One of the things I love most about the way I live my polyamorous life is the freedom I have to make and grow strong friendships. My relationships with my romantic partners purposefully don’t take up all the space in my life. (To the best of my ability!) My romantic relationships structure allows me to have interests outside of my romantic life, and cultivate deeper more meaningful friendships. Of course, I understand people in monogamous relationships can have meaningful friendships outside of their romantic partnerships. Most of my friendships are with monogamous people. It’s just, that never seemed to work so well for me.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the NRE (New Relationship Energy) when you meet someone and forget to call your friends, ignore their calls in turn, and realize you don’t get the chance to connect as often as you want, all because you are newly in love, and you spend all your time and energy on your romantic partner. Before you know it, you aren’t as good friends anymore. But you think, oh it’s ok, I have my partner now. They are all I need. Does this sound familiar? It’s a pattern I think, many of us recognize whether from our own actions or from those of others.
As much as I hated it, I found it’s happened to me in the past. And then I found myself married to a man who as part of his escalating abusive behaviors, didn’t want me to (allow me to?) have other friends. He insisted on basically being the only person in my life. That was hard because I “collect people,” and friendships have always been important to me. By the time I realized what had happened, it was nearly impossible for me to get out and reconnect with my friends and there was definitely no way I could go out and make new ones.
But as I have been going through the process of healing from my divorce, consciously learning new patterns in relationships, understanding what it means for me to be polyamorous, I have realized again how much my friendships mean to me. For me, a partner can never be the person who meets all my needs. I don’t want them to have the pressure of even trying. I know I am a better person, more well rounded, more secure, happier, and easier to be with when I have multiple people in my life.
I have two key ways in which my friendships take on important roles in my life. The first one is my best friend. My best friend is my life partner. We have been friends for almost 30-years. She was the first to really “see” me, she’s always the first to see new versions of me too, sometimes even before I do! She’s the person I never doubt I will grow old by her side. My ex-husband never wanted to get to know her, he was threatened by my friendship with her. One of the boundaries I now have is that any relationship I am in has to be able to respect my relationship with her. They don’t have to understand it, they just have to understand that it is deep, abiding and has nothing to do with them.
The second way I prioritize friendships in my life is by maintaining a “tribe” of amazing people. Friendships are obviously, a huge part of this. Actually, acquaintances can be too! Each different relationship holds space for me to express different parts of who I am. With one friend in the tribe, I can snuggle on the couch and watch TV, with another, expensive wine on rooftops is more our style. Another gal and I have a friendship based on leisurely brunches and our shared relationships with Benjamin and William. I have friends I can write with, and friends I can talk to, friends who I shop with, and friends I just chill with.
One of the things I miss most about Berlin is My Tribe. I would start Monday by contacting each of the gals in the circle and making plans for the week. They each had previously agreed that we should hang out weekly if possible. I usually saw my partner Stefan on Thursdays and I could easily arrange my friend dates around this. But if he needed to change, my dates with my friends stayed firm and he had to choose from my free nights. These friendships have a strong priority. He doesn’t automatically “go to the head of the line.”
Now that I am here in Colombia, I am trying to get a handle on all of this again. I am fortunate to have a few girlfriends here, but it’s definitely not like it was in Berlin. I have to remind myself that I had almost 2 years in Germany to build relationships and patterns with my people. And while I have been here in Colombia many times, I’ve not spent that much time all at once. I’m still basically new to the city and haven’t had the chance to make the effort to get to know people here or build a tribe.
My struggle is two-fold at the moment. The NRE is strong between DJDM and me. I consume a lot of time and energy thinking about him, wanting to be with him, and actually being with him. We also just moved in together, and we’re definitely in the middle of an adjustment period. This is the first relationship of this magnitude I’ve engaged in since becoming polyamorous and making a conscious decision to maintain my autonomy within all relationships- so imagine- it’s fucking hard!!
But it’s also easy to fall back into old patterns. I have DJDM, why do I need to go out and meet new people? Why do I need to cultivate new friendships? UGH! I KNOW WHY! I know that living my life the way I want to, means I have to actually DO things that challenge the status quo. I am recommitting to doing that again. Meeting new people, doing things I like to do, whether he can do them or not. Making new friendships and getting to know new people.
Yesterday he had classes and a meeting, so he was out all day. I made last-minute plans to meet a friend for coffee, then took myself to the mall for dinner and to get some art supplies. Today, while he was in class I started working on my blog and this post. He came home, but I am still working. I am also remembering not to give up MY things just so WE can do things together. He is happily sitting a few feet away, listening to his music, enjoying the breeze on our balcony. He never has a problem with me doing me, I need to remember that and move on.
I do have a few girlfriends here, but I need more. I need more things to do and more people to do them with. There are some neat things to do around the city and some super cool people from all over the world who live here. I want to know them! I want a small tribe of like-minded people here like I had in Berlin. I just need to put the time and energy into building new friendships.
I think generally, adults find it difficult to make new friends. Once we have a group from work, church, school, whatever- we tend to stick with them. But I don’t have that luxury. Moving as much as I do, I have to be prepared to meet new people, quickly cultivate friendships (in whatever form they take,) and jump right in. I want that. I need those kinds of relationships in my life again. Not only for me but for my relationship with DJDM. He doesn’t need to be my everything and I don’t want to rely on him for that either. I’ve promised him a relationship that frees him from having to be my literal everything, now it’s time for me to live up to that commitment to myself and to him and make some new friends.
*****Image licensed via Adobe Stock