I am delighted to share one of my “Dear Kitty” columns that was previously published in “Ethical Non-Monogamy Magazine” (ENM), which unfortunately, is no longer being published. We are honored to have permission from ENM to keep the love going by sharing from our archives.
With all my heart, I absolutely love our cherished Loving Without Boundaries community. For the greater good of all of you living your most authentic lives with joy and bliss (with the least amount of suffering as possible), we are thrilled to share this response to the reader’s question as a gift to you.
How do you set boundaries, share your opinion/feelings, or say “no” to something without being the bad guy? My husband is with someone for the first time and has started to catch intense feelings, and is now thinking he wants more of a relationship than a FWB situation. I feel every boundary I try to set or when I share my feelings, he gets mad, and he views it as a rule and that what I say goes. For instance, they’ve met one time for coffee on Wednesday and now want to spend the night together this weekend. I personally think it’s too soon as she has a ton of extra baggage (that’s a whole different story). I said I don’t feel comfortable with that happening this weekend, but never said no to the future. I have more experience with the FWB and talking to others than he does, so this is all very new to him. He gets upset and just makes it seem like I am controlling everything, when I’m just trying to have open communication and talk about what we feel comfortable with in our marriage. Thank you!
I love this question, and I am so glad that you asked! I honor your vulnerable share, as well as you reaching out for help. YES! I’m happy to offer some support and insights.
Many well-intentioned folks get confused about the difference between rules, boundaries, and agreements. First know that there absolutely IS a difference. Let’s clarify this distinction for our purposes of this article with some definitions to clear the fog away. When working through this in relationships, some landmines to watch out for are power imbalances and privileges of one party over another.
What’s the Difference Between Rules, Boundaries, and Agreements?
• Attempts to CONTROL the actions of one or more persons with or without CONSENT.
• Designed to control someone else’s behavior (thus telling someone else what they must do or what they are forbidden to do. Veto Power is one example).
• Imposed on another. Eg. “I forbid you to have un-barriered sex with any other person.” That is a statement of intent to assert control over the actions of another.
• Each person’s own behavior furthers their personal needs, values, and interests.
• Don’t require anyone else.
• Designed to define the LIMITS of your OWN behavior. They give others OPTIONS based on our own stated boundaries.
• Imposed on ourselves (our bodies, our time, our values, how we choose to spend our energy). Eg. “In order to protect my sexual health, I reserve the right to discontinue having sexual intercourse with you if you have un-barriered sex with any other person.”
• Boundaries outline the way other’s choices affect you, without presuming to make those choices for them, and thus let them make their choice accordingly.
• Require consensual buy-in from all parties, but are still about controlling others’ behavior to a certain extent.
• GOAL: Strive for all parties to willingly and joyfully give consent to do one’s best to honor stated shared agreements, keeping each parties’ needs and interests in mind when they are created. Clear communication is KEY.
• Evolve and change over time. If an agreement gets violated, apologies may be in order and/or revisiting the strategy of the agreement, because it may not be adequate any longer for all parties and their evolving needs.
Personal Rights in Relationships
From a standpoint of understanding where one person ends and another begins (as we don’t OWN each other), there is also the element of our rights in relationships. It is VERY important that we learn what we have a right to, what we are responsible for, what our boundaries are, and how to defend them. Healthy boundaries begin with personal rights. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather what seems to be important for negotiating healthy relationships.
Each person in a relationship has the right to:
• Full bodily and sexual autonomy.
• To determine their own interests and values.
• To decide how they want to spend their time and energy.
• To decide with whom they wish to be friends and whom they love.
• To express themselves, as long as while doing so, they speak to others respectfully and treat others with dignity.
• To consent (or not consent) to be in a physical space, to interact, to have sex, and to engage in relationships.
• To withdraw those consents at any time.
• And, they have a right to the information needed with which to engage in INFORMED consent provided in a timely, clear, and honest manner.
This is true not only for multiple, loving relationships such as in consensual non-monogamy and/or polyamory, but for ALL relationships (with friends, family, colleagues).
Requests versus Demands
Another powerful thing to notice is the difference between a request versus a demand. A request honors the other person’s autonomy and right to choose. A demand is an attempt to control another person so that we may feel more comfortable. The former is a sign of a healthy relationship dynamic, and the latter is a sign of more toxic or dysfunctional behavior. We don’t have the right to tell other people what to do, or how to behave, or also what to think. What we can do when moving towards healthy behavior is share vulnerably how we feel without making the other person wrong for living their truth (assuming ethical and consensual behavior is taking place), and make requests of them. We can also negotiate agreements taking everyone’s needs into account in a committed relationship. If challenging emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, or fear come up, that is a gift and may be a sign that there is some internal work to be done, possibly building our emotional intelligence muscle. It can be helpful to work with a professional to achieve more inner strength and build emotion management skills.
Polyamory/Polysexual as Orientation vs. Choice
Next if we think of monogamy, open relationships, and polyamory across a spectrum, some people may identify as ORIENTING towards polyamory. What I mean by this is they may feel that is simply who they are, inside and out – that it is less of a choice and more of an identity. For example, this is how I describe myself – monogamy simply does not work for me. If I want to honor my values of honesty and transparency, then I need to own my truth that I am a polyamorous woman. Others may find that they are still in a self-discovery phase, or also that for them, it is more of a CHOICE to practice some form of an open relationship. Also some people may define themselves as being demisexual. Demisexuality is a type of sexuality or sexual orientation. People who identify as demisexual only feel sexual attraction to another person if they form a strong emotional bond or connection with them first.
Why am I telling you this?
Well given what you shared in your question, it is possible that your husband may identify as demisexual, or also he may orient towards polyamory, where you may be more towards enjoying the choice of an open relationship, or perhaps orient towards being polysexual (where the focus is on the sexual adventure and variety, and less on the emotional exchange of love). Keeping in mind the above information, I invite you to continue to engage in open and honest conversations with your husband. I have confidence that both of you can honor the truth of who each of you are, create space for beautiful connections with others, build healthy agreements together, and work on building more emotional resilience! I know you are already brave and courageous by living an alternative lifestyle… this is just another step in that direction!
If you want help from an expert consensually non-monogamous relationship coach, feel free to reach out, and we can have a conversation. I believe everyone can highly benefit from having a mentor or coach to help them have the most fulfilling, exciting and happiest life and relationships as quickly as possible, with the least amount of suffering as possible. Who wouldn’t want more of that? 🙂 Less fear. More joy. Better results.
No matter what, know that you are not alone! I invite you to join our thriving Loving Without Boundaries online Facebook Community of other like-minded courageous humans, seeking to live authentically and upgrade their mindset and skillset!
Until next time, cherished community …
With love and gratitude,
Kitty Chambliss, PCC, CPC, ELI-MP
Founder, Loving Without Boundaries
Need more specific help aligning your relationships with who you are?
** Discover Your Core Values & Create More Meaning in Your Love Life **
Are you feeling a little lost, challenged, or uninspired in your relationships and would love some guidance on your journey?
Our Free Breakthrough Session Call is a great place to start your path of discovery, so you can have more loving and intimate relationships that inspire you! Whether you’re already non-monogamous, involved with someone who is, or “poly-curious” and wondering if non-monogamy might be right for you, I work with people struggling with every aspect of multiple intimate relationships.
The Open Love Experience: October 13-17, 2022 | Ft. Pierce, FL
Presented by Leveled Up Love, this is a Platinum Level Retreat for Couples Curious About Consensual Nonmonogamy: Transformative Relationship Coaching, Private Festival Performances, and an Unforgettable Erotic Evening. We focus on Attachment Styles, Nervous System Regulation, Emotional Attunement, The Gottman Method, and more. This is a carefully curated, deep-dive, transformative experience, where you self-select the level of value and impact required for your specific needs, goals, and standards. Kitty Chambliss will be among the expert presenters at this unique and exclusive event!Learn more here. → Plus, save $1000 when you use code: LWB1000
RelateFest: February 23-26, 2023 | Miami, FL
Produced by Leveled Up Love, RelateFest is for people who love exploring relationships, questioning relationship norms, learning new skills, and connecting with others. RelateFest brings the principles of curiosity and conscious relating to a safe space for learning, connection, and play. Our next event will feature relationship experts presenting riveting talks, holding interactive workshops, and offering optional private breakthrough coaching sessions as well as other upgrade options. All relationship structures, orientations, and gender identities are welcome. Singles, couples, and moresomes are all welcome. Kitty Chambliss is excited to participate on a panel and present a Keynote speech at this amazing event! Get details here. → Plus, save $100 when you used code: LWB100
>>> Looking for more events around the globe? Check out Alan’s Polyamory List of Events to stay informed and connected.