I am considering becoming mates with someone who is already mates with someone else, but it would be a long-distance relationship. How likely is it that a long-distance polyamorous relationship would work out?
(Received anonymously via ask.fm)
You have left out a few pertinent details, but I will certainly do my best to answer! The short answer is, yes, long-distance polyamorous relationships can work out (depending on how you define that — is a mutually beneficial relationship that ends or changes form after a certain amount of time a successful relationship? I would argue so). However, this type of relationship does present some unique challenges that make it what I would consider to be a varsity-level relationship structure (by varsity-level, I mean not necessarily a good fit for someone without lots of prior relationship experience).
It isn't entirely clear from your question whether you are talking about mating up with both members of the existing couple (forming a polyamorous triad) or mating up with just one of the members of the existing couple (forming a polyamorous V-triad). Each of these scenarios presents some unique challenges. However, the biggest challenge in either scenario is going to be a lot of envy on the part of you, the long-distance partner. The reason for this is that, as a long-distance partner, you are by definition less connected and less synchronized with the partners who are local to each other. Therefore, it will be very difficult not to feel left out or marginalized when the local partners go on dates or have special occasions that you cannot be a part of. If the long-distance relationship is your only relationship, or if you don't have much relationship experience, the issue of envy can be magnified even further. So proceed with caution. I know from experience with this very scenario (as one of the local partners) that envy and feeling like you've been left out can be a strong motivator to cheat or create drama in the relationship, thereby drawing attention back to yourself. Don't put a couple through that kind of a relationship wringer.
However, if you are fairly experienced, or the long-distance relationship would be only one of the relationships you are involved in, there is a much stronger chance of success. Such arrangements work much better if you are allowed to form (or maintain) your own romantic connections locally, which helps to temper the envy and fear of missing out (FOMO) you are certain to feel as part of a long-distance polyamorous relationship.
Hope that helps, Anonymous. Get back in touch with us if we can help you any further or didn't quite address your particular circumstance.