How I "Do" Polyamory
I am Solo Poly, borderline Relationship Anarchist, and I follow a descriptive model of inclusive (family-based) open network poly. This means, basically, that I allow my relationships to develop however they want to naturally, but I prefer to limit my partners to those who enjoy independent friendships with my other partners, or at the very least do not see my other partners as competition for my time and attention. Because of that, my relationships are not easily categorized and may not fit into pre-existing model of a relationship. I'll address the safer sex rules that I prefer to follow first, since those are the easiest and most concrete to examine.
Safer Sex Rules
Rights In A Relationship
Relationship Agreement Outline
What Do I Look For
Safer Sex Rules
Personally, I prefer to get tested right before taking a new partner so that I have a recent set of results to show. If that partner also has recent test results, that's pretty much all I do. If he doesn't, then I prefer to get tested again 3 months after we begin sexual activity. If a parter gets a new partner who also exchanges test results, then I prefer to see those test results myself before I engage in sexual activity with my partner again. If a partner gets a new partner who does not exchange test results, then I prefer to abstain from sexual activity with my partner for a minimum of 3 months and he gets tested again. I generally maintain what I call HPV boundaries with everyone until I discuss our full sexual history with all potential partners and I have a discussion about STDs to make sure we both have an equal understanding of STDs and risks.
To me, "HPV Boundaries" involves no genital-to-genital contact and no oral-to-genital contact. For higher-risk partners, I also refrain from manual- and toy-to-genital contact. After the history discussion, we trade the most recent results from STD tests, including HIV, Chlamydia, Syphillis, Gonorrhea, HSV, & Hepatitus (and a PAP for me that covers HPV and Bacterial Vaginosis) ... and I mean we literally trade the results on paper from the clinic and we exchange the The Sexual Health And History Form.
I break my boundaries into 3 basic classes that specific activities can be evaluated for and decided on based on the class. The full explanation of these categories is here, but keep in mind that this chart is for the categories, not an explanation of how any individual relationship gets categorized.
|HPV Boundaries||Maintaining HPV Boundaries means that I am restricted to activities that do not transmit HPV (and by extension, any other STD except possibly oral HSV). Oral, genital, and manual contact of the genitals is off-limits. All other activities are OK.|
|Barriered Sex||Barriered Sex means that I am restricted from fluid transfer. Condoms, dental dams, and gloves for activities that involve blood, vaginal fluids, and seminal/penile fluids. May be used for contraception rather than STD precautions.|
|Fluid-Bonding||Fluid-Bonding means that I have no restrictions on activities for STD reasons. Willingness to exchange body fluids that can carry STDs. Condom-free intercourse & oral sex, blood play, etc.|
A full Disclosure Discussion involves discussing each person's sexual history and current STD status. My usual criteria for accepting a sexual partner for anything more risky than HPV-boundary activities are someone with all non-reactive test results, he prefers to have the Disclosure Discussion and trade results with all his other current and future partners, and he wants to notify me of any change in sexual status with any partner, current and future. These are not rules that I impose on my partners and expect them to obey me. These are the traits I look for in a partner and what makes me feel safe enough with a partner to engage in sexual activity that has a higher chance of STD transmission (i.e. non-HPV-boundary activities). It is the difference between regulation and consequences. What that means is I do not regulate my partners' behaviours. They can choose to do whatever they want to do. However, I will adjust my own behaviour and boundaries based on how comfortable I feel with my partners' actions.
I believe in taking personal responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Therefore, my partners are free to choose to do whatever they want. But if I consider their actions to be unsafe or risky to my physical or emotional health, a possible consequence of their choice may be that I will re-negotiate the boundaries of our relationship until I no longer feel unsafe. This might mean we return to HPV boundaries. It might mean we breakup. It might mean everyone gets tested again before any sexual activity is shared with me. It might mean we only have sexual activity with the use of latex barriers. The actual consequence depends upon the individual relationship and the individual action that made me feel unsafe. My partners all have the same rights and responsibilities that I do, in that they do not dictate my actions but there might be consequences for my choices and I accept their right to choose activities and boundaries that make them feel safe.
Occasionally, if I judge someone to be extremely low risk (small number of past partners, long time since last partner, negative test results, no current partners, etc.), and I have no other partner or my other partners are all within HPV boundaries or we have some kind of distance that will make our next sexual encounter far enough away that new tests can be taken before then, I will occasionally skip the test results but will use condoms for intercourse and avoid oral sex, and I still insist on being notified when he gets a new partner before my next encounter with him.
I make judgement calls and sometimes I take some minimal risks, and my partners all have the freedom to make their own choices too. I place no restrictions on what my partners do with other people, I just try to be involved with people who have similar personal boundaries as I do and who are committed to disclosing their sexual activity to me so that I can make informed decisions. Even if my other partners are within HPV boundaries (and therefore not at risk by my choice), I will still try to notify all partners of any change in sexual status with anyone before I share sexual activity with that current partner.
To me, the most important part is informed consent - making sure everyone has the information they need to give informed consent to sexual activity. So even if I occasionally deem someone worthy of being flexible for on my Standard Operating Procedures or if we get a little carried away or if sometimes a slip occurs, the boundary that I don't relax for myself is telling all my other partners what I'm doing that affects them.
I am extremely thorough in my sexual history. I keep several records so I won't forget anything, including a simple text file of partners in chronological order, a bar chart, and The Sexual Health And History Form, which shows all my current test and most recent test results, and a complete list of all sexual partners and what type of activity we shared. This can provide a starting point for what kind of information you might want to gather from a potential partner. My list goes all the way back to my first kiss and includes partners I had some form of sexual activity with, but not necessarily intercourse. A reasonable history goes back at least 2 years with at least 2 test entries, 6 months apart (longer if the history goes back farther and/or there have been no partner changes in that duration). This form, and copies of my test results, are shared with all my potential partners and are all uploaded to my Google Drive so that I could also share with my partners.
But how do I do poly? How are my relationships categorized and organized? How do I determine who gets priority for what and when? As I said, I prefer an inclusive open network. It is very difficult to "categorize" my relationships because they often don't fall under a pre-existing model of relationship, such as the primary/secondary examples, or they may blur the lines between traditional assumptions of "friends", "boyfriends", "partners" etc.
Psychologist Robert Sternberg came up with the Triangular Theory of Love, which describes 7 different types of relationships based on varying amounts of 3 different components. It's not as simple as having either a primary partner or "just friends". There is a lot of fluidity in what makes up "love". Our society emphasizes the True Love, the All Encompassing Love, the Consumate Love, the love that provides for all your needs, such as emotional intimacy, friendship, passion, companionship, committment, etc.
While it may be wonderful to have a relationship that includes all those elements, that does not invalidate the value of a relationship that has only some of these elements, particularly since these kinds of relationships are far more common. Holding out for that All Encompassing Relationship and rejecting all others also, I've observed, leads to much unnecessary heartache because each relationship can have changing levels of each element over time.
Even this Triangular Theory doesn't quite cover my relationships. My feelings are more like a 3D pyramid made of a gelatinous material, and if each person was represented as a dot, then I would have these shapeless blobs floating all throughout the pyramid, mostly holding in one general region but kinda pulsating or rocking around a bit in each region on any given day. I have found that allowing myself to recognize the value that all different kinds of relationships bring to my life gives me the ability to find happiness and satisfaction in a wide variety of relationships and much less time feeling "alone" or "lost" or "I'll never find love!" because I'm not trying to make my relationships fit into a prescriptive box that few relationships ever fit into.
Who gets priority if I don't have a clearly defined #1 partner? I assign priority to situations rather than people. I let each person and each relationship dictate the amount of time and what kind of time they get. If there is ever a scheduling conflict, I discuss with all parties involved to find the most acceptable solution. I have found that stating explicit rules with regards to who gets how much and what kind of time is unrealistic. When unexpected situations arise (and they always do), someone ends up getting hurt because you can't live up to the stated Regulations.
For example. I once had a live-in partner who requested that I always "come home at night". He wanted to take priority over all my non-live in partners (of whom there were none at the time) and requested that I set aside this chunk of my time as "his" time with me. Well, since I had no other partners at the time (and I was very new at poly back then), this seemed like a reasonable request. I did not take into account the feelings of my future partners who, even if they happen to be "secondary" partners, might have some emotional attachment to spending the night with me, or that I might develop some kind of attachment to being elsewhere at night.
Anyway, no sooner did I promise to come home every night, then I went back to college. And almost immediately I got swamped with projects and assignments and I had to pull an all-nighter in the lab completing a massive construction project. I had to break our agreement for an unexpected situation that required higher temporary priority.
Generally speaking, I find that discussing each event as it comes up, particularly when those in the relationship are secure about their relationships, takes care of any emotional needs regarding time, attention and "priority". Occasionally it doesn't. Just like in any relationship. And when it doesn't, that gets addressed at the time.
I don't "do" hierarchical, primary/secondary relationships. I don't use those terms and I don't assign blanket priority to people. All of my relationships have equal potential to develop into whatever relationship it wants to be. That means that I could have several relationships that develop into spouse-like or boyfriend-like relationships. But that also means that I could end up with relationships of varying degrees of intimacy or life entanglement.
To describe those different relationships, I currently use the terms "core" and "satellite" instead of primary/secondary. They don't fall easily along the same kinds of lines that other people draw, like priority or proximity or even emotional connection. I suppose the main difference between them might be what my long-term intentions are. A core relationship is one that I intend to maintain long-term and I make future plans for, whereas a satellite relationship is one that I don't have long-term intentions although I may wish to enjoy the relationship indefinitely, or that we may put forth less effort to maintain the relationship or work through difficulties.
I may be more flexible on the idea of a satellite relationship fading, ending, or transitioning to platonic friends than I would be about a core relationship doing the same. The key element in both categories, however, is that they are descriptive - they describe the relationship as it has played out at that time, and they do not presribe or predetermine what the relationship will be or ought to be in the future. A relationship in either category could move to the other category at any given time, if the relationship naturally falls along those lines.
I also use other descriptive terms when talking about my partners, such as "nesting partner", "long distance partner", "local partner", "casual partner", "family", etc. A "nesting partner" is someone that I might live with or otherwise be financially or practically entangled with. This is different from a partner who is simultaneously a roommate or housemate. A roommate, flatmate, or housemate might still maintain independent and individual "households" under the same roof where each person is still largely responsible for themselves but they just happen to reside under the same roof. A "nesting partner" is more like a traditional spouse where the partners involved (may be more than two) are entwined, like sharing a mortgage or bank accounts, co-parenting, and whose schedules depend on each other.
"Long distance" and "local" partners are fairly self-explanatory in that it describes proximity. What this does not describe is emotional connection, nor length of time. Some of my strongest emotional connections were with long-distance partners and some of my local partners were fairly casual in nature. Which brings me to "casual" - this is a relationshp that even monogamous people often enjoy, which is a partner with no long-term intentions (even if it happens to last a long time), no high priority, shallow emotional connection, etc. And "family" is someone who may be a romantic partner or who may not be a romantic partner but with whom I have a very high degree of emotional connection and consider them as part of my intimate family. I may not see them or speak to them very often, but I would drop everything to help them in an emergency. Many of these terms overlap with "core" and "satellite", and I may apply more than one label to any given person.
At the moment, I currently identify as Solo Poly. This is, at the time of this writing, a fairly new term and the definitions are fuzzy. What it means for me is that I operate as an independent person, not half of a couple. I make decisions about my life by myself and my relationships typically do not have many of the usual relationship markers. I prefer to live alone, or if I do cohabitate with anyone, I prefer to have my own bedroom and space. I do not ask for permission to do anything or be with anyone. I maintain seperate finances.
But, how is this different from "just dating"? The difference is that I do not use the typical markers of living together, having kids, sharing finances, etc. to signify how important a relationship or a person is to me. I do not ask for permission, but I consider very strongly how my actions affect my partners and I discuss with them at great length how they feel about decisions I have to make. I weight their input very strongly when making decisions. I do not mix finances, but my poly family has always gone out of our way to assist each other financially wherever and whenever possible.
One of my metamours, for example, pays for my AAA emergency auto roadside assistance insurance. I have had some arrangements where a number of us all had our names on a single credit card that we could use for group purchases and expenses, which we then settled up later. This was especially convenient when, say, all 6 of us went out to dinner - there was no discussion or debate about who was paying for whom and the bill never had to be split up. We just put it on one card, and we handled how much we each were to pay later.
My relationships could include some of the culturally accepted relationship markers, but I do not use those markers as signifiers of anything. Cohabitating with a partner does not make him "more important" than any other partner, although it might affect my decision-making when I choose to bring home company. Not sharing finances doesn't mean that I can't depend on my partners for financial assistance, it just means that I may have to explicitly ask for assistance rather than assume or take money from a shared pool.
By arranging my relationships in this way, I have effectively removed or reduced a lot of assumptions about relationships. This means that, in order to manage my expectations, I have to explicitly discuss them. I can't automatically assume that my partner's free time belongs to me, for example, just because he has no other plans. People who cohabitate often fall into this assumption and can feel hurt or betrayed when the partner chooses to do something else with his time. I am deliberate about my relationships, and my expectations are explicit. This, I feel, leads to more reasonable expectations, less hurt feelings, and consciously constructed relationships that are better able to provide a source of joy and happiness for all involved.
For more on these concepts, check out:
Even when you do have a relationship that tends to have higher priority than others, you still have to be careful not to invalidate your lesser-priority relationships. My satellite partners are every bit as important as my core partners. They are human beings with feelings and needs, and by agreeing to be in a romantic relationship with them, I take some responsibility for how my actions affect them. This does not mean I am responsible for their happiness. This means that I am aware of how my actions and words affect them and I can avoid being insensitive to their emotional needs. Our relationship may have evolved in such a manner as to include less time and attention than my other relationships, but that doesn't mean that the person in that relationship with me is expendable, disposable, or an interchangeable commodity.
The book, More Than Two, includes a Relationship Bill of Rights that describe the kinds of things that all people should be able to expect in a romantic relationship. This Bill of Rights was developed partly from a an original document penned by someone who spent a lot of time being abused by partners and metamours in toxic poly relationships that did not value agency, and partly from research into domestic abuse when the authors learned that many domestic abuse organizations offer similar Bills of Rights to help abuse victims understand their importance and self-worth in a relationship. I'd like to repost the Relationship Bill of Rights here, in full, to help illustrate the importance of viewing all your partners as equal human beings:
RELATIONSHIP BILL OF RIGHTS
You have the right, without shame, blame or guilt:
In all intimate relationships:
In poly relationships:
- to be free from coercion, violence and intimidation
- to choose the level of involvement and intimacy you want
- to revoke consent to any form of intimacy at any time
- to be told the truth
- to say no to requests
- to hold and express differing points of view
- to feel all your emotions
- to feel and communicate your emotions and needs
- to set boundaries concerning your privacy needs
- to set clear limits on the obligations you will make
- to seek balance between what you give to the relationship and what is given back to you
- to know that your partner will work with you to resolve problems that arise
- to choose whether you want a monogamous or polyamorous relationship
- to grow and change
- to make mistakes
- to end a relationship
In a poly network:
- to decide how many partners you want
- to choose your own partners
- to have an equal say with each of your partners in deciding the form your relationship with that partner will take
- to choose the level of time and investment you will offer to each partner
- to understand clearly any rules that will apply to your relationship before entering into it
- to discuss with your partners decisions that affect you
- to have time alone with each of your partners
- to enjoy passion and special moments with each of your partners
- to choose the level of involvement and intimacy you want with your partnersí other partners
- to be treated with courtesy
- to seek compromise
- to have relationships with people, not with relationships
- to have plans made with your partner be respected; for instance, not changed at the last minute for trivial reasons
- to be treated as a peer of every other person, not as a subordinate
I am not a fan or supporter of written "agreements" or relationship "contracts". In my experience, those who would honor the spirit of any contract don't need one and having a contract will not stop those who would not honor it anyway. That's sort of the point, they are not honorable people, and a contract will not change that, nor will a contract make someone love or continue to love someone else. In my experience, having written contracts also tends to result in "rules lawyering" - people who go to the text of the contract and use it as a weapon in arguments or to find loopholes to excuse bad behaviour ... in other words, written contracts tend to be used by people who manipulate the letter of the law to violate or ignore the spirit of the law for their own agendas.
But there are certain things about relationships that, in my observation, people have a tendency to make assumptions about. And identifying these (often tacit) assumptions, for the purpose of discussing them with each other, is a very important part about negotiating relationships. People often talk about how many hours each person is allowed to spend on dates, or whether anyone will or will not have access to the family checking account. And I think that misses the point, which is the underlying assumptions about what a relationship is and how people see any particular relationship.
Here are some things that each person in a relationship, any kind of relationship but especially any kind of non-monogamous relationship, should discuss with each other. Also, you should be VERY careful to have this discussion in the present tense, and do not construct a contract that will lock the participants into a role or a set of limitations that do not allow for changing circumstances. This should be a DESCRIPTION of how the participants see the relationship right now, not a PRESCRIPTION for how the relationships "should be".
skip the Outline
Outline of Discussion of Expectations
This Discussion is intended to apply to a single relationship between two people. All other partners of the Two Parties should participate in the Discussion when possible, but the Discussion is intended to cover only one partnership at a time. All other partnerships should have their own Discussions, which may cover these same topics, and may reference other Discussions. The point of this Discussion is to be as clear and as explicit about Expectations of the Relationship between two Parties, since these Expectations are often overlooked, ignored, assumed, or tacit Expectations.
- What is the "label" this Relationship uses (i.e. poly, swingers, open, closed, polyfidelitous, etc.) and how "open" or "closeted" are the Parties to family? To friends? To co-workers? To neighbors? To the general public? Clearly define the "label" chosen in your own words (or clearly reference what resource is being used as the basis for the definition).
- What is the role of each Party? Is this a Relationship of equals in contribution? Is this a Relationship of equals in decision-making power? Is there a power-play dynamic? Is there a Financial Contributor and a Homemaker? Is one Party responsible for the other? Is one Party a Caretaker of the other? Clearly define what you mean with each role.
- What is each Party's responsibility to the other? Is each Party responsible for the consequences of their actions or does one or both Party have the responsibility / obligation to oversee the actions of the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility of making his or her own informed choices, or is each Party responsible for informing the other of what they are and are not allowed to do, thereby relieving the other of making their own decisions? Does this responsibility cover finances? New partners? Daily decisions? Long-term decisions? Job / Educational decisions? Sexual decisions? Decisions about children? Whose children?
- What is the basis for this Relationship? It is the mutual happiness of each party? Is it for financial stability? Is it for mutual sexual satisfaction? Is it for sexual and/or kink exploration? Is it for child-rearing? Is it for assistance in personal growth? Is it for long-term companionship? What is the defining element(s) that, if removed, would require the dissolution of the Relationship or, if present, would be the reason for the Relationship persisting?
- What are the safer sex guidelines for this Relationship? What are the responsibilities and obligations of each Party to contribute to the continued health and well-being of the other? What are the expected steps to be taken in the event of a failure to abide by the guidelines? What are the expected steps to be taken in the event of an illness or pregnancy in spite of adhering to the guidelines?
- What is the structure of this Relationship? Is it "inclusive" or family-oriented (all participants & metamours are to know each other and get along)? Is it to be segmented, separated, DADT, or hierarchical?
- Expectations of general treatment:
- If arrangements to be together are made, under what types of conditions is it acceptable for the arrangements to change? Are arrangement changes expected to be rare or often?
- Some reasons / conditions may include (but not be limited to) work conflicts, medical emergencies, long distance partners / family / friends become available after arrangements are made (covered in next paragraph), important situation or circumstance arises that is difficult or impossible to schedule for another time.
- Is the reason / conditions plans are changed required by both Parties to be acceptable or can one Party make a decision to change arrangements without the agreement of the other?
- If both partners accept the reason / conditions, is it acceptable for each or both partners to feel disappointment at the cancellation / reschedule and should each be allowed to feel this disappointment without reprisal, embarrassment, shame, or punishment from the other partner for having these feelings, as long as these feelings are not used in any form of retaliation or passive-aggressive punishment for the cancellation / reschedule of the event?
- How is time priority assigned? Is there an allowance for temporary priority for a long-distance partner or is the local partner given priority regardless of situation? Will priority be based on situation or person?
- When time is spent together, can each Party be expected to be treated as a partner or are there some situations where one or the other Party can expect to be treated as other than a romantic partner? What are those situations and why are these situations exceptions? What is the public role in those situations? Roomate? Friend? Nanny?
- Which activities and/or discussion topics are considered "private" in nature and is reasonable to not share with others, and which situations are considered inappropriate for engaging in such "private" activities and/or discussions?
- What activities are considered "appropriate" behaviour for public settings? Public Displays of Affection often fall under "tacit assumptions" of "appropriate behaviour", and are also often triggers for other issues. What does each Party think and feel about certain actions and what they mean?
- When multiple partners are present, do the guidelines for various situations and activities change or remain the same when the only element that is different is the presence of a metamour? Does it change for all metamours or for certain metamours?
- To what extent is each Party expected to keep the other informed on major life events? Is each Party expected to inform the other prior to each change or is afterwards sufficient? How soon before / afterwards? Does each Party have the responsibility to consider the other's feelings and opinions prior to making a major life event change or is simple notification sufficient? Such examples of major life events that each Party should Discuss the importance of being informed are:
- addition of new partners; (define "partner" and what activities constitute "addition of")
- removal of prior partners;
- changes in status of any existing partners;
- changes in work / employment situation;
- changes in domestic location (moving);
- changes in health;
- financial status - this can be current financial status and changes to that status (particularly as they affect the relationships such as the ability to enjoy certain activities), or dollar amounts or specific details like creditors;
- participation in events or activities that are important or significant with regards to one's time and/or one's emotional well-being.
- Expectations related to other partners (the metamours of the Parties in this Discussion):
- How much information, what kind of information, and at what stage(s) of a new relationship, should each Party give the other about potential new partners? Often, one Party will consider someone a "new partner" at a different stage than the other Party, so it is important to clarify what each Party means when they say "partner" and "new partner", and to be clear on what kind of information each Party should share with the other while exploring other relationships.
- At what stage should a new / potential partner be notified about the existence of this Relationship? What should the new / potential partner be told about the other Party and/or about this Relationship?
- Is each Party expected to maintain an open line of communication and/or contact the new partner of the other Party?
- If there are signs or expressed wishes of the partner of one Party that differ from the expectations of this Discussion pertaining to contact and/or relationship between the metamours, how is the descrepancy handled? If the new / potential partner wishes less contact, is that acceptable? If the new / potential partner wishes more contact, is that acceptable?
- How does each Party handle conflict resolution between metamours? is it required for contact information to be traded for direct communication? Is the pivot Party expected to be the mediator or go-between?
- How does each Party treat the metamours? Is mere civility acceptable, or is friendship preferred? Or must the metamours also develop a romantic relationship with both Parties simultaneously? What if the relationship with one Party and the new partner does not progress at the same speed as the other?
- Expectations regarding health:
- Is STD status and information regarding the two Parties exchanged? In what form does the exchange take place? An in-depth discussion? Test results from a doctor or an STD clinic? Does the exchange take place just between both Parties in this Discussion or is there also an exchange between each Party and his / her potential partners? Is there a difference in the type or amount of exchange between the two Parties in this Discussion vs. each Party and the new / potential partners? What is the reason for that difference? What is the goal in exchanging STD status and information or what is the reason for not exchanging status and information?
- Does each Party have the responsibility to make or provide copies of STD or other health test results for the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility to allow those results to be shared with other partners / metamours? Does each Party have the responsibility to make or provide copies of STD or other health test results of each new partner for the other Party? When are these test results made available? Upon request? At the time of testing? At a certain interval? Upon taking a new partner? Only if prevention boundaries are not used or regardless of whether prevention boundaries are used or not?
- If there is a reason to suspect a health problem from a potential or new other partner, will each Party inform the other? When? Immediately, or within a set time period, or prior to contact with the other Party that could transmit the illness? Does this cover STDs only or does it cover other types of illnesses? Which ones?
- If there is a reason to suspect a possible significant health issue, what will be the obligations, responsibilities, and precautions each Party should take? Is testing necessary? Will certain activities that could transmit the illness be postponed? For how long? Is simple notification of exposure sufficient?
- What are the safer sex arrangements pertaining to new partners in order for the two Parties to maintain their current arrangement? Is testing be required for new partners? At what point is testing necessary for new partners? What sexual activities are acceptable without testing? What sexual activities are required to wait until after testing? If testing is not necessary, what activities with new partners are acceptable with what types of barriers? Under what conditions may those barriers be removed?
- Does each Party have a responsibility to share individual safety agreements between that Party and another partner with the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility to share this Discussion and the resulting safety agreements with new partners?
- If the agreements that either Party has with other partners changes, when and how does that Party notify the other Party of the changes?
- If one Party perceives a physical or emotional health risk due to the activities shared between the other Party and another partner, what are the acceptable courses of action and under what circumstances?
Expectations about conflicts:
- Does each Party have the responsibility to bring up problems or conflicts immediately as they arise, for possible conflict resolution? Can a discussion about a conflict be deferred for a set period of time or in deferrence to a setting in which a conflict discussion is not appropriate? What are those situations or time periods?
- If one Party does not mention an issue because that Party did not recognize it as an issue until it has become a major issue, does the other Party have the responsibility to address the issue immediately?
- How does both Parties handle issues of other partners who have problems with the relationship being polyamorous?
- If an event is to include multiple partners, or one Party is already invited to an activity, can the more monogamous partner (the other partner / metamour) turn that activity into something exclusive, or can both Parties expect to remain invited to events previously invited to regardless of other partners' or metamours problems? Can either Party expect to be uninvited because of another partner's issues?
- If another partner is more monogamous, or has problems with otherwise socially-accepted Public Displays of Affection or any other sign of a romantic involvement between the two Parties because of insecurities that witnessing these activities between these specific people triggers, is it expected that both Parties will refrain from engaging in those behaviours in front of the other partner, or can both Parties expect to maintain a stable set of behaviours whether other partners are present or not?
- If another partner considers themself to have a preference for monogamy, even though they have entered willingly into a relationship with a polyamorous person, does either Party have a responsibility to treat the more monogamous other partner (metamour) as a metamour? What does it mean to treat someone as a metamour? What kinds of behaviours are expected from each Party towards or with metamours? Will the other partners be consulted regarding the concerns of how each Party is expected to treat them, or do the Parties decide what is expected without the other partners' input?
- If another partner has serious problems or difficulties, can any of the prior discussion points be amended temporarily or permanently to accomodate? Which points are up for discussion and which points are non-negotiable once they have been agreed upon?
Remember, I am not advocating that this outline be used to create a literal contract to be reviewed and signed. Use it as a tool to foster discussion about the various points regarding assumptions in treatment and expectations within a relationship. Also take care to discuss the points in this outline in the present tense and avoid setting up the discussion as an agreement governing specific activities that one person may or may not do with other people without those people's input.
So what do I actually want in a relationship? What criteria do I use to select potential mates from non-potential mates? As I said in a chat once, "truthfully, I would prefer to have deep, long lasting, intimate connections but there is room in my life for other kinds of relationships and there is room in each relationship to evolve and change along the way". But time and energy are limited resources. So if there is room for all these different kinds of relationship, but I have limits on my time and energy, what am I looking for in a person that makes it in under the polysaturation point?
I want someone...
who challenges me intellectually
who complements me emotionally
who expresses himself creatively
who stimulates me sexually
who wants me passionately
who desires me furiously
who is active physically
who is stable financially
who loves to touch me
sexually, tenderly, compassionately, lovingly
who is practical, logical, analytical
who shares my interests
who is comfortable with the day-to-day mundane parts of life
who cares about who I am inside and out
who can control his impulses but
who wishes he didn't have to
and tells me so.
This was once described as "prose meets laundry list", and I like that. I have an essay elaborating more about what I want in a relationship in my Writings category of the Projects section. I also have a whole page on what kinds of commitments I make in my relationships since I do not commit to sexual exclusivity. My sweetie has also written some very good articles on what he looks for in relationship partners and how he does relationships that pretty closely resembles my wants and methods, only he says it better than I do:
I hate to have such a lengthy and ambiguous explanation for how I conduct my relationships, especially for my visitors who are totally new to this whole concept. If you've never heard of this, never thought you could have an open relationship, never been exposed to multiple partners, my explanations of poly can seem rather daunting. But the fact is that relationships, even monogamous ones, are not cookie-cutter. Everyone makes their own rules for how their relationships will be. When you are poly, that could mean that each of your concurrent relationships all look different from each other, as mine do.
The bottom line is that I treat each of my partners with respect and consideration. I make choices about my life based upon how they will affect my other partners and whether the consequences (or results, if you prefer) of my choices are ones I am prepared to live with. I discuss with each of my partners the needs and desires of each individually and work out problems as they arise. I choose to not date anyone who self-identifies as monogamous and I prefer not to date people who are willing to date anyone who self-identifies as monogamous.
I maintain scrupulous health records and try to keep up to date with the latest sexual health information. I take slightly more risks to my own health when I have only myself to affect. I prefer to have direct communication with my partners' other partners' and lacking that tends to cause me extreme distress, but the amount of talking we have to do depends on what is most natural for each person. Choosing to live with someone or not, share finances, be "casual", the amount of time shared, how many nights we sleep over, what kind of activities we share, all is decided on an individual basis according to what each partner wants and what each relationship wants. Unfortunately, the answer to most questions about my specific relationships tends to be "depends upon the relationship".
For reference, I also have a series of blog posts that describe me, many of which cover how I do poly, located under the Me Manual tag and I have a short Me Manual using a template provided by Cunning Minx that offers a summary of important things to be aware of in a relationship with me.