What kinds of things do you consider when trying to determine your compatibility with someone else? Your personalities? Your schedules? Your hobbies or interests? Your values or morals? Beliefs? Your life goals? There are so many things to consider when determining compatibility. Sometimes it even just comes down to timing. Is this the right time for you? The right time for them? The right time for the two (or more) of you? There are times when the fact that someone owns a snake, or that their mother/best friend/boss is complete A-hole, or that they make funny noises when they chew, is an instant “sorry…nope.” And this goes for any type of relationship: romantic, sexual, platonic, career, familial, or otherwise.
You might not think about it this way, but being polyamorous (or otherwise non-monogamous) when someone else you like is not… can be a simple incompatibility. You don’t have to get upset with the outcome, or feel like a failure, or go through all the what-ifs. What if they just accepted my polyamorous identity? To be honest, they can accept you just fine but still not want to be involved with you because of it. Perhaps it just isn’t right for them. Whether you’re asking them to open up to polyamory, as well; or be a monogamous partner to you while you continue to be non-monogamous; it is them that has the say over what they can and cannot handle. They get to decide what they want, just as you do.
Sometimes, even when we get along swimmingly with someone, and everything clicks, and things seem perfect… it still just doesn’t work out. That’s okay. Chalk it up to incompatibility. Your needs, or wants, or boundaries, or goals, or hobbies, or life philosophy, or genitalia, or whatever the hell it is, just don’t mesh well together. Nothing to feel bad about. It’s actually more likely that you’ll run into people that you are in some way incompatible with, than someone with whom you are 100% compatible. When you add in non-monogamy as just one more thing you have to check compatibility on, it really shouldn’t be that upsetting when you realize that someone doesn’t check all the boxes.
Triads + other Group Relationships
Compatibility problems are 10 fold when considering getting into a triad, or other group relationship. Do you know how hard it is for you to find someone who you are truly compatible with? How do you expect to find two (or more) people who are truly compatible with you AND with each other? There’s so much more to consider when it comes to group relationships. They are just generally more difficult to develop because of the issue of incompatibility – and that includes the fact that people won’t have the same amount of love or affection for everyone just because you want them to. Finding people who you’re compatible with can be challenging, so unless you’re willing to wait a while (or are very lucky) it might be a better idea to go about non-monogamy as an individual instead. To each their own, though.
There are times when incompatibility comes out of nowhere – or even after years of being compatible with someone. It can be surprising, or even painful. Just know that it is no ones fault. Everyone changes over time, and that’s okay. The fact that someone doesn’t want the same things as you doesn’t make them cruel, it just makes them human. People are different, and they are complex. Things we used to want we may end up not wanting after a while. Or vice versa. You may change. They may change. Sometimes people grow in the same direction, so it isn’t as noticeable (at least at first); but, nonetheless, everybody changes over time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nothing to hide or run from. You just have to learn to accept the fact that your relationships will transition over time.
Of course, this is harder when you’ve been working towards the same goals for so long. If you’ve been in a committed partnership for years upon years, and then suddenly one of you decides you don’t want to work towards that goal anymore. You (or they) have new goals. New life aspirations. New hobbies. A new career path. Maybe new friends. Or maybe you just decide you want to live in different towns, or states, or countries even. Perhaps long distance isn’t an option for the two (or more) of you, or it just isn’t something you’re wanting. Any change – big or small – in a person’s life may be the last straw on the horse’s back for their relationship with someone.
People come and go in life. Friendships rise and set. Romances burn and then flame out. Career partnerships are created or dissolved. Family members, or close loved ones, die. Any number of things could happen. People gain and lose people everyday, in one form or another. Normally it’s through gradual fading so it isn’t as detrimental to us. Still, other times things happen suddenly. Whether you see it coming or it is completely out of nowhere: it can be hard to handle. You’re human – it’s okay to feel sad about losing someone, or angry about things not working out, or disappointed that you let things slip away. All emotions are valid. Nevertheless, you ultimately have to accept that incompatibility has gotten in the way of your plans so that you can let go and move on.
NRE + Reality
Ever get into a relationship where things are just like “OHMYGAWD YES” when you start out, then as that feeling starts to fade you’re just kind of like “oh…” Getting filled with NRE can sometimes blind you to the reality of things. Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing that your partner isn’t as heavenly as you thought they were. They do have flaws! No way! Other times you may realize that you don’t have much in common. Or that it’s actually a really toxic situation. No matter what it is, it can be disorienting to step out of NRE and into reality. You have to be careful with your next steps because they could make or break the longevity of your relationship. Stop and think, though, is this person really for me?
Speaking of toxicity… the fact that you’re incompatible, in itself, can make things toxic. It doesn’t necessarily mean that either person is a toxic person (please keep this in mind). Sometimes people’s wants, or needs, or lifestyles, or what-have-you are just so extremely different that they clash in unhealthy ways. There are times when you can stand by and just appreciate the differences of those around you, and there are other times when you notice that being around this person is making your own life spiral.
It can be because of something as simple as one partner being really extroverted and one partner being really introverted (though I’m not at all saying that extroverts and introverts can’t have healthy, or even beneficial, relationships). Maybe the extrovert pulls the introvert too far out of their comfort zone, or the introvert keeps the extrovert somewhat isolated. Maybe it’s something else like one partner is a workaholic or a nomad and the other partner is a homebody. It could be literally anything. When you’re in the midst of NRE you won’t necessarily see your partner clearly. If incompatibilities arise suddenly, don’t freak out. Appreciate the awesome time you spent together and move on.
Meeting New People
Be open and honest with potential partners right off the bat. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Pretending to be or feel one way when in actuality it’s the opposite, is never a good start to a relationship. Even if you’re feeling desperate, just be yourself. It’s better to have someone approve or reject you based on who you really are, than to feel like maybe things could have worked out differently if you had only told the truth.
Of course, it’s always okay to try something new (if you’re really up for it). But don’t say you’re okay with things you aren’t okay with. And if it really is new for you, or something you’re just testing out, be honest. Other people deserve truthfulness just as much as you do. How would you feel if someone said they liked you the way you are, and then a few weeks in they were like “I tried to give it a shot, but this just isn’t what I wanted, sorry.” It isn’t fair to you, or the other person, when you lie.
This goes for everything. If you are dating other people – say so right away. If you are new to non-monogamy, or just starting to explore your sexuality, that is something your potential partner deserves to know. Some people will be completely accepting of it, and others won’t want to get involved because they don’t want to be a trial run for you. Both responses are acceptable. Allow people to react authentically. You should do the same. Determining true compatibility only comes through being 100% real with each other. Whether it ends up that you’re compatible or not, you need to give them the chance to check for incompatibilities.
It’s a lot. There’s a lot that goes into compatibility. Sometimes incompatibility comes up to bite you in the ass when you least expect it. But trying to maintain a relationship in which you are incompatible with your partner will most likely lead to an unhealthy, or even toxic, situation for the both of you. No matter what happens you have to stay up-to-date with whether things are, or are no longer, clicking. Doesn’t make a difference if it’s a potential partner, a new partner, or a long-term partner – you have to keep checking in. Just like you should do with any portion of your health, because relationship health IS health. Seeing where you both (or all) are at. Is this still working for you? Is this still working for them? Do things need to change? Does the relationship need to transition? Again, regardless of the outcome, it is okay. It can be hard to deal with if it’s not what you were hoping it’d be, but it’s okay. You’ll get through this – compatibility or incompatibility.