I’m going to post something I sent to a homeschooling list this morning. Someone was talking about how OF COURSE you give up freedom when you get married&mdashspecifically, sexual freedom. I disagree.
I really do think this is important stuff to discuss with our children. They need to know that conscious relationships are much more likely to be healthy than those which involve many assumptions—like “of course married people don’t have sex with anybody but each other.” Or “of course, the wife is the one who takes care of the home and the children.” Or “of course. our kids will go to some kind of school.”
Healthy relationships of any kind are based on mutual agreements. People need to know what they need and ask for it. Good partners have boundaries that fit together well. In a marriage or partnership, those agreements may or may not include sexual exclusivity—as long as everyone involved is agreed, that isn’t a problem.
One of the things Katie’s father and I did very well together was parenting. I think that’s because it’s really the only important thing we talked very seriously about BEFORE getting married. We agreed on what we wanted for our child, and on the parenting strategies that we thought were best suited to achieving that end. We didn’t always agree on every detail, but we were very consistent in our expectations of responsibility, respect, etc. and she lived under pretty much the same rules in both our homes (and those of my parents as well when visiting them).
We didn’t LIVE well together. We didn’t talk about how we saw the roles of husband and wife. We didn’t talk about how we handled money. We didn’t talk about housekeeping standards. We didn’t talk enough about our dreams and goals for ourselves. We didn’t talk about conflict resolution. We had too many assumptions and not enough agreements, and it killed our marriage. We liked each other. We had things in common. We loved each other. We were in love with each other. Our boundaries didn’t work well together, so it wasn’t a good marriage.
But damn, we did a good job with Katie.
Sam and I have talked, very clearly, about our relationship boundaries from very early on. That’s partly because we are polyamorous and were both involved (openly) with other people when we met. Negotiating these things is common in poly circles. It’s the healthiest relationship I have ever been in. No, it isn’t perfect, and it’s always a process—but we’d both spent time figuring out what we want/need, and we asked for it. Specifically, consciously, clearly—no assumptions. We continue to do that as we grow and change.
I do not think these kinds of discussions and processes should be limited to poly relationships. I think they’re of value with ANY kind of relationship. Know what you want. Ask for it. Be prepared to move on if the relationship in question doesn’t meet your needs and the other party isn’t interested in change. It doesn’t matter if it’s a marriage, a job, a friendship, a business contract—they’re all the same.
If you don’t know what you want, you aren’t ready for a relationship. If you aren’t yet able to ask for what you want, you aren’t ready for a relationship. If you cannot say no to relationships that don’t meet your needs, you aren’t ready for a relationship.
As your kids get older, you can do the same things with them. “This is what I need from you. This is my role as a parent. What do you need? How do you see your role as a child in this family?” That’s a little different, of course, as you aren’t precisely talking to an equal in terms of responsibility, maturity, etc.—but as they get older, your relationship with them does change and get more balanced (ideally). And having a partnership with your child is definitely not a bad thing. You’re modeling conscious relationships—that’s important.
As for freedom—as an adult, you have a great deal of freedom. Being in a committed relationship doesn’t change that—you aren’t anyone’s property. You are still free to act as you will—and to deal with the consequences of those actions. I don’t *demand* that Sam do anything or give up his freedom in any way, and he doesn’t *demand* anything from me. Because we care about each other, we abide by our agreements and try to avoid harming each other. We haven’t, however, lost any of the freedom we had as single people. We have gained a great deal, with each other and now with the rest of the quad.