Comparing relationships in polyamorous couples part 1


Today’s article is about comparing relationships in polyamorous couples. In particular, I’m going to talk about the perspective of someone who has a partner who has multiple partners. So in other words, if you are not your partner’s only romantic partner, how does it feel to compare the relationship that you have with your partner to the relationship that you perceive that your partner has with their other partner? Often this can come up because someone will compare their relationship to the relationship that their partner has with someone else, and in some way or another, they feel that something is unfair, or their own relationship is lacking. In light of the other relationship, I’m going to talk a little bit about when comparing relationships can be harmful, as well as when it can be a little bit helpful.
Actually, of course, the first thing that comes to mind for me and that I hear repeated a lot in conversations about this is comparison is the thief of joy. And in a lot of cases, that is absolutely true. A lot of the time. I take this to mean that a person might be generally content with the way things are in their relationship. If they had the relationship that they have with their partner and there were no other people in the picture, they would be entirely happy. It’s only when they start to compare their relationship to the other relationship that they start to feel like something is lacking. This is a little bit complicated emotionally, so let’s talk about that. I’m going to use the activity of tennis as an example. Let’s say that you have no real interest in tennis.
It just hasn’t really crossed your mind as something you want to explore. You go through most of your days and never thinking about tennis. It’s just not on your radar. And then your partner ends up with someone else who loves tennis. And every Saturday morning, your partner goes and spends several hours playing tennis with this other partner. And they come home, and they’re flesh from the activity, and they’re really energized. And they talk to you about how fun it was. And something inside of you starts to stir some kind of envy or jealousy, depending on what’s going on for you. And you think, hey, why don’t we play tennis together? Why haven’t they ever asked me to go play tennis with them? In a case like this, I would encourage a person to ask themselves, do you really want to play tennis?
Is that something that actually excites you and seems like something you want to bond with your partner over? Or is this something where you feel like your partner is having an experience, any kind of experience, with someone else that they aren’t also having with you, and that in and of itself is unsettling somehow or making you unhappy in some way? Personally, I don’t know that it’s terribly helpful for a relationship to feel like everything that your partner does with someone else, you must also do just to make sure everything is exactly the same. I mean, think about all the relationships that you’ve had in your life. All the friendships. Are any two of them exactly the same? Do you enjoy doing exactly the same thing with everyone you’ve ever been close to? Most likely not. And most likely the relationships that you have aren’t diminished because you do some activity with one person versus another.

Presumably there are many other activities that you engage in with this person that are tremendously valuable to you that nourish the relationship that make you feel connected. This is one of the things that people can mean when they talk about comparison being the thief of joy. It’s the sense that you never would have missed something. You never would have lamented the lack of something in your life until you saw someone else having it. Of course, sometimes there is something else at play here. Maybe you witness your partner engaging in an activity or having a certain element to their connection with someone that you never wanted before, but it’s because you never realized it was an option. And once you see them engaging with another person in a particular way, whatever that may be, you think, oh, no, I really do want that.
And it’s not just me wanting to make our relationships identical. It’s something that, now that I’m aware is an option I do really want. Sometimes that can be a really nice element of polyamory, because then you can say, oh, hey partner, I would really like to experience this with you too. I had no idea that was something that we could do together. That’s awesome. And maybe the three of you could even do that together if you’re all friends or friendly or if you’re in a relationship together.
There’s another kind of dynamic wherein comparing relationships makes a lot of sense to me. And I’m going to use tennis as an example. Again, just to keep it simple. Maybe you do have an interest in tennis. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to play and just never made the time. You’ve never picked up a racket, but you’ve decided, you know what? I think it’s time to check out tennis. But what you really want to do is do this with your partner. So you go to your partner, and you say, would you like to take tennis lessons with me?
I feel like it could be a lot of fun. And maybe your partner tells you that they’re just not really interested in that kind of activity, and maybe you could do some other activity instead together. And then perhaps your partner starts to date someone new, and along the way somewhere, lo and behold, you learn that they have been taking tennis lessons with this person. I do think that comparing these situations makes a lot of sense.

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