into a new relationship with someone who has an OSO?
The first thing I would recommend to anyone contemplating a relationship with someone who has an OSO is to communicate openly with the potential new partner. Ask about their expectations, and how they envision a final design.
-Would there be a hierarchy involved from their perspective? Would you be in a Secondary type position or would the relationships and decisions within them carry equal weight?
-Do they expect everyone to be friends? More than friends? What happens if a friendship doesn't bloom?
-How would they expect to deal with disagreements or conflicts? Would they be the mediator in those situations or would you and the OSO be expected to work things out yourselves?
And of course there are other questions that personally I feel apply to any poly relationship. .
-Is the person prepared to deal with time management issues? How?
-We talked about their other partner but, what happens when you have one? Are they expecting to be an equal, a Secondary, or something else?
-If you acquire another partner, would they expect to work with that person, have a relationship, and solve difficulties directly if they expect that from you?
Those were some specific questions and thoughts so now let's talk more conceptually.
Monogamy is an intentionally static design. That is to say, a single person finds another single person with whom they share common interests. Should they feel an emotional attachment they create a bond, beneficial to them both in many ways. Negotiation of children is a part of the design, usually when it is created. Once the design is set it doesn't change.
Polyamory on the other hand can be much more dynamic, allowing of course for differences of design. Not only does the relationship grow, the potential for exponential growth is quite possible. As with above, two people join to form a union or partnership. Those same two may also each have another partner, growing the relationship to realistically now include 4 people. Add a partner for each of those people and we now count 6. Add children to the mix. . . I think you can see what I mean.
So what is the bottom line here? Approach any potential poly relationship with scalability in mind. (Yes, I'm throwing IT terms in here). Scalability means essentially the ability to adjust to accommodate future growth in a graceful manner without disruption to current activity. If you approach and design your relationships with scalability in mind from the beginning, adjusting to new partners will be much easier. It also makes some sense with the initial point of this article, entering into a relationship with someone who has an existing SO. The concept of scalability is a good basis for many of the questions that could, and should, be asked before entering the relationship. At the same time, their answers will help outline a roadmap to the future of the relationship and possible changes that can be expected down the road. And if questions of scalability can't be answered, maybe the potential new relationship isn't as strong a potential as it first appeared. At a minimum there is probably some serious negotiation around relationship design that need to take place.
As usual, remember your needs when negotiating any new relationship and you will have a better chance at durability and success.
What other things do you think factor into entering a relationship with someone who has an existing partner?