It’s Not a Competition. Except That It Sort Of Is.


“Love is infinite. Time is not.”

It's one of the oft-repeated truisms of polyamory and it can be easily forgotten when we're in the throes of New Relationship Energy (NRE) or surrounded by new, sexy people. Of course, we still care about and/or love the people we’re involved with and will talk to them, but this new person is just so interesting and exciting to get to know, and where did that 4 hours just go?

I totally meant to reply earlier…

I have very mixed feelings when people I love start connecting with someone new or reconnecting with an old flame. I'm happy for them, feeling lovely compersion when I see them glowing, or notice the upbeat change in the tone of their text messages, the giddy exchanges on social media. I want their lives to be overflowing with love, joy, fun, and sexiness because they deserve it. At the same time, I feel an immediate sense of loss because I know that they're not going to be as available to me. Then I feel guilty for being selfish and needy.

In person at limited time frame events like conventions or group vacations such as Swingset Takes Over Desire, this can be a huge issue. There are so many interesting, funny, smart, and damn sexy people to connect with that it can be hard to have quality time with everyone that matters. When I see my people getting their flirt on with others, or getting to get physical with someone they're into, it's really wonderful. I often feel a surge of warmth and happiness for them.

Except that I also feel a sense of loss because I know that the time they're with others in this very limited moment, they're not with me. With my husband, Flick, I know we'll be going home together so I don't have the same anxiety or feeling of loss. I encourage him to spend as much time as possible with people he doesn’t see often. But with my other lovers, we might not see each other again for many months so I want to get as much time with them as possible.

I go to events to see and spend time with the people I already know. We have established connections and I know we're into each other and I want more of that thing I know I like. Meeting new people is fairly low on my agenda. I’m socially awkward and stressed with new people and it’s incredibly unlikely we’ll make a sexy connection in that circumstance. I know that's not the case with people in my circles. They attend events wanting to meet and connect with and have sexytimes with many people. The new and shiny connections have great appeal to them, and it hurts when I don't count as new and shiny anymore, and stop being someone they actively pursue.

In these situations, I tend to withdraw (both physically and emotionally). I simply can't compete with the zing of a new experience. I'm the same person they've fucked however many times previously. I see the new person as far more interesting than I am, so in classic self-fulfilling form, I become quiet and uninteresting. I disengage. I hide in my room. I reject myself before I have to feel the pain of being rejected if I were to attempt to put myself out there as an option.

“It's not a competition” is another phrase regularly spoken by the non-monogamous that is only true to a point. When there's limited time available, we are all competing for each other's time and attention, and I don't think that ignoring that practical reality benefits anyone. It might not be that two (or more) people have to actively compete to win the attention and affection of someone, but when that someone makes a choice to be with a specific person (or people), the others are left behind.

I understand in theory that opting to spend time with new people doesn’t mean my paramours don’t like/love me anymore, or that they don’t value me as a person or partner. I can parse that we can differ in the ways that different types of encounters that give us energy, charge, and fulfillment. But that sting/gut-wrenching nausea of rejection isn’t any less painful when I’m seeking time together with someone to build on our established connection and they choose…not that.

Figuring out what works for me and what is really bad for my heart and head has been a valuable and hard-won lesson. I’ve learned that going to conventions and sexy group vacations with people I don’t see often is not in my best interest. It’s simply too painful. Instead, I need to take specific trips to see the people I care about in more focused situations. I can be the focus of their attention and build on our connection in those moments, and perhaps they can tell me about a past experience with a new, shiny person while we get sexy. We all win!

How do you charge your sexy/relationship batteries?


Kat (she/they) is a sex-positive, geeky, Canadian, pansexual, deviant, slutty, feminist pervert who came to ethical non-monogamy 21-years into her relationship with her husband. After a quick toe-dip to test the waters (and hours of obsessive reading and podcast consumption), they dove in and they almost can't imagine they ever lived any other way. Labels never give a totally clear picture, but they consider themselves non-monogamous and polyamorous, though they occasionally swing. She's also a podcaster - On The Wet Coast Podast - and audiobook narrator for Cooper S Beckett's novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching the Swingularity. @WetcoastKat on Twitter. Their first book - Yelling In Pasties: The Wet Coast Confessions of an Anxious Slut - is available on,, Inkterra, and Kobo.

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