xr:d:DAGA0w5DYxU:14,j:7798406990510107584,t:24040815
April 8

Beyond the Relationship Threshold: Understanding Polysaturation

Learn the warning signs of when you may be reaching your limit in maintaining connections in your non-monogamous relationships. Magda offers insightful reflection questions to support your partnership dynamics and needs, while embracing the balance between autonomy and belonging.

— By Magda Piskorski —

About the Author Magda PiskorskiPronouns:She/They

Magda obtained her Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. She previously completed her Honours Bachelor of Science with Distinction in Psychology at the University of Toronto in Mississauga. Magda is currently a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) under the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

Polysaturation is understood to be the state in which a person has reached their capacity for maintaining and showing up within their relationships. When someone is polysaturated, they may be fulfilled and content within their established relationships but may not have the bandwidth to foster new relationships.

It is worth noting that this term is primarily used within Ethical Non-Monogamous (ENM) contexts and that ENM is an umbrella term for a variety of relational styles. This is highlighted to acknowledge the variety of ways in which partnerships are engaged in and the variety of ways in which “partnerships” are defined.

Personally, just within polyamorous circles, I had found that folks had unique meanings and interpretations of a “partner”. While exploring polysaturation, I invite you to be mindful of how you engage with the concept of “partner”. Within this post, you may want to consider how any relationship or connection may come to mind and be presented in these reflections.

In her book Polysecure, Jessica Fern reminds us that, despite love being infinite, our resources are not [1]. She argues that although we may be able to engage within multiple relationships, we may have difficulty maintaining multiple, specifically, attachment-based relationships [1]. It is encouraged to develop awareness and honestly communicate with ourselves and the folks we may be engaging with of our capacities to distribute our resources [1].

Factors that influence how we are able to show up include:

  • Health conditions
  • Professional development responsibilities
  • Familial responsibilities
  • Household management
  • Community engagement
  • Personal management

As tempting as it may be to create a metric, an equation for determining how many partners are just right, it has been difficult to measure the exact number and to ignore the fluidity and flexibility that exists in the consideration process.

How, then, can this state be recognized and prepared for? The following may be warning signs of polysaturation:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: You may experience guilt, pressure, and heightened sensitivity as a result of the needs and expectations of your responsibilities to self and others.
  • Feeling drained/exhausted/“spread thin”: You are noticing that what you engage in and how you do it drains rather than replenishes your “cup”. When you do show up for connections, you may feel less than present or uncharacteristically yourself.
  • Concerned third parties: The feedback you receive from others may provide additional warning signs. Those who know you intimately may express noticing shifts that seem unsustainable.
  • Chronic/continuous/patterned strains or lost connections: Whether it is directly expressed or not, noticing multiple connections drifting away or falling out may indicate that needs and expectations are not being met

If you are noticing some relatability to these traits, you may be experiencing or have had experienced polysaturation. Rest assured, you are not alone and there are most definitely things that can be done to address and manage this. Consider the following reflection questions:

  • What does partnership mean to you?
  • What values are shared and how are they expressed between partners?
  • What needs is [X-person] meeting within [X-dynamic]; How do you, in turn, meet their needs?
  • Do you need a partner to meet [X-need]; How? Why is this important?
  • If not, how can you fulfill [X-need] for yourself?

It is worth noting the important balance of both autonomy and belonging in these considerations to avoid the extremes of hyper-independence and enmeshment. If the insights to these reflections reveal that you may not have the capacity to invest in more relationships at this time, notice that without judgement. It is important to remember that this is a normal experience and that this is not a fixed experience. Through embracing fluidity, we can acknowledge that this is a snapshot of the present moment. Factors that influence our capacities can change, our threshold for saturation can change. Providing ourselves with the permission to change and renegotiate personal and relational expectations at any time can be a helpful practice when navigating relationships.

References

1. Fern, J. (2020). Polysecure: Attachment, trauma and consensual nonmonogamy. Thorntree
Press LLC.


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