This is my monthly column about our life, life in a triad in general, or whatever rants & raves I feel like talking about at the time.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Relationship coding 1

When I design a website, I start with a blank page. This proverbial canvas is where it all starts. I get a vision in my mind of exactly how I want the site to look, and I begin building it. To this foundation I then start adding whatever features and functionality I want the page to have. Eventually the page is complete, and I enter the testing phase. I make sure that all of the links are intact, that the font and color scheme is exactly the way I want. Once the testing phase is complete and I'm happy with the end result, I make it "live". Once the site is live, this marks the beginning of a whole new phase. Tweaking. See, even though the page is finished and live, it's never really complete. It's a constant work in progress. There is always something that can be changed, made better, reorganized, or tweaked for ease of use or cosmetic appearance. It dawned on me just recently, that managing relationships is almost exactly the same as this.

During the phase known as new relationship energy (NRE), we're all building, in our hearts and minds, exactly the relationship that we want. Another name given to NRE is forming. This is the time when our relationship with our partner(s) starts to become what it will eventually be. This is the where the foundation is being built, whether we realize it or not. The feelings and emotions that contribute to our newly found relationship become the blocks that we will continue to build our relationship on as time passes. The problem, I think, is that we're so caught up in the absolutely fantastic feeelings that NRE brings out in all of us that we don't even realize that we are laying the groundwork for the future. This is the most critical time in any relationship, but at the same time it is the most overlooked. During NRE the future of the relationship isn't even a factor in the equation. Everyone loves NRE, that fact can't be denied. It's all too easy, however, to not see the forest through the trees, and miss entirely the relationship that is forming. The other potential downside to this period is the feelings of jealousy and resentment that it can potentially cause in other partners. NRE can so completely engross us that we allow no time whatsoever for the relationships that may have already entered the norming phase. This is where some balancing begins to be required. Unless all of your relationships were started at the same time (highly unlikely) you are going to find yourself needing to balance the emotional scales. This will not be easy, given the fact that new relationship energy is a powerful and emotion consuming force. You will find yourself so completely basking in your new relationship that you might "forget" about your existing partners. Many times this very period can lead to more relationship development and soul searching among partners.

After the new relationship energy has started to subside is when most relationships enter phase two. What I've referred to above as the testing phase can also be referred to as the storming phase. This is when the trouble starts, when differences need resolving. The key is not to overreact by making bold moves or statements, it's time to work through issues. This is where any apparent "bugs" in the relationship should be addressed and fixed if they don't seem to work just as planned. It's very important during this phase of a relationship to make sure that all partners "links" point in the intended direction. Just like with a website, a relationship cannot and will not be everything to everyone at the same time. At the same time, though, if there are modifications that can be made; minor tweaks in the relationship that will help your partners feel more comfortable with issues at hand, it is recommended that these changes be taken into consideration. This phase is very important in the successful development of your relationship and should not be overlooked. No one wants to feel that their opinion isn't important. That doesn't mean that every issue that your partner(s) raise will be able to be fixed amicably, but putting these issues out in the open for all to be cognizant of will go along way towards bringing your family to the next phase of it's relationship.

The live phase. This can also be referred to as norming, and I think that this is the phase that most folks think they are in already. The problem with this thought process, however, is that it's very hard to enter this phase of a relationship without having gone through the other phases first. I'm sure that it's entirely possible to simply skip over the NRE and storming phases, but I don't recommend it. Just like the process outlined above for building a quality website, ever healthy relationship should go through at least something closely resembling the phases described here. Another crucial but difficult thing to remember concerning the forming and storming phases is don't ignore them once they've become distant memories. Each and every day of your life at least one memory regarding this time in your relationship should surface in your mind. It could be that first date and the giddy feeling it gave you, or it could be the first fight you ever had with your partner. Either way, hold onto these memories and use them to help you understand the daily interaction with your partner during the norming phase. I think that one of the biggest issues that people feel causes problems in their relationship is day to day life. We get so caught up in our daily routines and the stress that it entails that we forget the little things that we all loved about the early days of our relationship. We forget that our wife loves to get flowers on the spur of the moment, or that a candle light dinner does wonders for a person's feelings of self worth after a hard day chasing the kids around. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and think back to a precise moment when NRE had you so firmly in it's grip that nothing else mattered. Harness the energy of that particular moment and relish it. Then open your eyes and use that energy to show your partner(s) exactly why they fell in love with you in the first place. Everyone loves spur of the moment romantic gestures, and this type of reminder will only serve to benefit the relationship as a whole in the long run, as well as carrying your family into what some might call the home stretch of relationships.

Performing. This is an extension of the norming phase, but this is assuming that everyone has been able to survive the tweaks to the relationship and come to a design that they can all live with. It's important to note that many relationships don't make it to this point. Unfortunately many families find themselves dissolving quietly or imploding violently during the storming phase due to many factors. Sometimes it's hard to understand or accept the differences that your spice feel, sometimes it's simply impossible for the family to gel as a group and learn to live and love together. Sometimes people find themselves developing and growing in a radically different direction then their loved ones. This doesn't mean that anyone is a "bad person", or an unsuitable partner. What it does mean, is that not everyone can live and love together harmoniously all of the time. Not every person is able to live in a poly relationship. Some just find the emotional strain far too much to handle, while others are able to adapt themselves to the wants and needs of mutiple partners. Every relationship requires continuous tweaking and fine tuning to keep it on track. We're all individuals, and as a result of this we often find ourselves torn between different issues in our lives. Everything that we experience in life is seen through our eyes and ours alone. The ability to step back and look at the entire experience and how it can benefit everyone involved is the art that needs to be mastered to achieve a successful relationship. Like a website that is both appealing and functionally sound to many, balancing a poly relationship is a work in progress that will never honestly be finished. It's all about how much energy and effort all parties can continue to put into it.

1 This particular column was inspired by Kathy, a member of our forums, and her post regarding poly longevity. All of the original concepts regarding relationship phases are attributed to her.

~ Chias, February 26, 2006


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