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Answer by Claire J. Vannette, polyamorous since 2006:
I don't. “Fairness” is not my goal. My goal is to nurture each relationship and add value to each partner's life, not to equalize all relationships and treat each partner the same. Different people have different needs. If I'm dating a guy who wants to see me once a week and a gal who wants to see me twice a week, do I need to see both of them once a week or see both of them twice a week? No. Fairness doesn't enter the picture.
Fair allocation of time only becomes an issue when everyone can't get what he or she wants. If John wants to spend five nights a week with me and Jane wants to spend five nights a week with me (and hanging out with both of them together isn't an option), then Jane and John can't both have everything they want. In that situation, I might try to balance the amount of time I spent with each of them. Of course, my desires come into play as well. Am I happiest if I equalize the time I spend with Jane and John, or do I like seeing John two nights a week and Jane one night a week?
Monogamous folks ask about this a lot. Perhaps because mono relationships often come with the assumption that you will devote all your free time to your partner, and your partner will devote all his or her free time to you. Surely that's how poly people feel, right? I must want all my boyfriend's time and resent any time he spends with his other girlfriend. If I can't have all my boyfriend's time, then I must cross my arms and pout and insist that he at least split his time fairly. But that simply hasn't been my experience in poly relationships. We all accept that we have multiple partners, so we all accept that we can't be together all the time. We're all adults with full lives. We have our own shit going on.
I can only think of a few incidents when I fretted over balanced allocation of time. These were brief times of scarcity. I simply didn't have much potential time with someone and therefore wanted every second of that precious time, but that time needed to be divvied up among multiple people. Then feelings of competition started to surface. But these incidents were exceptions, not the rule.
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