Wednesday, April 22

Free Love Relationship Agreements

In a few years, no doubt, marriage licenses will be sold like dog licenses, good for a period of twelve months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time.-- Exceprt from the Forward to A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

In my “Open Marriage” with Michael, there is no legal paper that binds us to one another. We wake up choose each day to be with one another. Our wedding vows were simply:
To Live Fully
To Love Freely
And to Be in Truth
Don’t get me wrong, we are not afraid of commitments or agreements.
In fact we are meticulous and impeccable when it comes to commitments and often coach our lovers and friends to write down their commitments and actually form contracts. In our Foundations of Free love workshops we ask individuals to write down how they want to be treated and what they want in relationship and then we ask them to compare notes with their lovers. It’s important to first get clear on your own hearts desire and then to compare and see where your desires overlap with others. We then suggest couples or triads discuss and negotiate their agreements and then date and sign the document to be review in a period of one, three or six months time.

For many people, this may seem a bit rigid. But the value of this exercise is to gain clarity and to take responsibility for creating agreements. What most people don’t see or admit is that we are all operating on agreements. These agreements are often unconscious and non-consensual, until we take the time to write them out. See, there are certain cultural standards and expectations people carry around such as: I don’t have sex on the first date, or when I sleep with someone I expect them to call me the next day, or my husband would never go out to coffee with any of his ex lovers. But if these agreements aren’t clearly communicated…how can we expect our partners to know? So we invite you to make a list of your current agreements and personal standards for the sake of becoming more conscious. This exercise is especially important for people who are not willing to quietly submit to the current cultural norms and expectations. When you are a renegade spirit that doesn’t want to play by “their” rules, you carry the burden of defining your own rules. Please start with a minimum of three. They don’t have to be deep, they can be as simple or as complex as the following ten examples:

1. I don’t date people who smoke…(or vegetarians)
2. I will no longer get into bed with someone who doesn’t have a job.
3. I need space, at least one weekend day and night to myself.
4. I only date people who are “out” of the poly closet.
5. I don’t tolerate gossip. Anything that two people do or say while together should remain private unless you check with me and get permission prior to sharing details with anyone else.
6. I will not date anyone who is competitive or considers themselves a jealous person.
7. I want only to date other couples.
8. I want to meet someone and give you permission before you ask them out on a date.
9. I don’t ever want to be told what to do.
10.I promise to take responsibility for my own emotions and ask that you do the same.

We hope these examples stimulate your own list. Once you brainstorm your own agreements you may chose to craft a contract, document or written agreement. Which is a little like writing little business plans for your romantic relationships. Does this sound absurd? Think about it…an intelligent business owner wouldn’t even dream of taking on a business partner without a business plan…but people jump in bed and then they jump into life partnership, share a bed, a house, family…without giving it a second thought!
After writing your list of relationship boundaries you can comb through it and start making more subtle distinctions. Identify which agreements are actually needs,
Personal standards,
bottom-lines and/or deal-breakers.
We will talk about needs in greater detail in a later chapter, but for now let’s identify bottom lines and deal-breakers are special boundaries with greater consequences. They are often treated like ultimatums where if they are crossed the entire romantic relationship is at steak.
Following is a list of examples of terms and clauses used in poly contracts (excerpt from Sacred Sexual Healing by Baba Dez Nichols and Kamala Devi)
SINGLE-SEX POLY. When bisexual individuals in a poly arrangement agree to date one sex and not the other sex.

PRIOR APPROVAL. When a couple agrees to open the relationship but they want to meet any new partners before moving into sexual territory. Often, the primary partner’s comfort level is a decisive factor before moving into sexual territory with someone else.

VETO POWER. When the primary partner is given the power to approve or veto any outside relationships. If the primary partner does not approve, then the new relationship is not allowed to continue.

CONDOM COMMITMENT. When condoms are not used in the primary relationship, but are used when having sex with other people. In other words, the couple practices safe sex with everyone else.

FLUID BONDED. Any relationship in which partners are allowing the exchange of bodily fluids and having barrier-free intercourse.

FLUID MONOGAMY. When couples use condoms with all relationships except the primary relationship.

TELL-ALL POLICY. When individuals in a poly relationship agree to inform each other of the full intimate details of their involvement with other parties.

NEED-TO-KNOW. When partners agree to an open relationship and promise to inform their partners about any information that may affect the primary, such as when they start sleeping with someone else. This differs from Tell-All Policy in that there is no need to report unless asked.

DON’T ASK/DON’T TELL. When individuals would rather not know any details about their partner’s outside relationships.

SOFT SWAP. When intimate behavior such as kissing, petting, and oral sex are allowed with multiple partners but penetrative sex is allowed only with the primary.

PACKAGE DEAL. When a couple only dates and has sex with others when they are together.

NON-EXCLUSION. When primary partners are always invited to join each other’s dates and sleepovers. In other words, nobody spends the night alone unless it’s by choice.

NO DRAMA. If a relationship has a repeated pattern of emotional crisis, creating undue chaos, and challenging other relationships, it can be considered drama, which by this policy is not tolerated. The No Drama policy can also take the form of placing a limit on how often and how long relationship issues are discussed. Compulsive emotional processing can be counterproductive and addictive. Polyamory requires more communication, but there is such a thing as too many “deep and meaningful” conversations.

In the past, Michael and I could have filled 10 pages with various relationship agreements that we have experimented with, but over time we have whittled it down to the following 4 bottom lines:
1. We always use condoms for penetrative sex with other lovers.
2. We are completely open and honest with each other; we fully disclose our feelings and flirtations with others.
3. We only engage with others who add to or enhance our relationship.
4. We do not tolerate chaos and/or drama and in extreme cases may veto a relationship if it is draining our energy and power.

For the sake of humor and further education REiD would also add:
1. Don’t stick your dick in crazy
2. Date your species
Although rule number one seems self explanatory, you’d be surprised at how many poly folk tend to attract stalkers and skitzos. Crazy people cannot be reasoned with and tend not to stick to agreements. If you have evidence that someone is not capable of honoring your bottom lines…stay the hell away. Despite how sexy they may be, it’s really that simple.

REiD’s rule number two is a little more complex because it requires that you actually figure out what your style of free love is. Reid has found relationship works better with queer sluts. Of course there are exceptions, but if you are the type of person who likes group sex, and couldn’t be anything but poly, it’s best you find someone who has similar tastes. Starting a relationship with somebody who’s just poly curious it’s probably not a good match for a Free Love relationship rock-star like REiD.
Stay tunned for more excerpts from the rough draft of FREE LOVE: Can you Really Afford it By Kamala Devi and REiD Mihalko.

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