Relationships, Boundaries, and Freedom

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.

Cur­rent Mood: 🙂calm
Cur­rent Music: Chief­tains — not sure which CD because they’re on shuffle
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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