A technique I like to touch on with all of my clients in open relationships, whether they are starting one for the first time or are seasoned practitioners, is the simple “3D” concept. It’s pretty basic – when you begin seeing a new partner, create a safe container in your current relationship(s) by making sure to “discuss, distract, do”.
Discuss: Open relationships take work. That “work” usually takes the form of open, honest and active conversations with one another. Before a first date with a new partner, make sure to talk with your current partner(s) about what your fears and expectations are. This is the time to make requests (if you have any) and ask for reassurances. Even if you think you are already on the same page, it’s better to cover familiar ground ahead of time than to feel hurt and distant afterwards because you and your partner had different boundaries or expectations.
Distract: While your partner’s date is happening, don’t just sit around and let your fears spiral. There may be a moment when examining your fears closely and feeling everything that’s under them is an important part of being authentically present in the poly experience, but when your partner is out with someone new your jealousies have the potential to balloon and be seriously counterproductive. Instead, coordinate a date with friends or another partner, or do something kind for yourself at home. Pick an activity that feels nourishing without being challenging.
Do: When the date is over, come back together with your partner in an intimate way. Maybe that is as soon as one of you walks in the door, maybe you need an hour or even a day or two. At some point, carve out time to reconnect, and establish when and how that is going to happen beforehand. For many people, this means sex or physical intimacy, but it can also mean quality time or more of that open and honest conversation you had earlier, whatever you know tends to bring you close.
Keep these three Ds in mind as a road-map for minimizing new relationships becoming overwhelming or disruptive. Remember, it’s easier to prepare well first than to repair the relationship afterwards.
The now iconic podcast released earlier this year from Polyamory Weekly: How/When Do I Know if Poly is Right for Me? includes a discussion of the 3Ds, as well as some other helpful hints on how to examine your fears and assess whether poly is working for you as you embark on what can be an intense journey.