How can you tell when you’ve got enough partners?
Panelists respond to a listener question on avoiding overcommitment and burnout while living a nonmonogamous life. (But! But! What if the new person you’ve just met is *really* cute?)
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
#S2E52 | Are you polysaturated?
[Wild & Sublime theme music]
Matthew Amador: If your primary relationship is with that shared Google calendar, then that might be a time to reassess. Like, okay, where am I putting energy right now? Am I reaching a limit? And there's no shame, you know? We may have an infinite amount of love inside of us, but we only have a finite amount of time and energy.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime, a sexy spin on infotainment®, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style, based on the popular live Chicago show. Each week, I'll chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You'll hear meaningful conversation, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I'm sex educator Karen Yates.
This week, how do you know when you have too many partners? Our panel discusses. Keep listening. We will be taking a holiday break soon, but things will still be shaking in The Afterglow, our Patreon membership site. All members, no matter the level, enjoy many benefits, such as monthly Q&As with sexperts, merchandise discounts, my audio creator notes, announcements and more. Benefits start at $5 a month. The link to join is in our show notes, or at wildandsublime.com. If times are financially tough but you'd still like to help out, consider forwarding this episode, writing a review, or telling your friends about us. Thank you so much for your listening support.
Hey, folks. Abundance is wonderful — but when do you have too much of a good thing? For those of you in nonmonogamous situations, you may, from time to time, have wondered that. A Patreon member in our Q&A this past summer posed a question about polysaturation, and you'll be hearing from our knowledgeable experts as they respond. Our panel today: sex therapist Heather Shannon; kink and relationship coach Mksthingshappin; and psychotherapist for love, sex, and gender rebels, Matthew Amador. Enjoy.
[to panel] Ginger writes — this is a great question — "How does one know when they're polysaturated? And if one feels polysaturated, is it common to still be looking for new experiences with new people?" And for those of you out there who don't know what polysaturated means, it means when you are polyamorous and you have more than enough partners. And the term is "polysaturated."
Heather Shannon: I do love that term. Like, that term made me smile when I saw it in the question.
Good job defining that, Karen.
Karen Yates: Matthew, why don't we start with you?
Matthew Amador: Sure. So when I think of polysaturation — and let me just back this up. When I think of relationships in general, I think a lot of times we think of relationships as being made of different parts — like, our friendship relationships are made of different parts than maybe our romantic relationships or our working relationships. And I don't think that's always the case. I think there's a lot of common parts between all these things. We can have daddy issues, for instance. They can pop up with our partners; they can pop up with our boss; they can pop up with our employees. So I want to kind of establish that, because when I think of polysaturation — if we think about it in, like, a one-to-one, in the work context, we're talking about approaching burnout. We're talking about being in a situation where things are feeling a little overwhelming. They're getting close to being maxed out, if they aren't already maxed out. And that is a difficult place to be in. It's difficult to recognize that you're there, and it's difficult to kind of take yourself out of routine, and out of the rest of the world around you that is helping you become a part of this orbit. Which makes me also think, like, okay, is it common to still be looking for new experiences with new people? Oh, yes, absolutely it's common. Because how often do we keep making choices that might negatively impact our health? Even when, quote unquote, we shouldn't. We get stuck in habits. We get stuck in routines. We have a lot of choices, which just... Honestly, why wouldn't they make us feel better? They've always made us feel better before. What's special about this time? And maybe, with some perspective, with a set of outside eyes, or maybe down the line we'll be like, oh, yeah, that time? Yeah, I probably should have said no back then. But it's hard to know when you're in the moment. So, absolutely. Is it normal? It's a perfectly normal reaction to keep wanting to date people, even if you're feeling polyunsaturated.
Heather Shannon: I actually thought about Mksthingshappin when I heard this question. I was like, oh, Mksthingshappin will have good things to say. Because it reminded me of one of the conversations that we've had before: so, how does one know when they're polysaturated? You've mentioned, you know, being energized. So I think looking at that — like, are you still feeling energized by the idea of dating, of new partners, on whatever level or whatever way that looks like? Or is it feeling more draining, you know? And I am thinking also of a client I've been working with — because sometimes it's so interesting hearing people like, "Oh, we've got this going on, we got this going on, we got a new business, we got new partners, and this and that happening in life...!" And I'm like, oh, man. My mind would be exploding. They're like, no, it's good. I'm learning a lot, I'm growing a lot. So I think looking at that — are you learning, are you growing? Yeah, maybe you're kinda like, man, this is a lot, but it's cool still. So I think looking at that. And then, is it still common to look for experiences with new people? Yeah! And speaking as someone who's monogamous — yes! I'm monosaturated. [laughs] So I get the idea of being saturated pretty quickly, actually. But I love meeting new people. I love that experience of, of new energy. And so maybe even looking at, what are other ways to find that, that maybe aren't that committal? You know, maybe it's just going to events where new people will be there. And it could be like, a one-off event. Or, you know, picking up a hobby that doesn't really demand anything from you, but it's there, if and when you want it. You want some of that new energy with those new people. So those are kind of some of my immediate thoughts on it. And sometimes you also don't know until you've crossed the line. So I guess I'll just add that. Any kind of boundary we set for ourselves — like, I can only handle, you know, this many partners — two partners, three partners, whatever. And then, ooh, but I met this other person and I really, really like them. We're just kind of evolving, or whatever. And then it's like, okay, cool. Now I'm going to try to have one more and see, and it might be like, oh, it's too much. But you might not know until you cross the line.
Karen Yates: Yeah.
Matthew Amador: And that line could move, right?
Heather Shannon: Yeah!
Karen Yates: It sure can.
Matthew Amador: Week to week, month to month.
Karen Yates: Yes, I would agree.
Heather Shannon: Absolutely.
Karen Yates: Okay, Mksthingshappin. Lay it on us.
Mksthingshappin: I am shocked on how selfish everyone else is in that answer. Shocked! 'How does it make me feel? Am I feeling energized?' I'm kind of kidding. But the reality is, you're polysaturated. You can clearly define when that happens, when you are not living up to your commitments to your other partners. Which depends on the partner. Could look many different ways — but you're not living up to the time commitment, you're not living up to the emotional commitment, you're not living up to just showing up for the relationship. I currently have three partners — long term: five years, three years, two years. And it's important to me that they feel special. They feel that they're important to me. And every one of them will say that. They had known each other, thaey've met each other, we've all hung out. All good stuff. And I'm sure if you pull them aside and go, "Why the heck are you with this guy? He's such a... blank." They will say that, you know, he makes me a priority, he makes me feel important — which is something that's important to me. I know if I add another person to the mix — and I play with other people, and I date, and I do all this stuff, and those are people I see on a regular basis, but they're not a part of my D/s relationships. But the poly — my anchor partners, is what I call them; I don't call them primary or secondary. I think that's problematic. So they're my anchor partners. And everyone who is involved with me knows that they're my anchor partners, knows they're not going anywhere, know that they're my, quote-unquote, priority. And the second that one of them feels they are not getting what I committed to to the relationship — and it's an individual, personalized conversation, so I'm not talking about specifically time — they have the right to step away. They have the right to go, "This isn't working for me." And Heather, you and I have talked about that. I need that level of consequence. One of the reasons I feel my marriage failed was that if I didn't put in 100%, there was no consequence. Ultimately, I got divorced. That was the big-picture consequence. But there was no consequence in the short run. In the poly situation, making sure that they feel how I want them to feel is the work. And if I add someone else, I don't feel I have the capacity to do that. Hence, I'm saturated. And I'm going to fail, either at the new relationship, or one of my current relationships. So in this case, as opposed to sounding selfish — it's about me and my needs and everything — or a better word for selfish! Insert a better word for selfish here! This now is all about your community, your partners. You know, I'm saying, hey, I bring all this to the table. Well, now I got to deliver. [laughs] And now it's the act of delivering, and if you can't do it, you have a problem. And if it's because you're sniffing around for other people, you're failing. You're seriously failing in your commitment.
Karen Yates: Well, I can appreciate your viewpoint. And it also strikes me as severe. [laughs]
Mksthingshappin: Severe? How so?
Karen Yates: Well, it's very black and white. But I get it.
Mksthingshappin: You know me. [laughs]
Karen Yates: I know, I know. I know. And so, like, I appreciate it, because it's super, like, dun-dun-dunnn. You know, and I would say that another aspect is, like, kind of a flexibility. I mean, Matthew's talking about, hey, situations change. You change month to month. Knowing what you can — and this is something of what you're saying, Mksthingshappin, is — what can I actually, reasonably deliver on? What can I actually be engaged in? Like, I met someone who's like, look, the only way I can engage with you is as a play partner right now. Period. I cannot be, you know, quote-unquote, more. I can only be a play— and that was super clear. That person knew their saturation level. And knowing that for yourself is about self knowledge. You know, it's about, who am I? And as Matthew was saying, you know, our issues spread across the board. And if you feel you need to keep feeding yourself by, like, going after partner after partner — and I've seen all sorts of polysaturation. I've seen people who look miserable with their Google calendar. They're just, like, in misery with their multiple partners. Just, you know, Monday it's Sammy, and Tuesday it's Janine, and—
Mksthingshappin: I love it!
Karen Yates: But — yeah, but you love it. I've seen people just look like death warmed over with their... [laughs]
Matthew Amador: I would say, if you find that you're not able to be present with the people on the calendar, if your primary relationship is with that shared Google calendar, then that might be a time to reassess. Like, okay, where am I putting energy right now? Am I reaching a limit? And there's no shame, you know? Like, we may have an infinite amount of love inside of us, but we only have a finite amount of time and energy.
Karen Yates: Right. Right. And I think about — I really do — I think about poly a lot of the way I think about my friendships. I've got, you know, the intimate, core people. You could call them anchor friends, right? And then if I meet someone really cool and new, I don't want to, like, shut that potential friendship off. But it's gonna start out real slow. If I have a very full life, it might be, let's just have coffee, see what happens. I don't know. For me, it's more of an organic experience about where people fit into my life.
Heather Shannon: I like that way of looking at things. Because I think relationships in general, like you're saying, Karen, whether it's romantic, sexual, platonic, family, career stuff, we can't control it. I think we can kind of have an intention. But like, who does come into your sphere? And how do you feel in that moment? And how full is the calendar and how empty is your tank? I don't know, that's exciting to me, honestly. The idea that it's like, we don't know, it's gonna be like a fun surprise. And I think it's just being very present moment, like showing up and being honest moment to moment and communicating, and see if that works for you and the other person or not.
Mksthingshappin: Yeah. I've had plenty of individuals go, no thanks. You know, I want to be number one, or you won't have time for me. Or try to put me in a position to justify why I have other partners, or how I could possibly find time for them. And those types of questions lead me to believe that they're probably not the best person for me. So it goes to — these type of things kind of help early on, once again, to avoid issues. And just because they're new and shiny and very exciting, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best call to add them to your community.
Karen Yates: We have been talking in this tonight, really, about doing the work, self-awareness. How do we locate ourselves in relationship? These are, like, the core, critical questions of sex and relationship. And kink. It's like, this is it. What is our relationship with ourselves? Right?
Matthew Amador: How to show up in relationships now. How do you show up as yourself? How do you show up with other people? I think it's even all the more prescient now being where we are with the pandemic. How do we show up? What's our capacity like? Is our capacity now different than it was 18 months ago? Is our ability to hold space with other people — is it just different? Like, we're all navigating different things. We're navigating a different way of being in this vessel that is our body. And, yeah, it's not easy for any of us. It's harder for some people, sure, some days; easier for other people some days, sure. I hope that each of these people who wrote in have a big, big piece of compassion cheesecake, that they are cutting for themselves right now.
Heather Shannon: I love that. I agree. Relationships are not easy. And like, showing up and doing the work is painful much of the time, you know? It's humbling. And you know, especially being a therapist — you know, I don't know how the rest of you feel about this — being someone who does the work sometimes, it's like, oh my god, I still have this? I still have this obstacle? You know, like, for me it's been a lot of the anxious attachment stuff. And I'm like, it's like, 5% what it used to be, but it's still there. You know, when it pops up, I'm like, oh, you again? But just like, can we keep showing up, even when it's like, ugh, okay, we're — because we all tend to cycle through the same types of issues that pop up in relationships. So just, yeah, that compassion is so important, to just be able to show up still.
Mksthingshappin: I find a lot of people don't do the work, mainly because there's really no motivation to do it. There's no guide saying, hey, you need to be centered before you go out and intertwine your life with someone else. And it's a skill. It's not something you just know. And there's no natural, organic way for someone to come across that information. If they go to a therapist, and the therapist can give them the tools to do so, that is fantastic. Doesn't mean they'll execute it, but at least they're understanding the right path. So, go therapists. [laughs] But I find when I am coaching, or when I'm talking to a potential new partner or play partner, and I ask these questions, of, 'Tell me what you're looking for, tell me what you bring to the table,' and I literally ask that question. Black and white, Karen! Black and white. And some people are absolutely turned off. Some people have no way of answering it, because they've never been asked. And some people answer it in a super clunky way. But that part is okay, because that tells me they have been at least trying to do some self discovery. And that, I find intriguing. That I find appealing. That I find attractive, to be honest with you.
Karen Yates: Well, thank you, thank you. Heather Shannon, Mksthingshappin, and Matthew Amador.
For more information on Mksthingshappin, Heather, and Matthew, go to our show notes. The holiday season is upon us. If you've been enjoying Wild & Sublime, consider a one-time gift in our tip jar to help us meet the expenses of producing this podcast. The link is in the show notes.
Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our Sublime Supporter, Full Color Life Therapy. Therapy for all of you at fullcolorlifetherapy.com.
Well, that's it, folks. Have a very pleasurable week. Thank you for listening. If you know someone who might be interested in this episode, send it to them. Do you like what you heard? Then give us a nice review on your podcast app. You can follow us on social media @wildandsublime and sign up for newsletters at wildandsublime.com. I'd like to thank associate producer Julia Williams and design guru Jean-Francois Gervais. Theme Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was edited by The Creative Imposter studios. Our media sponsor is Rebellious Magazine, feminist media, at rebelliousmagazine.com.
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