Cheers Sexy People!
Last week, I contemplated how rules, boundaries and negotiations work in polyamorous relationships, and pondered how we find common ground and figure out how to better understand each other while still honoring our own needs and desires at the same time. Once again, this can be challenging in a monogamous relationship, but tends to get even more complicated in multiple, loving relationships where more hearts and minds are involved, all with their own unique thoughts and feelings.
As I contemplated this, it spurred many insightful and thought provoking conversations in cyber space as well as with some of my close polyamorous friends. My girlfriend’s new-ish lover had this to say, and is allowing me to publish it here versus keeping it a private conversation. I think there’s some awesome stuff here:
The authors [of the linked article] appear to suggest that there should be no rules ever, because rules are inherently one sided, or because rules never actually serve the purpose for which they are created, or because nothing is sure, so trying to protect what you have is pointless, or because if someone needs a rule to feel safe, then they need to just learn to deal.
But I think that it is more nuanced than that. I think if we stop talking about rules, and talk about respecting everyone’s needs and level of personal capacity for acceptance at this moment in time, then you wind up with a form of behavior that is very like following rules, but is based on compassion, respect, and understanding rather than limitations. And sometimes, once we understand it this way, it’s just simpler to call those rules, even if there is no longer a need to formalize “rules” anymore.
And of course, the dictate that there are no rules, is a rule of itself, so there is that logical problem.
Unless you start out to do poly from the beginning, most people are in some stage of learning to do poly, which carries a whole different set of norms than the ones that you probably assumed most of your life, and different from most of the norms you may have entered a relationship with before attempting to open it.
Changing from one deeply held set of norms and expectations to another while engaged with multiple people, each with their own minds, is a bit like stepping out on a high wire in gusting and shifting winds.
The rules (AKA the things that a partner might need in order not to freak out catastrophically), then, are like a balance pole to the high wire artist, they give you something with a bit of inertia to steady against as the winds blow and the wire shakes. The longer you do it, the shorter a balance pole you need. Most people writing in the forums describe starting with very rigid rules that fall away over time to nothing more than respecting your partner’s feelings.
Really great insights there. As I pondered my own unique situation, I came to the conclusion that first, if something is really bothering you, or things feel out of balance with one of your partners, try to determine if you are making poor negative assumptions that may or may not to be true that are causing you to suffer. OR is there an imbalance that needs to be aired, and you’d better air it soon before it festers or resentment builds. Grow some balls, have the courage to speak up, and get it out on the table and look at it. For me, there were three things bothering me when I really got it down to nuts and bolts of what I needed to air:
1) Though there are some that prefer to have more of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and don’t want to hear the whole truth (and a part of me wants to respect someone else’s wishes), for me personally, I am not cool with my partner’s lover not knowing the full details, full disclosure. It just does not sit well with me. And I realized that I had to create a boundary about this concern, or it would eat away at me. Call it a rule, call it an agreement, I don’t care. That’s my deal. It helps me feel safe, and like everything is honest, open and ethical. And it respects my wishes, thus I feel respected and heard. Ironically, BEFORE I had voiced this new boundary, my beau had already decided to tell his Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell partner the entire dealio, and let the chips fall where they may. Guess we were on the same page afterall. That rocks!
2) Speaking of safety, as I further gave this thought and rolled it around in the old noodle, I realized that my beau and I have alot of the same core values: adventure, being together, joy… one where we slightly differ is he might value freedom a bit more than me (but I sure value freedom too, so I totally get it), and I might value safety and security more than him. As we talked it out in a loving, respectful, compassionate conversation that did not erupt into an argument (yay!), we realized that we both have those core values. But he feels generally very secure and connected to me on a daily basis. Whereas I occasionally need a bit more interaction or “check-ins” while he spends time with other people that he loves. He pointed out that I need to TRUST that he has my best interests at heart and is committed to our relationship WHILE he explores other relationships. Trust and integrity are paramount in good, healthy relationships. Right on. That all works for me. Success!
I found a great article that touches on this point directly in this excerpt. (link to full article below if you are interested in reading it).
One of the things that make two people a good match is that they have the same “core” values. By having the same core values, I don’t mean being the same personality type or having the same education or working in the same field. I mean you have the same basic attitudes when it comes to what’s important in life, not least what’s important when it comes to relationships.
One of the reasons why many relationships get into serious trouble is that the man and the woman don’t have the same core values. A “mismatch” like this usually spells trouble because most people live according to their core values – and usually unconsciously expect their partners to do so too. This can be problematic when these core values don’t match. Let’s take an example. Let’s say one of your core values is “freedom” while your partner’s core values are “security and feeling safe”. Obviously this can make your relationship problematic because you will both unconsciously be expecting the other to behave in a manner that is in conflict with his or her core value or values. So when you are faithful to your core value and give yourself and your partner lots of “freedom”, your partner may get upset and feel insecure because his/her core values of “security and feeling safe” are not being met or are threatened. The opposite is true too. When your partner tries to live in harmony with his/her core value and strives for “security” for example, by wanting clear agreements on how you do things, the “freedom-loving” partner feels stifled and inhibited. You feel your core value of “freedom” is being threatened. So this is why it is so important to be more aware of what you and your partner’s (or a potential partner’s) core values are.
To read the full article – which also talks about does sexual attraction mean you’re a good match – click here below:
3) Lastly in terms of safety, he was a bit overdue to get his STD checkup. Since he has a new partner, I needed this step to feel physically safe and needed to know our poly family is protected. We have a free clinic only a mile or so from our house and at his own accord, he had already planned to get tested earlier this week. Awesome again!
After we talked, we both felt closer to each other, felt more understood, felt more loving towards each other, and our trust in each other grew exponentially. As we had these discussions, my husband supported the conversations and offered his guidance. He wants us all to be happy and healthy, in our loving home. We all win when things are flowing in the right direction, and feel balanced and good.
Feel free to offer your feedback on anything that I shared here. Was this information helpful for you in your relationships? Do you find your core values match up well with your partner(s)? Do you need to do any renegotiations to feel balanced?
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too)
NOTE: Almost immediately after I published this post, someone commented on a social networking site the following:
I take it personally when someone, especially one who already knows me, feels they need to use rules. It comes across as a lack of trust.
I thought it important to post my response here.
Thanks for contributing your thoughts. Here’s my take on some of the definitions etc. To me, a “rule” is imposed on someone POSSIBLY out of fear or insecurity and COULD be about manipulation and control. Whereas an agreement is two people having an agreement that seems sound and logical to both of them, and they both agree to follow it (safe sex for example). Some readers last week saw no real distinction between the two, but I do personally depending on how they are created. But lastly to me, a BOUNDARY is discussed by one party as a way to say, I understand MYSELF (it’s not about controlling the other person), and I know that X makes me uncomfortable because of Y. THUS, I have a boundary that I need to communicate to you – my partner whom I adore, so that we can try to not step on each other’s toes unintentionally. And sometimes as situations change, evolve and progress, so do our boundaries… For me, I found that if I am in a relationship with you, and you have other relationships, I need your partners to have full disclosure about me, that I exist and what I mean to you. It helps me feel emotionally and physically safe, as well as it feels open, honest and ethical to me. If that doesn’t happen, I start to build resentment which can potentially damage my relationships, and I don’t want that. I want my relationships to be happy and healthy. My partner can choose to respect my boundary, not respect my boundary and risk damaging the relationship with me, OR can describe to me exactly why they might not want to honor that boundary, and I then get to take their concerns into account to see if I can move my boundary maybe on a case-by-case basis. Communication is key, as always.