Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Best Time-Management Tip Ever (When You're Poly and In Demand)

Dear Viny,

I'm writing because I am looking for time management strategies for people in multiple relationships. Everyone in my life is important, and I don't see who or what I could cut out, but I feel overwhelmed sometimes. I feel bad for complaining, since I know I am lucky to have so much love in my life. There are people that would appreciate being in even just one relationship. Yet, it's like no matter what I decide to do in the free time I have (which is not a lot), I am worried someone is feeling left out, or I think I am probably forgetting something crucial, or getting way behind on something I should be attending to. Do you have any suggestions for how to fix this?

Stressed Out

Dear Stressed,

When I was in graduate school, I had to put together a dissertation committee that included members who were specifically outside my area of expertise, and that meant approaching professors I didn't know well. In response to my humble request for a tiny smidge of his valuable time, one guy – we'll call him Dr. Snooty Bigname – came out with this gem: “Everyone wants a piece of my action.” I almost laughed, until I saw that he was completely serious. Ever since then, whenever I or one of my partners complains about not having enough time, someone will tease, “Aw, poor popular baby! Everyone wants a piece of your action!”

It's tough being in demand, isn't it? And part of what makes it so tough is that you feel like a total heel if you complain about it. First-world problems, and all that.

Yes, Stressed, there are probably people out there who only *wish* they were dealing with your issues right now. It's good to have some perspective, to realize that you are indeed very fortunate. But don't let your gratitude turn into guilt. Those of us who are rich in relationships do have problems we have to address, and feeling like “everyone wants a piece of my action, but there's not enough of me to go around” can be a real challenge.

I could write for hours on this topic – but unfortunately, I don't have hours at my disposal right now. I have 30 minutes, if that. So here's what I am going to do: I'm gonna skip all the advice about scheduling and identifying priorities and all that, and go straight to my Number One Tip for How to Feel Like You Have Enough Time for All the Very Important People in Your Life, which is actually super simple:

Start with yourself, and spend some quality time alone.

I'm serious. When did you last give yourself the kind of attention you're giving to others? When did you last devote a substantial amount of time to self-care (without worrying that you were somehow “wasting” time you could have spent connecting with loved ones)? If your answer is, “Um...???”, then you have indeed been neglecting your most important responsibility.

It may seem counter-intuitive to spend more time alone when you're already concerned that you aren't spending enough time with other people, but you have to remember that there is an inverse correlation between how stressed out you feel and how “there” you are able to be for someone else. If your emotional reserves are depleted, you have nothing to give. Obvious? Maybe. Or maybe not. In my experience, introverts are better at monitoring that blinking “need to refuel” light on their internal dashboards; those of us who are more extroverted are too often running on fumes before it occurs to us that we'd better pop into the “Me Time” station for some much-needed petrol if we don't want to break down in rush-hour traffic. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, though, it is an undeniable truth that being in multiple intimate relationships takes more energy. Which means you are actually going to have to refuel more often than someone in one relationship, not less.

I wish I could say more, but this is going to have to suffice for now, because I'm off to the Oregon coast for my annual “two days all to myself” retreat. Should you happen to run into me, sitting alone in a cafe with my cup of clam chowder, or running along the beach, a lone figure against a backdrop of ocean and windswept sand, please don't say hello. ;-)

Seashells and Sympathy,

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