One thing about polyamory and non-monogamy that's both a blessing and a curse is that working through feelings and needs becomes an art form. It is not a scientific discovery that everyone has different needs. Throw in different sexual orientations and gender identities -- straight, gay, bi, pansexual, transgender, queer -- and there are questions that rotate around attraction among other partners. Preferences (there is more than one style of BDSM or even having a non-kink partner) are added to the mix, and now you have a juggling game.
I have relationships with people who have different needs and different wants. That will happen. Unless you're attracted to people born under a specific zodiac sign or have a strict rule that every partner needs a certain level of kink, there will always be a few bumps in the road. I still have a partner who, after almost three years, swears up and down that I don't like being "bossed" around all the time. I attempt to explain to him that when I'm with partners like him who aren't into control, I get some time to relax and take a short break. One thing I keep in mind is that everyone has his or her own perspective. I could try to sell someone on my perspective, but if someone really isn't open to it, then I'm wasting my breath and my time.
The question: how to fix the bumps resulting from folks' different strokes and needs.
I'm not going to rant and rave about communication in this blog. At this point I would hope that you have already communicated with your partner. If you're not communicating with your partner, there are other things at play, and some more close observation will help in the relationship.
What I am going to suggest are some concepts (some of which might be foreign) to remember when trying to understand different folks with different strokes and different needs.
Their Other Partners May Just Not Be Into You
Big whammy right there. A few readers may be sitting there, in awe, going, "But I'm so loveable! I don't do anything wrong!" This comes down to two things: perspective and compatibility. I say this in reference to both other partners and your partners' partners. I have partners who are into strict dominance/submission structures, and I have partners who are relaxed in that area. I have some partners who like to snuggle most of the time and go out on vanilla dates, while another partner doesn't want to be involved in a vanilla sense.
Perspectives are the troublemaker. If someone thinks I'm a threat of some kind, labels me "weird," or completely shuts me out, that energy becomes prevalent in relationship. I also have been in situations where I think others were just a tad too needy ("Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!"), and in situations where I was just not attracted to them. It really comes down to personality for me.
Everyone has their bad days. At one point or another, everyone fits these labels. It's important to remember that when you're involved with anyone monogamous or poly. Communication may help with other partners, and it may not help. Look down below for more information.
But They Are Into You. They Like Like You (Nudge, Nudge)
When it comes to sexual orientation, what is your stroke? Are you attracted to everyone? Is it totally based on looks? (That sounds shallow but I'll accept it as an answer.) Is it based on personality? Do you want to have sexual relations with everyone that you partner is having them with, or do you want it exclusive with one person? Do you not want to have sex with a partner's partner?
Here is where people need maturity. As I mentioned above, it may not always work out. I avoid giving direct answers when asked whom I'm attracted to; instead, I try to make it obvious with my actions. Sometimes that would need vocalization, but if you are also on the end of things where you think you are attracted to someone who isn't attracted to you sexually (either your partner or their partners), take an honest look at it. Is it something that is going to happen, or are you going to get hurt in the end?
Despite some views on partners being intimate with each other, not all partners need to be intimate with each other. Please repeat that, people; it's important to remember that. Any forms of kink can be done without intimacy. It's called being good friends.
Laying Out All the Cards: It Can Go Either Way
I will be honest with my readers: I do have a lot of D/S rules that happen throughout my day. Some of the rules affect my other relationships. I need to be honest with people who are involved with me that my relationships need to comply with a few rules, or it may not work. Laying out each rule may seem limiting to other people involved. You may have your own personal rules. Do you consider safe sex important? I hope that it is important, but what is your form of safe sex? Are there certain things that are sacred to another partner that will be kept within that relationship? If watching South Park in footy pajamas while eating Chunky Monkey ice cream is important to your other partner, then that activity needs respect.
Sometimes the rules and limitations won't mesh. My needs have changed from five years ago; in fact, my needs have changed from a year ago. It's how you readjust that is important.