For quite a while I had a policy about dating, one that was created and honed by experience, and it seemed like a darn good idea: Don't date people that don't have a primary partner already. You see, having done that a few times, it seemed pretty apparent that those who didn't have a "primary" partner, which I'll define as someone that they either lived with, or had significant emotional and practical entwinement with, always seemed to want/need more from me than I had available to give, in terms of time and practical/emotional commitment. So why get into something just to feel inadequate, and have someone move on once they found what they really wanted in another partner?
Cut to the current time, where S and I have that live-in entwined thing, but I also have two other partners, neither of which have a "primary". Honestly, I've been kind of nervous about that. While I feel like I contribute positively to each of my partners, I don't have the amount of energy or time available that I would like to share. So, how much is enough?
For years, I've tried to make that choice for others. If I didn't feel like I had enough to give, I just didn't move into the relationship in the first place. Still not thinking that is a bad idea, actually. What's shifted is that I am trusting others more to let me know if what I have to give is sufficient for them, rather than unilaterally making that call.
It's definitely been something that is discussed in advance of getting emotionally attached. Conversations like this one: "Hey, I really like you, and feel good connection. I'd like to take this deeper, but am really concerned that only having enough available time for a weekly date, and several phone calls isn't going to feed you enough to feel satisfied, especially since I know you are interested in having a live-in partner. Can we talk about how that feels to you?" Those have been good talks to have. It's something that gets touched on pretty regularly on an on-going basis as well.
Sometimes, that sounds pretty good in advance, and then someone realizes that they'd really like to have a partner sleeping over several nights a week, or maybe they'd like to shift into a more "primary" level connection, which isn't within my grasp to give. At that point, the conversation moves into another area. "From what you're sharing, it seems like you'd really enjoy having a different kind of relationship that has xyz qualities. Does that feel true? Yes? I want you to feel happy and loved in every way that is important to you, so how can I help support you while you are looking for another partner that has that to give?"
One of the hardest parts has been letting go of trying to force myself to produce the time and emotional space to be all things to all people in my life. It's just not going to happen. So, I am learning that whatever I have to give is sufficient, that my partners will let me know if they need something more from me, that I am enough.