Prioritization is one of the most complex, tricky, sticky, fraught with danger, with potential to hurt feelings, sorts of things that people (me) seem to struggle with in poly. There are so many roles and people desiring or needing time and attention that it seldom feels as though everything is in optimal balance. By optimal balance, I mean that all sectors of my life are receiving what is necessary to be functioning well, including me!
One of the first thing to go is self-care. In my professional life, I see this fairly often, usually once someone has utterly exhausted all their resources. From the perspective of a completely drained person, it suddenly becomes obvious that caring for and giving to others is impossible if you have nothing left in your own tank. Therefore, the first thing that one must prioritize in any of their relationships or roles is attention to self. Sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and stress management are great places to start!
Once you have self attended to, what comes next? Is it work? Family? Relationships? Self-development above and beyond the basics of self-care? I don't know that I have hard and fast rules on this, but often work comes next, as the basics of food and shelter are quite fundamental. There are times where, based on a high level of need, I will defer a work opportunity for my child, or for a partner in crisis.
As I read through that last paragraph, I realize that I will also defer the occasional work opportunity for pleasure as well! The pleasure of time spent with a partner, in or out of bed, feeding that relationship is not to be overlooked as a necessity of life. Ultimately, what gives us the deepest rewards: avoidance of pain, or the pursuit of pleasure? Let's keep the kink angle out of this, because that can give some real overlap! ;)
Challenges can crop up when you simply don't have the available time, proximity, or perhaps even desire to spend energy when someone else desires it from you. This seems particularly tough with non-domestic partners. When living with someone, you can usually cram a quick "touch-bases" into the day, or have the comfort and satisfaction of sleeping next to them. When it takes committing to commute time and a different location to connect with a partner, that can get less easy and require some concerted effort, especially mixing kids and other partners into the equation.
JA, who S and I are both seeing, is going out of town for some time, and we've been trying to figure out ways to have couple time for each pairing, as well as triad time, before she leaves town. Due to illness, a couple date got bumped off the schedule, and now there are machinations in process to clear the house of the kiddo and other partner to allow a solo date for the one couple, then follow that with a triad date. And that's just the beginning!
So why are we all going through so much effort? Because there are things that we have each asked for, and decided to make a priority to benefit each other, and our group dynamic. Perhaps because some one's feelings might be hurt? Maybe they would feel excluded if spending time together didn't seem as important to the others in the relationship? Being able to help my partners find time and space to nourish their other relationships helps me feel useful. It's not totally altruistic, as I hope that they will find value in doing to same for me, but it's a move in a direction I hope to become totally congruent in over time: Your happiness is important to me, and I will make it a priority to help you in any way I can to reach your goals. What more can any of us ask for from our loves?