Ask Poly – Over to You – How Many Partners is Too Many?
During July and August, we’ll be crowdsourcing answers to oft-asked poly-related questions via Polytical’s facebook and twitter. Polly will return as usual in September – so please do continue sending her questions! Today’s column is brought to you with grateful thanks to Polly’s Facebook friends, and you can follow Polytical to join in the conversation – we’d love to hear from you!
How many partners is too many?
“27 is the maximum number. That way, even on the shortest month, you have one day to yourself.”
- A & B
“Where N is the ideal number of partners, it can be expressed as N = (ability to use google calendar)/(number of current partners) * (your score on the introverted : extroverted ratio to two decimal places) * (need to sleep). Trufax.”
“Depends on you, them, and how attached you really are to healthy sleep patterns.”
“I’d definitely say the number is based on how much time each relationship needs, including the relationship you should have with yourself. If work is super-busy, your social life books you up months in advance or any other reason then even one partner can be too many (how often do we hear “this person is married to their work”?)
What is important is that the time you’re giving to your partners is negotiated with them and checked regularly. Ideally you’ll have some buffer zone too so that if a crisis develops you’re able to spend time where it’s needed rather than worrying about X when you’re with Y.
Ultimately the number will come down to what works best for you and your polycule and that’s the thing someone should strive for. Two happy partners is always going to be better than thirty neglected ones!”
“For me, anything over two is too many. I like Kathy Labriola’s intimacy-autonomy scale: if you rate high in intimacy you want more contact with your lovers and thus have time and emotional energy for fewer of them, while if you are more autonomous you have time for more. And then you also have to factor in how intense the relationship itself is (so you may want a lot of intimacy in general, but are happy to have a more casual relationship with someone). In general, I would say – whatever feels right to you and does not hurt your existing partners.”
“364 – you always need one day a year off for yourself! Seriously, it varies by person – and it won’t be the same for each partner either (eg. one of your partners might have more space in their life for partners than you), but it’s something that each person has to work out for themselves. It also depends on the specifics of the people and relationships involved – you might be able to handle three long distance relationships, but only two if they live in the same city as you.”
“It depends on the person, the amount of time you have to give and the priorities you have in your life. And sometimes the ideal number of partners for your current situation might be none: just because someone isn’t currently dating at all, doesn’t mean they are not poly. Like, I’ve been more or less monogamous for a long time. Not because I had a desire to do that but because dating is annoying, people are crappy, and sometimes I just can’t be arsed with them.”
- H & I
“How many friends is too many? How many hobbies is too many? How many jobs is too many? I think all of this comes down to giving time to each relationship, be that romantic, friendship, business or the relationship with yourself, and working out how much time remains for new opportunities.”
“I also think that the degree of involvement between partners needs to be factored into the equation: for example, in some circumstances it’s easier if everyone is pretty separate, in others it’s easier if everyone lives together and is involved with each other.”
“Too many partners is when you don’t have time/energy to keep everyone, including yourself, happy and with their needs fulfilled.”
“The point at which you’re not able to give the time, attention and emotional or physical energy required for each relationship, as well as for work, school, social life, hobbies, time to yourself, and any other commitments you have in your life: that is the point at which it becomes too many.
I’ve only had one partner for well over a year now, but not sought any more because of university kind of eating my life. The level of time/commitment required to build and sustain a relationship was something I could only give to my existing partner… trying to give that to somebody else would have been unfair to them, to my current partner, and to myself. But now my circumstances have changed I feel I could give the time to a second relationship, if the chance were to present itself.”
“I think I can date very many miscellaneous people, but I can only keep rapt attention on three, maybe four, regardless of whether I am shagging them. I can have a partner and three very close friends, or one very very close friend, one rather very close but slightly neglected friend and two primaries. Maybe I could manage two primaries, a secondary, and a friend if I neglected my me-time a bit.”
“It also depends on how you define partners and lovers and such. We should define what makes someone your partner, rather than someone you really like and manage to have a date with every couple months and see more as a lover (for example, not to exclude that from a partner).”
“Apparently research has shown that most people have around six close friends at any one time, presumably because there’s not enough time/emotional energy for more (obviously there are more friends who don’t come under ‘close’) – maybe a similar number applies here?”
“As many as feels too many – I think it’s down to the people and the relationship(s) involved.”
- R & S
“When this question is answered, I would like if it went with a reminder that this isn’t a competition and that where people don’t want many partners, or can’t ‘get’ many partners, it doesn’t mean they are unattractive, not gender performative enough, not masculine enough, not feminine enough, they are not a failure and it does not mean the situation will not change.”
Liked this piece? Why not check out the previous Ask Polly column?