You know that conventional relationships aren't for you, that your partner is unable to fill all your needs or that you cannot function being "everything" for your partner. Maybe you just enjoy all the flavors of ice cream and want to sample the entire menu. Maybe you found that you've been a serial monogamist who never quite felt complete or whole because you've been ignoring some deep-seated needs. Regardless of how this awareness came about, effective, ethical non-monogamous relationships need work. After all, they are relationships. And the "C-word" - communication - is the cornerstone.
These days, more and more people are coming to the awareness that they are actually poly. Ethically non-monogomous. Not mono. But what now? Overcoming the socialization to monogamy that we are inundated with is difficult. Whether you are an existing monogamous dynamic looking to make the shift to embracing one (or both) partner's needs for poly, or if you are starting a new dynamic, the time to start poly processing is now. It goes like this "Hey, I'm poly. Let's talk". After all, as My mentor Thizbee always sez: If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't be doing it!
Regardless of how your personal poly is defined, effective poly processing is imperative. But implementing such a huge step is difficult. I've talked about how important poly processing is and how it works, but how do you start? When is it time to add a partner (or potential partner) to the hive discussions? What about migrating a traditional relationship to a poly one? These are all questions worthy of a full chapter in my upcoming book, but the 5-minute version is a little more bite-sized.
When to start poly processing? NOW! Determine who is in your hive, so that everybody who is a "stakeholder" can be heard. The hive includes people with whom you have a "relationship", regardless of whether it is romantic, sexual, platonic life partners, or some other micro-labeled version. The bottom line is, relationships are all important, and everyone deserves a say. Not all relationships are "conventional" relationships. I know of one hive which includes a hive-member's cat, to ensure they get enough cuddle time to recharge both the human and the feline. If the relationship needs attention or care, it is part of the hive. And remember, the management of a household is its own relationship, as is co-parenting. It is entirely possible for a married couple to have three separate relationship types, each of which is demanding time and attention.
My general rule of thumb is to start including people when you start to feel the feels. When you are fairly certain that this is someone you want in your life. Before you say "I love you", say "how can I/we ensure your needs are met". If metas and paras do not want to be involved in poly processing, you must ask yourself if they truly are committed to making a poly relationship work. If they do not want to meet, then that is a huge red flag that there are underlying issues - usually of jealousy. And My views on jealousy are fairly harsh - it is not healthy and has no place in long-term, ethical poly. If they are unwilling to meet new partners, it might not be time for new partners.
It is important to ensure everybody is present for the discussion. Every member of your hive - whether they are metamours, paramours, or life-long platonic partners - must have their voices heard. Every member of a poly hive works to keep the hive functioning, and if one member's voice isn't heard, or is translated through another member, then the hive falters in its effectiveness. Needs are overlooked, misunderstood, or blatantly ignored. And yes, that first meeting is going to be rough. Long. Painful. Draining. Allow for a good solid chunk of alone time afterward so everyone can process individually what they uncovered or explored.
Remember that the key to happy, enduring poly is to ensure everyone's Needs are met, not in ensuring your own Needs are met.