• Sarah M. Neal

Changing Landscapes: When Polycules Start to Grow

It is generally agreed within the polyamory community that there is a bit of difference when someone begins to date someone who is already involved with someone else and when someone they are dating starts dating someone else. When the landscape changes, and the polycule starts to grow.
Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

It is generally agreed within the polyamory community that there is a bit of difference when someone begins to date someone who is already involved with someone else and when someone they are dating starts dating someone else. When the landscape changes, and the polycule starts to grow. If the person you are dating is already involved with someone else, the established partner is a part of the landscape already and it is understood that it is someone with whom you must also navigate the relationship.

For better or worse.

The big adjustment is when your partner then decides to bring someone else into the mix and the landscape changes.

I’m not talking about when couples open up. That is an entirely different subject.

This is more about the partners who come into the established relationships, like Tyler.

Tyler has never really felt any jealousy towards John. John was a part of the landscape when

Tyler came into the picture. For almost 5 years, I have dated no one else. The landscape has not changed.

However, as I wrote about in Relationship Shapeshifting, I have been feeling the need and desire to start dating outside of those relationships and there have definitely been some growing pains.

While that entry was expansive enough to cover a variety of relationships and situations, this entry is going to primarily focus on the shifts and changes that can occur when adding a fourth, fifth, sixth person to established, non-monogamous relationships.

It isn’t just the relationship changing, but the entire landscape of the relationships.

This addition of another partner can be scary and intimidating for existing partners – even when they know all the things about polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy.

Those pesky gremlins start whispering in our ears:

  • What if they like the new partner more than me?

  • What if they stop having time for me?

  • What if I stop being special to them?

  • Am I going to become just another partner?

  • What if the sex is better?

  • What if they have more fun with the new person?

  • What if there is a special connection that we don’t share, and they do?

Those gremlins start taking root and then sometimes, if we cannot stop them soon enough, wage full-on wars with all things logical in our heads.

You know the first thing I am going to tell you to do is take some breaths.

Work through some of your fears, concerns, thoughts, what-have-you with a pen and paper (or however you choose to journal).

Write down all your fears. It doesn’t matter how silly or irrational they may seem. Write them down.

Spend some time with each fear. Chew on it. Marinate on it.

  • · Why is it a concern of yours?

o Does it match your partner’s past behaviors?

§ What behaviors?

§ Were those behaviors intentional?

§ Did you bring those behaviors to your partner’s attention when they happened?

o Is it bringing up old wounds from previous relationships you never completely worked through?

§ What wounds?

§ From who?

§ How did you work through that?

§ Does your current partner share similarities with the one who caused harm?

o Is it your ego getting in the way?

§ This one is tough to admit and own up to, but many times it is one of the main culprits (speaking as someone who is in a constant battle with her own ego)

o Is it fear of the unknown?

§ The unknown can seem dark and scary. We don’t know what will happen and in life, anything is game and that can be scary.

In order to work through our insecurities, we must name them. We must call them out and we have to figure out where they come from.

Once we have thoroughly sifted through all that comes up during this exercise, we can better evaluate what we need to do to work through and deal with our fears.

  • Did writing them out and spending time with them put you in a place where you are able to wave it off as nonsense and kick that particular gremlin out the door?

  • Did spending time with them help us find issues within ourselves that we need to spend some time focusing on and working through?

  • Did laying it all out uncover some trust issues or other deeper issues within our relationship that we need to work through with our partner?

This is a good time to start figuring out what you may need from your partner and others.

Take time to go through each fear again and write down what you feel you need to address it:

  • A whole-hearted, vulnerable conversation with your partner?

  • A conversation with a trusted friend, counselor, coach, or clergy member?

  • A thorough self-pep talk?

  • Mediation?

  • One or multiple journal entries?

It’s okay not to know exactly what you need. If we allow ourselves the time and space to work through the emotions and get them out, we are more likely to understand what we need. AND our needs CAN change through the process. The idea is to not keep your fears or concerns bottled up, so they end up causing damage to yourself or your relationships.

When we keep this stuff bottled up, it becomes toxic and it manifests in unproductive ways. We may find ourselves lashing out at loved ones, coworkers, or strangers. Maybe we end up sinking into a depression that we find ourselves struggling to get out of. Some of us may start behaving passive aggressively towards our partners which can cause a whole new set of issues within the relationship.

If you need to have a conversation with your partner, you may find it helpful to write down what you want to say. It doesn’t have to be verbatim, but it can help to have a list of topics or points that you want to bring up in the conversation. Sometimes when we are having difficult conversations, we don’t always articulate our thoughts, needs, or points very well, or we forget about some. Writing things down can help you prioritize points you want to bring up.

When you are discussing with your partner about what you need to help you work through the changing of the landscape, be mindful of your partner too. Be sure that your requests aren’t unreasonable or unfair such as: not changing the landscape until YOU are ready; expecting all your partner’s extra free time and energy; giving ego-driven reasons your partner shouldn’t start dating a particular person. It is reasonable to ask your partners to have conversations with you as you work through the changes, it isn’t exceptionally reasonable to ask your partner to put changes on hold indefinitely.

It is not okay to use your feelings and your partner’s feelings for you as tools to hold your partner hostage.

At some point, you are going to have to lean into the trust you have in your partner and your relationship with that partner because relationships cannot thrive if we do not lean into that trust. To not lean into that trust and not allow for that trust to take the wheel can prove detrimental to your relationship.

I know it sucks and I know it is hard and it can get messy AF.

Change is an essential part of growth, development and evolution. Growth, development and evolution can be painful. However, we often find that on the other side of those growth and development-encouraging changes we have created a better relationship with ourselves and with others.


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