Can there be too much of a good thing? For those in various types of open relationship, this question is a hardy perennial. If one partner is good, and two partners better, why not six? 11? 38? Is the sky really the limit?
The answer, it seems to me, depends on the answers to a series of questions:
1. What is the nature of the relationships? A live-in partner will take a different amount of time and commitment than a friend with benefits. A local partner will likely take more time and attention than a long-distance one. On the other hand, long distance relationships sometimes require chunks of time for travel or when the other partner travels to you (yay, but the calendar…)
2. Are you their only partner? Relationships that are (intentionally or by happenstance) monogamous for one of the partners may take more time and attention from the other partner than if needs are being met in each case by a variety of people. Also, if one partner has a crowded social schedule and the other’s is freer, that can make the relationship more complicated, depending on the needs and desires of the less-busy partner.
3. What do you like to do together? It’s a lot easier to make time for an evening of Netflix and whatever than to get away for weekends – and there are only so many weekends.
4. What are your other commitments like? If you have an unusually taxing job, or family to look after, or your band does a lot of gigs, that limits time available for relationships even though those other commitments are not themselves relationships. Remember also that – especially if you’re an introvert – you need to schedule time for yourself alone to rest and recover so you can be a better partner, and the more partners you have, the more time you may need to schedule without them.
5. Do you have the sort of relationships where you can see multiple partners at the same time? Like “pack” or “kitchen table” poly? If so, that eases the scheduling and reduces the calendar impact of multiple relationships. Some folks can work that way; some can’t.
6. If these relationships include a sexual component, how much time do you prefer to have between dates? Are you okay with a “shift change” approach, or do you prefer to have time to relax, shower, self-care, and do other things between dates?
And this list is only a start. I’m sure there are more questions, so chime in, folks! But the number of relationships you can handle at any one time depends on the people, on the shape of the relationships, and the demands of the rest of your life. One size cannot fit all… and all cannot always fit.