Sometimes I think most polyfolk are certifiable optimists. Let’s face it, the dating game is an emotional masochists wet dream, but we keep going back, even when we already have healthy and happy relationships. As some friends of mine would say, “That’s just wacked.”
Now, combine that insane optimism with a good dose of NRE, and the result is that most polyfolk don’t put nearly enough thought in what happened when a relationship ends. For lots of poly relationships, this isn’t a big deal, but when you are living together, it’s a problem.
While information on poly relationships is mostly anecdotal, a few things are generally agreed upon: MFM triads are damn common, quads tend to fall apart, and while there are group relationships that last for decades, they tend to be the exception. (I’m not knocking poly or polyfolk—factor in every dating and sexual relationship mono folk have, and the ones that last for decades are also going to be severely in the minority.)
The GOTH Plan
Veteran’s I’ve known have occasionally referred to the GOTH plan. No, it has nothing to do with painting your nails black. And it doesn’t involve ancient barbarians either. It stands for Gone to Hell (or go to hell depending on who you talk to). It’s the plan you need for when Murphy, God, and the enemy all decided the screw with you at the same time and you are completely FUCKED. For the military, pulling out your GOTH plan often means that not only i the mission totally screwed, but your retreat is destroyed and all that is left is to take as big an honor guard as you can manage before the enemy takes you down.
In polyamory, a GOTH plan is for when your “mission”—the plans and direction your relationships were heading in—just can’t work. Where your and your SOs lives are in danger of being completely destroyed, or are being completely destroyed, by the end of something you have all come to rely on.
For this reason, a GOTH plan is mainly for live-in and other extremely entwined relationships.
What Is a Poly GOTH Plan?
Imagine a triad who has lived together for five years. For whatever reason, there is a falling out. The relationships split into a couple and a single, or even three single people. What happens now? At least one person needs to find a new place to live. They need to untangle their finances. They need to figure out who takes what of their joint possessions.
They could go the stereotypical monogamous route of one person gets kicked out to land wherever they can, fighting over everything, bags of possessions sitting on the side of the curb…
Or they could plan ahead.
I met one poly family whose GOTH plan consisted of a savings account with enough money to cover security deposit and three months rent for a local apartment.
For my long term partner, Michael, and I, our GOTH plan is flexible. I could stay with my ex and his wife for a month until I find a plan, or he could go stay with friends of his across the country. I would retain primary physical custody of our son, but Michael would have joint legal custody and visitation. We would work together to get paperwork filed with the Department of Human Services to seperate our households.
GOTH plans are unique to each situation, but here are a few questions you and your SOs might want to discuss:
- Who will keep the house/apartment?
- Where will the other(s) go?
- Can we create a savings account to help someone who leaves the relationship cover expenses until they find their feet?
- What friends and/or family do we have who will help with a move?
- How will we divide up our possessions?
- If there are children, how will custody/visitation be handled? Will partners who aren’t legal parents of children get visitation?
Why You Need a GOTH Plan?
Relationships end. It doesn’t matter how much you love each other, how careful you are, or what promises are made. Sometimes things end. The ending of a relationship is always painful, but when the ending of a relationship is also the end of a way of life, it is devastating.
The biggest danger of a healthy relationship ending is the risk that in the middle of that devastation we turn each other into the enemy. Sitting down together when you are still on the same ‘team’ and planning for how to handle the end of a relationship ahead of time can help you move away from each other without attacking each other.
Having a GOTH plan also protects you from the worst devastation of the end of a way of life. By knowing how the end can be handled, the worst of the fear, uncertainty, and temptation to attack each other can be avoided. The end of the relationship(s) will still be sad and difficult, but you can approach the end as teammates facing a difficult situation together, not as enemies tearing each other apart.
It’s a Plan, Not a Promise
A GOTH plan is a plan. Not a promise, not an agreement, not a contract. Like all plans, it may need to change.
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men. Gang aft agley
Don’t approach your GOTH plan with the idea that it is to be cast in titanium or anything like that.
Do you have a GOTH plan? Share it in the comments!