Polysaturation: The condition of being full or unable to hold more romantic relationships. Beyond satisfaction.
By Cherie L. Ve Ard
August 14, 2006

It's often said across poly e-mail lists and discussions groups across the globe that 'Love is infinite, but time and energy are not.' I think it was one of the first poly mantras I learned, along with 'Communicate, Communicate and Communicate some more'. There are after all, only 24 hours in a day. And within those 24 hours we each have tasks required of us for work, school, playing video games, personal time, exercise, family, eating and quality time with our loved ones. And lately, I have become resentful of the needed 4-7 hrs of sleep each night that my body requires to repair itself (of course, some quality snuggles with loved ones helps compensate.)

Relationships that contribute to my life in positive and healthy ways need time and energy to develop and grow, and once they are well established, continued maintenance is quite helpful and necessary. This is the stuff that Relationships are made of. Love, lust, attraction and sex.. those are the easy stuff. Those things can be developed quickly, and I suppose can be quite enjoyable on their own. If there's one thing I have learned, it is that attraction and interest, even mutual, are not scarce. What is scarce is depth, intimacy, trust, practical logistics and mutual intent to develop these things. All of which take time and consistency to develop, and do not come overnight. You don't fall in trust, for example.

How do you determine where your polysaturation point is?

Monogamy has the benefit of clearly defining where your saturation point is for romantic relationships - one. In polyamory, those lines are not so clear. I'm asked on occasion how many partners I desire in my life, how many is too many or if I have room for one more. I don't have a firm number in my head for how many relationships I can fit in my life. At times, one has been all there was room for, and others I've had 5 or 6 and been quite fine with it. At other times, two was overloading the plate. There have been times where I thought I was polysaturated, but then someone walked into my life that fit into space I didn't know I had without ever feeling overwhelmed.

Life is variable, and relationships aren't the only thing that take our focus through our journey. Some other things that help us reach our saturation points might include:

These things can limit our available resources for exploring new relationships, or even maintaining existing ones. So certainly, non-relationship things in our lives can influence where our saturation point may be. And sometimes, the existence of established, functioning, healthy and supportive relationships in our lives gives us the foundation and launching point in which to make other major life transitions.

And then there are the relationships themselves. Each is so unique, having its own needs and demands on time and energy. Each may be in a different stage of development, and change its needs over the course of the relationship.

And the connections themselves can vary widely as to the amount of time and energy you feel compelled to devote to the people in your life, and those desires can change over time or very suddenly.

Smooth sailing versus stormy weather

When all your relationships are happy and cranking along.. it's easy to feel content but not necessarily polysaturated, or perhaps even desiring additional mates. But all it takes is one relationship having problems, whether it's a problem with the relationship itself (jealousy, communication issues, etc.) or sickness, death in the family, job instability or other such things.. to quickly send you to polysaturation or beyond. And it can be difficult to remember to keep this in mind when deciding if you've reached a saturation point and can take on that new partner.

I've personally found it's very difficult for me to turn my back on a partner who could use a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on .. and that balancing my available limited time and energy against increased new needs can be a difficult one. I've also found that a wider poly net can help ease the drain on individual time and energy and help spread out the resources amongst several people.

Each of us is completely unique in our limitations and ability to devote time and energy to things in our lives. One difficulty that can come up is if people in a relationship have differing saturation points. If you have a somewhat inclusive model of polyamory, in which you get to know and perhaps form at least friendships with your partner's other partners, you may be having your saturation point tapped without even directly exploring new relationships yourself. Is it fair to limit how many new relationships you explore, because your partner has reached a saturation point and doesn't want to deal with bringing new people into their lives? These are issues that can, and often do, come up.

Determining your polysaturation point is not an easy process, and may seem at times like a moving target. I think one symptom of approaching polysaturation is when I feel I would not be able to devote ample time and energy to a new relationship without sacrificing something from any of my existing ones, or my much needed 'me time'. Another is when I feel I could not handle a fairly major crisis cropping up. Contentment is a much happier place to be. I want to leave available time and energy to deal with the problems that life will invariably throw at me. I want to be able to devote the time and energy that all of my relationships deserve, and that I deserve.