Sometimes my partners ask me about where I see a new relationship going, but after years we have finally figured out we never know. Sometimes things start great and end after a few months. And I’ve had a few that started as a simple fun date and years later we have a serious bond that has developed to the surprise of all involved.
So we have come to the conclusion that the question ‘where is the relationship going?’ is faulty at best. I can answer where I see it going today, but as we get to know a few person, we might realize we have some great common interest or desires that keep things going for far longer than we expected. Or that there just isn’t a spark and we decide to move on. The reason we will ask our partner that ‘where is the relationship going?’ is sometimes based on curiosity, wanting to be involved in our lovers life and share their joy at something new developing. Unfortunately, often I will ask because of fear (will this new person replace me?) or resistance (how long will I have to deal with this?). It is ok to feel these things. But it is important to recognize them as what they are. Because this leads me to understanding that an answer to the question doesn’t actually help. If my partner says “I think they will be around for about six months and mainly will be here for watching those Korean drama shows I like that you don’t” then I can create a false sense of security. But the truth is that we never know how relationships will develop regardless of our intent. And regardless, we have an opportunity here to reframe the question from ‘where is the relationship going?’ to ‘why do I have fear and resistance to new people’, which leads me to the best place of all, ‘what can I do about it?’.
Another way we try to understand new relationships – and thus control our fear and resistance to them – is by recognizing milestones. There is a well known and often written concept of the relationship escalator. That is to say, the expectation that a romantic relationship should follow a set of predefined steps which lead from that first date, the first kiss, and eventually to marriage, parenthood, and so on. In polyamory, this doesn’t need to work this way. But we get trapped into old thinking and end up that sometimes we’ve defined relationships by the milestones. For example, as dawn starts to date someone new, I’ll ask her ‘did you kiss after the date?’. If yes, I set that in my head and wonder about the next one – have you had sex, intercourse, holding hands? Then the emotional ones as well – do you talk daily, say I love you, and finally say in love with you? Each one makes me adjust in my head how ‘serious’ the relationship is and kicks in a feeling of ‘oh boy they are planning an overnight, dawn only does that with people she really really likes’.
The solution is simply to admit we really don’t know. Emotions are whacky and fluid and not willing to be held on a track. We might think the next relationships is The Big Love and it fades quickly, or we might find a FWB is suddenly making our heart pitter patter. So don’t worry about it. I know that sounds simplistic, but in truth, when we recognize we don’t know the future of a situation, we can instead be aware of how we feel today and focus on that. So turn your thinking from ‘What will I do when they…” to “What should I do about how I feel right now?”