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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rules: Explicit vs. Assumed

Thanks to a comment here I realized in all my posts about rules there was a piece missing. While re-reading articles to confirm to myself I really had missed something I think I may have come off sounding like someone who enjoys nothing more than making a bunch of rules to regulate my relationships. That really isn't the case which I hope you will see here.

In my poly journey, which included some monogamy, I realized that monogamous (and poly) relationships are often built on assumed rules. For example;
-Once we are married neither of us will sleep with other people. A concept that often morphs over time into "No flirting, kissing, fondling, or even touching someone else!!"
-Our finances will be shared, we will support each other unconditionally.
-Once we have kids the man will provide while the woman stays at home. We ARE having kids, right?!

And on and on and on.
But honestly, are those things well defined prior to the marriage? Or even in long-term relationships?
Of course they are, you might say! We had those conversations before we got married, or before we moved in together.
Great. So you had a talk before you got married. Maybe it was even better than most and went something like: "We are going to have kids after we are married, right?"
"Of course I want kids. I'd love to make babies with you!"

But then 6 months down the road after the marriage the wife says "Ok, lets start trying to have a baby" and the man says "What? I'm not ready for kids yet!"
Uh oh, now we have a problem don't we?
The problem, in my opinion, was that they had a conversation where they each *assumed* they understood something they expected to explicitly happen in their relationship.

This is where I start talking about 'rules' though it may also be a place where my language doesn't explain my feelings very well. Often when I talk about 'rules' around things like communication or sex they are really more expectations or understandings than rules. Rules implies there is a penalty for non-compliance and I don't impose penalties in a relationship. What I'm really trying to accomplish with rules (or rather, expectations/understandings?) is an explicit understanding between myself and my partners rather than assumption.

I'm simply trying to make sure we are on the same page. That we really do agree. That we truly do understand each other. Not to control each other, or so we can penalize each other for not following the rules, but simply so we can avoid misunderstandings like those in my example above.

Does that solve all the problems? Of course not. But in my experience having an explicit understanding with someone avoids a lot of problems vs. when there was only an implicit or assumed understanding. Having an explicit conversation is a very small price to pay for the rewards of a solid, well understood relationship.

Inspiration for this post comes from Kameshwari who generously shared her feelings and in doing so reminded me of some things I had missed. Thank you!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your response to my post. You give good clarification of explicit rules and assumed rules. This is a piece of rule-setting that I need to keep as part of my more ambitious awareness within my current relationship.

    Suddenly, my attention to your blog has a feeling of NRE. I've always understood the dynamic of NRE, but am familiar with the term only in the last 6 months.

    I appreciate your dedication to the discussion of Polyamory. During the last seven years, I've heard the term, but rejected any personal association with the definition. After all, I was living the open-relationship concept before it became post new millennium popular. It was explored without rules or definition, and with an infinite amount of loving possibilities. Why would I, a woman in her mid-fifties, agree to give the expansiveness of this lifestyle any solid shape or form?

    Your discussion of rules gives me a new awareness of future discussions with my partner. I respect your gentle and well worded suggestions.

    With gratitude,

    Kameshwari-kate

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  2. Kate,

    Thanks, I'm glad you have found some value here! And thank you for your comments. I really hope comments like yours will drive the discussions and directions of this blog. It isn't all about me :)

    I absolutely loved your statement "I was living the open-relationship concept before it became post new millennium popular. It was explored without rules or definition, and with an infinite amount of loving possibilities. Why would I, a woman in her mid-fifties, agree to give the expansiveness of this lifestyle any solid shape or form?"

    Those three sentences say so much about the roots of Polyamory and speak to my heart about my own relationship beliefs. Wonderful!!

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