Some thoughs on fear, hope, and the world that we make

My sweetie zaiah is in town for the week, and last night I slept curled up beside her with a young kitten sleeping under the covers on my hip.

The kitten is actually zaiah‘s reason for being here. She went to her new home this afternoon; she was bought by a family here in Atlanta. zaiah arrived in town yesterday, kitten in hand, and met the kitten’s new family today.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Ruby. Ruby is a sixteen-week-old, aqua-eyed bundle of fluffy, fuzzy joy in a convenient carrying package.

I immediately fell in love with her. She is inquisitive, curious, happy, eager, and above all else, she is absolutely, utterly fearless. Ruby lives in a world where everything from the box on the shelf to the mysteries beyond the closet door are filled with delight and wonder. In her world, every person is her friend, and she takes charming delight in meeting new people. Every other animal wants to play with her, every change in her environment is cause for celebration.

It didn’t take Ruby long to make herself right at home. She bounded out of her carrying cage, checked me out enthusiastically, and rubbed against my hand for a while. Then she bounced around the apartment with unrestrained glee, heedless of Liam following her about like a shadow. She played with David for a while, checked out his Bowflex (surely the world’s biggest and most entertaining kitten amusement park, when it comes right down to it–lots of things to crawl under, lots of dangling things to bat at). Finally, when she reached that kitten stage of “Noo! I’m so tired I can’t keep my eyes open any more, but I want to keep playing!” she bounced back into my bedroom to curl up under the covers with me for bed.

There’s a lesson we could all learn from Ruby, about how our perceptions of the world shape the reality.


Many New Agers like to think that the principles of quantum mechanics prove that the world is created by our perceptions. This isn’t true in a literal sense, at least not the way they think it is; one of the problems of science is that it uses a highly specialized vocabulary, and words like ‘observer’ when used by a physicist don’t mean what they do in the common vernacular.

Nevertheless, our assumptions, expectations, and beliefs do change our experience of the world.

I’ve written before about the phenomenon of confirmation bias–the natural, unconscious tendency of human beings to see and give special weight to anything that confirms our beliefs, and to disregard things that contradict our beliefs. People who believe that psychics can predict the future will remember occasions when a psychic has seemed to make a prediction that comes true, but forget the dozens of predictions that didn’t come true. People who believe that women are poor drivers will remember the woman who cut them off in traffic, but forget the man who did. And so on.

Scientists have to deal with confirmation bias all the time. Medical tests are set up as double-blind tests, so that not even the doctor or the researchers know which is the placebo and which is the real drug, to help prevent confirmation bias. Researchers will intentionally look for evidence that proves their hypothesis wrong, rather than evidence that proves their hypothesis right, in part because confirmation bias makes it far too easy to see evidence that seemingly supports a hypothesis. (This is one of the ways you can spot flim-flam artists and pseudoscience, by the way.)

As strong as confirmation bias is when you’re dealing with intellectual beliefs, though, it’s a thousand times more devastating when you’re dealing with emotional responses.


On another forum I read, the subject has come up about relationship agreements, and specifically about relationship agreements in polyamory.

Often, people who choose to explore any kind of non-monogamous relationship face a great deal of trepidation. We’re told, daily, from the moment we’re born, certain things about relationships, like “if your partner really loves you he will never want anyone else” and “if your partner has sex with some other person, your relationship is doomed.”

Folks who know, intellectually, that these things are not necessarily true may nevertheless feel emotionally threatened by the reality of a partner taking another lover. And, quite commonly, one of the ways they seek to address this is to sit down and negotiate a set of rules to help them feel more secure and help guide them through the perceived hazards of non-monogamy. This is probably the single most common approach I’ve personally seen amongst folks, especially married couples, new to polyamory.

This does have something to do with Ruby the kitten. Hang on, I’m getting to that.

These contracts are sometimes quite detailed. This contract, for example, is a 7-page PDF that specifies, among other things, what pet names an ‘outside’ lover is and is not permitted to use, what words an outside lover is and is not allowed to use to describe a relationship, and what kinds of sex ann outside lover is an is not allowed to have.

It’s nothing, however, compared to another contract I’ve seen, which I seem no longer have a link for, that spells out (in over 40 pages of single-spaced type) all of the above plus the positions an outside lover is permitted to have sex in, the number of miles a member of the primary relationship is allowed to drive to go on a date, what restaurants a member of the primary couple is not permitted to bring any other partner to, and so on.

And I can’t help but marvel, as I read these contracts, at how brilliant they are as testaments to fear and insecurity.


Now, I’m not trying to say that people in a relationship should never make any rules or agreements. As I’ve said in the past, I think there are some rules that are not only valuable but necessary. Rules about joint ownership of property and children, for example. I also think it’s wise for non-monogamous–and monogamous, for that matter–sexual partners to negotiate safer-sex boundaries.

It seems to me, though, that many of the agreements people make about non-monogamy, particuarly when it comes to things like amount of time that people are permitted to spend with other partners and the activities people are permitted or forbidden to engage in with other lovers, reveal a great deal about the assumptions they make.

And none of what they reveal is good.

Rules of the sort you’ll find in the contract I linked to above seem predicated on one very simple assumption: “Polyamory is a threatening and scary thing, and if I don’t keep my lover on a very short leash, my lover is going to stomp all over me and then destroy our relationship.” That assumption is in turn resting on a deeper assumption, like the elephant standing on the world-turtle’s back: “My lover doesn’t really want to be with me. I’m really not all that great. There’s nothing particularly special or desirable about me; my lover would really prefer to be with someone else. If I give my lover free reign to do as he pleases, he’s going to realize that and leave me.”

Now, I used to have a cat named Snow Crash. Snow Crash is in all respects the polar opposite of Ruby. He found changes in his environment to be frightening and upsetting, and would hide under the sink when things changed. He was deeply suspicious of strangers, and tended to run when someone new came over.

Snow Crash and Ruby live in the same world–a world where some change is good and some change is threatening, where some people are kind and some people are not. But their experience of the world is very, very different.


Your experience of the world depends to a great degree on the assumptions you make. The machinery of confirmation bias assures it.

If you believe that your partner really does not value you and does not want to be with you, you’ll find confirmation of your worst fears in everything you see. Do you feel like you aren’t special? Then if your lover calls his other lover by the same name as he calls you, or takes his other lover to your favorite restaurant, you will feel replaceable. Do you feel like your lover doesn’t value your relationship? Then if your lover is ten minutes late coming home from a date, your mind will go to visions of all the fun he’s having without you and the revulsion and disgust he feels at having to return to someone as worthless as you, rather than to the idea that it’s raining outside and the traffic must be a mess.

These assumptions become particularly insidious and particularly toxic when they are incorporated into your self-image. Do you think “I am a jealous person” rather than “I am a person who sometimes feels jealousy”? Do you think “I am an insecure person” instead of “I am a person who occasionally feels insecure”? Then your jealousy or your insecurity will become mountains made of stone, because changing your sense of self is always difficult.

So naturally, confronted with these immense mountains of stone, you will be tempted to go around rather than through. Nobody likes to feel unloved or valueless in the eyes of a partner. If oyu start from the assumption that these things are true, and you make that assumption a part of your self-identity, then you can become quite helpless in the grip of these feelings, and it can start to feel reasonable to keep your partner on a short leash, if only to make yourself feel better.

But here’s the thing, and it’s a point I’ve touched on before:

If your assumptions are true, and your partner really would rather be with someone else, then rules will not save your relationship. If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.

Think about what it means to start with a different set of assumptions. Think about what it means to start with this: “My partner loves and cherishes me. My partner is with me because he wants to be with me, and because I add value to his life–value that nobody else can ever add. If I have a problem, then my partner will want to work with me to solve it, because my partner cherishes me and wants to honor our relationship. I am a person, unique in all the world, who my partner chooses because he sees that value in who I am.”

When you start from that assumption, your perception of the world changes. You will tend to see things which confirm your assumptions, good or bad; start with positive assumptions and you will see the truth of them, just as if you start from negative assumptions you will see evidence to support them.

The same is true for the assumptions themselves. Start from a place that you are a jealous, insecure person and that’s just the way you are, and it will become your reality. Start from the assumption that you are a person who sometimes feels jealous or insecure, but there are things that you can do and choices you can make to address these insecurities and jealousies, and that will become your reality.


It does not bother me if my lover goes to my favorite restaurant with a date, or if a lover calls someone else by a pet name that she uses on me. I do not write contracts forbidding these things because they can not challenge my sense of self. I know that my lovers value and cherish me, and make choices that honor our relationship, because they want to be with me.

It is a simple thing, to start with a different set of assumptions. Not always easy, perhaps, because assumptions become well-worn grooves in your brain, and creating a new track takes work. There is comfort in the familiar, including in familiar assumptions.

But who do you think is happier, Ruby or Snow Crash?

198 thoughts on “Some thoughs on fear, hope, and the world that we make

  1. Oddly, this is really helpful.  “Oddly” because I usually try to say “I am a person who is feeling $thing” rather than “I am a $thing person”, but this combined with recent events to point out an area in which I don’t do that.

    Specifically, being insecure.  I know that I get insecure when a partner of mine starts dating someone new, and I have a workaround in place (“I’ll ask for reassurance, usually in these ways”), but I’ve been calling myself “an insecure person”, which is vastly different.

    So thanks.

  2. Oddly, this is really helpful.  “Oddly” because I usually try to say “I am a person who is feeling $thing” rather than “I am a $thing person”, but this combined with recent events to point out an area in which I don’t do that.

    Specifically, being insecure.  I know that I get insecure when a partner of mine starts dating someone new, and I have a workaround in place (“I’ll ask for reassurance, usually in these ways”), but I’ve been calling myself “an insecure person”, which is vastly different.

    So thanks.

  3. If your assumptions are true, and your partner really would rather be with someone else, then rules will not save your relationship. If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.

    This is true if one is assuming that the agreements are for the people in the relationship already. I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship (whether short-term play partners or longer-term lovers), as they are for the people in the relationship. Agreements can be helpful when in the initial stages of a relationship as well, to reveal assumptions about that relationship. In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance. This sort of discovery is invaluable, IME.

    It’s certainly true that if your partner is really out the door, then no amount of writing and re-writing the agreements will help.

    Conversely, believing that your partner is trustworthy and is keeping an agreement when they are NOT, is not useful either. That’s delusional.

    What’s helpful is having an accurate view of reality. That takes both partners communicating with each other about changes in their internal landscape, as much as about changes in status. One way that they can do this is by writing out agreements, or listing their values, or anything that actually gets them communicating truthfully. Agreements are merely one possible tool for this, and YMMV.

    • “In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance.”

      Why is this important?

      If, as you say, these agreements are for the new person, then it’s the responsibility of one of the veterans to already know what’s verboten, and steer the relationship appropriately. This is not the responsibility of the new person.

      On an even more granular level, what does or does not constitutes “sex” is a red herring. If there are verboten behaviors, then spell them out, without trying to worry about whether or not they are included in the cloud-shaped drawing called “sex” for this particular new person.

      • For the new person, it’s about setting clear expectations. I can’t tell you how useful it’s been to be able to say, “here are our Agreements (posted on the web). Please read them, and then let’s have our conversation about safer sex, and history, etc.” It’s a very good tool for beginning the conversation.

        Also, you seem to be reading this as if I said that Agreements are ONLY good for the incoming partners. I didn’t, actually. I said:
        Agreements can be helpful when in the initial stages of a relationship as well, to reveal assumptions about that relationship.

        In that case I meant the beginning stages of a partnership in particular. Sorry I wasn’t more clear there. You simply can’t assume that you know where your partner is coming from if you’ve never discussed it. If simply having the discussion (and not creating formal agreements) works for you, that’s great. I will say that I haven’t found it effective when working with someone with ADD, for instance, or with other memory issues. It takes time to integrate understanding of your partner, so that you CAN make the assumption that each of you are operating in good faith. That doesn’t *necessarily* come instantly. It’s very much a YMMV situation, however.

        If there are verboten behaviors, then spell them out, without trying to worry about whether or not they are included in the cloud-shaped drawing called “sex” for this particular new person.

        Yes, we are in agreement actually. Many people try to make agreements that look like “I will not have sex on the first date.” This very often doesn’t work, because people have very different assumptions about what “sex” is, e.g., it’s only PIV, it only counts if someone comes, BDSM play is “not sex,” etc. In sitting down to make the initial agreements, any couple or group will probably encounter some of these discrepancies, and be able to more clearly state what the boundaries are, in a way that’s helpful to all parties.

        ETA: Whether or not they choose to keep these agreements in written form, or choose to treat them as “worksheets” is entirely up to the couple or group. For some people, it’s the act of going through the process that matters. For others, it’s having a “cheat sheet” for their memory that’s helpful.

        People differ. I get itchy when someone says that ANYTHING is “always true for everyone.”

        • “you seem to be reading this as if I said that Agreements are ONLY good for the incoming partners.”

          Yes, because I read this part: “I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship (whether short-term play partners or longer-term lovers), as they are for the people in the relationship.”

          I did not write “only,” but it is implied. I did not consider the possibility that the members of an existing group would require regular agreements be made where they have to make sure they all agree on what (for example) “sex” means.

          “people have very different assumptions about what “sex” is”

          Right, so I advocate being specific. Besides, it looks great in an agreement “not to insert the penis greater than three centimeters or the length of the circumcised hood — whichever comes first” and so forth.

          It’s a very useful tool for people who need to know what kind of business they’re getting involved with.

          “Many people try to make agreements that look like “I will not have sex on the first date.””

          Well, yeah, but everyone knows people who make THOSE kinds of agreements are usually outlining their OWN issues. Which is fine, but it’s up to them to decide if they want to break it, and that includes getting close enough to the point where splitting hairs matters.

          • Feeling argumentative today, are you?

            I am reporting what I have found to work for a number of poly people, and what my own experience has been. I’m advocating that people do what works for them, not what works for me, what works for you, or what anyone THINKS should work for them. Just what works for them.

            YM, as I have said before, MV.

          • “Feeling argumentative today, are you?”

            Asking questions. They lead to other questions. If they’re too tough, you can skip ’em.

            “I am reporting what I have found to work for a number of poly people…”

            Oh. Well, that’s different. When I read “I find…” it seemed to be your personal experience.

            The breaking of agreements is a huge issue with most people and making more specific and more ironclad agreements has not — based on what I’ve seen — done one single thing to alleviate that. In fact, the more specific the agreements, the more they stop resembling a list of agreements and more like a list of crimes for which one will be punished.

            I have ALSO seen these lists grow when one person proposes lots of agreements they want the other person to do, and the other person, in attempt to keep things “fair” proposes an equally convoluted list of reasons THEY will be allowed to get mad.

            Most of these folks end up very sad or angry or heartbroken (because, according to rule 47b, if there was more than three centimeters of penis, they must get sad) and often decide that they just can’t handle nonrestrictive sexuality at all. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing, because the less drama in my community, the better.

            The happiest folks I know are the ones that make agreements and lists and such that are simple enough to keep in their heads (maybe three items, and few conjunctions), and who expect their partners to have sufficient discretionary capability to play and live with unexpected developments and fluid situations in a mature and transparent way.

            But, as Franklin’s pointed out, particularly with folks who come from a place where they feel any misstep will destroy the planet, some folks find great happiness in making convoluted lists and rules. These lists and rules outline their insecurities and fears.

            Now me, personally, I find that I expend a lot of time and energy on my insecurities and fears, so I do whatever I can to remove or reduce them in my life. To each their own.

            But I can’t see why someone would suggest “these rules are for ALL of us,” which would seem to suggest either by “ALL of us,” they mean “the new people”, or by “ALL of us” they mean that they haven’t already figured this shit out with partners a long time ago.

            So I was hoping you could clear that up — no one’s been quite able to before.

          • Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.

            I can say to my partner.. I trust that you love me and want to be with me and you’ll care for me accordingly, and then we can feel our way based on that trust. If mistakes are made (because no 2 (or whatever) people know each other perfectly), those mistakes fall on a foundation of love and trust, so it’s never too bad.

            However, I’ve had more than one person say to me that I can trust that they will safeguard my health when it comes to stds and what that really means is that they’ll use condoms for PIV intercourse. While I know they would never behave with malice, and I can trust them to use condoms every time, I may not be ok with the risk associated with oral sex with an untested partner.. or a tested partner who has other partners whom I know nothing about. These risk tolerances are very much unique to the individual and so I find making a detailed list of sexual behaviors and one’s comfort with each of them depending on the level of testing and network turnover is kind of important.

            With sex, nothing is really safe. As we all know, it’s retardedly easy to get HSV from kissing your *grandmother*. Oral to genital transmission of HSV is also incredibly easy to pass (with no symptoms showing.. ask me how I know this). Condoms stop HPV about as well as a yellow light (ask me how I know this).. and.. really how many of us would really feel that condoms are completely safe if the new person *did* have AIDS or hepatitis? I’ve always been more conservative than most, but my insistence on fairly detailed agreements on this issue have absolutely nothing to do with trust and everything to do with everyone being on the same page because these misunderstandings are a little tougher to undo.

          • Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.

            Yep, in fact they are so much different things that Akien and I have separate agreements to cover these differing areas. :^) Trying to create emotional safety through application of safer sex rules is almost always destined to fail.

            Thanks for your comment; I’m very much in agreement with what you’ve said.

          • “Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.”

            Well, rules imposed against a third party to preserve someone’s mental or emotional health are (outside of weird circumstances) usually crap. That’s a pretty agreeable point.

            Rules imposed against a third party to protect someone’s health are pretty similarly crap, except that they’ve been constructed in such a way as to make objecting to them “dangerous.”

            For example: What — are you saying I should just let my partners fuck anyone they want and I just have to take it?

            See, that’s disingenuous at best.

            There’s nothing wrong with reasoned discussion — and I certainly don’t see anyone advocating against it here — and people do it all the time, but once it starts to approach demands made on another person, then it DOES become pathological.

            It is very true that emotional and physical safety should be treated very differently. Physical safety is pretty matter-of-fact, and there’s usually reasonably good data around to support this.

            Emotional safety is a volatile creature that can lead to practically any sort of outcome, usually unpredicatable and sometimes violent.

            The trouble is, a lot of folks want emotional safety, but invoke physical safety, which does no one any good.

            So yeah, excellent point.

          • I have ALSO seen these lists grow when one person proposes lots of agreements they want the other person to do, and the other person, in attempt to keep things “fair” proposes an equally convoluted list of reasons THEY will be allowed to get mad.

            I’ve seen this as well, and I’ve also seen another, more insidious way by which lists of rules tend to grow out of hand.

            Too often, in my experience, people who make list of rules do it because someone believes the rules will prevent him from feeling things he doesn’t want to feel, such as insecurity or jealousy.

            So he’ll notice something like “When I see you kiss him, I feel insecure.” On the principle of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, he’ll assume that it’s the act of kissing that makes the insecurity, so he’ll say “I don’t want to feel insecure, so I will pass a rule saying you can’t kiss him in front of me.”

            Then he’ll see his partner hug someone in front of him, and he’ll feel insecure. So a new rule is made: “You may not hug your partner in front of me.”

            Funny thing about insecurity–it has a way of leaking out all over the place regardless of the exact circumstance. Next thing you know, the list of rules looks like the book of Leviticus combined with the Articles of Confederation.

          • So a new rule is made: “You may not hug your partner in front of me.”

            A rule like this is Not Additive, and probably doomed to fail, as I’ve said elsewhere. The one exception to that IME would be if it were being used in a Time-limited agreement, as a way to help one partner over a rough patch. E.g., “Please do not hug your other partner in front of me for the next two weeks. I find it unduly triggering at the moment, and I need some space to figure out why I’m being triggered, and what to do about it.” The agreement is for the shortest period possible, and gets re-negotiated at the end of that period. It’s a structure to help one partner work on their own stuff, not a permanent “Don’t Go Here” sign.

            (all dependent on agreement that agreements are useful, of course, which you don’t, but some of your other readers might)

          • BTW: One of my own background pieces is from one of the professors I used to work for, Marcia Linn. In the context of her work in Education, she talks about “Scaffolded Knowledge Integration,” and how isolated knowledge is not useful. So she advocates creating a structured approach to learning, to help people move from one level of knowledge to another. A couple of links on it:
            http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Scaffolded_knowledge_integration
            http://kie.berkeley.edu/KIE/tour/tour3.html

          • “The one exception to that IME would be if it were being used in a Time-limited agreement, as a way to help one partner over a rough patch. E.g., “Please do not hug your other partner in front of me for the next two weeks. I find it unduly triggering at the moment, and I need some space to figure out why I’m being triggered, and what to do about it.” The agreement is for the shortest period possible, and gets re-negotiated at the end of that period.”

            It’s a restriction on a third party that has nothing at all to do with the third party.

            A person attempting to impose such a rule certainly can ASK, but if they are feeling ill-suited to engage in adult relationships, then it is their responsibility to go on a sabbatical. Or something.

            Of course, the third party can, if they wish, strap themselves to the emotional rollercoaster if they like and make their actions dependent on the emotional stability of someone else. Maybe the demands made on them will diminish over time and never come back.

            Wouldn’t that be just swell to see.

          • you really don’t get this, do you?

            In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered? You seem to be suggesting that they not respect their partner’s agreements, which seems pretty stupid and self-centered, to me. Should they not respect that their partner has an agreement that they show up at work, then, too? That doesn’t have anything to do with the “third party,” either.

            You (and Tacit) basically seem to be advocating an anarchistic position. That’s not the way the world has usually worked for me.

          • Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

            If you believe that I am advocating an anarchist position, I can only assume that either you’re not reading what I’m saying, or I’m speaking a foreign language without realizing it.

            I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.

            Let me type that again. I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.

            What I do not believe in is situations where Alice and Bob sit down and write a contract, then expect that Harry, Steve, and Lisa will be happy to sign on to that contract. That isn’t a mutually negotiated agreement between reasonable adults; it’s an imposition by Alice and Bob upon other people who had no hand in shaping the contract. That’s not an “agreement” by any reasonable definition of “agreement.”

            However, you wrote something here that I find very, very, very telling indeed, and based on one sentence you wrote, I do not believe it will ever be possible for you to see eye to eye on this, or even understand each other.

            Here’s the telling bit:

            “In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered?”

            Here’s the thing: It doesn’t work that way. If Alice is triggered, it is not Harry’s fault. It is Alice’s fault. If Alice has insecurities, that’s not Harry’s doing. The problem lies within Alice, not Harry. The sooner Alice grows up, takes responsibility for her own emotional responses, buts on her big-girl pants, and realizes that her emotions belong to her, the sooner Alice can join the rest of us at the grownup table.

            Yeah, it’s hard. It fucking SUCKS to look in the mirror and say “Just because I feel bad does not mean someone else did something wrong.” It’s the hardest thing most people will ever face.

            Consider it a rite of passage.

          • Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

            You’re right, it’s not Harry’s fault. However, not everyone is able to magically snap their fingers and become no longer triggered by past trauma. Harry is free to decline to be in relationship with Alice over this issue if he chooses. That might in fact be the 100% correct choice for Harry. Harry might, however, actually want a relationship with Alice, who was originally “grown-up enough” to meet your standards, but then was sent to Iraq and developed PTSD, and hasn’t gotten proper treatment because the government has had its head up its butt. He might, in fact, choose compassion, and be looking for a tool to help him deal with what they both hope will be a temporary situation. He is at 100% choice in this at all times, and so is she.

            What I do not believe in is situations where Alice and Bob sit down and write a contract, then expect that Harry, Steve, and Lisa will be happy to sign on to that contract. That isn’t a mutually negotiated agreement between reasonable adults; it’s an imposition by Alice and Bob upon other people who had no hand in shaping the contract. That’s not an “agreement” by any reasonable definition of “agreement.”

            It’s about CHOICE again, Franklin. Once again YOU inserted the compulsion into the equation. No one is “forcing” Harry, Steve, or Lisa to sign onto that contract. They are free to chose to sign on or not. They might look down at the contract that says, “we agree that the day between Tuesday and Thursday is called Wednesday,” and they might in fact be willing to sign on the dotted line. Or they might choose to say, hey, I don’t agree with that, I think it’s “Miercoles,” and propose a new, updated agreement that meets the current needs of the current set of people.

            Just because I feel bad does not mean someone else did something wrong.”

            YES, you are correct. BLAMING someone else for your feelings is not effective. Alice could choose to walk away from Harry, and never ask him to try to accommodate her needs. Harry can choose to walk away from Alice, and never make an agreement that limits his freedom in the slightest tiny bit. But Alice asking for such an agreement does not necessarily mean that she thinks Harry “did something WRONG.” Again, YOU are the one inserting the blame into this equation, Tacit. It’s not necessarily there to start with.

            Must be a really nice planet where you live, where everyone is all “grown up” and enlightened right now, and no one ever encounters new challenges to overcome, or has difficult choices to make in whether or not to support one aspect of a person or their behavior while declining to take on unnecessary responsibility for another aspect.

          • Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

            YES, you are correct. BLAMING someone else for your feelings is not effective. Alice could choose to walk away from Harry, and never ask him to try to accommodate her needs. Harry can choose to walk away from Alice, and never make an agreement that limits his freedom in the slightest tiny bit. But Alice asking for such an agreement does not necessarily mean that she thinks Harry “did something WRONG.” Again, YOU are the one inserting the blame into this equation, Tacit. It’s not necessarily there to start with.

            Aha. I see what you did there.

            Yes, Alice asking for an agreement doesn’t mean that Harry did something wrong. But this entire time, in my post and in my replies, that has not been what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is Alice and Bob setting forth a contract (I even linked to an example) which sets out what other people are permitted to do and forbidden to do, without input from any third parties, and then expecting them to sign on the dotted line.

            Is that not what you’re talking about?

            Must be a really nice planet where you live, where everyone is all “grown up” and enlightened right now, and no one ever encounters new challenges to overcome, or has difficult choices to make in whether or not to support one aspect of a person or their behavior while declining to take on unnecessary responsibility for another aspect.

            Actually, it is.

            I have worked very, very hard to build a circle of friends and relationships with people who understand themselves, take responsibility for their own feelings and their own actions, and who are mature, enlightened, and all-around incredible folks.

            I currently have six relationships, for some fluid definition of “relationship,” and I can honestly say without the slightest doubt or hesitation that not one of my partners–nor one of their partners–would ever come to me and say “I feel insecure if you do X. Do not do X.”

            We frequently have conversations that run like “I feel thus-and-such when I see X, and I realize and understand that this is my issue and not yours. I will not ask you not to do X, though I may ask for your time, attention, and reassurance if I feel this way.”

            Makes all the difference in the world. Really.

            You know what? I didn’t build this network of friends and lover by accident. You know what else? It’s a beautiful way to live. I recommend it.

          • Is that not what you’re talking about?

            Actually, I think that IS the problem. I WASN’T talking about the extreme case you listed–didn’t read it till later, in fact. In the beginning, I agreed with you, in basis, and went on to say that I still found times that written agreements could be useful. I think we’ve been talking at somewhat cross-purposes.

            And as to the planet thing–I’m sorry for my snarkiness. I apologize for letting my frustration get in the way of our communication. I DO understand your position, even though you seem to think I do not. It’s a great thing to aim for, truly. I think it’s great that you have created it for yourself–we NEED examples of people who are successful in good relationships. I just don’t think it’s actually possible for everyone in the world *right this minute*. Some people haven’t gone enough turns around the wheel (or whatever metaphor you wish) to be able to do this sort of thing consistently. You are ABSOLUTELY welcome to decide that you only want to deal with lovers and a circle of friends who ARE able to do this. Your free choice. I’m sure it IS a great way to live.

            AND I’m equally certain that the majority of folks that have come to me/us for coaching are not able to make that leap in one step. And they’re already IN relationships, sometimes marriages, and they don’t want to throw them away. Agreements are one TOOL that we suggest in working with such folks, along with various other tools, and an ocean of personal growth opportunities (since one’s ability to succeed in relationship is entirely dependent on one’s own life skills, as you have mentioned at various points in this discussion). We emphasize that win-win solutions are the ONLY way that a relationship wins. We talk about personal responsibility. We advocate “additive” agreements, not subtractive, restrictive ones. We just also consider that written agreements can be helpful in explicating and supporting the intentions between any two people making them (at the same time we also advocate the KISS principle).

            Every once in a while, we’ve come across a couple who is farther along in this process, and it’s always a joy to work with them. But most of the people I see aren’t there, for one reason or another. And I choose to work with them where they’re at. You might not choose to, if you were the one providing the coaching. And that’s OK–we get to make different choices.

            Now, as I said to your Friend EMIII, I stepped out of this conversation because it was simply consuming too much of my available energy at the moment. For various reasons (which I won’t bore you with here), I don’t have a great deal of energy right now. It’s past midnight, and I’ve got a very full day ahead tomorrow, so I’m going to have to sign off again now.

            Thanks for the discussion. Interesting, as always.

          • re: the “anarchistic” comment

            Someone else in my own journal wrote:
            This is like the old anarchist tag (gag?): “Laws are pointless: good people don’t need them, and bad people won’t obey them.” Not that agreements between two people are like laws, which are more an instrument of hierarchy; but that’s the bell [info]tacit’s remark rang in my head.

            It stuck with me, and came out here. Sorry if it felt like I was really not getting what you had to say. My apologies.

          • Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

            “you really don’t get this, do you?”

            Not about me. About making sense.

            “In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered?”

            In what way would it be healthy for any person who is easily “triggered” (by which presumably means they act in an irrational, possibly dangerous fashion — like, say, a tripwire vet or someone enraged by the color purple) to be around ANYONE who might “trigger” such things. If you (and by “you” I mean “the person who has identified a “trigger””) can’t hack being around people who hug, then take a little personal responsibility for your own self and get the fuck away from people who hug.

            This is not complicated.

            Asking third parties to stop hugging is not the answer. (well, not a healthy answer, anyway)

            Getting to a counselor to discuss why hugging “triggers” a person and how to overcome that — now THAT’S a reasonably self-aware and self-responsible answer.

            “You seem to be suggesting that they not respect their partner’s agreements, which seems pretty stupid and self-centered, to me.”

            That is not at all what I’m suggesting.

            But, if you prefer, I’ll digress for ONE paragraph: Anyone can make any agreement they want amongst themselves for any reason whatsoever, and it’s no one’s business but theirs. If a THIRD PARTY comes in (or a fourth or fifth or whatever…), they certainly have the right to ask for or demand ANYTHING, up to and including renegotiating how those rules might or might not apply to them. The existing group can, of course, hand them a 40-page list of commandments and the new person might say “sure, yeah, I’ll do all that”, or they might say “blow it out your ass,” but asking “So, why should this apply to ME? What have *I* got to do with any of this stuff?” is a very reasonable question that very reasonable adults can (and should) ask and that very reasonable adults are perfectly willing to answer. To address what you wrote SPECIFICALLY, I respect agreements that make sense to me, or at least don’t otherwise impede me, therefore agreements that don’t make sense to me I have little or no respect for (and I’m perfectly fine being transparent about that). This is, I suspect, how it is with most people, frankly, and the world has plenty of examples.

            “Should they not respect that their partner has an agreement that they show up at work, then, too?”

            This question is based on a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of what I’ve been trying to say.

            “You (and Tacit) basically seem to be advocating an anarchistic position.”

            There is a difference between “everybody must respect everybody else’s agreements without question” and “anarchy.” C’mon, be smarter than that.

          • “Too often, in my experience, people who make list of rules do it because someone believes the rules will prevent him from feeling things he doesn’t want to feel, such as insecurity or jealousy”

            Yep.

            If rules can INDIRECTLY prevent jealousy and pain, then it’s not rocket science to conclude that it would be simpler and more direct to make a rule to not feel jealous or pain.

          • Actually, I don’t find your questions tough, just some a bit tedious and slightly missing the point, and generally more than I was easily able to handle at the time (busy weekend). Unfortunately, I’ve already spent today’s time answering Tacit’s stuff, so really can’t address your stuff today, either.

            FYI: My husband Akien and I have run a bunch of discussion groups on this topic, we’ve done individual research, coached a number of different poly groupings, and we’ve developed and given workshops. We use each of these as opportunities to expand our knowledge base. I don’t claim to speak FOR any of these folks (other than me), but when I say I’ve seen this work for a number of people, I’m definitely drawing on more than my own personal experience.

            Gotta run. If you want to continue to discuss this, feel free to respond, and I’ll see if I can find the time. You might want to check out some of the links I’ve left elsewhere, just to get more of my general perspective. No requirements, of course, just a suggestion if you choose, since you seem to be a curious guy and interested in new information and perspectives. :^)

          • “Actually, I don’t find your questions tough, just some a bit tedious and slightly missing the point, and generally more than I was easily able to handle at the time (busy weekend)”

            Why is it important that people agree on what sex is?

            That was my first question.

            I’m also confused by the claim that a written agreement is supposed to be for “all the people to know what they’re talking about” when it seems much more like “so the new person knows what rules we’ve already agreed on.”

            But this was mostly because I’m unaccustomed to long-term types of partners that don’t already have this all hashed out.

            Now, this would make more sense if, say, I was a new person and the couple said “Hey, here’s a written agreement that the two of us have agreed to and already signed off on. Since you’re interested in joining, would you like the three of us to all sit down and hammer out a whole new agreement that may include restrictions on how we could interact with each other?”

            ‘Cause that would be pretty Advanced Lifeform Stuff.

            If the new person can impose rules on the existing couple, including activities that they’re already doing becoming verboten, THEN it approaches a level playing field and the rules are meant “for everybody.” Otherwise, CLAIMING it’s “for everybody” just seems like invading Iraq to stop Al-Queda and find weapons of mass destruction.

          • “Why is it important that people agree on what marriage is?”

            Well, it’s not, really. Depending…

            There are very specific legal rights and responsibilities surrounding the legal construct of marriage.

            This is why so many people like doing it, and are keenly interested in allowing what they are doing to be called marriage.

            There are very amorphous definitions surrounding marriage that have a lot to do with the approval of various imaginary friends and the imposition of morals and peer-acceptance.

            This is why people are so scared of people UNLIKE them doing it — because it conflicts with an otherwise acceptable xenophobia.

            On the other hand, because it IS tied to peer-acceptance, people who want to do it are keenly interested in doing it if they value peer- and social-acceptance.

            I’m a little annoyed it’s not legal to marry anyone you wish.

            But I’m perfectly fine having a ceremony of my own amongst my peers (and whatever family wishes to attend) to marry anyone I wish.

            But I’m not going to a priori put down in a written agreement persented to a potential new partner what my definition of marriage is or isn’t, nor can I fathom why it’s important to present some sort of definition of sex in a written agreement to a potential new partner. If it’s THAT important to lay out a specific sort of thing as verboten, then at least master the vocabulary enough to do so.

            I admit, it would look silly. When something that seems reasonable looks silly once you see it under the bright 7-11 lights, chances are it’s actually silly.

            This is not to say people can’t make silly agreements until the cows come home and tell them “get to bed already, you friggin’ monkeys!”

          • “Well, it’s not, really. Depending…”

            I know. It was a rhetorical question. You seem to get the point, though. For both ‘sex’ and ‘marriage’, definitions matter enough to some people that they manage to get laws passed about them, at which point it affects everybody around with complete disregard of civil liberty. That’s why it’s important to the rest of us – our rights are being affected.

            That scales down to personal agreements better than one may think: there are people out there that feel that way, and if they’re willing to do such a thing to a populace, I doubt they’d bat an eye at doing it to a single person if they get the chance. It may seem silly to US as rational people, but to THEM it’s a dealbreaker, and they’re going to insist on it being in the agreement. Good thing they need a 100% vote rather than a majority in that case – you can just tell them “this is silly”, and if they can’t see that, you can walk away.

            The short short version: It shouldn’t be important, but to some it just is, and it’s a sign that they are irrational about it and therefore can’t be argued with about it. – ZM

          • My point was that defining “sex” in a written agreement is a red herring. It’s not what people really want to do.

            What they want to do is describe what activities are verboten. (or if you prefer, the Bright Line between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior)

            Here’s some hypothesis I’ve been experimenting with:

            1. A person’s list of rules about what another person can or cannot do is a map of the first person’s insecurities.

            2. Amorphous words used in such rules remain amorphous because it allows for avenues of later punishment.

            3. Everybody’s rules make total sense to themselves, because the rule is an attempt to reroute normal behavior patterns around an insecurity or vulnerability.

            4. Rules that are added with the justification that they are helpful are additive. Attempts to remove or counter or object to them are framed as a personal attack (related to #3)

            5. People are usually raised with the Lockian sense that the more energy expended, the more valuable the effort. therefore, the more rules a person has, the more effort they require to be around and thus the more “valuable” they feel.

            Now, I’m not so sure I AGREE with all of these, but they seem to reflect what goes on in the world.

          • And, as I re-read, I am reminded that my point is that a rule definig sex is that it IS an imposition on the new person.

            Although I suppose if you have enough rules, it makes sense for everyone involved to always keep an updated copy handy for quick review before, um, whatever might be verboten gets close.

            But that sounds like a real fuckload of rules, if you’re a long-time member of a group and you still can’t keep track of them all without a helper document.

        • For the new person, it’s about setting clear expectations. I can’t tell you how useful it’s been to be able to say, “here are our Agreements (posted on the web). Please read them, and then let’s have our conversation about safer sex, and history, etc.” It’s a very good tool for beginning the conversation.

          It’d be effective for me, certainly. It would effectively make me say “No, thanks, I’ll pass.”

          If I am to be subject to a written contract that outlines my responsibilities and spells out the parameters under which I may have a relationship. I expect to have some hand in shaping that agreement. In a case like what you describe, my hand in shaping that agreement would be to say “I will not be involved with you, kthx.”

          Even if–and this is important–the agreements themselves are things I would consider reasonable.

          I like potential partners to treat me with compassion and respect, as a grown and fully functional adult. “Here is a list of rules we have written; sign on the dotted line, please” doesn’t make me feel that I am being accorded respectful treatment as a fully grown adult.

          • You are of course free to decline to participate, though I don’t actually believe that you understand the purpose of the agreements, nor the context in which I propose them.

            I like potential partners to treat me with compassion and respect, as a grown and fully functional adult. “Here is a list of rules we have written; sign on the dotted line, please” doesn’t make me feel that I am being accorded respectful treatment as a fully grown adult.

            And I find it offensive that you’d assume I was asking you to “sign on the dotted line” without due understanding and discussion. People have different needs for structure. Yours seems to be particularly low. That doesn’t make my need for greater structure pathological, as you seem to be stating. It just means I have a higher need for structure. If that’s not something that you understand and honor, then you’re right, we most emphatically should not be in relationship together, and I would encourage you to decline to participate. I would in fact, not find you safe to be in relationship with, because I would conclude that you were not willing to treat me respectfully, considering my needs as well as your own in coming to our mutual place of understanding. I would in fact consider your total refusal to engage in the process (“even if the agreements themselves are things I would consider reasonable”) as a way of maintaining control over me by the enforced ABSENCE of rules or boundaries. You would, from my perspective, be forcing me to adhere to YOUR rules (which say “there shall be no rules”), rather then engaging in a respectful conversation and negotiation around what both of us found important.

          • “…rather then engaging in a respectful conversation and negotiation around what both of us found important.”

            Now see, that’s very different than a written agreement telling the new person how they should behave, which is what this has been about since Tacit’s original post.

            Most reasonable adults are capable of chatting about things.

            When they start laying down laws of what is or is not acceptable activity by another person, they are infantilizing that person.

            If that other person’s into it, great.

          • When they start laying down laws of what is or is not acceptable activity by another person, they are infantilizing that person.

            You seem to be under the misapprehension that agreements are something imposed on one person by another. They’re not. That would be a demand. Agreements require AGREEMENT. Infants can’t make agreements. Only adults can choose to make–or not make–agreements with other adults.

            (Whether or not children can and/or should be allowed to make agreements is another discussion altogether. It’s interesting, but it’s not this discussion.)

          • “You seem to be under the misapprehension that agreements are something imposed on one person by another.”

            In this instance, the topic on hand is agreements imposed by an existing person or group against new folks. Yes. Exactly.

            “That would be a demand.”

            Yes, exactly.

            “Agreements require AGREEMENT.”

            Yes, exactly. So, for example, the new person would be able to say “Y’know, this, to me, makes no sense. Y’all are welcome to avoid the color purple amongst yourselves, but it makes no sense to me,” and the others admit “yes, that’s right — it’s a rule amongst ourselves, but it makes no sense imposing it on you,” and they are willing to strike it out…

            Then THAT would be an actual agreement entered into by peers.

          • Then THAT would be an actual agreement entered into by peers.

            Yes, it has been, in those occasions where that’s been the agreed-upon course of action. Sometimes people choose to “sign on the dotted line” because they agree with the agreements, and fully choose to participate in them. Sometimes they choose to negotiate, if it’s important enough.

            So, given this last bit of exchange, I think that one of the major issues here is that I have not been talking about the same thing that you guys have.

            Tacit assumed (i.e., took as given) an “agreement” with no ability to negotiate. That, to me, is a “demand,” not an agreement. So MY assumptions, seeing the word “agreement,” were that some sort of adult conversation and negotiation could take place before any signing on a line (dotted or otherwise) would take place.

            We haven’t been in agreement about what an “agreement” is. ;^)

            No wonder we’ve been unable to see each others’ point of view clearly.

          • “So, given this last bit of exchange, I think that one of the major issues here is that I have not been talking about the same thing that you guys have”

            The subject is agreements imposed upon incoming parties by existing parties.

            You wrote “This is true if one is assuming that the agreements are for the people in the relationship already. I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship [snip] as they are for the people in the relationship.”

            Your example was “In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance.”

            Thus began the questions.

            Now, if you’re going to change what you want to talk about mid-stride (which is fine), then it would be helpful to declare that, such as saying “Well, I know the original topic is about imposed demands, but I want to talk about mutually agreed-upon agreements, which is a different thing.”

            And that would be fine, because at that point, you would be in agreement with what Franklin wrote “I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.” and what I wrote “Anyone can make any agreement they want amongst themselves for any reason whatsoever, and it’s no one’s business but theirs. If a THIRD PARTY comes in (or a fourth or fifth or whatever…), they certainly have the right to ask for or demand ANYTHING, up to and including renegotiating how those rules might or might not apply to them.”

            And that would have been simpler.

            I even mentioned that: “Now see, that’s very different than a written agreement telling the new person how they should behave, which is what this has been about since Tacit’s original post.”

            But now you KNOW that even with your New And Improved Position, both Franklin and I have already been there, and said our piece.

            Although I can’t speak for Franklin, I think your use of “argumentative,” “tedious,” “stupid,” “self-centered,” “anarchistic,” to describe our positions and suggesting that we’re not “compassionate” and “flexible” are indications that you’re disinclined toward a discussion.

            Do you use that sort of attitude when you counsel people?


          • Do you use that sort of attitude when you counsel people?

            What attitude I use while counseling/coaching people is a private matter between me and the people I am coaching. Last I checked, you and Tacit are not my clients. Anyone (you and Tacit included) who wishes to discuss my policies and procedures while counseling/coaching is welcome to contact me at our business address to do so. I don’t anticipate that you or Tacit would be interested, but you are free to do so.

            Again, as I have said before, I apologize for losing my cool in this discussion earlier. (Even counselors and coaches have bad days–it’s often how we learn new techniques, being forced to figure out how to handle situations for ourselves or in our own lives.) I don’t have more to give at this time, which doesn’t mean that I think your questions are invalid or unworthy. It does mean, however, that I value my time with my elderly, infirm parents who are visiting me for less than a week.

          • “What attitude I use while counseling/coaching people is a private matter between me and the people I am coaching. Last I checked, you and Tacit are not my clients.”

            Okay, it’s good to know you have no substantive disagreement with the rest of what I wrote.

            That was a bit of a cheap shot on my part, so I apologize. Usually, when people call me a lot of names, I can ignore it and keep focusing on the topic at hand, but poking the dichotomy was like Pop-Tarts that morning.

          • “You would, from my perspective, be forcing me to adhere to YOUR rules (which say “there shall be no rules”)…

            That’s one downright scary perspective, seeing the lack of rules as a rule itself! It’s like someone trying to tell me that atheism is a religion. I’d participate in this discussion, but I have a strict conscientious-objector stance when it comes to people that, by the perspective of basic logic, contradict themselves. – ZM

    • Conversely, believing that your partner is trustworthy and is keeping an agreement when they are NOT, is not useful either. That’s delusional.

      Of course it is. But starting from the assumption that your partner acts with integrity and has your interests at heart seems to me to be a healthier foundation than starting from the assumption that your partner is just marking time with you until something better comes along.

      It may be that you later discover evidence that your partner isn’t acting in your best interests, of course. nd if that happens, you re-evaluate the relationship. Not everyone is a good person, no doubt.

      Starting from a place of respect and trust, however, stacks the deck in favor of a healthy relationship, in a way that starting from a place of mistrust and insecurity does not.

      What’s helpful is having an accurate view of reality. That takes both partners communicating with each other about changes in their internal landscape, as much as about changes in status.

      Sure.

      One way that they can do this is by writing out agreements, or listing their values, or anything that actually gets them communicating truthfully.

      Even if what they write is “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?

      I would argue that such a stricture does indeed reveal something about the writer’s internal landscape, but what it reveals isn’t good…

      • Tacit, I don’t think you and I are ever going to agree on this stuff. [;^)] You keep bringing up what I consider to be extreme examples and then throwing out the baby with the bathwater, IMO. No, I do not encourage people to write “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?”. If it really WORKS for them, then sure. But my experience says that it’s unlikely to work in the long run to try to make limiting agreements of that sort. In fact, one of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail that Akien and I have developed and taught says that the “Agreement was not additive,” so in other words it takes something away and doesn’t provide a positive framework or an alternate behavior.

        FWIW, I posted a link to this conversation in my own journal, because I find it an interesting conversation. I agree with the premise that if you start from a place of “both parties negotiating in good faith,” rather than a place of fear and “I cannot trust you,” then you are much more likely to come to a place of agreement, whether or not you write those agreements down. I just walk, and recommend, a more moderate path than you do, from my perspective.

        • No, I do not encourage people to write “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?”. If it really WORKS for them, then sure.

          How would you define “work” in this context?

          Is there any way to view an agreement limiting what pet names two people are permitted to cal one another without seeing it as emotional insecurity combined with an inability to deal with the issue?

          • a) I already said it’s unlikely to work over the long term, based on some fairly broad experience, and that I don’t recommend it. You’re beating a dead horse I’m not riding.

            b) “Work” is defined as “is functional in creating the outcome desired for these particular two-or-more people at this time and in this circumstance.”

            c) “The outcome desired” depends on the people involved, not what YOU think it should be. So it might be that the outcome desired is nothing more or less than “reduction of tension, due (let’s say) to triggering partner C’s PTSD around the color purple, from having been beaten by an evil bishop in the 4th grade.” Whether or not YOU think, it’s a valid outcome, or whether or not you think that they “ought to have PTSD” doesn’t matter diddly squat–it’s whether THEY do that counts.

            d) You can call that “emotional insecurity combined with an inability to deal with the issue” if you want, and you’re free to decline being in relationship with any such person who has limits you don’t deem “acceptable” to you in some way. Other people, however, might have different goals and/or limits, and/or might be more compassionate or flexible than you are. Whether or not YOU approve of how they handle the issue doesn’t make the tool any less valuable to them. You can call a hammer “the tool of the devil, because it has horns” if you want, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable to someone who has a nail to drive at the moment.

          • “I already said it’s unlikely to work over the long term, based on some fairly broad experience, and that I don’t recommend it.”

            Well cool, then it probably doesn’t belong in any sort of written agreement presented to new parties.

            “Whether or not YOU think, it’s a valid outcome, or whether or not you think that they “ought to have PTSD” doesn’t matter diddly squat–it’s whether THEY do that counts.”

            So, in effect, what the new person thinks is healthy is not relevent?

            “Other people, however, might have different goals and/or limits, and/or might be more compassionate or flexible than you are. “

            If you’re equating “uncompassionate” and “inflexible” with anything either Franklin or I am saying, you are seriously not understanding what we are saying.

            (although I admit I am only speaking authoritatively for myself — just guessing at Franklin’s position based on what he’s written)

            Also, by equating what I (posibly we) are advocating with being uncompassionate and inflexible, you’re trying to evoke a outrageous emotional position and attribute it to me (us).

            I can’t speak for Franklin, but I reject your rephrasing of my position as determining who is or is not “acceptable” (your quotes).

            I don’t mind trying to explain myself, and I’m pretty patient about it (this is part of being compassionate and flexible), but if all you’re going to do is insist I’m speaking from some sort of emotional blender position, then it seems unlikely you’ll be receptive to much anyone else might say that won’t agree with you.

            Which, come to think of it, does seem to be kinda the position you’re advocating.

          • You know, in order to take care of me, I had to step out of this conversation. I simply do not have the bandwidth to engage with you (or Franklin) in the sort of discussion that you’re wanting. I do, however, object to your characterizing me as wanting simple agreement with my position. Not so. But in the same way that you seem to see me as not understanding you, I’m seeing you as not understanding me. I’m NOT advocating the convoluted, gigantic, multipage, inflexible contract that Franklin gave in his example. Never was. I DO, however, think that there are some uses for written agreements, and I’ve spent some time researching and developing tools that others have found useful in making such agreements. As far as I can tell, you and Franklin both disagree with that. *shrug* We disagree. That’s OK. As I’ve said repeatedly, YMMV. There’s room for a lot of diversity in the world, fortunately.

          • “You know, in order to take care of me, I had to step out of this conversation.”

            It’s optional. I ask questions and if you want to answer them, great. If you don’t want to answer them, then don’t. If you don’t think the questions make sense, then we can work on that. But considering you’ve been AVOIDING the questions in favor of digging at me, the idea that you had to step out of the conversation to “take care of you” is kinda funny.

            “I simply do not have the bandwidth to engage with you (or Franklin) in the sort of discussion that you’re wanting.”

            Well, then in the future, you might want to consider how you start up something before assessing if you’ve got the fuel to carry it through.

            “I do, however, object to your characterizing me as wanting simple agreement with my position.”

            Fortunately, what I ACTUALLY wrote is right up above here, so you can refer to that.

            Look for the things that end with this symbol: “?”

            “But in the same way that you seem to see me as not understanding you, I’m seeing you as not understanding me.”

            The difference is that I am asking questions and expecting that you’ll bother answering them instead of just poking at me and then suddenly acquiring a flux.

            “I DO, however, think that there are some uses for written agreements…”

            Right, and I was asking about that.

            Because my experience is different, so, in case I’m missing something, I’m asking about it.

            If you want to answer the questions, great, but if you don’t, if you are too challenged by them, then one of the options is to declare you’re bored, decide you don’t have the bandwidth and that you’ve got to take care of yourself and then leave, but make a special effort to ostentatiously declare you’re doing so.

            But that would be lame and passive-aggressive, so surely you’ve got something else going on. No worries — like I said, I’m patient.

            I’m game to keep trying to understand what seems to be a very unthought-out position, and you feel free to engage whenever you’re able to muster your limited resources of energy. (but out of courtesy to me, I would prefer if you DO re-engage in the conversation, to actually stick with it — I think that shows a certain level of respect for the person’s time who is asking you questions and expecting some sort of answer)

          • Edward, respectfully, you have NO IDEA what’s going on in my life right now. I do not owe you my time. I regret that I have been unable to have the conversation you’d like to have. I regret that I even started having this conversation in the first place. You have no idea. None of this makes any difference to the fact that I simply do not have the bandwith to deal with this at this time. You can call it passive-aggressive if you want; I call it taking care of myself in the midst of stress.

            I apologize for not speaking in the way that you would most like. I apologize for starting a discussion I couldn’t finish. You certainly have a reasonable expectation that I would finish what I started, and I can’t do it. I’m sorry.

          • “Edward, respectfully, you have NO IDEA what’s going on in my life right now.”

            How is it relevant to what we’re discussing?

            “I do not owe you my time.”

            Where have I suggested this?

            “I regret that I even started having this conversation in the first place.”

            It IS a toughie, because it touches on personal sense of safety and boundaries and how boundaries are a direct translation of insecurities (for better or for worse). So, yeah, it’s gonna be a tricky conversation, and of course, in your professional capacity as a counselor, you are aware of the fact that even ordinary questions posed against a backdrop constructed of insecurities is going to seem threatening.

            I figured that once you identified yourself as some sort of counselor/professional, that you were doing so to engage in the conversation on a professional level, and were aware of the potential of such landmines.

            But responding, as I’ve already said, is completely an option.

          • How is it relevant to what we’re discussing?

            Because I would like to think that you would have enough compassion and maturity to respond kindly to someone in pain, if you knew that to be the case.

            Where have I suggested this?

            I’m not going to go looking for the examples because I don’t have the time. In my view, however, you have suggested that I owe you my time by saying/implying that I’m passive aggressive or even unprofessional* if I don’t respond to you.

            *(Something I’ll grant you didn’t say outright, but have IMO implied.)

            I figured that once you identified yourself as some sort of counselor/professional, that you were doing so to engage in the conversation on a professional level, and were aware of the potential of such landmines.

            You dismissed my statements about “what I’ve seen work” as being from my own personal experience only. I provided the information (not present in my original comment, so you couldn’t have known) that I had more background to base my ideas on than *just* my personal experience. That is the ONLY reason I brought it up.

            I am not (at this time) a full-time professional at this, Edward, and I never claimed I was. I’m a very part-time coach and discussion facilitator who tries to share tools that have worked for me, and that I’ve seen work for others. Whether anyone else chooses to use them is, as you’ve said (and as I’ve said in other ways), “completely an option.” Some people have found them valuable; others have not.

            Thank you for the acknowledgment (in a different comment) that your statement speculating about my attitudes in coaching was a cheap shot. I appreciate the apology.

            Now, as you’ve said, “responding is completely an option.” If you choose to respond to me (which I’d rather you didn’t, just FYI), I’m going to not respond back. I’ve got presents to wrap, visiting guests to interact with and a large dinner-party to prepare for. I wish you a pleasant holiday season, in whatever manner you choose to celebrate–or not. :^)

          • “I would like to think that you would have enough compassion and maturity to respond kindly to someone in pain, if you knew that to be the case.”

            Now, now — if you’re strong enough to pony up an opinion in a conversation where there are bound to be questions that challenge personal boundaries and insecurities, then it’s not exactly cricket to bitch about people responding with questions that address boundaries and insecurities.

            It’s certainly not cricket to suggest they’re not compassionate or kindly (and all the other adjectives you’ve been using). That could easily be mistaken for passive-aggressive behavior (I looked it up before I used the phrase, too, to be sure I was aware of the symptoms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior ), which I’m sure is something you’re aware of as a part-time coach and discussion facilitator who wishes to be treated as somewhat authoritative regarding personal relationships.

            “I’m not going to go looking for the examples because I don’t have the time.”

            I owe you the courtesy to look up examples, to make absolutely sure that I am accurately representing YOUR words, and not shit I make up in my head and attribute to you. I’m sure you can understand the value of that, and recognize that there’s plenty of time. I’m in no hurry.

            “In my view, however, you have suggested that I owe you my time by saying/implying that I’m passive aggressive or even unprofessional* if I don’t respond to you.”

            I’ve responded to your requests for time by suggesting you take all the time you need and suggesting that you don’t have to respond. I consider that pretty compassionate, and treating you like an adult who knows their limits and how to take care of their own health, and when they’re able to engage in a conversation that challenges boundaries and insecurities. Like I said — it’s a hard topic to address without getting personal.

            I have REQUESTED that if and when you re-engage in the conversation, you try to stick with it. But that was clearly a request. It is certainly a courtesy I extend to you.

            You can make up what you THINK I’ve said, but when I refuse to accept it (and have done so repeatedly) as representative of my point, then you have to make a choice. Either you readjust what you think I’m saying (by reading what I actually wrote), or you insist your interpretation is correct and achieve exciting new levels of frustration and confusion when I continue acting in contradiction to it. I recommend against option B.

            When you changed your “point,” I went through the entire thread and quoted out where both Franklin and I had already stated explicitly that we had already covered your New Improved Point way early on. I didn’t once complain about the time or my hard bitter life or whatever, I just offered that data. Since I did that, all you’ve been doing is bitching at me.

            I’m game to continue the discussion as started, if and when you’re still interested, but I’m sure you’ll understand when I ignore future personal attacks.

            Merry Christmas to you, too!

          • Just drive-by posting to say that “You’re beating a dead horse I’m not riding” is an awesome phrase.

            Carry on.

  4. If your assumptions are true, and your partner really would rather be with someone else, then rules will not save your relationship. If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.

    This is true if one is assuming that the agreements are for the people in the relationship already. I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship (whether short-term play partners or longer-term lovers), as they are for the people in the relationship. Agreements can be helpful when in the initial stages of a relationship as well, to reveal assumptions about that relationship. In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance. This sort of discovery is invaluable, IME.

    It’s certainly true that if your partner is really out the door, then no amount of writing and re-writing the agreements will help.

    Conversely, believing that your partner is trustworthy and is keeping an agreement when they are NOT, is not useful either. That’s delusional.

    What’s helpful is having an accurate view of reality. That takes both partners communicating with each other about changes in their internal landscape, as much as about changes in status. One way that they can do this is by writing out agreements, or listing their values, or anything that actually gets them communicating truthfully. Agreements are merely one possible tool for this, and YMMV.

  5. “In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance.”

    Why is this important?

    If, as you say, these agreements are for the new person, then it’s the responsibility of one of the veterans to already know what’s verboten, and steer the relationship appropriately. This is not the responsibility of the new person.

    On an even more granular level, what does or does not constitutes “sex” is a red herring. If there are verboten behaviors, then spell them out, without trying to worry about whether or not they are included in the cloud-shaped drawing called “sex” for this particular new person.

  6. For the new person, it’s about setting clear expectations. I can’t tell you how useful it’s been to be able to say, “here are our Agreements (posted on the web). Please read them, and then let’s have our conversation about safer sex, and history, etc.” It’s a very good tool for beginning the conversation.

    Also, you seem to be reading this as if I said that Agreements are ONLY good for the incoming partners. I didn’t, actually. I said:
    Agreements can be helpful when in the initial stages of a relationship as well, to reveal assumptions about that relationship.

    In that case I meant the beginning stages of a partnership in particular. Sorry I wasn’t more clear there. You simply can’t assume that you know where your partner is coming from if you’ve never discussed it. If simply having the discussion (and not creating formal agreements) works for you, that’s great. I will say that I haven’t found it effective when working with someone with ADD, for instance, or with other memory issues. It takes time to integrate understanding of your partner, so that you CAN make the assumption that each of you are operating in good faith. That doesn’t *necessarily* come instantly. It’s very much a YMMV situation, however.

    If there are verboten behaviors, then spell them out, without trying to worry about whether or not they are included in the cloud-shaped drawing called “sex” for this particular new person.

    Yes, we are in agreement actually. Many people try to make agreements that look like “I will not have sex on the first date.” This very often doesn’t work, because people have very different assumptions about what “sex” is, e.g., it’s only PIV, it only counts if someone comes, BDSM play is “not sex,” etc. In sitting down to make the initial agreements, any couple or group will probably encounter some of these discrepancies, and be able to more clearly state what the boundaries are, in a way that’s helpful to all parties.

    ETA: Whether or not they choose to keep these agreements in written form, or choose to treat them as “worksheets” is entirely up to the couple or group. For some people, it’s the act of going through the process that matters. For others, it’s having a “cheat sheet” for their memory that’s helpful.

    People differ. I get itchy when someone says that ANYTHING is “always true for everyone.”

  7. “you seem to be reading this as if I said that Agreements are ONLY good for the incoming partners.”

    Yes, because I read this part: “I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship (whether short-term play partners or longer-term lovers), as they are for the people in the relationship.”

    I did not write “only,” but it is implied. I did not consider the possibility that the members of an existing group would require regular agreements be made where they have to make sure they all agree on what (for example) “sex” means.

    “people have very different assumptions about what “sex” is”

    Right, so I advocate being specific. Besides, it looks great in an agreement “not to insert the penis greater than three centimeters or the length of the circumcised hood — whichever comes first” and so forth.

    It’s a very useful tool for people who need to know what kind of business they’re getting involved with.

    “Many people try to make agreements that look like “I will not have sex on the first date.””

    Well, yeah, but everyone knows people who make THOSE kinds of agreements are usually outlining their OWN issues. Which is fine, but it’s up to them to decide if they want to break it, and that includes getting close enough to the point where splitting hairs matters.

  8. Feeling argumentative today, are you?

    I am reporting what I have found to work for a number of poly people, and what my own experience has been. I’m advocating that people do what works for them, not what works for me, what works for you, or what anyone THINKS should work for them. Just what works for them.

    YM, as I have said before, MV.

  9. “Feeling argumentative today, are you?”

    Asking questions. They lead to other questions. If they’re too tough, you can skip ’em.

    “I am reporting what I have found to work for a number of poly people…”

    Oh. Well, that’s different. When I read “I find…” it seemed to be your personal experience.

    The breaking of agreements is a huge issue with most people and making more specific and more ironclad agreements has not — based on what I’ve seen — done one single thing to alleviate that. In fact, the more specific the agreements, the more they stop resembling a list of agreements and more like a list of crimes for which one will be punished.

    I have ALSO seen these lists grow when one person proposes lots of agreements they want the other person to do, and the other person, in attempt to keep things “fair” proposes an equally convoluted list of reasons THEY will be allowed to get mad.

    Most of these folks end up very sad or angry or heartbroken (because, according to rule 47b, if there was more than three centimeters of penis, they must get sad) and often decide that they just can’t handle nonrestrictive sexuality at all. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing, because the less drama in my community, the better.

    The happiest folks I know are the ones that make agreements and lists and such that are simple enough to keep in their heads (maybe three items, and few conjunctions), and who expect their partners to have sufficient discretionary capability to play and live with unexpected developments and fluid situations in a mature and transparent way.

    But, as Franklin’s pointed out, particularly with folks who come from a place where they feel any misstep will destroy the planet, some folks find great happiness in making convoluted lists and rules. These lists and rules outline their insecurities and fears.

    Now me, personally, I find that I expend a lot of time and energy on my insecurities and fears, so I do whatever I can to remove or reduce them in my life. To each their own.

    But I can’t see why someone would suggest “these rules are for ALL of us,” which would seem to suggest either by “ALL of us,” they mean “the new people”, or by “ALL of us” they mean that they haven’t already figured this shit out with partners a long time ago.

    So I was hoping you could clear that up — no one’s been quite able to before.

  10. “It does not bother me if my lover goes to my favorite restaurant with a date, or if a lover calls someone else by a pet name that she uses on me. I do not write contracts forbidding these things because they can not challenge my sense of self. I know that my lovers value and cherish me, and make choices that honor our relationship, because they want to be with me.”

    That is exactly how I feel about Polyamory and my approach to relationships. Would you permit me to quote this?

  11. “It does not bother me if my lover goes to my favorite restaurant with a date, or if a lover calls someone else by a pet name that she uses on me. I do not write contracts forbidding these things because they can not challenge my sense of self. I know that my lovers value and cherish me, and make choices that honor our relationship, because they want to be with me.”

    That is exactly how I feel about Polyamory and my approach to relationships. Would you permit me to quote this?

  12. the other side of the coin is to answer the question honestly: do people have horrendously bad experiences not because of not being “open” or “trusting” enough, but because they don’t to a certain extent stake territory?

    the answer, of course, is yes. which renders the reading of fears and insecurities as some manner of personality failing very questionable.

    having said that, i do find contracts personally unpalatable. if it has to be put in writing like that, there are deeper problems. but one of the absolute falsehoods of the poly world is the ascription of doubts and limits to personality defects in the less “open” person. the annals of poly are too filled with people who acted in perfect good faith and who were betrayed by lovers they trusted. this is insufficiently dealt with, and makes your sweeping psychological claims unfortunate.

    • the other side of the coin is to answer the question honestly: do people have horrendously bad experiences not because of not being “open” or “trusting” enough, but because they don’t to a certain extent stake territory?

      Of course they do, but…

      he annals of poly are too filled with people who acted in perfect good faith and who were betrayed by lovers they trusted. this is insufficiently dealt with, and makes your sweeping psychological claims unfortunate.

      …I’m at a bit of a loss to see how a person entering a relationship with assumptions of mistrust and insecurity will help with that situation.

      Yes, it is true that not everyone in the world operates in good faith, and that some relationships aren’t good. But what I don’t see is how building a relationship on the idea tat one’s lover doesn’t really want to be there is going to help with that. If your lover can not be trusted to keep your best interests at heart, and to treat you with compassion and respect, I fail to see how any list of rules, no matter how carefully constructed, can change that.

      If your lover does love you and does respect you, then it seems to me you don’t ned a list of rules that tell your partner what to do. You don’t need to say “You are permitted to spend only three hours with your other lover only once per calendar month” (to use a real-world example of a rule I’ve actually seen); instead, you need only say “I need more time with you; how can we make that happen?”

      If, on the other hand, your lover doesn’t love and respect you, then it seems to me that all the edicts in the world will have no more effect than a sneeze in a hurricane.

      • the evident resistance to questioning the paradigm of “mistrust and insecurity” is unfortunate. the phenomena you attempt to explain by the negatively-biasing phrase “mistrust and insecurity” are not well-explained thereby.

        what you insist is “mistrust and insecurity,” i and others see with at least equal legitimacy as seriousness, as setting-high-the-bar, and as coming from deep experience.

        you also at least seriously misrepresent the tenor of the poly contract you link to: they are, per contract, in a D/s relationship. contract-writing is not only a wholly different affair in such a relationship, it was probably pleasurable to both sides. one cannot delete such an important aspect – and it speaks to a good deal of “trust and security” that her Master was willing to permit her OSOs at all.

        i found that contract enlightening and helpful – they did poly people a service in posting it, and i only wish i’d had such a thing in my early poly explorations.

        adviser, heal thyself.

  13. the other side of the coin is to answer the question honestly: do people have horrendously bad experiences not because of not being “open” or “trusting” enough, but because they don’t to a certain extent stake territory?

    the answer, of course, is yes. which renders the reading of fears and insecurities as some manner of personality failing very questionable.

    having said that, i do find contracts personally unpalatable. if it has to be put in writing like that, there are deeper problems. but one of the absolute falsehoods of the poly world is the ascription of doubts and limits to personality defects in the less “open” person. the annals of poly are too filled with people who acted in perfect good faith and who were betrayed by lovers they trusted. this is insufficiently dealt with, and makes your sweeping psychological claims unfortunate.

  14. This post brings out my inner Crazy Cat Lady!

    Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts on contractual arrangements. The boy and I have had many, many challenges in moving from a monogamous marriage into an open one, but when it came to discussing contracts we both agreed that – for us at least – they were drama-creating mechanisms, encouraging a situation where we were more worried about policing technical violations than building love and trust.

    I appreciate that contracts have an upside for some people, but in our situation, we found that soft guidelines, open to interpretation and context, were much more suitable than hard rules. The guidelines and ideals that came out of our initial discussions were written down and have since been useful in giving potential lovers an overall understanding of our agreement, but they’re not the sort of thing that can be violated in an act of ‘you put that bit there and then she did that, and YOU BROKE A RULE’. πŸ™‚

    In short, go Ruby!

  15. This post brings out my inner Crazy Cat Lady!

    Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts on contractual arrangements. The boy and I have had many, many challenges in moving from a monogamous marriage into an open one, but when it came to discussing contracts we both agreed that – for us at least – they were drama-creating mechanisms, encouraging a situation where we were more worried about policing technical violations than building love and trust.

    I appreciate that contracts have an upside for some people, but in our situation, we found that soft guidelines, open to interpretation and context, were much more suitable than hard rules. The guidelines and ideals that came out of our initial discussions were written down and have since been useful in giving potential lovers an overall understanding of our agreement, but they’re not the sort of thing that can be violated in an act of ‘you put that bit there and then she did that, and YOU BROKE A RULE’. πŸ™‚

    In short, go Ruby!

  16. started to skim through the contract- interesting stuff…. I’m so glad I added you to my flist so long ago- you really have greatly contributed to my understanding of polyamory & sexuality… thank you! *hug*
    & on to the most importamt thing: Kitty!!!!! soooooo cute!!! πŸ™‚

  17. started to skim through the contract- interesting stuff…. I’m so glad I added you to my flist so long ago- you really have greatly contributed to my understanding of polyamory & sexuality… thank you! *hug*
    & on to the most importamt thing: Kitty!!!!! soooooo cute!!! πŸ™‚

  18. Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.

    I can say to my partner.. I trust that you love me and want to be with me and you’ll care for me accordingly, and then we can feel our way based on that trust. If mistakes are made (because no 2 (or whatever) people know each other perfectly), those mistakes fall on a foundation of love and trust, so it’s never too bad.

    However, I’ve had more than one person say to me that I can trust that they will safeguard my health when it comes to stds and what that really means is that they’ll use condoms for PIV intercourse. While I know they would never behave with malice, and I can trust them to use condoms every time, I may not be ok with the risk associated with oral sex with an untested partner.. or a tested partner who has other partners whom I know nothing about. These risk tolerances are very much unique to the individual and so I find making a detailed list of sexual behaviors and one’s comfort with each of them depending on the level of testing and network turnover is kind of important.

    With sex, nothing is really safe. As we all know, it’s retardedly easy to get HSV from kissing your *grandmother*. Oral to genital transmission of HSV is also incredibly easy to pass (with no symptoms showing.. ask me how I know this). Condoms stop HPV about as well as a yellow light (ask me how I know this).. and.. really how many of us would really feel that condoms are completely safe if the new person *did* have AIDS or hepatitis? I’ve always been more conservative than most, but my insistence on fairly detailed agreements on this issue have absolutely nothing to do with trust and everything to do with everyone being on the same page because these misunderstandings are a little tougher to undo.

  19. Conversely, believing that your partner is trustworthy and is keeping an agreement when they are NOT, is not useful either. That’s delusional.

    Of course it is. But starting from the assumption that your partner acts with integrity and has your interests at heart seems to me to be a healthier foundation than starting from the assumption that your partner is just marking time with you until something better comes along.

    It may be that you later discover evidence that your partner isn’t acting in your best interests, of course. nd if that happens, you re-evaluate the relationship. Not everyone is a good person, no doubt.

    Starting from a place of respect and trust, however, stacks the deck in favor of a healthy relationship, in a way that starting from a place of mistrust and insecurity does not.

    What’s helpful is having an accurate view of reality. That takes both partners communicating with each other about changes in their internal landscape, as much as about changes in status.

    Sure.

    One way that they can do this is by writing out agreements, or listing their values, or anything that actually gets them communicating truthfully.

    Even if what they write is “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?

    I would argue that such a stricture does indeed reveal something about the writer’s internal landscape, but what it reveals isn’t good…

  20. For the new person, it’s about setting clear expectations. I can’t tell you how useful it’s been to be able to say, “here are our Agreements (posted on the web). Please read them, and then let’s have our conversation about safer sex, and history, etc.” It’s a very good tool for beginning the conversation.

    It’d be effective for me, certainly. It would effectively make me say “No, thanks, I’ll pass.”

    If I am to be subject to a written contract that outlines my responsibilities and spells out the parameters under which I may have a relationship. I expect to have some hand in shaping that agreement. In a case like what you describe, my hand in shaping that agreement would be to say “I will not be involved with you, kthx.”

    Even if–and this is important–the agreements themselves are things I would consider reasonable.

    I like potential partners to treat me with compassion and respect, as a grown and fully functional adult. “Here is a list of rules we have written; sign on the dotted line, please” doesn’t make me feel that I am being accorded respectful treatment as a fully grown adult.

  21. I have ALSO seen these lists grow when one person proposes lots of agreements they want the other person to do, and the other person, in attempt to keep things “fair” proposes an equally convoluted list of reasons THEY will be allowed to get mad.

    I’ve seen this as well, and I’ve also seen another, more insidious way by which lists of rules tend to grow out of hand.

    Too often, in my experience, people who make list of rules do it because someone believes the rules will prevent him from feeling things he doesn’t want to feel, such as insecurity or jealousy.

    So he’ll notice something like “When I see you kiss him, I feel insecure.” On the principle of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, he’ll assume that it’s the act of kissing that makes the insecurity, so he’ll say “I don’t want to feel insecure, so I will pass a rule saying you can’t kiss him in front of me.”

    Then he’ll see his partner hug someone in front of him, and he’ll feel insecure. So a new rule is made: “You may not hug your partner in front of me.”

    Funny thing about insecurity–it has a way of leaking out all over the place regardless of the exact circumstance. Next thing you know, the list of rules looks like the book of Leviticus combined with the Articles of Confederation.

  22. the other side of the coin is to answer the question honestly: do people have horrendously bad experiences not because of not being “open” or “trusting” enough, but because they don’t to a certain extent stake territory?

    Of course they do, but…

    he annals of poly are too filled with people who acted in perfect good faith and who were betrayed by lovers they trusted. this is insufficiently dealt with, and makes your sweeping psychological claims unfortunate.

    …I’m at a bit of a loss to see how a person entering a relationship with assumptions of mistrust and insecurity will help with that situation.

    Yes, it is true that not everyone in the world operates in good faith, and that some relationships aren’t good. But what I don’t see is how building a relationship on the idea tat one’s lover doesn’t really want to be there is going to help with that. If your lover can not be trusted to keep your best interests at heart, and to treat you with compassion and respect, I fail to see how any list of rules, no matter how carefully constructed, can change that.

    If your lover does love you and does respect you, then it seems to me you don’t ned a list of rules that tell your partner what to do. You don’t need to say “You are permitted to spend only three hours with your other lover only once per calendar month” (to use a real-world example of a rule I’ve actually seen); instead, you need only say “I need more time with you; how can we make that happen?”

    If, on the other hand, your lover doesn’t love and respect you, then it seems to me that all the edicts in the world will have no more effect than a sneeze in a hurricane.

  23. Yeah, I think the dark is the mink with the aqua eyes? That’s what I think of when I think of Tonkinese. I looked into them when I was researching what breed of cat Ray could be around (before finding Birmans).

  24. Tacit, I don’t think you and I are ever going to agree on this stuff. [;^)] You keep bringing up what I consider to be extreme examples and then throwing out the baby with the bathwater, IMO. No, I do not encourage people to write “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?”. If it really WORKS for them, then sure. But my experience says that it’s unlikely to work in the long run to try to make limiting agreements of that sort. In fact, one of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail that Akien and I have developed and taught says that the “Agreement was not additive,” so in other words it takes something away and doesn’t provide a positive framework or an alternate behavior.

    FWIW, I posted a link to this conversation in my own journal, because I find it an interesting conversation. I agree with the premise that if you start from a place of “both parties negotiating in good faith,” rather than a place of fear and “I cannot trust you,” then you are much more likely to come to a place of agreement, whether or not you write those agreements down. I just walk, and recommend, a more moderate path than you do, from my perspective.

  25. Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.

    Yep, in fact they are so much different things that Akien and I have separate agreements to cover these differing areas. :^) Trying to create emotional safety through application of safer sex rules is almost always destined to fail.

    Thanks for your comment; I’m very much in agreement with what you’ve said.

  26. You are of course free to decline to participate, though I don’t actually believe that you understand the purpose of the agreements, nor the context in which I propose them.

    I like potential partners to treat me with compassion and respect, as a grown and fully functional adult. “Here is a list of rules we have written; sign on the dotted line, please” doesn’t make me feel that I am being accorded respectful treatment as a fully grown adult.

    And I find it offensive that you’d assume I was asking you to “sign on the dotted line” without due understanding and discussion. People have different needs for structure. Yours seems to be particularly low. That doesn’t make my need for greater structure pathological, as you seem to be stating. It just means I have a higher need for structure. If that’s not something that you understand and honor, then you’re right, we most emphatically should not be in relationship together, and I would encourage you to decline to participate. I would in fact, not find you safe to be in relationship with, because I would conclude that you were not willing to treat me respectfully, considering my needs as well as your own in coming to our mutual place of understanding. I would in fact consider your total refusal to engage in the process (“even if the agreements themselves are things I would consider reasonable”) as a way of maintaining control over me by the enforced ABSENCE of rules or boundaries. You would, from my perspective, be forcing me to adhere to YOUR rules (which say “there shall be no rules”), rather then engaging in a respectful conversation and negotiation around what both of us found important.

  27. So a new rule is made: “You may not hug your partner in front of me.”

    A rule like this is Not Additive, and probably doomed to fail, as I’ve said elsewhere. The one exception to that IME would be if it were being used in a Time-limited agreement, as a way to help one partner over a rough patch. E.g., “Please do not hug your other partner in front of me for the next two weeks. I find it unduly triggering at the moment, and I need some space to figure out why I’m being triggered, and what to do about it.” The agreement is for the shortest period possible, and gets re-negotiated at the end of that period. It’s a structure to help one partner work on their own stuff, not a permanent “Don’t Go Here” sign.

    (all dependent on agreement that agreements are useful, of course, which you don’t, but some of your other readers might)

  28. BTW: One of my own background pieces is from one of the professors I used to work for, Marcia Linn. In the context of her work in Education, she talks about “Scaffolded Knowledge Integration,” and how isolated knowledge is not useful. So she advocates creating a structured approach to learning, to help people move from one level of knowledge to another. A couple of links on it:
    http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Scaffolded_knowledge_integration
    http://kie.berkeley.edu/KIE/tour/tour3.html

  29. Actually, I don’t find your questions tough, just some a bit tedious and slightly missing the point, and generally more than I was easily able to handle at the time (busy weekend). Unfortunately, I’ve already spent today’s time answering Tacit’s stuff, so really can’t address your stuff today, either.

    FYI: My husband Akien and I have run a bunch of discussion groups on this topic, we’ve done individual research, coached a number of different poly groupings, and we’ve developed and given workshops. We use each of these as opportunities to expand our knowledge base. I don’t claim to speak FOR any of these folks (other than me), but when I say I’ve seen this work for a number of people, I’m definitely drawing on more than my own personal experience.

    Gotta run. If you want to continue to discuss this, feel free to respond, and I’ll see if I can find the time. You might want to check out some of the links I’ve left elsewhere, just to get more of my general perspective. No requirements, of course, just a suggestion if you choose, since you seem to be a curious guy and interested in new information and perspectives. :^)

  30. wow. such a thought-provoking conversation. thank you.

    wish i’d read it *before* shifting from a happy monogamous marriage to a renegotiated marriage. i now have two people as my best-friends (superlatives shouldn’t need to be exclusive), with a wish and intent to have them both in my life throughout my life ~ “married in my heart” to both of them. the transition has been smooth with my husband, and seemed to be working for my other love and his partners for several years ~ he’s in a poly marriage of three people for about 25 years. but we hit bumps and it’s being quite an educational learning experience.

    before these experiences, i never thought of marriage as a “contract” and would not have considered creating a written agreement. the limits shared as examples in this discussion and in the PDF file agreement hurt my stomach. literally. quoting Franklin, this concept has always felt true to me: “If your assumptions are true, and your partner really would rather be with someone else, then rules will not save your relationship. If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.”

    thus, contracts for romantic relationships have not fit my paradigm. (franklin’s ponderings on this topic fit my own confirmation bias. smiles…) if i was presented with a document that listed what i can’t do, have, say, or where i can’t go with someone else, i would also say thanks, but no thanks, even if i didn’t want those things anyway. i strongly relate to the concept that i want to be in a relationship with people who are adults and treat me as an adult, capable of shaping a relationship together, while also being respectful and supportive of existing relationships.

    in my romantic relationships i value communication. a lot. i’ve been lucky or delusional enough to believe that the results of ongoing talks have led us to usually know when, if, and where my husband and i are on the same and different pages, and so far, we consider that the areas where we differ are acceptable differences to both of us.

    wandering into a situation where other people thought they were on the same page about other love, but in actuality weren’t (either in general, or just about me) has been hugely surprising. so now, with painful experience as an outsider, i can see reasons that a written agreement could be a useful tool to know what i’d be getting into, if i chose to proceed.

    in spite of my mainly negative views about written agreements, my other love and i have one now. based on the bumps we hit on his end, it seemed to become almost “necessary” as a way to put his intentions about his spouse in writing to address some of her fears.

    our “giving list” focuses on what we’ll GIVE to our spouses and to each other. it wasn’t a pre-determined agreement about what isn’t available to me ~ that would have been an instant “no” on my end; i value strongly being with adults who treat me as an adult, capable of co-shaping my relationships. it was based on the shared premise that we both DO love and value our spouses and we both want and plan to continue living with, parenting, and providing financial support with our spouses. it’s not about what we can’t do, be, have with each other, and yet what we’ll give in our marriages might have an inherent result that some things are not available in our relationship, and vice versa (but less so).

  31. wow. such a thought-provoking conversation. thank you.

    wish i’d read it *before* shifting from a happy monogamous marriage to a renegotiated marriage. i now have two people as my best-friends (superlatives shouldn’t need to be exclusive), with a wish and intent to have them both in my life throughout my life ~ “married in my heart” to both of them. the transition has been smooth with my husband, and seemed to be working for my other love and his partners for several years ~ he’s in a poly marriage of three people for about 25 years. but we hit bumps and it’s being quite an educational learning experience.

    before these experiences, i never thought of marriage as a “contract” and would not have considered creating a written agreement. the limits shared as examples in this discussion and in the PDF file agreement hurt my stomach. literally. quoting Franklin, this concept has always felt true to me: “If your assumptions are true, and your partner really would rather be with someone else, then rules will not save your relationship. If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.”

    thus, contracts for romantic relationships have not fit my paradigm. (franklin’s ponderings on this topic fit my own confirmation bias. smiles…) if i was presented with a document that listed what i can’t do, have, say, or where i can’t go with someone else, i would also say thanks, but no thanks, even if i didn’t want those things anyway. i strongly relate to the concept that i want to be in a relationship with people who are adults and treat me as an adult, capable of shaping a relationship together, while also being respectful and supportive of existing relationships.

    in my romantic relationships i value communication. a lot. i’ve been lucky or delusional enough to believe that the results of ongoing talks have led us to usually know when, if, and where my husband and i are on the same and different pages, and so far, we consider that the areas where we differ are acceptable differences to both of us.

    wandering into a situation where other people thought they were on the same page about other love, but in actuality weren’t (either in general, or just about me) has been hugely surprising. so now, with painful experience as an outsider, i can see reasons that a written agreement could be a useful tool to know what i’d be getting into, if i chose to proceed.

    in spite of my mainly negative views about written agreements, my other love and i have one now. based on the bumps we hit on his end, it seemed to become almost “necessary” as a way to put his intentions about his spouse in writing to address some of her fears.

    our “giving list” focuses on what we’ll GIVE to our spouses and to each other. it wasn’t a pre-determined agreement about what isn’t available to me ~ that would have been an instant “no” on my end; i value strongly being with adults who treat me as an adult, capable of co-shaping my relationships. it was based on the shared premise that we both DO love and value our spouses and we both want and plan to continue living with, parenting, and providing financial support with our spouses. it’s not about what we can’t do, be, have with each other, and yet what we’ll give in our marriages might have an inherent result that some things are not available in our relationship, and vice versa (but less so).

  32. and brevity isn’t my strength…

    after reading these ponderings, i checked back in with my husband to see what value, if any, the giving list was to him. his input was that it wasn’t necessary, he didn’t need it, he barely remembers it, he doesn’t want or need any written agreement, but the *concepts* were useful as confirmation that loving someone else in a way that i wish for a life and future with both of them doesn’t mean that i plan to spilt my time 50/50, have my other love move in part time, or spend half my time at his house leaving my husband to be a single parent 50% of the week, or give 1/3 of our retirement funds to my other love, or, or, or. since we’d already discussed those things verbally and were on the same page, the agreement wasn’t necessary for my husband, but an occasional verbal update is useful for him. the giving list just gave me one more opportunity to share a verbal update that we’d have done anyway.

    i don’t believe that rules or limits can preserve or save a relationship. i believe that feeling loved and valued comes from a core internal part that isn’t dependent on words on paper. even if actions demonstrate the words, the sense of self-value needs to come from within or words and actions will still lead to confirmation bias of un-special-ness. yet realizing that it might work differently for different people, i hoped that the giving list confirmed our expectations for/with/about each other in ways that also showed what is wanted,desired, intended, and implemented to give to our spouses. what we each want to give to our spouses DOES inherently limit aspects of us, and we hoped that the written giving intentions, with its inherent limits would provide some security and safety to his spouse. unfortunately, that has not been the case. i don’t think you can get “there” from agreements, but i hoped to be wrong about that.

    i’m ambivalent about agreements, and very appreciative of this conversation ~ thank you. personally, i don’t want or need agreements. yet if i’m going to consider joining another established relationship, i don’t necessarily believe anymore that people will know what *they* signed up for among themselves. since verbal discussion has turned out to be less than effective based on very different communication styles, life paradigms, perceptions, and definitions, i now can see value in having something tangible, in writing. something to review to see if we’re on similar pages; to see if they shape their relationship focus among themselves and towards others on GIVING vs. taking away and limiting; to see if they are like Ruby or Snow Crash or some other cat; to see if the things they intend to give each other leaves enough “room” for me to co-shape a relationship i’m considering.

    if i could start again….

    i’m probably in a pendulum mode of temporarily over-compensating for a rough experience. if i were really to try this again, i’m likely to swing back into a balance that reflects my principles and not my fears ~ reverting back to communication about what people want to give to each other, and to me, and identifying if their relationship concepts fit closely enough to my own. temporarily though… seeing their agreements in writing sounds like a really good plan! a deeper part of me realizes that written words cannot create safety.
    thanks again…

    • Re: and brevity isn’t my strength…

      i’m ambivalent about agreements, and very appreciative of this conversation ~ thank you. personally, i don’t want or need agreements. yet if i’m going to consider joining another established relationship, i don’t necessarily believe anymore that people will know what *they* signed up for among themselves. since verbal discussion has turned out to be less than effective based on very different communication styles, life paradigms, perceptions, and definitions, i now can see value in having something tangible, in writing. something to review to see if we’re on similar pages; to see if they shape their relationship focus among themselves and towards others on GIVING vs. taking away and limiting; to see if they are like Ruby or Snow Crash or some other cat; to see if the things they intend to give each other leaves enough “room” for me to co-shape a relationship i’m considering.

      I think that’s interesting, because I think the kind of written agreement you’re talking about is quite a bit different from the “contracts” I’m talking about.

      It sounds like you’re talking about written agreements that are used as a tool for communication among all the people involved, rather than a list of “thou shalt nots” such as “thou shalt not use this pet name” or “thou shalt not drive more than 17 miles on any one date,” which is what the contracts I’ve seen and linked to have been about.

      It seems to me that the latter sorts of contracts aren’t really tools of communication (well, except perhaps in the sense that a hammer is a tool of communication), whereas the sort of agreement you’re talking about seems very different.

      • Re: and brevity isn’t my strength…

        hmm… you make an excellent distinguishing point. more to ponder. maybe it’s about direction? conveyance? cups being half full or half empty? thinking out loud (not yet deeply pondered at this early morning hour)…

        if there is a written agreement and/or verbal communication about expectations of a relationship, and the language is about what they’ll give to each other, that does seem like useful communication tools to determine if people are on the same page.

        yet if the agreement has the same or similar pieces, but it’s framed in ways that convey what people can’t do or have, maybe that seems like an (undesirable-to-me) “contract”. i.e. if my husband and i want and plan to live together, regardless of what other love might grow, that wish and expectation could be stated as a mutual desire and agreement to live together. i could share that expectation with other loves in that way, or i could share it as “other loves will not be able to ever live with us and may not ask either of us to live with them”. if i don’t want to leave my husband in a position of being a single parent often, we could decide that two evenings a week with my other love fits with our current expectations and needs of each other, and conveying that to others seems kind and fair. yet i could convey it as “other loves are only allowed two nights a week”. if we want and expect each other to be there for us in life emergencies, we can share that, or we can convey it as “in simultaneous life emergencies, the married partner will always be with their spouse and not you”. if we have fears about the real and/or perceived risks of polyamory, we can convey about our fears and deal with our own issues and help each other as needed and we can let other people know that we value and prioritize helping each other thru bumpy times. or we can decide and convey that other love is negotiable based on a veto or freeze from a spouse at any time for any real or perceived reason.

        sharing wishes and expectations seems like a really good thing to do, yet how i think about, frame, and convey it seems likely to determine whether it feels like useful info or a contract of “thou shalt not’s” and “can’t have’s”.

        maybe it’s like your cats, where much of the world is the same, but perception makes a huge difference; but in this topic, it’s how we think about and convey that makes the huge difference? hell… if that’s the case, maybe i *do* want to see written expectations, as added insight into how people i might get involved in think? if they think in terms of shalt-not/can’t have, knowing that asap could be very useful as a very quick screening tool. that said, it still feels very undesirable.

        more pondering to do! thank you.

        • and jellybeans…

          these ponderings remind me of a story i heard years ago. i don’t know if it’s a true story or fiction, but either way, i appreciate it’s point.

          a husband and wife had a small candy shop that sold mostly colored jellybeans by the pound. *piles* of jellybeans of all colors and flavors. the couple hired two girls to work in the store and sell jellybeans, while they worked in the back ~ focusing on the business accounting, purchasing, and other office tasks of running their small store. but they often had occasion to look in or wander through the store where the girls were selling candy. and they noticed that one girl always had a longer line. and it baffled them because customers seemed to be *choosing* the longer line, even when the other girl’s line was very short.

          after noticing and observing this for a while, they realized that the girls both had a different style for measuring the jellybeans by the pound. the girl with the short line piled the requested jellybeans into a bag, put the bag on the scale, and then took beans out, in order to get to a pound of candy. the girl who always had a longer line put a small amount of beans in the bag, put the bag on the scale, and ADDED beans to the bag, to get to a pound of candy.

          all the customers received the same pound of candy from either girl. but it seemed that on some level, people felt much better to see beans being added, rather than taken away.

          maybe that’s similar? what is available for new loves can feel like a positive experience of shared wishes and expectations about existing and new relationships, or it can feel like a “contract”, depending on whether the conveyance seems to add or take away jellybeans?

          it’s an ambivalent thing ~ i value emotions highly, yet in general, i don’t want my actions to be determined by my emotions without logic well-mixed in. so if what’s available would work for me, maybe it’s not reasonable on my part to opt out just because the conveyance feels bad. yet… the conveyance might be a useful indication about how people think, and if their thinking is based on can-not’s, i suspect that our life paradigms are not compatible. circular ponders!

          • Re: and jellybeans…

            Nah, it’s not that circular at all. It’s INTEGRATED. Integrating your emotions and emotional responses with your intellect and intellectual responses is a good thing!

          • Re: and jellybeans…

            thank you! for this, and for sharing your other views. many of them resonate for me.

            i think i hadn’t made my next jump ~ that my strong negative stomach-hurt emotional response might be based on a realization at some level that the you-can’t/shall-not style of sharing about relationships probably *is* a reflection of life paradigms that clash with my own. so maybe *now* i’m integrated. (until the next spiral-round! smiles…)

            thanks again.

  33. and brevity isn’t my strength…

    after reading these ponderings, i checked back in with my husband to see what value, if any, the giving list was to him. his input was that it wasn’t necessary, he didn’t need it, he barely remembers it, he doesn’t want or need any written agreement, but the *concepts* were useful as confirmation that loving someone else in a way that i wish for a life and future with both of them doesn’t mean that i plan to spilt my time 50/50, have my other love move in part time, or spend half my time at his house leaving my husband to be a single parent 50% of the week, or give 1/3 of our retirement funds to my other love, or, or, or. since we’d already discussed those things verbally and were on the same page, the agreement wasn’t necessary for my husband, but an occasional verbal update is useful for him. the giving list just gave me one more opportunity to share a verbal update that we’d have done anyway.

    i don’t believe that rules or limits can preserve or save a relationship. i believe that feeling loved and valued comes from a core internal part that isn’t dependent on words on paper. even if actions demonstrate the words, the sense of self-value needs to come from within or words and actions will still lead to confirmation bias of un-special-ness. yet realizing that it might work differently for different people, i hoped that the giving list confirmed our expectations for/with/about each other in ways that also showed what is wanted,desired, intended, and implemented to give to our spouses. what we each want to give to our spouses DOES inherently limit aspects of us, and we hoped that the written giving intentions, with its inherent limits would provide some security and safety to his spouse. unfortunately, that has not been the case. i don’t think you can get “there” from agreements, but i hoped to be wrong about that.

    i’m ambivalent about agreements, and very appreciative of this conversation ~ thank you. personally, i don’t want or need agreements. yet if i’m going to consider joining another established relationship, i don’t necessarily believe anymore that people will know what *they* signed up for among themselves. since verbal discussion has turned out to be less than effective based on very different communication styles, life paradigms, perceptions, and definitions, i now can see value in having something tangible, in writing. something to review to see if we’re on similar pages; to see if they shape their relationship focus among themselves and towards others on GIVING vs. taking away and limiting; to see if they are like Ruby or Snow Crash or some other cat; to see if the things they intend to give each other leaves enough “room” for me to co-shape a relationship i’m considering.

    if i could start again….

    i’m probably in a pendulum mode of temporarily over-compensating for a rough experience. if i were really to try this again, i’m likely to swing back into a balance that reflects my principles and not my fears ~ reverting back to communication about what people want to give to each other, and to me, and identifying if their relationship concepts fit closely enough to my own. temporarily though… seeing their agreements in writing sounds like a really good plan! a deeper part of me realizes that written words cannot create safety.
    thanks again…

  34. “Too often, in my experience, people who make list of rules do it because someone believes the rules will prevent him from feeling things he doesn’t want to feel, such as insecurity or jealousy”

    Yep.

    If rules can INDIRECTLY prevent jealousy and pain, then it’s not rocket science to conclude that it would be simpler and more direct to make a rule to not feel jealous or pain.

  35. “…rather then engaging in a respectful conversation and negotiation around what both of us found important.”

    Now see, that’s very different than a written agreement telling the new person how they should behave, which is what this has been about since Tacit’s original post.

    Most reasonable adults are capable of chatting about things.

    When they start laying down laws of what is or is not acceptable activity by another person, they are infantilizing that person.

    If that other person’s into it, great.

  36. You suck me in with kitties and then jump into deep discussions of interesting things. Sneaky, sneaky man.
    Relationship contracts also make me go, “Eh, no thanks.” I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who feels the need to dictate how I should and shouldn’t behave.
    All in all, I think Ruby is the happier kitty. We should all try to be more like her.

  37. You suck me in with kitties and then jump into deep discussions of interesting things. Sneaky, sneaky man.
    Relationship contracts also make me go, “Eh, no thanks.” I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who feels the need to dictate how I should and shouldn’t behave.
    All in all, I think Ruby is the happier kitty. We should all try to be more like her.

  38. “Irt this conversation thread, I do think that talking about relationship/emotional rules and talking about sexual rules are two completely different things, and that can muddy this sort of dialog.”

    Well, rules imposed against a third party to preserve someone’s mental or emotional health are (outside of weird circumstances) usually crap. That’s a pretty agreeable point.

    Rules imposed against a third party to protect someone’s health are pretty similarly crap, except that they’ve been constructed in such a way as to make objecting to them “dangerous.”

    For example: What — are you saying I should just let my partners fuck anyone they want and I just have to take it?

    See, that’s disingenuous at best.

    There’s nothing wrong with reasoned discussion — and I certainly don’t see anyone advocating against it here — and people do it all the time, but once it starts to approach demands made on another person, then it DOES become pathological.

    It is very true that emotional and physical safety should be treated very differently. Physical safety is pretty matter-of-fact, and there’s usually reasonably good data around to support this.

    Emotional safety is a volatile creature that can lead to practically any sort of outcome, usually unpredicatable and sometimes violent.

    The trouble is, a lot of folks want emotional safety, but invoke physical safety, which does no one any good.

    So yeah, excellent point.

  39. “The one exception to that IME would be if it were being used in a Time-limited agreement, as a way to help one partner over a rough patch. E.g., “Please do not hug your other partner in front of me for the next two weeks. I find it unduly triggering at the moment, and I need some space to figure out why I’m being triggered, and what to do about it.” The agreement is for the shortest period possible, and gets re-negotiated at the end of that period.”

    It’s a restriction on a third party that has nothing at all to do with the third party.

    A person attempting to impose such a rule certainly can ASK, but if they are feeling ill-suited to engage in adult relationships, then it is their responsibility to go on a sabbatical. Or something.

    Of course, the third party can, if they wish, strap themselves to the emotional rollercoaster if they like and make their actions dependent on the emotional stability of someone else. Maybe the demands made on them will diminish over time and never come back.

    Wouldn’t that be just swell to see.

  40. “Actually, I don’t find your questions tough, just some a bit tedious and slightly missing the point, and generally more than I was easily able to handle at the time (busy weekend)”

    Why is it important that people agree on what sex is?

    That was my first question.

    I’m also confused by the claim that a written agreement is supposed to be for “all the people to know what they’re talking about” when it seems much more like “so the new person knows what rules we’ve already agreed on.”

    But this was mostly because I’m unaccustomed to long-term types of partners that don’t already have this all hashed out.

    Now, this would make more sense if, say, I was a new person and the couple said “Hey, here’s a written agreement that the two of us have agreed to and already signed off on. Since you’re interested in joining, would you like the three of us to all sit down and hammer out a whole new agreement that may include restrictions on how we could interact with each other?”

    ‘Cause that would be pretty Advanced Lifeform Stuff.

    If the new person can impose rules on the existing couple, including activities that they’re already doing becoming verboten, THEN it approaches a level playing field and the rules are meant “for everybody.” Otherwise, CLAIMING it’s “for everybody” just seems like invading Iraq to stop Al-Queda and find weapons of mass destruction.

  41. you really don’t get this, do you?

    In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered? You seem to be suggesting that they not respect their partner’s agreements, which seems pretty stupid and self-centered, to me. Should they not respect that their partner has an agreement that they show up at work, then, too? That doesn’t have anything to do with the “third party,” either.

    You (and Tacit) basically seem to be advocating an anarchistic position. That’s not the way the world has usually worked for me.

  42. When they start laying down laws of what is or is not acceptable activity by another person, they are infantilizing that person.

    You seem to be under the misapprehension that agreements are something imposed on one person by another. They’re not. That would be a demand. Agreements require AGREEMENT. Infants can’t make agreements. Only adults can choose to make–or not make–agreements with other adults.

    (Whether or not children can and/or should be allowed to make agreements is another discussion altogether. It’s interesting, but it’s not this discussion.)

  43. Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

    If you believe that I am advocating an anarchist position, I can only assume that either you’re not reading what I’m saying, or I’m speaking a foreign language without realizing it.

    I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.

    Let me type that again. I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.

    What I do not believe in is situations where Alice and Bob sit down and write a contract, then expect that Harry, Steve, and Lisa will be happy to sign on to that contract. That isn’t a mutually negotiated agreement between reasonable adults; it’s an imposition by Alice and Bob upon other people who had no hand in shaping the contract. That’s not an “agreement” by any reasonable definition of “agreement.”

    However, you wrote something here that I find very, very, very telling indeed, and based on one sentence you wrote, I do not believe it will ever be possible for you to see eye to eye on this, or even understand each other.

    Here’s the telling bit:

    “In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered?”

    Here’s the thing: It doesn’t work that way. If Alice is triggered, it is not Harry’s fault. It is Alice’s fault. If Alice has insecurities, that’s not Harry’s doing. The problem lies within Alice, not Harry. The sooner Alice grows up, takes responsibility for her own emotional responses, buts on her big-girl pants, and realizes that her emotions belong to her, the sooner Alice can join the rest of us at the grownup table.

    Yeah, it’s hard. It fucking SUCKS to look in the mirror and say “Just because I feel bad does not mean someone else did something wrong.” It’s the hardest thing most people will ever face.

    Consider it a rite of passage.

  44. No, I do not encourage people to write “You are not permitted to call any other lover by any pet names such as ‘purple booty-blumpkins’?”. If it really WORKS for them, then sure.

    How would you define “work” in this context?

    Is there any way to view an agreement limiting what pet names two people are permitted to cal one another without seeing it as emotional insecurity combined with an inability to deal with the issue?

  45. Re: and brevity isn’t my strength…

    i’m ambivalent about agreements, and very appreciative of this conversation ~ thank you. personally, i don’t want or need agreements. yet if i’m going to consider joining another established relationship, i don’t necessarily believe anymore that people will know what *they* signed up for among themselves. since verbal discussion has turned out to be less than effective based on very different communication styles, life paradigms, perceptions, and definitions, i now can see value in having something tangible, in writing. something to review to see if we’re on similar pages; to see if they shape their relationship focus among themselves and towards others on GIVING vs. taking away and limiting; to see if they are like Ruby or Snow Crash or some other cat; to see if the things they intend to give each other leaves enough “room” for me to co-shape a relationship i’m considering.

    I think that’s interesting, because I think the kind of written agreement you’re talking about is quite a bit different from the “contracts” I’m talking about.

    It sounds like you’re talking about written agreements that are used as a tool for communication among all the people involved, rather than a list of “thou shalt nots” such as “thou shalt not use this pet name” or “thou shalt not drive more than 17 miles on any one date,” which is what the contracts I’ve seen and linked to have been about.

    It seems to me that the latter sorts of contracts aren’t really tools of communication (well, except perhaps in the sense that a hammer is a tool of communication), whereas the sort of agreement you’re talking about seems very different.

  46. a) I already said it’s unlikely to work over the long term, based on some fairly broad experience, and that I don’t recommend it. You’re beating a dead horse I’m not riding.

    b) “Work” is defined as “is functional in creating the outcome desired for these particular two-or-more people at this time and in this circumstance.”

    c) “The outcome desired” depends on the people involved, not what YOU think it should be. So it might be that the outcome desired is nothing more or less than “reduction of tension, due (let’s say) to triggering partner C’s PTSD around the color purple, from having been beaten by an evil bishop in the 4th grade.” Whether or not YOU think, it’s a valid outcome, or whether or not you think that they “ought to have PTSD” doesn’t matter diddly squat–it’s whether THEY do that counts.

    d) You can call that “emotional insecurity combined with an inability to deal with the issue” if you want, and you’re free to decline being in relationship with any such person who has limits you don’t deem “acceptable” to you in some way. Other people, however, might have different goals and/or limits, and/or might be more compassionate or flexible than you are. Whether or not YOU approve of how they handle the issue doesn’t make the tool any less valuable to them. You can call a hammer “the tool of the devil, because it has horns” if you want, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable to someone who has a nail to drive at the moment.

  47. Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

    You’re right, it’s not Harry’s fault. However, not everyone is able to magically snap their fingers and become no longer triggered by past trauma. Harry is free to decline to be in relationship with Alice over this issue if he chooses. That might in fact be the 100% correct choice for Harry. Harry might, however, actually want a relationship with Alice, who was originally “grown-up enough” to meet your standards, but then was sent to Iraq and developed PTSD, and hasn’t gotten proper treatment because the government has had its head up its butt. He might, in fact, choose compassion, and be looking for a tool to help him deal with what they both hope will be a temporary situation. He is at 100% choice in this at all times, and so is she.

    What I do not believe in is situations where Alice and Bob sit down and write a contract, then expect that Harry, Steve, and Lisa will be happy to sign on to that contract. That isn’t a mutually negotiated agreement between reasonable adults; it’s an imposition by Alice and Bob upon other people who had no hand in shaping the contract. That’s not an “agreement” by any reasonable definition of “agreement.”

    It’s about CHOICE again, Franklin. Once again YOU inserted the compulsion into the equation. No one is “forcing” Harry, Steve, or Lisa to sign onto that contract. They are free to chose to sign on or not. They might look down at the contract that says, “we agree that the day between Tuesday and Thursday is called Wednesday,” and they might in fact be willing to sign on the dotted line. Or they might choose to say, hey, I don’t agree with that, I think it’s “Miercoles,” and propose a new, updated agreement that meets the current needs of the current set of people.

    Just because I feel bad does not mean someone else did something wrong.”

    YES, you are correct. BLAMING someone else for your feelings is not effective. Alice could choose to walk away from Harry, and never ask him to try to accommodate her needs. Harry can choose to walk away from Alice, and never make an agreement that limits his freedom in the slightest tiny bit. But Alice asking for such an agreement does not necessarily mean that she thinks Harry “did something WRONG.” Again, YOU are the one inserting the blame into this equation, Tacit. It’s not necessarily there to start with.

    Must be a really nice planet where you live, where everyone is all “grown up” and enlightened right now, and no one ever encounters new challenges to overcome, or has difficult choices to make in whether or not to support one aspect of a person or their behavior while declining to take on unnecessary responsibility for another aspect.

  48. Re: and brevity isn’t my strength…

    hmm… you make an excellent distinguishing point. more to ponder. maybe it’s about direction? conveyance? cups being half full or half empty? thinking out loud (not yet deeply pondered at this early morning hour)…

    if there is a written agreement and/or verbal communication about expectations of a relationship, and the language is about what they’ll give to each other, that does seem like useful communication tools to determine if people are on the same page.

    yet if the agreement has the same or similar pieces, but it’s framed in ways that convey what people can’t do or have, maybe that seems like an (undesirable-to-me) “contract”. i.e. if my husband and i want and plan to live together, regardless of what other love might grow, that wish and expectation could be stated as a mutual desire and agreement to live together. i could share that expectation with other loves in that way, or i could share it as “other loves will not be able to ever live with us and may not ask either of us to live with them”. if i don’t want to leave my husband in a position of being a single parent often, we could decide that two evenings a week with my other love fits with our current expectations and needs of each other, and conveying that to others seems kind and fair. yet i could convey it as “other loves are only allowed two nights a week”. if we want and expect each other to be there for us in life emergencies, we can share that, or we can convey it as “in simultaneous life emergencies, the married partner will always be with their spouse and not you”. if we have fears about the real and/or perceived risks of polyamory, we can convey about our fears and deal with our own issues and help each other as needed and we can let other people know that we value and prioritize helping each other thru bumpy times. or we can decide and convey that other love is negotiable based on a veto or freeze from a spouse at any time for any real or perceived reason.

    sharing wishes and expectations seems like a really good thing to do, yet how i think about, frame, and convey it seems likely to determine whether it feels like useful info or a contract of “thou shalt not’s” and “can’t have’s”.

    maybe it’s like your cats, where much of the world is the same, but perception makes a huge difference; but in this topic, it’s how we think about and convey that makes the huge difference? hell… if that’s the case, maybe i *do* want to see written expectations, as added insight into how people i might get involved in think? if they think in terms of shalt-not/can’t have, knowing that asap could be very useful as a very quick screening tool. that said, it still feels very undesirable.

    more pondering to do! thank you.

  49. Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

    “you really don’t get this, do you?”

    Not about me. About making sense.

    “In what way would it be helpful to the supposedly uninvolved party to provoke their partner’s OSO into being triggered?”

    In what way would it be healthy for any person who is easily “triggered” (by which presumably means they act in an irrational, possibly dangerous fashion — like, say, a tripwire vet or someone enraged by the color purple) to be around ANYONE who might “trigger” such things. If you (and by “you” I mean “the person who has identified a “trigger””) can’t hack being around people who hug, then take a little personal responsibility for your own self and get the fuck away from people who hug.

    This is not complicated.

    Asking third parties to stop hugging is not the answer. (well, not a healthy answer, anyway)

    Getting to a counselor to discuss why hugging “triggers” a person and how to overcome that — now THAT’S a reasonably self-aware and self-responsible answer.

    “You seem to be suggesting that they not respect their partner’s agreements, which seems pretty stupid and self-centered, to me.”

    That is not at all what I’m suggesting.

    But, if you prefer, I’ll digress for ONE paragraph: Anyone can make any agreement they want amongst themselves for any reason whatsoever, and it’s no one’s business but theirs. If a THIRD PARTY comes in (or a fourth or fifth or whatever…), they certainly have the right to ask for or demand ANYTHING, up to and including renegotiating how those rules might or might not apply to them. The existing group can, of course, hand them a 40-page list of commandments and the new person might say “sure, yeah, I’ll do all that”, or they might say “blow it out your ass,” but asking “So, why should this apply to ME? What have *I* got to do with any of this stuff?” is a very reasonable question that very reasonable adults can (and should) ask and that very reasonable adults are perfectly willing to answer. To address what you wrote SPECIFICALLY, I respect agreements that make sense to me, or at least don’t otherwise impede me, therefore agreements that don’t make sense to me I have little or no respect for (and I’m perfectly fine being transparent about that). This is, I suspect, how it is with most people, frankly, and the world has plenty of examples.

    “Should they not respect that their partner has an agreement that they show up at work, then, too?”

    This question is based on a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of what I’ve been trying to say.

    “You (and Tacit) basically seem to be advocating an anarchistic position.”

    There is a difference between “everybody must respect everybody else’s agreements without question” and “anarchy.” C’mon, be smarter than that.

  50. and jellybeans…

    these ponderings remind me of a story i heard years ago. i don’t know if it’s a true story or fiction, but either way, i appreciate it’s point.

    a husband and wife had a small candy shop that sold mostly colored jellybeans by the pound. *piles* of jellybeans of all colors and flavors. the couple hired two girls to work in the store and sell jellybeans, while they worked in the back ~ focusing on the business accounting, purchasing, and other office tasks of running their small store. but they often had occasion to look in or wander through the store where the girls were selling candy. and they noticed that one girl always had a longer line. and it baffled them because customers seemed to be *choosing* the longer line, even when the other girl’s line was very short.

    after noticing and observing this for a while, they realized that the girls both had a different style for measuring the jellybeans by the pound. the girl with the short line piled the requested jellybeans into a bag, put the bag on the scale, and then took beans out, in order to get to a pound of candy. the girl who always had a longer line put a small amount of beans in the bag, put the bag on the scale, and ADDED beans to the bag, to get to a pound of candy.

    all the customers received the same pound of candy from either girl. but it seemed that on some level, people felt much better to see beans being added, rather than taken away.

    maybe that’s similar? what is available for new loves can feel like a positive experience of shared wishes and expectations about existing and new relationships, or it can feel like a “contract”, depending on whether the conveyance seems to add or take away jellybeans?

    it’s an ambivalent thing ~ i value emotions highly, yet in general, i don’t want my actions to be determined by my emotions without logic well-mixed in. so if what’s available would work for me, maybe it’s not reasonable on my part to opt out just because the conveyance feels bad. yet… the conveyance might be a useful indication about how people think, and if their thinking is based on can-not’s, i suspect that our life paradigms are not compatible. circular ponders!

  51. “I already said it’s unlikely to work over the long term, based on some fairly broad experience, and that I don’t recommend it.”

    Well cool, then it probably doesn’t belong in any sort of written agreement presented to new parties.

    “Whether or not YOU think, it’s a valid outcome, or whether or not you think that they “ought to have PTSD” doesn’t matter diddly squat–it’s whether THEY do that counts.”

    So, in effect, what the new person thinks is healthy is not relevent?

    “Other people, however, might have different goals and/or limits, and/or might be more compassionate or flexible than you are. “

    If you’re equating “uncompassionate” and “inflexible” with anything either Franklin or I am saying, you are seriously not understanding what we are saying.

    (although I admit I am only speaking authoritatively for myself — just guessing at Franklin’s position based on what he’s written)

    Also, by equating what I (posibly we) are advocating with being uncompassionate and inflexible, you’re trying to evoke a outrageous emotional position and attribute it to me (us).

    I can’t speak for Franklin, but I reject your rephrasing of my position as determining who is or is not “acceptable” (your quotes).

    I don’t mind trying to explain myself, and I’m pretty patient about it (this is part of being compassionate and flexible), but if all you’re going to do is insist I’m speaking from some sort of emotional blender position, then it seems unlikely you’ll be receptive to much anyone else might say that won’t agree with you.

    Which, come to think of it, does seem to be kinda the position you’re advocating.

  52. “You seem to be under the misapprehension that agreements are something imposed on one person by another.”

    In this instance, the topic on hand is agreements imposed by an existing person or group against new folks. Yes. Exactly.

    “That would be a demand.”

    Yes, exactly.

    “Agreements require AGREEMENT.”

    Yes, exactly. So, for example, the new person would be able to say “Y’know, this, to me, makes no sense. Y’all are welcome to avoid the color purple amongst yourselves, but it makes no sense to me,” and the others admit “yes, that’s right — it’s a rule amongst ourselves, but it makes no sense imposing it on you,” and they are willing to strike it out…

    Then THAT would be an actual agreement entered into by peers.

  53. “Why is it important that people agree on what marriage is?”

    Well, it’s not, really. Depending…

    There are very specific legal rights and responsibilities surrounding the legal construct of marriage.

    This is why so many people like doing it, and are keenly interested in allowing what they are doing to be called marriage.

    There are very amorphous definitions surrounding marriage that have a lot to do with the approval of various imaginary friends and the imposition of morals and peer-acceptance.

    This is why people are so scared of people UNLIKE them doing it — because it conflicts with an otherwise acceptable xenophobia.

    On the other hand, because it IS tied to peer-acceptance, people who want to do it are keenly interested in doing it if they value peer- and social-acceptance.

    I’m a little annoyed it’s not legal to marry anyone you wish.

    But I’m perfectly fine having a ceremony of my own amongst my peers (and whatever family wishes to attend) to marry anyone I wish.

    But I’m not going to a priori put down in a written agreement persented to a potential new partner what my definition of marriage is or isn’t, nor can I fathom why it’s important to present some sort of definition of sex in a written agreement to a potential new partner. If it’s THAT important to lay out a specific sort of thing as verboten, then at least master the vocabulary enough to do so.

    I admit, it would look silly. When something that seems reasonable looks silly once you see it under the bright 7-11 lights, chances are it’s actually silly.

    This is not to say people can’t make silly agreements until the cows come home and tell them “get to bed already, you friggin’ monkeys!”

  54. Re: you really don’t get this, do you?

    YES, you are correct. BLAMING someone else for your feelings is not effective. Alice could choose to walk away from Harry, and never ask him to try to accommodate her needs. Harry can choose to walk away from Alice, and never make an agreement that limits his freedom in the slightest tiny bit. But Alice asking for such an agreement does not necessarily mean that she thinks Harry “did something WRONG.” Again, YOU are the one inserting the blame into this equation, Tacit. It’s not necessarily there to start with.

    Aha. I see what you did there.

    Yes, Alice asking for an agreement doesn’t mean that Harry did something wrong. But this entire time, in my post and in my replies, that has not been what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is Alice and Bob setting forth a contract (I even linked to an example) which sets out what other people are permitted to do and forbidden to do, without input from any third parties, and then expecting them to sign on the dotted line.

    Is that not what you’re talking about?

    Must be a really nice planet where you live, where everyone is all “grown up” and enlightened right now, and no one ever encounters new challenges to overcome, or has difficult choices to make in whether or not to support one aspect of a person or their behavior while declining to take on unnecessary responsibility for another aspect.

    Actually, it is.

    I have worked very, very hard to build a circle of friends and relationships with people who understand themselves, take responsibility for their own feelings and their own actions, and who are mature, enlightened, and all-around incredible folks.

    I currently have six relationships, for some fluid definition of “relationship,” and I can honestly say without the slightest doubt or hesitation that not one of my partners–nor one of their partners–would ever come to me and say “I feel insecure if you do X. Do not do X.”

    We frequently have conversations that run like “I feel thus-and-such when I see X, and I realize and understand that this is my issue and not yours. I will not ask you not to do X, though I may ask for your time, attention, and reassurance if I feel this way.”

    Makes all the difference in the world. Really.

    You know what? I didn’t build this network of friends and lover by accident. You know what else? It’s a beautiful way to live. I recommend it.

  55. Tried to comment once, looks like LJ dropped it, so here’s an attempt to re-create.

    I’m in favor of explicit discussion with a ‘shared-problemsolving’ attitude toward mutually-agreeable outcomes in relationships as elsewhere. Such discussion might be initiated by, or result in, a written version of the understandings folks hold either going in or coming out of the discussion. I like those written understandings best when they are concise, demonstrable, limited (with the expectation of continuing discussion and adjustment), and positively framed.

    When discussion is temporarily* not working, my preferred alternative is to clearly and calmly state what I will do or permit done to me in the relevant situation, so others may choose how they wish to act in light of that information. Examples: “I’m willing to go on a date where some activity is planned other than sex; here are my suggestions, feel free to choose among them or get back to me with some of your own.” “I’ll accept genital contact from a date who can show recent STD-free test results; til then my pants stay on.”

    It’s sometimes difficult for me to set my limits firmly like that. It requires that first I know them clearly myself, and that the stated limit be important enough, and myself confident enough, that it is worth holding my ground through the very common pressure to yeild to someone else’s preference. I do find it more successful than trying to get someone else to do what I want, or convince them that my way of thinking is more correct.

    Ultimately each person is the best authority on him or herself, and can only control him or herself.

    I think that hits the high points.

    Also, Awww, adorable kitty!

  56. Tried to comment once, looks like LJ dropped it, so here’s an attempt to re-create.

    I’m in favor of explicit discussion with a ‘shared-problemsolving’ attitude toward mutually-agreeable outcomes in relationships as elsewhere. Such discussion might be initiated by, or result in, a written version of the understandings folks hold either going in or coming out of the discussion. I like those written understandings best when they are concise, demonstrable, limited (with the expectation of continuing discussion and adjustment), and positively framed.

    When discussion is temporarily* not working, my preferred alternative is to clearly and calmly state what I will do or permit done to me in the relevant situation, so others may choose how they wish to act in light of that information. Examples: “I’m willing to go on a date where some activity is planned other than sex; here are my suggestions, feel free to choose among them or get back to me with some of your own.” “I’ll accept genital contact from a date who can show recent STD-free test results; til then my pants stay on.”

    It’s sometimes difficult for me to set my limits firmly like that. It requires that first I know them clearly myself, and that the stated limit be important enough, and myself confident enough, that it is worth holding my ground through the very common pressure to yeild to someone else’s preference. I do find it more successful than trying to get someone else to do what I want, or convince them that my way of thinking is more correct.

    Ultimately each person is the best authority on him or herself, and can only control him or herself.

    I think that hits the high points.

    Also, Awww, adorable kitty!

  57. who am i?

    “The same is true for the assumptions themselves. Start from a place that you are a jealous, insecure person and that’s just the way you are, and it will become your reality. Start from the assumption that you are a person who sometimes feels jealous or insecure, but there are things that you can do and choices you can make to address these insecurities and jealousies, and that will become your reality.”

    this is *such* an important concept to me. i wear a bracelet every day ~ a silver band with an engraved quote: “with our thoughts, we make our world.” in my own life and with our kids, it’s been important to me to maintain that distinction between what i feel or do and who i am.

    if i think of myself as a fencer, and something dramatic happens and i lose both my arms, it seems i’d have the recovery of the physical loss, pain, and adjusting to new ways of doing things *as well as* significant internal work to not lose my sense of self… to figure out how to re-define myself now that i cannot fence anymore. if i think of myself as a mom, what happens to my self-perception when my kids don’t need much -mom-ing? if i think of myself as a wife, who am i if our happy-ness paths diverge and we divorce?

    if i think of myself as a sad or insecure person, in some sense, it seems that i need to re-define myself before work i do to address my sadness or insecurities will be able to have a positive effect.

    even for positive things, if it seems like something that can become how my kids or i perceive our self-ness, but the thing might be temporary or not what i’d wish to base a sense of self-ness on, i try to find different ways to say it ~ not saying my daughter is cute or a great cook, but telling her that a particular outfit happens to look cute on her, or the meal she made was delicious.

    (but maybe i’m a little extreme about this topic.)

  58. who am i?

    “The same is true for the assumptions themselves. Start from a place that you are a jealous, insecure person and that’s just the way you are, and it will become your reality. Start from the assumption that you are a person who sometimes feels jealous or insecure, but there are things that you can do and choices you can make to address these insecurities and jealousies, and that will become your reality.”

    this is *such* an important concept to me. i wear a bracelet every day ~ a silver band with an engraved quote: “with our thoughts, we make our world.” in my own life and with our kids, it’s been important to me to maintain that distinction between what i feel or do and who i am.

    if i think of myself as a fencer, and something dramatic happens and i lose both my arms, it seems i’d have the recovery of the physical loss, pain, and adjusting to new ways of doing things *as well as* significant internal work to not lose my sense of self… to figure out how to re-define myself now that i cannot fence anymore. if i think of myself as a mom, what happens to my self-perception when my kids don’t need much -mom-ing? if i think of myself as a wife, who am i if our happy-ness paths diverge and we divorce?

    if i think of myself as a sad or insecure person, in some sense, it seems that i need to re-define myself before work i do to address my sadness or insecurities will be able to have a positive effect.

    even for positive things, if it seems like something that can become how my kids or i perceive our self-ness, but the thing might be temporary or not what i’d wish to base a sense of self-ness on, i try to find different ways to say it ~ not saying my daughter is cute or a great cook, but telling her that a particular outfit happens to look cute on her, or the meal she made was delicious.

    (but maybe i’m a little extreme about this topic.)

  59. “You would, from my perspective, be forcing me to adhere to YOUR rules (which say “there shall be no rules”)…

    That’s one downright scary perspective, seeing the lack of rules as a rule itself! It’s like someone trying to tell me that atheism is a religion. I’d participate in this discussion, but I have a strict conscientious-objector stance when it comes to people that, by the perspective of basic logic, contradict themselves. – ZM

  60. “Well, it’s not, really. Depending…”

    I know. It was a rhetorical question. You seem to get the point, though. For both ‘sex’ and ‘marriage’, definitions matter enough to some people that they manage to get laws passed about them, at which point it affects everybody around with complete disregard of civil liberty. That’s why it’s important to the rest of us – our rights are being affected.

    That scales down to personal agreements better than one may think: there are people out there that feel that way, and if they’re willing to do such a thing to a populace, I doubt they’d bat an eye at doing it to a single person if they get the chance. It may seem silly to US as rational people, but to THEM it’s a dealbreaker, and they’re going to insist on it being in the agreement. Good thing they need a 100% vote rather than a majority in that case – you can just tell them “this is silly”, and if they can’t see that, you can walk away.

    The short short version: It shouldn’t be important, but to some it just is, and it’s a sign that they are irrational about it and therefore can’t be argued with about it. – ZM

  61. the evident resistance to questioning the paradigm of “mistrust and insecurity” is unfortunate. the phenomena you attempt to explain by the negatively-biasing phrase “mistrust and insecurity” are not well-explained thereby.

    what you insist is “mistrust and insecurity,” i and others see with at least equal legitimacy as seriousness, as setting-high-the-bar, and as coming from deep experience.

    you also at least seriously misrepresent the tenor of the poly contract you link to: they are, per contract, in a D/s relationship. contract-writing is not only a wholly different affair in such a relationship, it was probably pleasurable to both sides. one cannot delete such an important aspect – and it speaks to a good deal of “trust and security” that her Master was willing to permit her OSOs at all.

    i found that contract enlightening and helpful – they did poly people a service in posting it, and i only wish i’d had such a thing in my early poly explorations.

    adviser, heal thyself.

  62. My point was that defining “sex” in a written agreement is a red herring. It’s not what people really want to do.

    What they want to do is describe what activities are verboten. (or if you prefer, the Bright Line between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior)

    Here’s some hypothesis I’ve been experimenting with:

    1. A person’s list of rules about what another person can or cannot do is a map of the first person’s insecurities.

    2. Amorphous words used in such rules remain amorphous because it allows for avenues of later punishment.

    3. Everybody’s rules make total sense to themselves, because the rule is an attempt to reroute normal behavior patterns around an insecurity or vulnerability.

    4. Rules that are added with the justification that they are helpful are additive. Attempts to remove or counter or object to them are framed as a personal attack (related to #3)

    5. People are usually raised with the Lockian sense that the more energy expended, the more valuable the effort. therefore, the more rules a person has, the more effort they require to be around and thus the more “valuable” they feel.

    Now, I’m not so sure I AGREE with all of these, but they seem to reflect what goes on in the world.

  63. And, as I re-read, I am reminded that my point is that a rule definig sex is that it IS an imposition on the new person.

    Although I suppose if you have enough rules, it makes sense for everyone involved to always keep an updated copy handy for quick review before, um, whatever might be verboten gets close.

    But that sounds like a real fuckload of rules, if you’re a long-time member of a group and you still can’t keep track of them all without a helper document.

  64. Re: and jellybeans…

    thank you! for this, and for sharing your other views. many of them resonate for me.

    i think i hadn’t made my next jump ~ that my strong negative stomach-hurt emotional response might be based on a realization at some level that the you-can’t/shall-not style of sharing about relationships probably *is* a reflection of life paradigms that clash with my own. so maybe *now* i’m integrated. (until the next spiral-round! smiles…)

    thanks again.

  65. I agree with you for the most part (and reeeaaaaaally want to pet the kitty), but I think there should be a few more rules than I think you do.

    For instance, my partner and I have the following rules:

    All potential partners must be aware that they should not expect a monogamous relationship, once it has been established that their relationship will be more than casual, and all non-casual partners must be informed when a new non-casual relationship is embarked upon-the full disclosure rule.

    Unless there is a time restricted activity (finding out about a concert coming to town from a band that has not played in the US for 14 years, for example), plans with one partner will not be canceled for another partner without the first partner’s permission (this is regardless of the hierarchy, a secondary won’t be canceled for a primary either)-the no partner is made to feel less than important rule.

    In addition to safe sex practices, there will be showering (and tooth brushing in the case of oral sex) between sexual encounters with different partners, unless the second partner does not care if (s)he potentially comes into contact with the first partner’s bodily fluids-the common courtesy rule.

    If a partner has an issue with something, however small, they must discuss it with the partner concerned; a consensus does not have to be reached, but the second partner has the right to know the first has a concern and the first has the right to feel that the second takes concerns seriously-the emotional health rule.

    If a partner wants to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with a friend (of theirs or their partner’s) the partner must be notified ahead of time; if it is their partner’s friend they must have permission-the keeping all your ducks in a row rule.

    I am not allowed to read any Ayn Rand-has nothing to do with the relationship itself, my bleeding heart bf just thinks that I’m already enough of a Social Darwinist.

    I feel these rules are important, not because they actually restrict relationships, because that is always a recipe for disaster, but because they ensure that everyone is aware of the current situation (because when poly it changes often), and that communication flows freely. We also made sure that our rules protect everyone equally, not just the primaries, because making someone more important because it is a rule and not because it is what is wanted creates stress, secrets and resentment.

  66. I agree with you for the most part (and reeeaaaaaally want to pet the kitty), but I think there should be a few more rules than I think you do.

    For instance, my partner and I have the following rules:

    All potential partners must be aware that they should not expect a monogamous relationship, once it has been established that their relationship will be more than casual, and all non-casual partners must be informed when a new non-casual relationship is embarked upon-the full disclosure rule.

    Unless there is a time restricted activity (finding out about a concert coming to town from a band that has not played in the US for 14 years, for example), plans with one partner will not be canceled for another partner without the first partner’s permission (this is regardless of the hierarchy, a secondary won’t be canceled for a primary either)-the no partner is made to feel less than important rule.

    In addition to safe sex practices, there will be showering (and tooth brushing in the case of oral sex) between sexual encounters with different partners, unless the second partner does not care if (s)he potentially comes into contact with the first partner’s bodily fluids-the common courtesy rule.

    If a partner has an issue with something, however small, they must discuss it with the partner concerned; a consensus does not have to be reached, but the second partner has the right to know the first has a concern and the first has the right to feel that the second takes concerns seriously-the emotional health rule.

    If a partner wants to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with a friend (of theirs or their partner’s) the partner must be notified ahead of time; if it is their partner’s friend they must have permission-the keeping all your ducks in a row rule.

    I am not allowed to read any Ayn Rand-has nothing to do with the relationship itself, my bleeding heart bf just thinks that I’m already enough of a Social Darwinist.

    I feel these rules are important, not because they actually restrict relationships, because that is always a recipe for disaster, but because they ensure that everyone is aware of the current situation (because when poly it changes often), and that communication flows freely. We also made sure that our rules protect everyone equally, not just the primaries, because making someone more important because it is a rule and not because it is what is wanted creates stress, secrets and resentment.

  67. The things you’ve pointed out in your article make sense whether you’re talking about a polyamorous relationship or about anything else. I needed to see this today. Thanks.

    Oh, BTW, I love Siamese kitties! A friend had two of them, which some fool had actually abandoned.

  68. The things you’ve pointed out in your article make sense whether you’re talking about a polyamorous relationship or about anything else. I needed to see this today. Thanks.

    Oh, BTW, I love Siamese kitties! A friend had two of them, which some fool had actually abandoned.

  69. You know, in order to take care of me, I had to step out of this conversation. I simply do not have the bandwidth to engage with you (or Franklin) in the sort of discussion that you’re wanting. I do, however, object to your characterizing me as wanting simple agreement with my position. Not so. But in the same way that you seem to see me as not understanding you, I’m seeing you as not understanding me. I’m NOT advocating the convoluted, gigantic, multipage, inflexible contract that Franklin gave in his example. Never was. I DO, however, think that there are some uses for written agreements, and I’ve spent some time researching and developing tools that others have found useful in making such agreements. As far as I can tell, you and Franklin both disagree with that. *shrug* We disagree. That’s OK. As I’ve said repeatedly, YMMV. There’s room for a lot of diversity in the world, fortunately.

  70. “If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.”

    How do _you_ define rules? In my books rules are another way of stating clear needs and boundaries.

    If I have a rule saying “you are not allowed to break a date with me to spend time with another lover” that is my stating that this is something that would make me unhappy.

    Should I rather than stating “rules” expect my partner/lover to read my mind? Or perhaps I should state it in a “nicer” way, so that it sounds less like a “rule”?

    Perhaps I could say “I would feel sad if you were to break a date with me to spend it with another lover.” Guess what? That’s as much a rule as the other, it’s just stated “nicer”.

    And what if the fact is that I would not want to be partners with you anymore if you were to break dates with me to see other lovers? Wouldn’t it be important for me to state the importance of this to you at the get go?

    You might say, “Well, that’s an obvious one.” But is it? Maybe I should understand that your other lover feels new and exciting to you, and you’re gonna bring that joy and passion back to our relationship! And maybe that’s true. But I still get to have my boundaries regarding what sort of treatment is okay with me.

    If I were fully enlightened, and had no needs and no fear, I would have no need for boundaries. It wouldn’t matter what my partner chose to do, because I would expect nothing and appreciate everything. But as a being still stuck in my perception of being finite, I do have needs. And “rules” or as I like to call them “agreements” (this just means that you’ve checked it out with the other person and they have said it works for them) let me know which of my needs and boundaries I can expect to be met by my partners.

    You spoke of people putting their partner on “a short leash” to “deal with their own jealousies”. People have different needs and different boundaries. If they are insisting upon “unreasonable rules” that their partner feels stifled by, then the partner should never have made the agreements in the first place, and should back out immediately as gracefully as possible! Or decide that the relationship is worth it to them, and learn how to accept the needs and boundaries that their partner requires.

    I further posit that if a “no rules policy” has worked for you, that you do indeed have rules, they are just unspoken. They have been made clear in some other fashion. There is some way that your lovers know what is okay with you and what isn’t, and they have some idea of the consequences if they trespass.

    The problem is that by not having stated rules, it becomes very easy for there to be a power imbalance. It’s usually challenging to say “I can sleep with whoever I want and you can’t sleep with anyone but me” verbatim. However, if the rules are unspoken, it’s easy to get angry or withdrawn if a lover sleeps with others, and then not accept their discomfort when you do.

    Perhaps you are so strong, and so benevolent, and only date such strong and giving and attentive people that you all make your unspoken needs and boundaries abundantly clear and have reasonable expectations of your partners at all times. If this is so, more power to you. Tell the angels I said hello.

    If, however, you are human and fallible, rules and agreements are a tool to help you respect one another.

    • I think it’s important to keep in mind that I am not saying rules are bad. In fact, I specifically stated both in the post and in the comments that relationship agreements and rules are necessary and healthy.

      Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough, but when I said “If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary,” I am talking about one very specific type of rule–the rules you’ll find in the example contract I linked to, rules that are determined only by one of the couples in the relationship and then imposed by fiat upon everyone else joining that relationship. And more specifically than that, rules based on assumptions that are destructive, such as “if I do not closely regulate the words and phrases my partner uses with his other partners, then I will become expendable and I will no longer be special.”

      As with anything, the reasons behind relationship agreements are at least as important as the agreements themselves, and sometimes more important. Agreements such as “you are forbidden to call anyone else by pet names’ do not strike me as particularly healthy. Nor do rules that attempt to micromanage every part of a relationship, including the exact number of miles a person may drive on a date and the number of times per week a third party is allowed to buy dinner. (These aren’t made-up examples; I’ve seen relationship contracts which contain exactly these sorts of stipulations.)

      I don’t think there’s really such thing as a “no rules” policy, and that certainly isn’t what I’m talking about here.

      You do touch on an important point, though, when you say:

      Should I rather than stating “rules” expect my partner/lover to read my mind? Or perhaps I should state it in a “nicer” way, so that it sounds less like a “rule”?

      Perhaps I could say “I would feel sad if you were to break a date with me to spend it with another lover.” Guess what? That’s as much a rule as the other, it’s just stated “nicer”.

      Yes, both statements are expressions of boundaries and needs. But the difference is not just that one is expressed nicer; it goes way beyond that. The first example is trying to meet a need by imposing a curse of action on the other person. the second allows the other person to make a choice; how important is your happiness? What avenue is available to make you happy?

      Another example concerns time. Time is often a limiting factor in many poly relationships, and it is reasonable for people to want to spend time with their partners. Many–arguably, most–poly relationships have agreements about time.

      Now, consider these two examples:

      1. “I am concerned that I am not getting enough time with you. Therefore, you are forbidden to spend more than 3 hours once per month with your other partner.” (Again, not an abstract or made-up example, but a real-world example of a rule I’ve actually seen.)

      2. “I am concerned that I am not getting enough time with you. I feel that you are neglecting me in your desire to spend time with your new lover. This makes me unhappy.”

      The difference is that #2 allows the other person to make choices. The other person might indeed say “Well, since that’s the case, I will spend less time with my other lover.” But the other person might also say “Well, since that’s the case, I will spend less time playing World of Warcraft.” Or “I will spend less time with my knitting circle.” Or “I will stop asking for overtime at the office.”

      In other words, the second option treats the other person as a grown adult, empowered to make decisions about priorities and time scheduling. And that’s a very, very different thing from the first option, which actually disempowers the other person. Do you see the difference?

  71. “If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary.”

    How do _you_ define rules? In my books rules are another way of stating clear needs and boundaries.

    If I have a rule saying “you are not allowed to break a date with me to spend time with another lover” that is my stating that this is something that would make me unhappy.

    Should I rather than stating “rules” expect my partner/lover to read my mind? Or perhaps I should state it in a “nicer” way, so that it sounds less like a “rule”?

    Perhaps I could say “I would feel sad if you were to break a date with me to spend it with another lover.” Guess what? That’s as much a rule as the other, it’s just stated “nicer”.

    And what if the fact is that I would not want to be partners with you anymore if you were to break dates with me to see other lovers? Wouldn’t it be important for me to state the importance of this to you at the get go?

    You might say, “Well, that’s an obvious one.” But is it? Maybe I should understand that your other lover feels new and exciting to you, and you’re gonna bring that joy and passion back to our relationship! And maybe that’s true. But I still get to have my boundaries regarding what sort of treatment is okay with me.

    If I were fully enlightened, and had no needs and no fear, I would have no need for boundaries. It wouldn’t matter what my partner chose to do, because I would expect nothing and appreciate everything. But as a being still stuck in my perception of being finite, I do have needs. And “rules” or as I like to call them “agreements” (this just means that you’ve checked it out with the other person and they have said it works for them) let me know which of my needs and boundaries I can expect to be met by my partners.

    You spoke of people putting their partner on “a short leash” to “deal with their own jealousies”. People have different needs and different boundaries. If they are insisting upon “unreasonable rules” that their partner feels stifled by, then the partner should never have made the agreements in the first place, and should back out immediately as gracefully as possible! Or decide that the relationship is worth it to them, and learn how to accept the needs and boundaries that their partner requires.

    I further posit that if a “no rules policy” has worked for you, that you do indeed have rules, they are just unspoken. They have been made clear in some other fashion. There is some way that your lovers know what is okay with you and what isn’t, and they have some idea of the consequences if they trespass.

    The problem is that by not having stated rules, it becomes very easy for there to be a power imbalance. It’s usually challenging to say “I can sleep with whoever I want and you can’t sleep with anyone but me” verbatim. However, if the rules are unspoken, it’s easy to get angry or withdrawn if a lover sleeps with others, and then not accept their discomfort when you do.

    Perhaps you are so strong, and so benevolent, and only date such strong and giving and attentive people that you all make your unspoken needs and boundaries abundantly clear and have reasonable expectations of your partners at all times. If this is so, more power to you. Tell the angels I said hello.

    If, however, you are human and fallible, rules and agreements are a tool to help you respect one another.

  72. Is that not what you’re talking about?

    Actually, I think that IS the problem. I WASN’T talking about the extreme case you listed–didn’t read it till later, in fact. In the beginning, I agreed with you, in basis, and went on to say that I still found times that written agreements could be useful. I think we’ve been talking at somewhat cross-purposes.

    And as to the planet thing–I’m sorry for my snarkiness. I apologize for letting my frustration get in the way of our communication. I DO understand your position, even though you seem to think I do not. It’s a great thing to aim for, truly. I think it’s great that you have created it for yourself–we NEED examples of people who are successful in good relationships. I just don’t think it’s actually possible for everyone in the world *right this minute*. Some people haven’t gone enough turns around the wheel (or whatever metaphor you wish) to be able to do this sort of thing consistently. You are ABSOLUTELY welcome to decide that you only want to deal with lovers and a circle of friends who ARE able to do this. Your free choice. I’m sure it IS a great way to live.

    AND I’m equally certain that the majority of folks that have come to me/us for coaching are not able to make that leap in one step. And they’re already IN relationships, sometimes marriages, and they don’t want to throw them away. Agreements are one TOOL that we suggest in working with such folks, along with various other tools, and an ocean of personal growth opportunities (since one’s ability to succeed in relationship is entirely dependent on one’s own life skills, as you have mentioned at various points in this discussion). We emphasize that win-win solutions are the ONLY way that a relationship wins. We talk about personal responsibility. We advocate “additive” agreements, not subtractive, restrictive ones. We just also consider that written agreements can be helpful in explicating and supporting the intentions between any two people making them (at the same time we also advocate the KISS principle).

    Every once in a while, we’ve come across a couple who is farther along in this process, and it’s always a joy to work with them. But most of the people I see aren’t there, for one reason or another. And I choose to work with them where they’re at. You might not choose to, if you were the one providing the coaching. And that’s OK–we get to make different choices.

    Now, as I said to your Friend EMIII, I stepped out of this conversation because it was simply consuming too much of my available energy at the moment. For various reasons (which I won’t bore you with here), I don’t have a great deal of energy right now. It’s past midnight, and I’ve got a very full day ahead tomorrow, so I’m going to have to sign off again now.

    Thanks for the discussion. Interesting, as always.

  73. re: the “anarchistic” comment

    Someone else in my own journal wrote:
    This is like the old anarchist tag (gag?): “Laws are pointless: good people don’t need them, and bad people won’t obey them.” Not that agreements between two people are like laws, which are more an instrument of hierarchy; but that’s the bell [info]tacit’s remark rang in my head.

    It stuck with me, and came out here. Sorry if it felt like I was really not getting what you had to say. My apologies.

  74. Then THAT would be an actual agreement entered into by peers.

    Yes, it has been, in those occasions where that’s been the agreed-upon course of action. Sometimes people choose to “sign on the dotted line” because they agree with the agreements, and fully choose to participate in them. Sometimes they choose to negotiate, if it’s important enough.

    So, given this last bit of exchange, I think that one of the major issues here is that I have not been talking about the same thing that you guys have.

    Tacit assumed (i.e., took as given) an “agreement” with no ability to negotiate. That, to me, is a “demand,” not an agreement. So MY assumptions, seeing the word “agreement,” were that some sort of adult conversation and negotiation could take place before any signing on a line (dotted or otherwise) would take place.

    We haven’t been in agreement about what an “agreement” is. ;^)

    No wonder we’ve been unable to see each others’ point of view clearly.

  75. “You know, in order to take care of me, I had to step out of this conversation.”

    It’s optional. I ask questions and if you want to answer them, great. If you don’t want to answer them, then don’t. If you don’t think the questions make sense, then we can work on that. But considering you’ve been AVOIDING the questions in favor of digging at me, the idea that you had to step out of the conversation to “take care of you” is kinda funny.

    “I simply do not have the bandwidth to engage with you (or Franklin) in the sort of discussion that you’re wanting.”

    Well, then in the future, you might want to consider how you start up something before assessing if you’ve got the fuel to carry it through.

    “I do, however, object to your characterizing me as wanting simple agreement with my position.”

    Fortunately, what I ACTUALLY wrote is right up above here, so you can refer to that.

    Look for the things that end with this symbol: “?”

    “But in the same way that you seem to see me as not understanding you, I’m seeing you as not understanding me.”

    The difference is that I am asking questions and expecting that you’ll bother answering them instead of just poking at me and then suddenly acquiring a flux.

    “I DO, however, think that there are some uses for written agreements…”

    Right, and I was asking about that.

    Because my experience is different, so, in case I’m missing something, I’m asking about it.

    If you want to answer the questions, great, but if you don’t, if you are too challenged by them, then one of the options is to declare you’re bored, decide you don’t have the bandwidth and that you’ve got to take care of yourself and then leave, but make a special effort to ostentatiously declare you’re doing so.

    But that would be lame and passive-aggressive, so surely you’ve got something else going on. No worries — like I said, I’m patient.

    I’m game to keep trying to understand what seems to be a very unthought-out position, and you feel free to engage whenever you’re able to muster your limited resources of energy. (but out of courtesy to me, I would prefer if you DO re-engage in the conversation, to actually stick with it — I think that shows a certain level of respect for the person’s time who is asking you questions and expecting some sort of answer)

  76. I think it’s important to keep in mind that I am not saying rules are bad. In fact, I specifically stated both in the post and in the comments that relationship agreements and rules are necessary and healthy.

    Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough, but when I said “If your assumptions are false, and your partner does value and cherish you, then rules are unnecessary,” I am talking about one very specific type of rule–the rules you’ll find in the example contract I linked to, rules that are determined only by one of the couples in the relationship and then imposed by fiat upon everyone else joining that relationship. And more specifically than that, rules based on assumptions that are destructive, such as “if I do not closely regulate the words and phrases my partner uses with his other partners, then I will become expendable and I will no longer be special.”

    As with anything, the reasons behind relationship agreements are at least as important as the agreements themselves, and sometimes more important. Agreements such as “you are forbidden to call anyone else by pet names’ do not strike me as particularly healthy. Nor do rules that attempt to micromanage every part of a relationship, including the exact number of miles a person may drive on a date and the number of times per week a third party is allowed to buy dinner. (These aren’t made-up examples; I’ve seen relationship contracts which contain exactly these sorts of stipulations.)

    I don’t think there’s really such thing as a “no rules” policy, and that certainly isn’t what I’m talking about here.

    You do touch on an important point, though, when you say:

    Should I rather than stating “rules” expect my partner/lover to read my mind? Or perhaps I should state it in a “nicer” way, so that it sounds less like a “rule”?

    Perhaps I could say “I would feel sad if you were to break a date with me to spend it with another lover.” Guess what? That’s as much a rule as the other, it’s just stated “nicer”.

    Yes, both statements are expressions of boundaries and needs. But the difference is not just that one is expressed nicer; it goes way beyond that. The first example is trying to meet a need by imposing a curse of action on the other person. the second allows the other person to make a choice; how important is your happiness? What avenue is available to make you happy?

    Another example concerns time. Time is often a limiting factor in many poly relationships, and it is reasonable for people to want to spend time with their partners. Many–arguably, most–poly relationships have agreements about time.

    Now, consider these two examples:

    1. “I am concerned that I am not getting enough time with you. Therefore, you are forbidden to spend more than 3 hours once per month with your other partner.” (Again, not an abstract or made-up example, but a real-world example of a rule I’ve actually seen.)

    2. “I am concerned that I am not getting enough time with you. I feel that you are neglecting me in your desire to spend time with your new lover. This makes me unhappy.”

    The difference is that #2 allows the other person to make choices. The other person might indeed say “Well, since that’s the case, I will spend less time with my other lover.” But the other person might also say “Well, since that’s the case, I will spend less time playing World of Warcraft.” Or “I will spend less time with my knitting circle.” Or “I will stop asking for overtime at the office.”

    In other words, the second option treats the other person as a grown adult, empowered to make decisions about priorities and time scheduling. And that’s a very, very different thing from the first option, which actually disempowers the other person. Do you see the difference?

  77. “So, given this last bit of exchange, I think that one of the major issues here is that I have not been talking about the same thing that you guys have”

    The subject is agreements imposed upon incoming parties by existing parties.

    You wrote “This is true if one is assuming that the agreements are for the people in the relationship already. I find, however, that our written agreements are at least as much about setting expectations for people coming *into* the relationship [snip] as they are for the people in the relationship.”

    Your example was “In sitting down to MAKE the agreement, you will often discover that you don’t actually agree on what “sex” is, for instance.”

    Thus began the questions.

    Now, if you’re going to change what you want to talk about mid-stride (which is fine), then it would be helpful to declare that, such as saying “Well, I know the original topic is about imposed demands, but I want to talk about mutually agreed-upon agreements, which is a different thing.”

    And that would be fine, because at that point, you would be in agreement with what Franklin wrote “I believe very strongly in mutual, negotiated agreements. I do not believe a relationship can survive without them.” and what I wrote “Anyone can make any agreement they want amongst themselves for any reason whatsoever, and it’s no one’s business but theirs. If a THIRD PARTY comes in (or a fourth or fifth or whatever…), they certainly have the right to ask for or demand ANYTHING, up to and including renegotiating how those rules might or might not apply to them.”

    And that would have been simpler.

    I even mentioned that: “Now see, that’s very different than a written agreement telling the new person how they should behave, which is what this has been about since Tacit’s original post.”

    But now you KNOW that even with your New And Improved Position, both Franklin and I have already been there, and said our piece.

    Although I can’t speak for Franklin, I think your use of “argumentative,” “tedious,” “stupid,” “self-centered,” “anarchistic,” to describe our positions and suggesting that we’re not “compassionate” and “flexible” are indications that you’re disinclined toward a discussion.

    Do you use that sort of attitude when you counsel people?

  78. Edward, respectfully, you have NO IDEA what’s going on in my life right now. I do not owe you my time. I regret that I have been unable to have the conversation you’d like to have. I regret that I even started having this conversation in the first place. You have no idea. None of this makes any difference to the fact that I simply do not have the bandwith to deal with this at this time. You can call it passive-aggressive if you want; I call it taking care of myself in the midst of stress.

    I apologize for not speaking in the way that you would most like. I apologize for starting a discussion I couldn’t finish. You certainly have a reasonable expectation that I would finish what I started, and I can’t do it. I’m sorry.


  79. Do you use that sort of attitude when you counsel people?

    What attitude I use while counseling/coaching people is a private matter between me and the people I am coaching. Last I checked, you and Tacit are not my clients. Anyone (you and Tacit included) who wishes to discuss my policies and procedures while counseling/coaching is welcome to contact me at our business address to do so. I don’t anticipate that you or Tacit would be interested, but you are free to do so.

    Again, as I have said before, I apologize for losing my cool in this discussion earlier. (Even counselors and coaches have bad days–it’s often how we learn new techniques, being forced to figure out how to handle situations for ourselves or in our own lives.) I don’t have more to give at this time, which doesn’t mean that I think your questions are invalid or unworthy. It does mean, however, that I value my time with my elderly, infirm parents who are visiting me for less than a week.

  80. “Edward, respectfully, you have NO IDEA what’s going on in my life right now.”

    How is it relevant to what we’re discussing?

    “I do not owe you my time.”

    Where have I suggested this?

    “I regret that I even started having this conversation in the first place.”

    It IS a toughie, because it touches on personal sense of safety and boundaries and how boundaries are a direct translation of insecurities (for better or for worse). So, yeah, it’s gonna be a tricky conversation, and of course, in your professional capacity as a counselor, you are aware of the fact that even ordinary questions posed against a backdrop constructed of insecurities is going to seem threatening.

    I figured that once you identified yourself as some sort of counselor/professional, that you were doing so to engage in the conversation on a professional level, and were aware of the potential of such landmines.

    But responding, as I’ve already said, is completely an option.

  81. “What attitude I use while counseling/coaching people is a private matter between me and the people I am coaching. Last I checked, you and Tacit are not my clients.”

    Okay, it’s good to know you have no substantive disagreement with the rest of what I wrote.

    That was a bit of a cheap shot on my part, so I apologize. Usually, when people call me a lot of names, I can ignore it and keep focusing on the topic at hand, but poking the dichotomy was like Pop-Tarts that morning.

  82. How is it relevant to what we’re discussing?

    Because I would like to think that you would have enough compassion and maturity to respond kindly to someone in pain, if you knew that to be the case.

    Where have I suggested this?

    I’m not going to go looking for the examples because I don’t have the time. In my view, however, you have suggested that I owe you my time by saying/implying that I’m passive aggressive or even unprofessional* if I don’t respond to you.

    *(Something I’ll grant you didn’t say outright, but have IMO implied.)

    I figured that once you identified yourself as some sort of counselor/professional, that you were doing so to engage in the conversation on a professional level, and were aware of the potential of such landmines.

    You dismissed my statements about “what I’ve seen work” as being from my own personal experience only. I provided the information (not present in my original comment, so you couldn’t have known) that I had more background to base my ideas on than *just* my personal experience. That is the ONLY reason I brought it up.

    I am not (at this time) a full-time professional at this, Edward, and I never claimed I was. I’m a very part-time coach and discussion facilitator who tries to share tools that have worked for me, and that I’ve seen work for others. Whether anyone else chooses to use them is, as you’ve said (and as I’ve said in other ways), “completely an option.” Some people have found them valuable; others have not.

    Thank you for the acknowledgment (in a different comment) that your statement speculating about my attitudes in coaching was a cheap shot. I appreciate the apology.

    Now, as you’ve said, “responding is completely an option.” If you choose to respond to me (which I’d rather you didn’t, just FYI), I’m going to not respond back. I’ve got presents to wrap, visiting guests to interact with and a large dinner-party to prepare for. I wish you a pleasant holiday season, in whatever manner you choose to celebrate–or not. :^)

  83. “I would like to think that you would have enough compassion and maturity to respond kindly to someone in pain, if you knew that to be the case.”

    Now, now — if you’re strong enough to pony up an opinion in a conversation where there are bound to be questions that challenge personal boundaries and insecurities, then it’s not exactly cricket to bitch about people responding with questions that address boundaries and insecurities.

    It’s certainly not cricket to suggest they’re not compassionate or kindly (and all the other adjectives you’ve been using). That could easily be mistaken for passive-aggressive behavior (I looked it up before I used the phrase, too, to be sure I was aware of the symptoms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior ), which I’m sure is something you’re aware of as a part-time coach and discussion facilitator who wishes to be treated as somewhat authoritative regarding personal relationships.

    “I’m not going to go looking for the examples because I don’t have the time.”

    I owe you the courtesy to look up examples, to make absolutely sure that I am accurately representing YOUR words, and not shit I make up in my head and attribute to you. I’m sure you can understand the value of that, and recognize that there’s plenty of time. I’m in no hurry.

    “In my view, however, you have suggested that I owe you my time by saying/implying that I’m passive aggressive or even unprofessional* if I don’t respond to you.”

    I’ve responded to your requests for time by suggesting you take all the time you need and suggesting that you don’t have to respond. I consider that pretty compassionate, and treating you like an adult who knows their limits and how to take care of their own health, and when they’re able to engage in a conversation that challenges boundaries and insecurities. Like I said — it’s a hard topic to address without getting personal.

    I have REQUESTED that if and when you re-engage in the conversation, you try to stick with it. But that was clearly a request. It is certainly a courtesy I extend to you.

    You can make up what you THINK I’ve said, but when I refuse to accept it (and have done so repeatedly) as representative of my point, then you have to make a choice. Either you readjust what you think I’m saying (by reading what I actually wrote), or you insist your interpretation is correct and achieve exciting new levels of frustration and confusion when I continue acting in contradiction to it. I recommend against option B.

    When you changed your “point,” I went through the entire thread and quoted out where both Franklin and I had already stated explicitly that we had already covered your New Improved Point way early on. I didn’t once complain about the time or my hard bitter life or whatever, I just offered that data. Since I did that, all you’ve been doing is bitching at me.

    I’m game to continue the discussion as started, if and when you’re still interested, but I’m sure you’ll understand when I ignore future personal attacks.

    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  84. hmmmm- I finally caught up on old entries & NOW you tell me *lol* I have a new play partner who is very insecure & I’m trying to make him realize that because I’m with others doesn’t diminish the time or the feelings I have for him…. I told him that when I ‘m with others I think about him & whrn I’m ith him I think about others….. I think that might have helped… I hope…. btw: would you please explore the topic of bdsm & polyamory? i.e, how monogamous relationships are compatible/incompatible with the concept of sharing play partners & how ppl get around the concept? Pretty please?

  85. hmmmm- I finally caught up on old entries & NOW you tell me *lol* I have a new play partner who is very insecure & I’m trying to make him realize that because I’m with others doesn’t diminish the time or the feelings I have for him…. I told him that when I ‘m with others I think about him & whrn I’m ith him I think about others….. I think that might have helped… I hope…. btw: would you please explore the topic of bdsm & polyamory? i.e, how monogamous relationships are compatible/incompatible with the concept of sharing play partners & how ppl get around the concept? Pretty please?

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