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The Cost Of Open Relationships

Photo by Lucas Favre on Unsplash

One day I was out on a date with Oliver. We were having dinner at a very romantic restaurant after a leisurely walk. He asked if I could help him plan a vacation. It caught me by surprise because we had just returned from one a week prior.

“Honey, I don’t know if I could take more time off from work,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, “You don’t need to worry about that. I’m planning a vacation for Kelly and me.”

“Ah!” I said, “Sure. I’ll help. What do you have in mind?”

Oliver and Kelly were in a long-distance relationship. The only way they could meet was by going on a vacation.

Oliver and I were married. We used to go on vacations once or twice a year, but because Oliver was spending a lot of his PTO on seeing Kelly, the frequency of our vacations decreased significantly.

So did the rate of our savings.

It didn’t bother me much at first — I was happy for Oliver and Kelly to have found each other. But that dinner conversation triggered something in me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I just noticed a slight twitch of my nerves somewhere in my core. Then as we talked more about Oliver’s upcoming vacation, that twitch turned into a painful cramp. Then it started to throb. Then it took over me completely and came out as:

“Oliver, I want to go to exotic destinations with you too. I feel like I only get to go on road trips with you and the kids these days, and Kelly gets to go to the Maldives and Portugal. It stings.”

After I said it, I felt the words come out whinier than I normally sound, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“Oh,” Oliver said, “I understand. I wouldn’t like it either if I were you.”

“What are we going to do about it?” I asked, hoping that Oliver would have an answer that would make me feel better immediately.

“I don’t know,” he said, “but let’s brainstorm!”

“Okay,” I agreed.

We started talking about time and money being the two resources we could control. We get to decide how, where, and with whom we spend our time and how much we are willing to pay for it. Oliver wanted it all — family vacations AND to see his girlfriend at least once a quarter.

We didn’t divide our finances at all — everything we earned was going into a joint account. If I were to do it again, I would manage it differently. I’d set aside some fixed amount of money that would cover family expenses, vacations, and emergencies and have each of us set the rest aside into separate personal accounts. Then we’d pay for our additional dates and trips from those.

But Oliver and I didn’t think much about how an open relationship would affect our finances. Until his third vacation with Kelly. So there we were — feeling the weight of Jamaican sand on our shoulders that Kelly and Oliver were about to walk on.

We decided that the best approach was to dig into the historic trends of what we’ve spent on our other relationships and what the fixed expenses for our family and our relationship are. We use for financial tracking, so thankfully, the data was readily available.

When we looked at the historic trends, we quickly realized that the long-distance relationship had been quite pricey. Quarterly exotic vacations were no joke.

In comparison, my local boyfriend and I were barely spending anything — our weekly dates most often consisted of walks, cooking dinner at home, and sometimes going out to bars where we split the check.

And our family budget had quite a bit of fixed expenses, as family budgets normally do. Housing, kids' activities and camps, food, bills, and all that jazz. And we were over what we had planned for this part too, because of our recent family vacation.

I didn’t like our financial situation one bit.

What could we do differently? Could Oliver even afford a long-distance relationship? Would lack of money be a good enough reason to end it?

We agreed that we’d find a way to make it work. And immediately started looking.

The first idea we had was to change the way we distributed our paychecks. Historically, everything either of us earned would go into a joint account. What if we set aside a percentage of our pay to go into a separate account?

That made sense, but after we subtracted what was required for fixed family expenses, Oliver wouldn’t have enough left to cover his vacations.

What else could we do?

Oliver decided to talk to his girlfriend to see if, instead of going on vacations every time, they could visit each other. That would help. I was okay with Kelly staying over at our house. Would it be comfortable for her?

“What else?” I asked.

“A promotion would help, I guess,” Oliver said.

“It would indeed, but it doesn’t sound like it’s in your control, dear,” I responded.

“True,” said Oliver.

We continued brainstorming.

There were really only three things we could do in a global scheme of things — start making more money, start spending less money or change our priorities. We decided to come up with at least three ideas for each bucket.

In the end, we had a nice mix of ideas. Some were around establishing new passive income streams, others were about alternatives to summer camps for kids, such as sending them off to grandparents, and a few for finding less expensive alternatives in the categories we had to spend money on. Like food.

Oliver talked to Kelly about meeting with her in their respective homes instead of vacationing in exotic destinations, and she gladly agreed.

We managed to lower our fixed expenses by about fifteen percent per month, and that was the amount we started putting into separate individual accounts. We agreed that moving forward, if we needed to spend more than what we’ve saved in our separate accounts, we could potentially borrow from our joint account if everyone was on-board.

Once implemented, the new financial tracking system was working quite well. Oliver continued seeing Kelly about once a quarter, and I was able to splurge a bit more on my other relationships since I was saving a bit more.

I’m sure there are other ways to manage poly finances. I’d love to hear from you, my dear readers, if you found a way that works well.


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Polyamory (Greek πολύ poly, "many, several", Latin amor, "love") is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved.

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