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Thursday, March 11, 2010

My poly rules.

Maybe this should be titled "My relationship rules" ?

In my last article I talked about some of the rules I've seen in poly relationships. Here I will talk a bit about the rules I like to have in my relationships. And in a follow-up article I will discuss the rules my relationships have had in the past and how they have worked out.

Being a somewhat logical and anal-retentive person I don't mind rules and in fact enjoy them in some situations. But my belief in the freedom of polyamory is a bit contrary to my fondness for structure. For that reason I really try to minimize the rules I require in a relationship.

Currently the rules I feel I need in a relationship are:
*Honesty. (This is a theme you will hear from me often). This is the first rule I mention because it is the most important to me. I need honesty from every aspect of my relationships and give honesty back at all times.
*Openness. I want to know if something is bugging my partner, and I like to get their advice about things happening in my life and our relationship.
*Respect. With honesty and openness comes the need for respectful conversations. I won't tolerate name calling, yelling, throwing things, etc. (Even polys have fights, right?). We can't solve problems if we aren't communicating like adults so I'll ask that we have the conversation later, when we are calm, if it starts getting ugly.
*Compromise. We will each need to compromise at times. I don't insist someone compromise all the time on everything but I do expect them to be open to compromise. If it becomes apparent someone is unwilling to compromise the relationship will probably end soon.
*Forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes and relationships are no exception. I know my partners will make some, and so will I. Rather than dwelling on them, lets work it out and move on.

Well, that's it. I don't think that is a big list of rules and although a lot of folks feel those things are assumed in a relationship, I never do. I make them very clear up front during initial conversations I have with a new potential love.

A lot of people, after hearing my rules, are surprised and ask if I have rules about sex, other partners, etc. That's where I talk about the concept of Choices.
I believe rather than rules people should have choices. For example: If my love has sex with someone who I feel is sexually unsafe (exposure to STD's or has an STD for example), then I may choose to not have sex with them again until they are tested. And if they have an ongoing relationship with someone I believe is unsafe then my physical relationship with them will probably end. Of course in the spirit of Openness and Compromise I would be willing to discuss why I think the person is unsafe and allow that my opinion could be changed.
But what I'm not doing here, that I find a lot of people do, is make a rule or try to forbid my love from sleeping with that other person. I would rather they follow their heart and do whatever it is that makes them happy. I would never forbid my love another partner, or limit what they could do with that other partner. I would only let them know that their choices may cause me to make choices. And as much as possible I will let them know ahead of time what choices I may have to make. Although some may look at that as giving my partner an ultimatum or trying to intimidate their decision making, that is honestly not my intent and it is not presented that way in conversations. I truly want them to make their own choices, but I also want them to be aware of the results. Usually if I am contemplating a new love or change in my life I will ask my loves to try and tell me what effect it may have on them and if it will force them to make choices for themselves.
In my experience so far, this approach allows everyone in a relationship to feel they have control over the relationship direction while at the same time enjoying the freedom to do as they wish.

So what do you think of the Choices concept? Yes? No? Or maybe there need to be other rules anyway? What works for you?
Speak up, let me know your thoughts!


  1. I've made a rule for myself. That rule is to not date a person who is absolutely certain that they are monogamous. This is a necessary rule so that another person does not feel that they can trick me into monogamy.

    My rule also includes a clear demonstration of the other being Poly within their lifestyle.

    In the past, I've become involved with some men who believe that I will change. It appears that they thought that by their virtue, I might change to being a monogamous partner and that I would be satisfied by "the one."

    To avoid being party to their disappointment, and my feeling bad for not making myself clear enough about my relationship intentions, I've had to live by my rule. This rule significantly reduces the amount of men available to me.

    But what happens if the person we are dating claims to be Poly, when they are really just serial monogamists who happen to have a wee bit of overlapping of relationships? They might appear to be Poly because they are engaged in a simultaneous relationship. But in reality, they are just searching for the next "one."

    I like to be upfront about my open flowing of relationships. If someone claims to be Poly, I will even go as far as to ask them to introduce me to their partner, a previous partner, or wife. I demand to see their lifestyle in action, prior to my becoming deeply involved.

    If a person cannot clearly demonstrate that they are living a Poly lifestyle, then I put them in a "friends only" position. I will continue to have activities with that person so they can get a feel for what it is like to be involved with Poly-living person. This might include inviting several men on a date, or to a quiet dinner of people in the "friends only" position. I try to not end the friendship just because a person is unable to accept that Poly-living is possible for them. It only ends when there is an ultimatum.

    To become deeply involved with Poly-only people is a self applied rule. I wonder, do others here make rules that they apply only to themselves?

  2. Kameshwari,

    Thanks for another awesome comment!

    I can understand the difficulties you have had trying to date monogamous folks and the men who think they can change you once you start dating. I’ve run into that a few times and thought about ruling out anyone who didn’t identify as strictly poly or couldn’t demonstrate they were living a poly lifestyle. The problem for me is that rules of that type conflict deeply with my beliefs about relationships. I truly believe relationships are a journey to be explored with some measure of joy to be found in most any relationship I may have.
    Instead I take a more ‘me’ focused approach. I will entertain the possibility of a relationship with most anyone regardless of their relationship style, as long as my needs are met. Yep, that sounds selfish and uncaring but let me explain. . .
    For example I had a lady recently tell me she was unhappily married. She implied since I was poly and open to having multiple partners we might be able to ‘get together’. Rather than telling her that wasn’t possible since she was monogamously married, or that I believe cheating to be an awful thing to do and it repulsed me, or that just having sex didn’t interest me much, I instead told her I found her attractive, would love to explore a relationship with her, and that as soon as we discussed it with her hubby and made sure he was okay with things we could move forward.
    In that way I’m not excluding any possibilities. I’m also not telling someone ‘no’ without discussion of the options. What I am telling them is that to have a relationship I have some needs. Here they are, take them or leave them. It also lets them know that although I’m interested, and flexible to a point, there are needs I have that aren’t going to change.
    In that example my first need is to have honesty with everyone involved. Were she able to meet that need then I would bring up the fact that I want a relationship, not a roll in the hay. (Since she hasn’t brought it up again I’m guessing she decided she couldn’t meet my needs.) And again, were she able to meet that need then we could move forward toward a relationship.

    I like your ‘friends only’ category for people. I too dislike ending a friendship just because there can’t be a more-than-friends relationship, or just because we tried a relationship and it didn’t work. I think it is also a great idea to show someone unsure but curious about Poly what it is like to be involved with a Poly person.

    I tried hard and I really couldn’t think of rules I make that apply only to myself. I don’t exclude people based on race, gender, relationship paradigm, religion, etc.
    Oh, I just thought of one! I don’t date crazies! Male, female, young, old, no crazies!

    My problem is I usually have a hard time recognizing the loons.