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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Polyamorous people have rules?

An interesting conversation I have with folks sometimes goes like this . . . .

Them: Oh wow, you are poly. So, you like sleep with anyone you want, right?

Me: Not exactly, though I'm free to follow my heart when it comes to loving other people.

Them: So like, your girlfriend can sleep with other people?

Me: Sure, if that's what she wants to do. Depending on who it is.

Them: That's cool. Wait. Depending on who it is? What do you mean?

Me: Well, there are some people who may be off-limits. We do have some rules you know.

Them: Rules? I thought you just slept with whoever you wanted? What do you mean you have rules?

Me: --Starts thumping head on table--.

Yes, surprising as it may seem many poly's do have rules. I've seen rules around the type of people that can be dated, rules about how to act in certain situations (play parties, rituals, etc.), and even rules about specific sexual acts that can or cannot be performed. I've heard rules about communication, respect, time, and even rules that support equality. Maybe more unusual is finding a poly who doesn't have any rules!

Some rules are fairly common. . .
*No cheating! If you sleep with someone, don't hide it. And don't lie about it.
*Tell me as soon as possible when you start liking someone, or have slept with someone. (See previous rule).
*Meeting rules. Such as; I have to meet someone before you sleep with them or start a relationship.
*OPP - One Penis Policy. Usually means a woman can only have sex with one guy, usually the one making the OPP rule.
*OPP - One Pussy Policy. Yes, you can only own one cat at a time! Haha, just kidding. Usually means a man can only have sex with one woman, usually the one making the OPP rule.
*Anything but intercourse rule. This can apply to either a male or female and is hopefully self-explanatory.
*Check with me first rule. I'll let you have sex with anyone you want as long as you check with me first. Oh, when you check with me first, I might say No.

Those are just a few of the common rules. I've even seen some strange ones like. . .
*Anal only policy. Which means, you can't have vaginal intercourse but you can have anal intercourse with whomever you want.
*Fair sex policy. If you have sex with your girlfriend when you get home you have to have sex with me too.

So what kind of rules have you had in your relationships in the past? What kind of rules do you see using in the future. Or, if you don't believe in rules, why or why not and, how has that worked out for you?

I'll discuss rules more in future articles, including rules I've tried and how they have worked out.
I'm trying to keep articles short and hope that comments from readers will actually direct the topics going forward.
So come on, chime in and let me know what you think!


  1. In my relationship with my primary, I make a request that before he pursues a deeper and more meaningful relationship with another, that he will share a significant amount of deep connection with me.

    This is a request of mine and not regarded as a rule by either of us.

    Since we live together and sleep together, he considers that to be enough deep connecting time. I need more. When I request time for intimacy, such as taking a hot tub and spending quiet sensual time in front of the fire, he claims I am putting pressure on him.

    Yet, when he has a date at the house, and I am going on a date with my beloved activity partner, I see SO making all day plans and preparations for a sensual, in our home, date with another woman. There are flowers, candles, music arrangements, and his energies put into creating a gourmet meal. As I watch his efforts preparing for his date, I prepare for my date. I feel more and more resentful that he takes so much time to create a beautiful, romantic evening for another woman, but neglects to give me the same treatment.

    Sometimes I think that we could use some rules, but he refuses to be pressured by rules. As a result of being warned about creating blocks of pressure, I make requests within our relationship. Sometimes a request is honored, but it is done within the context of the moment. There are many times when I hear this response to a request, "I hear and acknowledge that you have made a request, but I cannot honor that request right now."

    I know I've been "poly" since the early 70s, although we never named that paradigm during those years. In the late 70s and early 80s, I was again involved in a community of significant lovers. We never named it, but kept the energies going until the early to mid-eighties. If I recall, in each group of people, we never created rules, but maintained a certain amount of respect. If I were to name that respect, it was to always be present. Also, we had full disclosure of honesty with regards to sexual partners, types of sexual activities, bi-sexuality, and when one was moving into a closed & monogamous relationship.

    My point is that I learned to be in open and expanding relationships without creating rules. But I also learned that things have changed and in 2010, rules might be helpful.

  2. Kameshwari,
    Thanks for the awesome comment! You painted a wonderful picture of how your feelings about rules have changed during your life.

    You also made me realize my posts about rules were missing something. The difference between assumed rules and explicit rules. I will definitely post something about that soon and correct my oversight.

    It sounds like the group you were involved with through the 70’s and 80’s was a mature group with assumed rather than explicit rules that worked well for them. Your maturing in that group explains your conclusion that although you have lived without them in the past, maybe now rules would help.

    I’m sorry to hear of your frustration with your SO and his current dating habits. With your relationship history I’m sure you have heard of NRE (New Relationship Energy), which is what it sounds like he is experiencing. Although NRE puts a name to what is happening and maybe helps make it understood, it isn’t an excuse in my opinion. I’m a firm believer in meeting the needs of my current partner before adding others. And although I know I will experience NRE when dating someone new, and that I may give the new person more attention for a while, I try to be conscious that is happening and control it as much as possible.

    I also encourage my partners to let me know immediately, before they become resentful or hurt, if I am not meeting their needs. Their doing so doesn’t by default mean we will make a new rule or anything like that. But it does make me aware of how my actions impact others and gives me an opportunity to change my behavior early, before things become big problems.

    Were I in your situation I would gently let my partner know that my needs weren't being met. At the same time I would be very clear that in no way do I want them to change how they are treating their new SO but that I'm only wanting to discuss my relationship with them. I would be very careful in that conversation not to compare how they are treating their new SO with how they treat me. Because of your partner's aversion to rules I would also be clear that I'm not trying to make any rules at the moment, only have a conversation where I can express my needs and feelings so we can work together to make sure the relationship is working for us both.

    As you probably know, when starting a relationship with someone new we expend a lot of energy on that new person. Thinking about them, planning dates, fantasizing about possibilities, etc. For many, it is difficult to put that amount of energy into two relationships at the same time. Once the NRE has calmed a bit most will have the energy to support both relationships but until then it can be a difficult challenge.