My former husband and I created a set of principles that guided us through our marriage and also, ultimately through our breakup. I’ve blogged already about the principles, however they are important enough that they bear repeating. So the next few blogs will be about the principles and how they assist in not only creating a healthy relationship but also how they assist in transforming your relationship in a health and life-affirming way.
First and foremost:
No surprises are allowed –(Except surprise parties and scenes and gifts and cards and that kind of fun stuff).
This is my primary relationship agreement. In fact, most of the folks that I know in the polyamorous community, if they have only one agreement, it’s the No Surprises Agreement. (Note, I try to avoid using the word “rule”. Rules are imposed, agreements require consent. When negotiating your relationship “language” is very important. The words you use can totally alter the conversation.). I think that many of the agreements those of us in the poly community use in our relationships can be beneficial to all relationships poly or mono.
“No surprises” usually means let your partner know before you do something that might cause them dismay or even that may cause them to be uncomfortable. In reality it means that we communicate. That we anticipate areas that may be triggers for our partners and tell them before they discover it on their own. Do you like to look at porn and your partner doesn’t know? Let them know prior to them discovering it accidentally. Did a former partner start working in the cubicle next door? First thing you should do is tell your current partner about this. It’s pretty simple but easy to not do.
Basically, it means talking –being conscious. Anticipating areas that may be of concern and being willing to take chances and let them know things that may be unpleasant or not optimal. I guarantee a known potential issue is way less threatening to a relationship than an unknown. We are people who like to create stories about what we feel might be reality. And it’s a lot harder for your partner to make up stories when you are upfront from the start; giving them the facts, even in areas that might cause distress or concern.
Along those lines we’ll go to the next three agreements:
Make clear agreements on what each person is supposed to do.
Each person should be clear about their intentions.
Each person should be clear about their expectations of the other.
You’ll see that some of the principles seem a bit redundant. They are meant to be since they are the areas of relationship that we usually mess up. And communicating is the biggest hurdle we have to leap in relationships. Communicating means being conscious, in the moment and aware and letting your partner (or partners) know how you are, what you want and what you expect.
One of the things I love most about the poly world is that we usually (note I said usually) enter into our relationships fully conscious. We know going in that we will have to make certain agreements to make it work for all parties involved. In the kink community we also spend more time talking about and making agreements about how our relationships will look. Sometimes we even have “contracts” that spell out the details.
In the world of monogamy, many times we just “fall into” a relationship. Remember when you were in grade-school and the kid sitting next to you just announced that they were your girlfriend/boyfriend? That’s kind of how it works. All of a sudden we’ve got a lover. All of a sudden we’re engaged or married. And then there’s kids. And it just keeps going and before we know it we realize that we never talked at all about the really important things. We’re sexually incompatible. One of us is kinky. We really don’t want to live in the suburbs. We didn’t really want to have children. You see where I’m going with this?
Now, I know that there are a lot of very conscious monogamous people as there are plenty of unconscious poly people, and from talking to my monogamous friends (yes, I have some) over the years, more often than not they entered their relationships blindly, they forgot to create agreements and be clear about their intentions and expectations. Someone very close to me, years ago (like 40+) got married at the age of seventeen. I asked her why rush into this and she said “All my friends are getting married” then she paused, looked at me kind of funny and then said “oh, and I love him”. That marriage lasted just long enough for her to have two children. Then they divorced and she became a struggling single mom. It was obvious that she wasn’t super conscious about the whole marriage thing.
Healthy relationships start with the above three principles right from the beginning.
Having agreements, being clear on intentions and exceptions.
No secrets or secret agendas are allowed.
This kind of goes back to the No Surprises agreement. Don’t keep secrets. Lies of omission are still lies. I’m not saying be tactless but being up front and honest, even when it hurts, will serve you so much better in the long run. As for secret agendas — here’s an example: Marrying someone who has a few habits or ways of being that you don’t like with the idea that you’ll find a way to secretly wear them down and change them into something more to your liking. This will backfire. If you can’t have an honest conversation from the get-go then you should not be in the relationship.
There is a saying that I love. We love the person we are with for who they are AND who they aren’t. We don’t try to change them into something else.
How do these five principles assist you during a break up? That’s coming next.