I’m working on the first draft of my version of our “rules of engagement” for interacting with other SOs. sambear is going to create his own version. Then we’ll work on bringing them into one cohesive document on which we’re in consensus. That document will be freely shared with anyone who is moving towards being an SO for either of us.
We’ve discussed these things deeply over the four years we’ve been together. We were involved with other people when we met but closed the relationship temporarily after about a year. And now that we’re moving towards being actively polyamorous again, we’re being really cautious and want to be sure that everybody really is agreeing to the same things and using the same definitions and so on.
I’ve never had a partner who fully participated in this kind of process with me before. It’s great. I have had explicit agreements at other times—my last marriage was poly from the beginning to the end of the relationship. Unfortunately, I came up with my standards, he read it and said, “Yeah, me too” and then proceeded to do whatever the hell he felt like at any given moment. The fact that he didn’t want to come up with his own list should have been a warning sign to me, but hindsight is 20–20. In other relationships, we made explicit agreements but did not write them down. And memories tend to drift, and when those issues came up, later on, we had different recollections and interpretations of those agreements.
We’ve both had bad experiences due to assumptions about implicit agreements, someone making a unilateral declaration that completely changes a relationship, and honesty and communication issues. So we’re especially aware of those pitfalls. We don’t want to do anything to screw up what we have together. Yes, we are open to loving others, we want to welcome other people into our lives—but we don’t want to screw things up again. That means obeying the poly mantra (“communication, communication, communication”) and being very clear on what we are agreeing to.
I’ve got such huge trust issues that any kind of infidelity (breaking agreements) is simply unforgivable in most situations (I’m so very much a Scorpio that it’s way past being funny). So implicit agreements and assumptions absolutely will not work. Playing semantics games will not work. The best way to avoid misunderstandings that I perceive as infidelity is to be very, very explicit.
I don’t think this will be a fast and easy project. Sam and I have different backgrounds and very different standards regarding some things. But we’ve run into that in so many ways in the last four years that at least now we have a decent sense of what kinds of things are and are not open to compromise for each of us.
When you consider that we have decided that we want explicit (although obviously not as extensive) agreements with any new partners, I figure there are a fair number of people who will not want to make the effort to be in relationship with us. And that’s okay because if someone isn’t willing to go over that early and relatively low hurdle, it’s unlikely that they wanted to actually put in the effort required to have a healthy relationship with either of us.
People interested in being involved with Sam seem to come out of the woodwork—they always have. I guess that isn’t really surprising considering his extroversion and his connection to Oshun. That doesn’t happen with me. Sam expressed concern this morning that I’m being pushed to move the relationship into a new phase because of the people who are interested in him. And no, that isn’t actually the case. I feel that we’ve been easing toward this new phase for some time, but recent developments just make it necessary to be more overt about it.
I don’t need to be involved with someone else in order for Sam to be able to be involved with others. I expect that because he is more outgoing and attractive, and is simply more open in every sense of the word, he will always have more partners than I ever will. I certainly don’t want to seek out other SOs because he might have them—that would be ridiculous. In my experience, all the good people are run off by those kinds of needy intentions, and you end up involved with someone else who is every bit as needy and there’s absolutely no chance of a healthy relationship developing as a result.
I’ve recently been accused of being “self-seeking” and “unhealthy” and all kinds of other things because I’m so cautious—of course, that person used “individual” as an insult, and saw “seeking (her) own personal truth” as a disgusting endeavor. I had to wonder how many times this person has been rejected by “individuals” who are so audacious and self-centered as to develop and maintain reasonable and firm boundaries. And I do, in fact, see objections to explicit agreements as a warning. Does anyone actually have a good reason for wanting to keep things vague and amorphous or even covert, considering what’s at stake? I’ve yet to see that work in any kind of deep, healthy, seriously intertwined relationship or detailed undertaking. Not even once, whether the people involved were monogamous or polyamorous or just friends or building an organization or a business. It’s simply stupid in my experience, and I’m not about to be willfully stupid.
This isn’t easy, though, even with lots of experience and past discussions to draw on. Thinking back and forward and trying to figure out things like, “Well, when would it be reasonable to consider having someone move in with us or vice versa?” or “What exactly are we telling the kids and how much are they going to know?” and “What are the possible custody implications of different relationships” takes time. And we know these things will change as we change and our family changes, so the whole thing will have to be a living document.
Knowing what other poly people’s agreements are is helpful because sometimes we come on things we haven’t even considered yet. Many that I’ve seen deal only with mechanics life safe® sex, but some do go much deeper. Input is appreciated to the extent that anyone feels comfortable sharing their agreements, experiences, input, etc.