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Polyamory Essays July 21, 2017
One of the first concepts I came across in reading polyamory and consensual non-monogamy bibles such as Opening Up and More than Two was a relationship rules agreement. This is a set of boundaries or guidelines designed to allow each person in an open relationship to engage with the outside world while protecting the original relationship.
In my first marriage, opening up was an idea we tossed around to solve for our waning passion. But the mere thought of it was daunting and appeared to be strewn with landmines of tears and regret.
As I later became involved with a man in an ethical polyamorous relationship, I encountered many of the landmines I’d imagined. To help navigate, I voraciously consumed every resource I could to gracefully maneuver through my transformation.
I collaborated on a relationship agreement with my partner after a certain series of events occurred. Namely, our choices felt like we were both straying from our common value system in how we wanted to show up in this unique “lovestyle”. And today, our “manifesto” gives us a compass to navigate our uncharted waters while ensuring our love boat stays intact.
Speaking of rules, you’ll notice that we don’t use actually that word in our document. That’s because we believe that rules, boundaries, and promises are hard lines begging to be crossed. Instead, we use the word “intentions”, where it is always our highest intention to act accordingly. And, it leaves some wiggle room for our imperfection as humans and the fluidity of life. The goal of our intentions is that very few transgressions would land us into “dealbreaker” territory.
A relationship rules agreement by one woman recently lit the interweb on fire for its seemingly irrational commandments. Note that this was NOT an open relationship, and rules like “If I catch you around girls I kill you” were clearly not designed to enable anyone’s freedom.
And yet, the judgemental laughter dies down when we’re asked to look at the rules we’re tempted to create for our own partnerships. Some relationship rules agreements I’ve seen contain controlling language around curfews, forbidding of falling in love with others, and veto power by one primary partner to end their partner’s other relationships
We don’t love the idea of veto power as it doesn’t honor the needs of other partners and leaves the door open for emotional wreckage in our wake. As such, our agreement recognizes that whom we engage with are living human beings with living needs, wants, and emotions that deserve a seat at our table.
We also don’t use the word “contract”, as this implied a sort of “binding”. We feel that the essence of ethical non-monogamy is the absence of the duress. Our agreement acts as a metaphorical car seat to protect our precious relationship baby, rather than shackles upon each of our wrists.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you begin to brainstorm your own document:
Below is our relationship agreement as it exists at time of writing. For reference, I am currently in a relationship that falls somewhere in between a “V” formation (one person with two unintegrated primary partners) and triad (three fully integrated partners).
It is my greatest intention to…
As in life, intentions are always subject to consciously communicated and accepted revision.
Phew! Yes, that could seem overwhelming. But note the final line regarding the potential for revision. It is crucial to understand that this is a living, breathing document.
Its words are not carved into stone tablets; rather, its spirit is a fluidity that ebbs and flows with the nuances of life. It’s gone through several iterations as our various life experiences have evolved our needs and desires. In the poignant words of Miyamoto Musashi:
“Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life.”
This relationship rules agreement gives our partners a safe container in which to explore. Our container isn’t like a sealed Tupperware; rather, it’s like a mesh basket that keeps our investment safely tucked in while allowing the fresh oxygen to flow through.
Now, is the relationship rules agreement a silver bullet for avoiding the emotional challenges of polyamory and open relating? Do we feel safe all day, every day of the year? Um, no. We are human beings with millennia of societal conditioning, triggers, and trauma to break through. But breaking through to returning to our more natural state of loving can be really rewarding.
Simply creating the open relationship rules agreement is a testament to a mutual understanding of our human nature and a signpost of compassion for those we hold most dear in our heart.
Just for comparison, I’ve included a manifesto for the way humans have been told is the only way to do love:
No one else besides me. Forever.
Is that simpler? Easier? Of course. And yet…forever sure is a long time. Makes you think, yes?
We love to help as many people as possible navigate the tricky waters of an open relationship because we’ve been in your shoes. We can walk you through your transition into an open relationship so that you may feel safe.
A free copy of our Open Relationship Agreement Guide is included in our Trial VIP Membership. Click here to learn more!
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