Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Stress Relief Girlfriend

Photo courtesy of Ciaran McGuiggan
I have discovered I play a specific role in one of my relationships.

I practice solo polyamory. That is, I don't live with my partners, share finances with them, have children or shared business interests with them. Some would call me "single," but I don't feel this fits me particularly well, as I have been in loving, committed relationships for nearly two years now.

The benefit of this (aside from the many benefits I gain from not having my boundaries infringed) is that date time really is Date Time. My partners and I have to schedule time together specifically. We don't end up having time together accidentally, and we never slip into the habit of doing things independently but in the same room with each other. Our dates occupy time we've set aside to spend together, and I really like that.

One of my boyfriends, Rusty, shares a home, finances, and business with another partner. I also gather (although I could be wrong) that he often serves as a sort of caretaker for her: bringing meals and medicine when she doesn't feel well, doing dishes and laundry, seeing to many of her everyday needs.

Most of the time this doesn't affect me much, but sometimes, like now, when he's under great stress, I become The Stress Relief Girlfriend. He arrives for dates mentally and emotionally drained, and requests we do things to take his mind off his stress.

I am often happy to fulfill this role. After all, being The Stress Relief Girlfriend involves a lot of sex and video games, our favorite pastimes.

But, being the only resident in my home (and owner of two adorable but high-maintenance cats), I still have to do my laundry, and take out my trash, and wash my dishes, and clean my cats' litter box. And all last week I was ill, and (through no fault of Rusty's) ended up spending several days home alone, feeling generally miserable and a bit sorry for myself.

It can be difficult, when my own stress piles up, to be The Stress Relief Girlfriend. I like that Rusty thinks of me like this; that he considers time with me the enjoyable escape from responsibility and tedium (not that his other partner is tedious, mind you, just that they share the tedium of work and daily life). I enjoy being able to give him this escape, to be where he turns to feel better.

But I won't deny that sometimes it's not very easy. When he wants a relaxing night away from stress but I have chores to do and cats to feed and errands to run and all my own stress of the day or week, I find myself rushing through my own responsibilities or delaying doing them in order to take care of his needs.

Although I'm sure this sort of dynamic exists within monogamous relationships, I never really saw it as transparently as I see it now. I feel I have this role to play, the free-wheeling, fun-loving girlfriend who is always ready for a good time and happy to provide a place to relax and recharge. Sometimes that role fits better than other times.

I'm not complaining, exactly, and I don't feel this is a situation that needs to be fixed. It's simply not something I encountered before I was in polyamorous relationships. I suppose I am remarking on its existence, and wondering whether anyone else feels this happens in their relationships as well.


  1. I often find myself being a "stress relief girlfriend" in relationships (I'm polyamorous as well, though not solo poly). Setting aside the concerns of my own life for the duration of a date, and relieving the stress of someone I love. But on the rare occasions that I'm really stressed myself, I find they will return the favor.

    1. Yeah, this is definitely not a one-sided thing. He's really been there for me when I needed him, on multiple occasions. And when we discussed this post, the first thing he said was, "I want you to know that I love you very much, and I value our relationship and our time together."

      He's wonderful, really.

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