A unique question that arises for practitioners of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) and polyamory is how many partners are sustainable at any given point in life: how many is too many?
Polysaturation occurs when someone has reached their capacity for maintaining multiple relationships. The often joked about diary juggling necessary to conduct not just one but a series of meaningful, healthy
relationships dictates the upper limit for most.
Research suggests that on average polyamourous individuals reach polysaturation at around 3 to 5 partners. Viewed against the background of the number of hours people spend at work and allowing for regular commitments with family and friends this seems a realistic average.
An individual’s polysaturation point will vary across a lifetime. Indeed, for some CNM only presents itself as a viable option after children have flown the nest.
Discussing polysaturation with partners is an important part of maintaining a healthy balance. Not everyone in the relationship dynamic will settle on the same number of other partners and it is vital to ensure that everyone is having their relationship needs met. Consider for example a thruple involving a married cohabiting couple and a unicorn who lives alone. The unicorn may prefer to have 2 or 3 other relationships running in tandem.
Patterns of CNM vary wildly of course and, particularly in the context of comet dynamics (where lovers may be living in different countries and meeting infrequently). In that context it is not beyond the imagination to envisage patterns in which the number of relationships could be upwards of ten.
All relationships take time and commitment and regular check-ins provide the opportunity for expression of concerns. Rebalancing other relationship commitments over time is particularly important when other aspects of life have changed. Any change, from taking on a pet to starting a family should be factored into such discussions.
The number of partners with which one is fluid bonded (i.e. engaging in unprotected sex) does not need to equate to the number of sexually active partners. Again, communication is paramount to ensure that everyone in the relationship dynamic is aware of the risk and knows with what frequency they should be getting STI testing.
How often do you reflect on your polysatuation point?