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I follow a descriptive model of inclusive (family-based) open network poly. This means, basically, that I allow my relationships to develop however they want to naturally, but I prefer to limit my partners to those who enjoy independent friendships with my other partners, or at the very least do not see my other partners as competition for my time and attention. Because of that, my relationships are not easily categorized and may not fit into pre-existing model of a relationship. I'll address the safer sex rules that I prefer to follow first, since those are the easiest and most concrete to examine.

Safer Sex Rules
Priority
Secondaries
Relationship Agreement Outline
What Do I Look For
Summary


Safer Sex Rules
Personally, I prefer to get tested 3 months after every new partner that includes intercourse and/or oral sex, and/or right before a getting a new partner. I maintain what I call HPV boundaries with everyone until I discuss our full sexual history with all potential partners and I have a discussion about STDs to make sure we both have an equal understanding of STDs and risks. To me, "HPV Boundaries" involves no genital-to-genital contact and no oral-to-genital contact. For higher-risk partners, I also refrain from manual- and toy-to-genital contact. After the history discussion, we trade the most recent results from STD tests, including HIV, Chlamydia, Syphillis, Gonorrhea, HSV, & Hepatitus (and a PAP for me that covers HPV and Bacterial Vaginosis) ... and I mean we literally trade the results on paper from the clinic and we exchange the
The Sexual Health And History Form.

I broke my boundaries into 3 basic classes that specific activities can be evaluated for and decided on based on the class. The full explanation of these categories is here, but keep in mind that this chart is for the categories, not an explanation of how any individual relationship gets categorized.

HPV BoundariesMaintaining HPV Boundaries means that I am restricted to activities that do not transmit HPV (and by extension, any other STD except possibly oral HSV). Oral, genital, and manual contact of the genitals is off-limits. All other activities are OK.
Barriered SexBarriered Sex means that I am restricted from fluid transfer. Condoms, dental dams, and gloves for activities that involve blood, vaginal fluids, and seminal/penile fluids. May be used for contraception rather than STD precautions.
Fluid-BondingFluid-Bonding means that I have no restrictions on activities for STD reasons. Willingness to exchange body fluids that can carry STDs. Condom-free intercourse & oral sex, blood play, etc.

Discussing the history and current STD status is mandatory in a full Disclosure Discussion. My usual criteria for accepting a sexual partner for anything more risky than HPV-boundary activities are someone with all negative test results, he prefers to have the Disclosure Discussion and trade results with all his other current and future partners, and he wants to notify me of any change in sexual status with any partner, current and future.These are not rules that I impose on my partners and expect them to obey me. These are the traits I look for in a partner and what makes me feel safe enough with a partner to engage in sexual activity that has a higher chance of STD transmission (i.e. non-HPV-boundary activities). It is the difference between regulation and consequences. What that means is I do not regulate my partners' behaviours. They can choose to do whatever they want to do. However, all actions have consequences, sometimes unintended consequences.

I believe in taking personal responsibility for the consequences of my actions. Therefore, my partners are free to choose to do whatever they want. But if I consider their actions to be unsafe or risky to my physical or emotional health, a possible consequence of their choice may be that I will re-negotiate the boundaries of our relationship until I no longer feel unsafe. This might mean we return to HPV boundaries. It might mean we breakup. It might mean everyone gets tested again before any sexual activity is shared with me. It might mean we only have sexual activity with the use of latex barriers. The actual consequence depends upon the individual relationship and the individual action that made me feel unsafe. My partners all have the same rights and responsibilities that I do, in that they do not dictate my actions but there might be consequences for my choices and I accept their right to choose activities and boundaries that make them feel safe.

Occasionally, if I judge someone to be extremely low risk (small number of past partners, long time since last partner, clean test results, no current partners, etc.), and I have no other partner or my other partners are all within HPV boundaries, I will occasionally skip the test results but will use condoms for intercourse and avoid oral sex, and I still insist on being notified when he gets a new partner before my next encounter with him. I make judgement calls and sometimes I take some minimal risks, and my partners all have the freedom to make their own choices too. I place no restrictions on what my partners do with other people, I just try to be involved with people who have similar personal boundaries as I do and who are committed to disclosing their sexual activity to me so that I can make informed decisions. Even if my other partners are within HPV boundaries (and therefore not at risk by my choice), I will still try to notify all partners of any change in sexual status with anyone before I share sexual activity with that current partner. To me, the most important part is informed consent - making sure everyone has the information they need to give informed consent to sexual activity. So even if I occasionally deem someone worthy of being flexible for on my Standard Operating Procedures or if we get a little carried away or if sometimes a slip occurs, the boundary that I don't relax for myself is telling all my other partners what I'm doing that affects them.

I am extremely thorough in my sexual history. I keep several records so I won't forget anything, including a simple text file of partners in chronological order, a bar chart, and The Sexual Health And History Form, which shows all my current test and most recent test results, and a complete list of all sexual partners and what type of activity we shared. This can provide a starting point for what kind of information you might want to gather from a potential partner. My list goes all the way back to my first kiss and includes partners I had some form of sexual activity with, but not necessarily intercourse. A reasonable history goes back at least 2 years with at least 2 test entries, 6 months apart (longer if the history goes back farther and/or there have been no partner changes in that duration). This form, and copies of my test results, are shared with all my potential partners and used to be uploaded to my online, shareable Google Health account (a service they regrettably discontinued), which I could also share with my partners.
 


 
But how do I do poly? How are my relationships categorized and organized? How do I determine who gets priority for what and when? As I said, I prefer an inclusive open network. It is very difficult to "categorize" my relationships because they often don't fall under a pre-existing model of relationship, such as the primary/secondary examples, or they may blur the lines between traditional assumptions of "friends", "boyfriends", "partners" etc. Psychologist Robert Sternberg came up with the
Triangular Theory of Love, which describes 7 different types of relationships based on varying amounts of 3 different components. It's not as simple as having either a primary partner or "just friends". There is a lot of fluidity in what makes up "love". Our society emphasizes the True Love, the All Encompassing Love, the Consumate Love, the love that provides for all your needs, such as emotional intimacy, friendship, passion, companionship, committment, etc. While it may be wonderful to have a relationship that includes all those elements, that does not invalidate the value of a relationship that has only some of these elements, particularly since these kinds of relationships are far more common. Holding out for that All Encompassing Relationship and rejecting all others also, I've observed, leads to much unnecessary heartache because each relationship can have changing levels of each element over time! I have found that allowing myself to recognize the value that all different kinds of relationships bring to my life gives me the ability to find happiness and satisfaction in a wide variety of relationships and much less time feeling "alone" or "lost" or "I'll never find love!" because I'm not trying to make my relationships fit into a prescriptive box that few relationships ever fit into.

Priority
Who gets priority if I don't have a clearly defined #1 partner? I assign priority to situations rather than people. I let each person and each relationship dictate the amount of time and what kind of time they get. If there is ever a scheduling conflict, I discuss with all parties involved to find the most acceptable solution. I have found that stating explicit rules with regards to who gets how much and what kind of time is unrealistic. When unexpected situations arise (and they always do), someone ends up getting hurt because you can't live up to the stated Regulations.

For example. I once had a live-in partner who requested that I always "come home at night". He wanted to take priority over all my non-live in partners (of whom there were none at the time) and requested that I set aside this chunk of my time as "his" time with me. Well, since I had no other partners at the time, this seemed like a reasonable request. I did not take into account the feelings of my future partners who, even if they happen to be secondary partners, might have some emotional attachment to spending the night with me. Anyway, no sooner did I promise to come home every night, then I went back to college. And almost immediately I got swamped with projects and assignments and I had to pull an all-nighter in the lab completing a massive construction project. I had to break our agreement for an unexpected situation that required higher temporary priority.

Generally speaking, I find that discussing each event as it comes up, particularly when those in the relationship are secure about their relationships, takes care of any emotional needs regarding time, attention and "priority". Occasionally it doesn't. Just like in any relationship. And when it doesn't, that gets addressed at the time.

I don't generally "do" hierarchical, primary/secondary relationships. I don't use those terms and I don't assign blanket priority to people. All of my relationships have equal potential to develop into whatever relationship it wants to be. That means that I could have several relationships that develop into spouse-like or boyfriend-like relationships. But that also means that I could end up with relationships of varying degrees of intimacy or life entanglement. To describe those different relationships, I prefer the terms "core" and "satellite" to primary/secondary. My core relationships are those that I place high priority in my life, close to the priority of, say, my job or my pets (I take my responsibility as a pet mom very seriously). These are the relationships I would be willing to take time off work for to go on vacation, or to turn down other social plans in favor of. These are the partners I might consider serious life-altering changes for such as moving across the country with (although not necessarily moving in with - that's a whole other complication!) or making major purchases with. These are the partners I might call "life partners" or that I have very strong emotional connections to.

My satellite relationships are those that have less priority in my life - they are not ranked as "less" than my core partners, but when it comes to my time management, for example, I might have less time available for them. These are the people I probably wouldn't consider uprooting my life for or I might be willing to cancel plans with if work calls. It's a very fuzzy line, though, because I have been known to make major decisions with a satellite partner and to pass on a work call in favor of plans. I might have less of an emotional connection to them, or I might have a strong connection to them but it's different somehow, more like a good friend than a "life partner", even though a friend or a satellite partner might be there long-term, and even though that elusive "romantic" element separates it from "just a friend". I suppose the real difference between the two might be what my long-term intentions are. A core relationship is one that I intend to maintain long-term and I make future plans for, whereas a satellite relationship is one that I don't have long-term intentions, although I may wish to enjoy the relationship indefinitely, or that we may put forth less effort to maintain the relationship or work through difficulties. I may be more flexible on the idea of a satellite relationship fading, ending, or transitioning to platonic friends than I would be about a core relationship doing the same. The key element in both categories, however, is that they are descriptive - they describe the relationship as it has played out at that time, and they do not presribe or predetermine what the relationship will be or ought to be in the future.
 


 
Secondaries
Even when you do have a clearly defined primary relationship (or two, or more), or you have a relationship that tends to have higher priority than others (as in descriptive primary), you still have to be careful not to invalidate your lesser-priority relationships. My "secondary" or satellite partners are every bit as important as my "primary" or core partners. They are human beings with feelings and needs, and by agreeing to be in a romantic relationship with them, I take some responsibility for how my actions affect them. This does not mean I am responsible for their happiness. This means that I am aware of how my actions and words affect them and I can avoid intentionally causing them pain by being insensitive to their emotional needs. Our relationship may have evolved in such a manner as to include less time and attention than my other relationships, but that doesn't mean that the person in that relationship with me is expendable, disposable, or an interchangeable commodity. Tacit has a page on his website that includes a
Secondary's Bill Of Rights, which I want to repost here, in full, to help illustrate the importance of viewing all your partners as equal human beings:

In a nutshell: I have the right to be treated with dignity, respect, consideration, and courtesy. This is true of any relationship, regardless of its form and regardless of its status. Using the word "right" in this context means "This is something that it is reasonable and normal for me to expect, and reasonable and normal for my partner to give me."

One might argue that these "rights" merely represent a set of ideas that any relationship, monogamous or polyamorous, primary or secondary, ought to subscribe to if that relationship is going to be a happy and healthy one--which is precisely the point. Often, it's easy to forget that a secondary relationship is still a relationship, and the people in it should really keep that in mind.

  • I have the right to be treated with with honesty, integrity, compassion, and sensitivity to my needs.

  • I have the right, and responsibility, to clearly understand the rules of a relationship. When I enter a new relationship, I have the right to have rules and the reasons behind them clearly explained and to have my questions answered. "Because that is how things are" is not an answer; if I do not understand the reasons for the rules, then I may unintentionally violate the spirit of those rules even if I remain within the letter. Rules should not be added or changed without explanation. I cannot be expected to discover the rules governing my relationship by breaking them accidentally and having them explode in my face.

  • I have the right to be a part of discussions about decisions that affect me, wherever possible and practical. It is unfair to be told about changes in the form and rules of my relationships after the fact. While it is not reasonable for me to expect full decision-making partnership in all aspects of the primary relationship--for example, I may not have decision-making power in whether or not the primary partners decide to move away for a better job--I do expect to be part of any negotiations that directly impact the form my relationship takes.

  • I have a right and responsibility to set clear limits on the obligations I am making. A lack of primary or even other secondary partners does not mean all of my time and resources are available. Just as I, as a secondary, can not expect to monopolize all of my partner's time, my partner can not expect to monopolize all of mine. I have the right to ask my partners to compromise and seek to reach a middle ground when possible. I should not always be the one and only one to make changes and do all of the bending.

  • I have the right to have relationships with people, not with relationships. That is, I have the right to conduct my relationship with a living, thinking human being rather than with an established relationship or a set of rules. I have the right to time with each individual separately as well as in groups.

  • I have the right to expect that plans made with my partner will not be changed at the last minute just because a primary partner has had a bad day. As a secondary, I deal with most of my bad days alone and have the right to expect last minute changes in plans to happen only in rare and unavoidable situations.

  • I have the right to a balance between what I give to the relationship and what is given back to me.

  • I have the right to be treated as an equal individual (which is different than being an equal partner). I deserve to have my partner spend time in my world as well as visiting his/hers/theirs. My likes, dislikes, desires, hangups, should not be dismissed simply because I am secondary.

  • I have the right to enjoy NRE (within reason), passion, and special moments with my partner without guilt or apologies.

  • I have the right to privacy. The details of physical intimacy and emotionally intimate conversations should not be shared without my knowledge and ideally not without my consent. This does not mean I have the right to keep secrets from the other people involved; it merely means that whatever rights to basic privacy they may enjoy, I may enjoy as well.

  • I have the right to be told the truth at all times. This includes a right to know about fears, doubts and concerns as they arise, not after they become insurmountable. Don't tell me what you think I want to hear; tell the truth -- that is what I need to hear.

  • I have the right to have and express all of my emotions. I knowingly and willingly accept that being secondary may place limits on many things (e.g., sharing family holidays or vacations with my partner, having my partner with me in a time of crisis or celebration). My acceptance of that possibility does not mean that I won't be disappointed or even sad during such times. Further, being secondary comes with some built-in challenges to security (especially in the beginning) and there may be times I need reassurance as to how and where I fit into my partner's world. I promise to do my best keep things in perspective and to avoid guilt, drama, temper tantrums and pouting, but I ask that my partner and his or her partners accept reasonable expressions of doubt, disappointment, etc. on my part.

  • I have the right to be not just tolerated, but actively wanted by everyone in the primary relationship. I have the right to feel that I am not a problem or a compromise, but that I add value. This may sound unreasonable to some people, but the fact is, if I'm not wanted by my partner's partner, that has an effect on me.
    When I am in a relationship with one person, I am in a relationship with all the other people that person is involved with, especially the primary partner(s)--even if there is no romantic connection between us! If I am resented in any way by them, that resentment serves to undermine the secondary relationship and keep it from being 'real'. It creeps into the rules that are created and the definitions that are set in place.
    When one partner has problems with a poly relationship, it can tend to negatively affect a secondary partner, creating unhappiness for everyone. Compassion demands that everyone involved work to resolve any resentment that may exist on the part of any of the members of a primary relationship toward the secondary relationship.

  • I have the right to have a voice in the form my relationship takes. I am a person, with my own needs and my own ideas about what's important in my life; even when I am joining a pre-existing relationship, I have a right to have some say in the time I can spend with my lover and other things about the form and structure of that relationship. If my partners attempt to impose pre-existing agreements about the form, time, or circumstances under which I may spend time with my lover, I have a right to speak up if those agreements do not meet my needs,and I have a right to have my partner and my partner's partner hear me and consider what I say. That doesn't mean they have to do whatever I say, but it does mean that I can and should have a voice.


 
I am not a fan or supporter of written "agreements" or relationship "contracts". In my experience, those who would honor the spirit of any contract don't need one and having a contract will not stop those who would not honor it anyway. That's sort of the point, they are not honorable people, and a contract will not change that, nor will a contract make someone love or continue to love someone else. In my experience, having written contracts also tends to result in "rules lawyering" - people who go to the text of the contract and use it as a weapon in arguments or to find loopholes to excuse bad behaviour ... in other words, written contracts tend to be used by people who manipulate the letter of the law to violate or ignore the spirit of the law for their own agendas.

But there are certain things about relationships that, in my observation, people have a tendency to make assumptions about. And identifying these, often tacit, assumptions, for the purpose of discussing them with each other, is a very important part about negotiating relationships. People often talk about how many hours each person is allowed to spend on dates, or whether anyone will or will not have access to the family checking account. And I think that misses the point, which is the underlying assumptions about what a relationship is and how people see any particular relationship.

Here are some things that each couple, regardless of primary/secondary or any category status, and each group, should discuss with each other. It is particularly important for people who are being labled "secondary" (labled as such because they are dating married people) to discuss, not just with their partner, but with the spouse as well. Also, you should be VERY careful to have this discussion in the present tense, and do not construct a contract that will lock the participants into a role or a set of limitations that do not allow for changing circumstances. This should be a DESCRIPTION of how the participants see the relationship right now, not a PRESCRIPTION for how the relationships "should be".
skip the Outline

Outline of Discussion of Expectations

This Discussion is intended to apply to a single relationship between two people. All other partners of the Two Parties should participate in the Discussion when possible, but the Discussion is intended to cover only one partnership at a time. All other partnerships should have their own Discussions, which may cover these same topics, and may reference other Discussions. The point of this Discussion is to be as clear and as explicit about Expectations of the Relationship between two Parties, since these Expectations are often overlooked, ignored, assumed, or tacit Expectations.

*................
 
I. General:
  A. What is the "label" this Relationship will use (i.e. poly, swingers, open, closed, polyfidelitous, etc.) and how "open" or "closeted" will the Parties be to family? To friends? To co-workers? To neighbors? To the general public? Clearly define the "label" chosen in your own words (or clearly reference what resource is being used as the basis for the definition).
 
  B. What is the role of each Party? Is this a Relationship of equals in contribution? Is this a Relationship of equals in decision-making power? Is there a power-play dynamic? Is there a Financial Contributor and a Homemaker? Is one Party to be responsible for the other? Is one Party to be a Caretaker of the other? Clearly define what you mean with each role.
 
  C. What is each Party's responsibility to the other? Is each Party responsible for the consequences of their actions or does one or both Party have the responsibility/obligation to oversee the actions of the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility of making his or her own informed choices, or will each Party be responsible for informing the other of what he is and is not allowed to do, thereby relieving the other of making his own decisions? Does this responsibility cover finances? New partners? Daily decisions? Long-term decisions? Job/Educational decisions?
 
  D. What is the basis for this Relationship? It is the mutual happiness of each party? Is it for financial stability? Is it for mutual sexual satisfaction? Is it for sexual and/or kink exploration? Is it for child-rearing? Is it for assistance in personal growth? Is it for long-term companionship? What is the defining element that, if removed, would require the dissolution of the Relationship or, if present, would be the reason for the Relationship persisting?
 
  E. What are the safer sex guidelines for this Relationship? What are the responsibilities and obligations of each Party to contribute to the continued health and well-being of the other? What will be the steps taken in the event of a failure to abide by the guidelines? What will be the steps taken in the event of an illness or pregnancy in spite of adhering to the guidelines?
 
  F. What is the structure of this Relationship? Is it to be "inclusive" or family-oriented (all participants & metamours are to know each other and get along)? Is it to be segmented, separated, DADT, or hierarchical?
 
*................

II. Expectations of general treatment:
  A. If arrangements to be together are made, under what types of conditions will it be acceptable for the arrangements to change? Are arrangement changes expected to be rare or often?
 
    i. Some reasons may include (but not be limited to) work conflicts, medical emergencies, long distance partners/family/friends become available after arrangements are made (covered in next paragraph), important situation or circumstance arises that is difficult or impossible to schedule for another time.
    ii. Will the reason be required by both Parties to be acceptable or can one Party make a decision to change arrangements without the agreement of the other?
    iii. If both partners accept the reason, is it acceptable for each or both partners to feel disappointment at the cancellation/reschedule and should each be allowed to feel this disappointment without reprisal, embarrassment, shame, or punishment from the other partner for having these feelings, as long as these feelings are not used in any form of retaliation or passive-aggressive punishment for the cancellation/reschedule of the event?
 
  B. How will time priority be assigned? Will there be an allowance for temporary priority for a long-distance partner or will the local partner be given priority regardless of situation? Will priority be based on situation or person?
 
  C. When time is spent together, can each Party be expected to be treated as a partner or are there some situations where one or the other Party can expect to be treated as other than a romantic partner? What are those situations and why are these situations exceptions? What will the public role be in those situations? Roomate? Friend? Nanny?
 
    i. Which activities and/or discussion topics are to be considered "private" in nature and which situations are considered inappropriate for such "private" activities and/or discussions?
    ii. What activities are considered "appropriate" behaviour for public settings? Public Displays of Affection often fall under "tacit assumptions" of "appropriate behaviour", and are also often triggers for other issues. What does each Party think and feel about certain actions and what they mean?
    iii. When multiple partners are present, do the guidelines for various situations and activities change or remain the same when the only element that is different is the presence of a metamour? Does it change for all metamours or for certain metamours?
 
  D. To what extent will each Party be expected to keep the other informed on major life events? Will each Party be expected to inform prior to each change or is afterwards sufficient? How soon afterwards? Does each Party have the responsibility to consider the other's feelings and opinions prior to making a major life event change or is simple notification sufficient? Such examples of major life events that each Party should Discuss the importance of being informed are:
 
    i. addition of new partners; (define "partner" and what activities constitute "addition of")
    ii. removal of prior partners;
    iii. changes in status of any existing partners;
    iv. changes in work/employment situation;
    v. changes in domestic location (moving);
    vi. changes in health;
    vii. financial status - this can be financial status and changes to that status (particularly as they affect the relationships such as the ability to enjoy certain activities), or dollar amounts or specific details like creditors;
    viii. participation in events or activities that are important or significant with regards to one's time and/or one's emotional well-being.
 
*.............................................
 
III. Expectations related to other partners (the metamours of the Parties in this Discussion):
  A. How much information, what kind of information, and at what stage(s) of a new relationship, should each Party give the other about potential new partners? Often, one Party will consider someone a "new partner" at a different stage than the other Party, so it is important to clarify what each Party means when they say "partner" and "new partner", and to be clear on what kind of information each Party should share with the other while exploring other relationships.
 
  B. At what stage should a new/potential partner be notified about the existence of this Relationship? What should the new/potential partner be told about the other Party and/or about this Relationship?
 
  C. Will each Party be expected to maintain an open line of communication and/or contact the new partner of the other Party?
 
  D. If there are signs or expressed wishes of the partner of one Party that differ from the expectations of this Discussion pertaining to contact and/or relationship between the metamours, how will the descrepancy be handled? If the new/potential partner wishes less contact, will that be acceptable? If the new/potential partner wishes more contact, will that be acceptable?
 
  E. How will each Party handle conflict resolution between metamours? Will it be required for contact information to be traded for direct communication? Will the pivot Party be expected to be the mediator or go-between?
 
  F. How will each Party treat the metamours? Is mere civility acceptable, or is friendship preferred? Or must the metamours also develop a romantic relationship with both Parties simultaneously? What if the relationship with one Party and the new partner does not progress at the same speed as the other?
 
*.............................
 
IV. Expectations regarding health:
  A. Will STD status and information regarding the two Parties be exchanged? In what form should the exchange take place? An in-depth discussion? Test results from a doctor or an STD clinic? Will the exchange take place just between both Parties in this Discussion or will there also be an exchange between each Party and his/her potential partners? Is there a difference in the type or amount of exchange between the two Parties in this Discussion vs. each Party and the new/potential partners? What is the reason for that difference? What is the goal in exchanging STD status and information or what is the reason for not exchanging status and information?
 
  B. Does each Party have the responsibility to make or provide copies of STD or other health test results for the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility to allow those results to be shared with other partners/metamours? Does each Party have the responsibility to make or provide copies of STD or other health test results of each new partner for the other Party? When should these test results be made available? Upon request? At the time of testing? At a certain interval? Upon taking a new partner? Only if prevention boundaries are not used or regardless of whether prevention boundaries are used or not?
 
  C. If there is a reason to suspect a health problem from a potential or new other partner, will each Party inform the other? When? Immediately, or within a set time period, or prior to contact with the other Party that could transmit the illness? Does this cover STDs only or does it cover other types of illnesses? Which ones?
 
  D. If there is a reason to suspect a possible significant health issue, what will be the obligations, responsibilities, and precautions each Party should take? Is testing necessary? Will certain activities that could transmit the illness be postponed? For how long? Is simple notification of exposure sufficient?
 
  E. What are the safer sex arrangements pertaining to new partners in order for the two Parties to maintain their current arrangement? Will testing be required for new partners? At what point will testing be necessary for new partners? What sexual activities are acceptable without testing? What sexual activities are required to wait until after testing? If testing is not necessary, what activities with new partners are acceptable with what types of barriers? Under what conditions may those barriers be removed?
 
  F. Does each Party have a responsibility to share individual safety agreements between that Party and another partner with the other Party? Does each Party have the responsibility to share this Discussion and the resulting safety agreements with new partners?
 
  G. If the agreements that either Party has with other partners changes, when and how should that Party notify the other Party of the changes?
 
  H. If one Party perceives a physical or emotional health risk due to the activities shared between the other Party and another partner, what are the acceptable courses of action and under what circumstances?
 
*.............................
 
V. Expectations about conflicts:
  A. Does each Party have the responsibility to bring up problems or conflicts immediately as they arise, for possible conflict resolution? Can a discussion about a conflict be deferred for a set period of time or in deferrence to a setting in which a conflict discussion is not appropriate? What would those situations or time periods be?
 
    i. If one Party does not mention an issue because that Party did not recognize it as an issue until it has become a major issue, does the other Party have the responsibility to address the issue immediately?
 
  B. How will both Parties handle issues of other partners who have problems with the relationship being polyamorous?
 
    i. If an event is to include multiple partners, or one Party is already invited to an activity, can the more monogamous partner (the other partner/metamour) turn that activity into something exclusive, or can both Parties expect to remain invited to events previously invited to regardless of other partners' or metamours problems? Can either Party expect to be uninvited because of another partner's issues?
 
    ii. If another partner is more monogamous, or has problems with otherwise socially-accepted Public Displays of Affection or any other sign of a romantic involvement between the two Parties because of insecurities that witnessing these activities between these specific people triggers, is it expected that both Parties will refrain from engaging in those behaviours in front of the other partner, or can both Parties expect to maintain a stable set of behaviours whether other partners are present or not?
 
    iii. If another partner considers him- or herself to have a preference for monogamy, even though he or she has entered willingly into a relationship with a polyamorous person, does either Party have a responsibility to treat the more monogamous other partner (metamour) as a metamour? What does it mean to treat someone as a metamour? What kinds of behaviours are expected from each Party towards or with metamours? Will the other partners be consulted regarding the concerns of how each Party is expected to treat them, or do the Parties decide what is expected without the other partners' input?
 
  C. If another partner has serious problems or difficulties, can any of the prior discussion points be amended temporarily or permanently to accomodate? Which points are up for discussion and which points are non-negotiable once they have been agreed upon?
 

Remember, I am not advocating that this outline be used to create a literal contract to be reviewed and signed. Use it as a tool to foster discussion about the various points regarding assumptions in treatment and expectations within a relationship. Also take care to discuss the points in this outline in the present tense and avoid setting up the discussion as an agreement governing specific activities that one person may or may not do with other people without those people's input.
 


 
So what do I actually want in a relationship? What criteria do I use to select potential mates from non-potential mates? As I said in a chat recently, "truthfully, I would prefer to have deep, long lasting, intimate connections but there is room in my life for other kinds of relationships and there is room in each relationship to evolve and change along the way". But time and energy are limited resources. So if there is room for all these different kinds of relationship, but I have limits on my time and energy, what am I looking for in a person that makes it in under the
polysaturation point?

I want someone...

who challenges me intellectually
who complements me emotionally
who expresses himself creatively
who stimulates me sexually
who wants me passionately
who desires me furiously
who is active physically
who is stable financially
who loves to touch me
      sexually, tenderly, compassionately, lovingly

who is practical, logical, analytical
who shares my interests
who is comfortable with the day-to-day mundane parts of life
who cares about who I am inside and out
who can control his impulses but
who wishes he didn't have to
      and tells me so.

This was once described as "prose meets laundry list", and I like that. I have an essay elaborating more about what I want in a relationship in my Writings category of the Projects section. My sweetie has also written some very good articles on what he looks for in relationship partners and how he does relationships that pretty closely resembles my wants and methods, only he says it better than I do:



 
Summary:
I hate to have such a lengthy and ambiguous explanation for how I conduct my relationships, especially for my visitors who are totally new to this whole concept. If you've never heard of this, never thought you could have an open relationship, never been exposed to multiple partners, my explanations of poly can seem rather daunting. But the fact is that relationships, even monogamous ones, are not cookie-cutter. Everyone makes their own rules for how their relationships will be. When you are poly, that could mean that each of your concurrent relationships all look different from each other, as mine do.

The bottom line is that I treat each of my partners with respect and consideration. I make choices about my life based upon how they will affect my other partners and whether the consequences (or results, if you prefer) of my choices are ones I am prepared to live with. I discuss with each of my partners the needs and desires of each individually and work out problems as they arise. I choose to not date anyone who self-identifies as monogamous and I prefer not to date people who are willing to date anyone who self-identifies as monogamous. I maintain scrupulous health records and try to keep up to date with the latest sexual health information. I take slightly more risks to my own health when I have only myself to affect. I prefer to have direct communication with my partners' other partners' and lacking that tends to cause me extreme distress, but the amount of talking we have to do depends on what is most natural for each person. Choosing to live with someone or not, share finances, be "casual", the amount of time shared, how many nights we sleep over, what kind of activities we share, all is decided on an individual basis according to what each partner wants and what each relationship wants. Unfortunately, the answer to most questions about my specific relationships tends to be "depends upon the relationship".

The Inn Between © 2002