As you transition from singlehood to partnership, many major aspects of your lifestyle will change. You’re no longer making decisions just for one person, and that can mean a lot of responsibility. From financial decisions to scheduling and reprioritizing your time, there are many details for you and your partner(s) to consider.
If you aren’t prepared, moving into a committed relationship can be a struggle. You could end up having needless miscommunications with the person or people you love most in the world. That’s why, as you make this journey, it’s important to take the time to think and act intentionally. Here are some considerations to make as you navigate your way into commitment.
Birth Control, Safer Sex, and Family Planning
Getting into a new committed relationship often means lots of sex. With all that new closeness in the mix, it can be all too easy to forgo condoms or other methods of protection. That’s why it’s important to discuss what you plan to do about birth control. Examining it early can save you a lot of trouble, expense, and inconvenience.
Hetero partners should also discuss whether they plan to have kids and, if so, when. If it’s not any time soon, they need a good plan to prevent that from happening. They should also discuss how they feel about the choice to terminate a potential pregnancy. Knowing that all partners are on the same page about family planning decisions is important.
For LGBTQ+ couples, pregnancy concerns may not be an issue, but it depends on your situation. Either way, it’s a good idea to discuss what you’ll do about safer sex, STI prevention, and sexual boundaries. Partners should talk openly about their STI status and testing history. If any partners may be at risk for HIV, all partners should discuss whether to go on PrEP or not.
Polyamorous partners may need to give special consideration to safer sex practices and boundaries. With each new partner in the mix, there’s more potential risk for disease transmission or other issues. And since every person will have different needs, desires, boundaries, and medical histories, there’s much more to think about at once.
Defining What Commitment Means to You
In polyamory, an important part of getting into a committed relationship is determining what “commitment” means to you. For some people, a relationship means total romantic and sexual exclusivity with just one person. Commitment can include any number of arrangements from a whole array of possibilities for others.
The key thing to remember is that no one gets to define your relationship except you and your partner(s). But things work best if you take time early in the relationship to discuss each person’s values and preferences. Together, you can decide how you envision your commitment, share wants and needs, and set limits.
Where some relationships get into trouble is that partners don’t ever take this time. They go into a relationship with huge expectations of what they want from their partner(s). But they never actually tell their partner(s) that this is what they wish to do; they assume it will happen. This kind of communication breakdown can cause a lot of resentment, so nip it in the bud by talking it out.
That said, just because something works at the outset doesn’t mean it needs to be “forever.” A relationship should be dynamic and fluid and grow with you over time. As you have these initial conversations about how you hope things will go, leave room for flexibility. Remember that what you want now could be very different from what you want in a few years.
In some relationships, people share property, expenses, goals, pets, children, etc. They may save up to buy a house together and have a baby or adopt and train a parrot to speak. They could start a family business or travel the world busking on street corners. Whatever those shared goals are, it doesn’t matter as long as everyone agrees.
But, once again, the best way to pull off a successful relationship is to discuss these hopes and dreams. Not every goal in a relationship must be shared; partners can choose to do some things independently. However, plans must be somewhat compatible, and all partners must know how to support each other best.
For example, say you want to have a baby immediately, but your partner wants to travel the world. You could make both goals happen in several ways as long as you plan together effectively. You could decide to take a year off to travel before becoming pregnant. Or you could defer the travel until after the baby is old enough to come along.
Problems happen when one or more partners are too rigid about conflicting goals. One person wants to get pregnant now; another is already booking last-minute flights to adventurous locations. You can’t build a shared future when you’re too fixed — or too pliable — in your idea of how your life should look. A successful relationship transition requires adapting to your partner without sacrificing your deepest desires.
Even if you get all the planning right, every relationship will inevitably have snags and arguments. From simple statements about whose turn to load the dishwasher to big blow-ups, some conflict is guaranteed. Even if you talk out how you’ll constructively handle conflict, you’re bound to forget those promises in the heat of the moment.
So always remember to give your partner(s) a bit of grace for being flawed humans. You’re in a relationship because you love and care about each other, not because you expect a perfect score. Let go of little resentments and focus on the positive aspects of your relationships. When things don’t go right, ground yourself in memories of what made you fall in love in the first place.