Moving In Together

The original version of this post really reflected some of my old assumptions about the “norm” in polyamory. Hopefully I’ve managed to clean all of that up. Polyamory is complicated and everyone does it differently. Revised 1/11/2017

A couple posts back I mentioned that if someone in a polyam relationship gets pregnant, people who had been living separately may decide to move in together. Moving in with other people is always a big step, whether it’s getting a new roommate or the next stage of a relationship. When multiple people in a polyamorous relationship (or multiple relationships) move in together, it can get complicated. Especially if two people in the relationship have been living together, and another partner moves in with them.

It’s fairly obvious that the person who is moving in will have to make a bunch of adjustments. The people already living together often don’t think through the adjustments they will need to make. I have a distinct memory of my ex telling a new (non-polyam) roommate who had just thrown a soda can into the garbage ‘We recycle here.’ Leaving aside the utter rudeness of the comment (how about ’The recycling can is out back, I’ll take it out for you if you’d like’ instead, hon?) it never occurred to him that he was dictating his living style on someone else, who may not share his values.

If you have been in a relationship, you probably know each other’s views on recycling, but there are hundreds of ways this kind of conversation can crop up. Everything from how the laundry is separated, to who does the shopping, to how the dishes are put away. And it is an almost automatic assumption that the person moving in will adapt to the way the people living together do things. Now, this can get especially problematic when a secondary is moving in with a primary couple. So the secondary is automatically outvoted by the built in 2-1, making it very easy for the secondary’s needs and preferences to be swept aside. In the meantime, the primary couple congratulate each other on how fair they are being with everyone having an equal voice. It’s even worse in many primary/secondary relationships where a secondary partner’s opinion automatically carries less weight than a primary partner’s!

So, to beat the dead horse one more time – no one who stopped to think about it would expect to bring a child or a pet into the house and not have it create changes. And people who don’t stop to think generally can’t make poly work in the first place. So please, please do not assume you can bring another life partner into your house and not have it make huge changes.

Planning Ahead

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a huge fan of planning ahead (6Ps – Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance). Moving in together is complicated. There is no way that planning ahead can account for everything that might come up. But sitting down and discussing things like how will laundry be handled (does everyone do their own? If not, who does?), meal times (what time is good for everyone to sit down to dinner, does everyone take turns cooking?), shopping lists (who does the shopping, where is the list kept so people can add to it, what do you do if you need a specific brand), bathroom arrangements (I’ve done 4 grown ups in one bathroom, with 3 people scrambling to get out the door for work . . . PLAN AHEAD!).

And anything else you can think of.

Now, if you live in the same town, have been spending almost every day together, sleeping over more often than not, and decided to make the jump to move in, a good bit, though not all, of this will already be worked out. If you live further apart, spent a few weeks vacation together to see how it worked, and are jumping into the deep end . . . yeah, much planning.

Moving in: Sleeping Together (or Apart)

A few years back I did a write up on all the various ways I knew of for polyfolk to arrange their bedrooms. At some point, I need to go back and expand it a bit to include sleeping arrangements for solo polies, but aside from that it is still a fairly comprehensive list.

If you’ve been dating a while, you probably have routines for overnight visits. These routines may translate well to living together or they may not. Maybe Erin is fine sharing a bed a few nights a month when Dave comes over, but usually prefers to sleep alone. Maybe Ian can take the couch once a week so Vivian and Carl can share a bed, but he’s not going to be willing to sleep on the couch every night–which means the three of them need to work out sleeping arrangements that will work every night, not just once in a while.

Beds: The one place where three sometimes is a crowd.

I suggest using that old blog about polyamory sleeping arrangements as a jumping off point for ideas about what your options are and what will work for you and your partners. Things to look at include how (and with whom) everyone prefers to sleep, how many bedrooms you have available, and how big your beds are.Beds sharing can be a huge jealousy trigger. If Ian and Carl both want to sleep with Vivian, but either don’t have a big enough bed or don’t want to all sleep together, than “who Vivian sleeps with” can become an even bigger issue that “who Vivian has sex with.” After all, everyone has different sex drives, and if Carl is only interested in sex once a week, he probably won’t be bothered by Vivian and Ian having sex twice a week—as long as he and Vivian still have sex once a week. But almost everyone sleeps every night. Carl is used to Vivian sleeping with him most nights, which may leave Ian feeling left out. If Vivian begins splitting her sleep schedule evenly between her partners, Carl will lose a great deal of his regular time with her. Which might cause him to feel abandoned or not cared for. This kind of thing will play out differently in every relationship. The dynamics will be different in quad than a triad, different when everyone can sleep together, or different when one or more people simply prefer to sleep alone. My first, big, suggestion is to simply talk about it before you move in together. Don’t assume that what had worked for visits will work for every night. Be prepared to be flexible. The first way you try to handle sleeping arrangements doesn’t have to be the only way. If it isn’t working, be prepared to try something else. Remember that sleeping together is a type of being together, but it does not equal spending time together. The emotional needs that are met by you and your partner(s) get some sleeping together are not the same as the emotional needs that are met by you and your partner spending time together while awake. You probably can’t trade a night spent sleeping together for another date night.

Moving in Together: Schedules and Patterns

Almost everyone’s life is built around schedules and patterns. Some patterns are as simple as going food shopping every Tuesday and doing the cleaning on Thursday. Others need by-the-minute calendars to keep track of what is going on when.

When a poly family moves in together everyone’s patterns and schedules are going to be disrupted.  The goal is for this disruption to allow a settling in period for everyone to evolve new patterns and schedules that work for everyone.

As always, communication is your watchword. Your poly partners will know part of your patterns and schedules, but not all of them. You need to keep them informed and stay informed.

Google calendar has long been a go-to for polycules to keep their schedules running smoothly, but somethings Google can’t help with.

Let’s look at food shopping. Carla does her food shopping on Sunday. This way it doesn’t interfere with her work week. Tomas has an irregular schedule and usually just picks up the next day’s food on his way home from work. Dani has a monthly meal schedule and goes shopping twice a month to get everything they need for their meals.

All of them know they have different ways of handling meals before they move in together–but how will they handle food shopping?

Of course, you could always just share the shower. Image copyright Toni Bremmer

What about bathrooms? If the three of them get a place with only one bathroom, and both Dani and Carla prefer to take showers first thing in the morning, they are going to have some conflicts. Maybe Tomas likes a late night shower–great! He has plenty of hot water and he and his partners are not in conflict. But what if the sound of the shower and the water running through the pipes keeps Carla awake?

I’m an early riser. By preference, I’m up before 6, and lately I’ve been getting up before 5. This lets me wake up, exercise and get an hour or so of work in before the kid gets up and I need to turn into Super-Mom. With both Michael and the kid being sound sleepers, this has worked the past few years (well, except for the part where Michael is a night owl and excitable video gamer. Getting up at 5 doesn’t work when I’m getting woken up at 2 am by “Noooooo! Damn it!” as a creeper destroys the latest Minecraft project. We eventually sorted that problem out).

Well, what happens when we start living with Hunter in a few weeks? Hunter isn’t the sound sleeper Michael is. What if, no matter how careful I am, I end up waking him up when I move around in the early morning?

These kinds of things happen when two people move in together. When three or more people move in together, it’s just compounded. If possible, discuss as much of this ahead of time as you can. And if you can’t, discuss it as you go, keep the communication flowing after the move so you can work out new patterns and schedules that work for everyone.

A warning for polycules where an individual is moving in with an established relationship:

Basic social dynamics, when two or more people have lived in a household together, and someone starts to live with them—whether the new person is moving into an existing home or they are all getting a new home together—the patterns of the established household will tend to have more “weight” behind them. It is very important for the people in the established household to be considerate of the new person and the possible need to adapt their routines and habits. It is equally important for the new person to speak up if they feel they are being forced into patterns and schedules that do not work for them.

Polyfolk Moving In Together: Should you get a new home?

As I said in my last regular post, I’m going to be writing a series on polyfolk moving in together. To start us off, let’s take a look at where your polycule is going to live.

Generally one of two things happen when a polycule takes the step of moving in together. Either everyone moves out of their current home and gets a new home together, or part of the polycule keeps their home and everyone else moves in with them.

Both options work, and both have their challenges. In short:

  • If someone has a home big enough to fit everyone comfortably
  • If people can move into an existing home without creating feelings of intrusion
  • If money and resources aren’t available to get a new home

Then everyone moving into the current home of a polycule member will work.

  • If no one has a home big enough to fit everyone comfortably
  • If feelings of intrusion/invasion/possessiveness will be problem when a new person moves into an existing home
  • If money and resources are available to get a new home

Then you are better off finding a new place you can all make into a home together.

Obviously, this isn’t hard-and-fast. Irene may worry about being too possessive of “her” space for other polycule members to move into her home smoothly, and there may not be enough money to get a new place.

Or everything may be perfect for the polycule to move into Charles and Diane’s home–more than large enough now that the kids have moved out and no worries that having Ann and Ronald move in will feel like an intrusion, or that Ann and Ronald will feel somehow like it isn’t “really” their home. But between them they have plenty saved for a security deposit on a good sized apartment closer to the city.

Ultimately, it is up to you and your polycule what will work for you. While we most often hear about a third moving in with an existing couple, every polycule’s situation is different. I’ve known triads to form from three single people and get a new home together, quads from two couples that merge their households, and giant open-floor commune-homes for several dozen polyfolk, even a couple of dedicated solo-polies getting a place together as roommates to save on rent and utilities.

And just because two polycules are both made up of three people doesn’t mean they have the same needs, resources, or desires in a home. The big thing to remember is unless life is forcing your hand (as does happen sometimes) DON’T RUSH.

Yes, NRE is urging you move in together IMMEDIATELY, and it would be so awesome and a nice boost to your finances. But take the time to find the situation that will work best for you and your partners. If you can’t create that situation immediately–if, for instance, you would feel most comfortable getting a new place together and can’t afford it right now–you might be better off waiting and saving money for a time rather than moving into an existing home as a second choice.