Relationships without prescriptions

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Ceoli

Guest
This is a bit of a mish-mash of thoughts stemming from several threads here and my own experiences as I relate to them and to new relationships in my life.

As I've said in other threads, one of the things that tends to annoy me is the prevalence of people who are in couples and looking for additional relationships, but wish to make sure those additional relationships remain within the constraints of boundaries that exist to protect the primary relationship. I do respect the fact that there are couples that feel the need to do this in order to have successful and working poly relationships, but I'm speaking to this as a person who is outside of that dynamic.

I really find it pretty unappealing to begin relationships with such constraints already pre-set and prescribed.

For me, it's like being told, "I would love a relationship with you, but bear in mind that no matter what happens between us, I will always place this other person ahead of you and regardless of what feelings develop, our relationship cannot grow in ways that might possibly threaten my other partnership."

This is not to say that there should be no regard or consideration for any of the other partnerships that my partner may have. But I find that when I'm given the rule of "our relationship must not cross the boundaries that may threaten my other relationship", I'm most likely destined for a lose/lose situation.

For one thing, those boundaries they are referring to are usually invisible and constantly shifting with the comfort level of the other partner. But even more fundamentally, I have no desire to enter into a relationship where my feelings of love are assessed in terms of what threat those feelings could pose to the other partner. It means I have to structure my relationship around the insecurities of another relationship.

Unfortunately, this is often the atmosphere presented to me by married or partnered people who approach me for some kind of relationship. In fact, it's the prospect I'm most often presented with.

Which is why my latest prospect is such a lovely breath of fresh air. This person has 4 other partners of varying levels of involvement. Some of his partnerships have lasted many many years. And he recently moved in with one of his partners (who happens to be married with a kid and lives part time with her husband and part time with him). These are all women he loves deeply and these are all women he is deeply committed to.

But as we've explored the possibility of a relationship between us, I have not been presented with any boundaries put up to protect his other relationships. Each relationship stands on it's own strength and lends that strength to all of the other relationships that first relationship is attached to. The feelings that I'm developing for him are not seen as a threat by anyone else he is involved with. For the first time, I'm finding myself in a relationship with a partnered person that's allowed to grow on it's *own* merit and feelings without needing to be trimmed or cut for the sake of protecting the other relationships. It also means that he trusts me enough to know that I'll make decisions that honor all of the people and relationships in his life as they will also make decisions that honor me and my relationship with him. So there's no need to set a "rule" to make sure I do that. It's quite lovely and drama free to get to experience NRE that isn't costing anyone else anything.

The other nice side effect is that I'm finding easy friendships developing between me and his metamours that are independent of him, but also connect me to him even more.

As an unpartnered poly person, it is generally harder to find relationships that do not have pre-set prescribed limits that have nothing to do with me. I find that when I have to enter into a relationship that's already full of such rules, it usually means that there isn't a whole lot of trust and that puts me in a very insecure position to begin with.

It's lovely to know that this doesn't have to be the case.
 
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Ceoli

Guest
He is pretty wonderful, though my life is taking me thousands of miles away. I certainly hope that people who approach poly this way aren't rare.
 

Derbylicious

New member
Here's my perspective for what it's worth. My partner and I have boundaries in our relationships. One of the main reasons is that we have children together and those children need both of us together to be a support system to them. We can't selfishly become involved in a relationship that becomes more important than the one that we have with each other.

Because of this I tend to seek out others who also have a primary relationship. If it's not a good match for you to be a secondary to someone who has a definite primary it's probably just best to walk away from the situation before getting too emotionally invested.

It's great that you've found someone who is a good match for you.

-Derby
 

crisare

New member
Interestingly enough, I find myself feeling quite the opposite of you, Ceoli. I want a relationship where I am decidedly a "second" in the hierarchy. That doesn't mean I want to be emotionally marginalized or that I want to be treated unfairly, but I don't want to become a part of a relationship where they want a full time third partner (or 4th partner, or whatever). I am very comfortable in my life being the secondary to someone who has a defined primary.

Just goes to show that there's someone for everyone, right? :)
 

calicowgirl

New member
This is one I go back and forth on. I am involved with a married couple and so consider myself a second even though I have never been made to feel second. Sir has never been overly enthused by the word "second" either but I don't really see any way around it.

I tend to have some issues because in many ways I see them as one because they are married and so I am the one who makes myself feel secondary.

As to your OP, that is something else we have been dealing with. I have been in this relationship for only a year. There are a few different dynamics in our relationship besides the power exchange. For one, I am really the only open poly one. Sir is open to the possibility but extremely picky and pretty busy with the two of us. S (wife), she is more poly-fi when it comes to emotive relationships.

So far other than talking/flirting with someone I thought might be a prospective partner I have seen no one else since becoming involved in this relationship. I am very leary about looking for other partners at this point in time because Sir doesn't stick with a set of parameters under which he would be ok with my becoming involved in an emotive relationship with someone else. For him it seems to be that it depends on the person, situation etc. I don't feel that I can get close to another without having a more stable set of expectations and knowing what is okay with the both of them. I need for stuff to happen naturally. In return, he needs to be in control.

We talk often about this and have worked through quite a bit in the last year but I am still scared and uncertain about getting emotionally involved with another. So, I completely understand what you mean only from the flip side.
 

DrunkenPorcupine

New member
I think this kind of highlights how no situation is best for everyone. I have a friend who has a "primary" and several "secondaries" and everyone involved is okay with this because they each fulfill what the other wants.

Myself... well...

My wife is my "primary". We share finances and all of of the roles that a mono-married couple does.. except sex. We disagree on that, except for rare occasions.

She's got a few "secondaries" who fill the sexual and some emotional roles. I've got a few people who I'm not sexual with but who fulfill very different but no-less-important roles in my life. I wouldn't be the person I am today, and all of them complete me and compliment me in ways that nobody else can because they're ALL unique individuals.

I understand exactly what Cioli is talking about though. Nobody wants to be relegated to "standby". Yet at the same time, this is all some people want, or are willing to give given the relationship dynamics. And this is okay!
 
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Ceoli

Guest
Here's my perspective for what it's worth. My partner and I have boundaries in our relationships. One of the main reasons is that we have children together and those children need both of us together to be a support system to them. We can't selfishly become involved in a relationship that becomes more important than the one that we have with each other.

That's certainly understandable. I've noticed a variety of ways that poly couples deal with how they balance children with their other relationships. From my perspective, I would hope that a prospective partner who has children with another partner would have enough trust between them and enough trust in me to make choices that honor that partnership without having to put in pre-set rules before we would even have a chance to explore how our relationship may develop.

Because of this I tend to seek out others who also have a primary relationship. If it's not a good match for you to be a secondary to someone who has a definite primary it's probably just best to walk away from the situation before getting too emotionally invested.

My issue isn't about whether or not a prospective partner has a definite primary or whether my role is secondary in a relationship (I'm actually *not* in the market for a primary style relationship at this point in my life. I will be, but I'm not at this time). My issue is about setting pre-set limits and rules on other partnerships before they can even develop into what they could. For me, setting such rules implies a lack of trust that partners would do the right thing anyway. Anyway, I do walk away from such situations before getting involved, the only trouble is that such situations comprise the vast majority of poly relationships that are available to me.

Interestingly enough, I find myself feeling quite the opposite of you, Ceoli. I want a relationship where I am decidedly a "second" in the hierarchy. That doesn't mean I want to be emotionally marginalized or that I want to be treated unfairly, but I don't want to become a part of a relationship where they want a full time third partner (or 4th partner, or whatever). I am very comfortable in my life being the secondary to someone who has a defined primary.

Just goes to show that there's someone for everyone, right? :)

Funnily enough, as I said before, I'm not really in the market for a primary style relationship. My life is in far too much transition for that. Like I said, it's the idea of pre-shaping other relationships because of the primary one that I find unappealing. And it becomes even less appealing when the motivation is about setting rules to "protect" the primary relationship. That immediately says that what ever relationship I may be developing in this dynamic could be a "bad and scary thing". I really don't need that kind of drama sitting in the foundation of something that I haven't even had the chance to build yet.

I know a lot of people say they don't like the labels of primary and secondary, and neither do I, but frankly, that is the structure I encounter most often when being approached about possible relationships. And my part has already been prescribed. That's what I don't like.


For me the annoyance isn't about not having a primary relationship, its about the huge number of times the nature of what relationship I might have with someone in another primary relationship has already been decided before I'm even in the picture.
 
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Ceoli

Guest
I understand exactly what Cioli is talking about though. Nobody wants to be relegated to "standby". Yet at the same time, this is all some people want, or are willing to give given the relationship dynamics. And this is okay!

Just to be clear, I really have no problem with being a secondary (or even a standby, if that's what was right for that particular relationship), provided the nature of that relationship has the ability to develop on it's own merit. With this new relationship that I'm exploring, many people would see it as a secondary relationship. At this point, I'm not planning on living with him, I'm certainly not going to be having kids with him though I do want to have kids at some point and am actually going to be moving overseas in a couple of months. However, what I really like is that our relationship is developing into what it can and should be for itself. There is no "protecting" his other relationships in this situation because all of the people involved have a high level of trust and understanding that everyone will make choices that honor each other. I don't have to dance around the boundaries and limits of other people or be subject to a set of rules. There's no need because everyone involved is secure enough to communicate their needs and listen to other's needs. This also creates the lovely side effect of getting along well and easily with all my metamours in this situation.

So it's not about being a primary or a secondary or a tertiary or anything like that. It's about how setting rules and protections up around one relationship can stunt the growth of another relationship.
 

DrunkenPorcupine

New member
Just to be clear, I really have no problem with being a secondary (or even a standby, if that's what was right for that particular relationship), provided the nature of that relationship has the ability to develop on it's own merit. With this new relationship that I'm exploring, many people would see it as a secondary relationship. At this point, I'm not planning on living with him, I'm certainly not going to be having kids with him though I do want to have kids at some point and am actually going to be moving overseas in a couple of months. However, what I really like is that our relationship is developing into what it can and should be for itself. There is no "protecting" his other relationships in this situation because all of the people involved have a high level of trust and understanding that everyone will make choices that honor each other.

I get it. I do. I'm a HUGE fan of letting every relationship evolve into what it might be.

On the flip side of that, knowing I agree with you quite a bit, it sucks to have anything stiffled.
 

constlady

New member
But as we've explored the possibility of a relationship between us, I have not been presented with any boundaries put up to protect his other relationships. Each relationship stands on it's own strength and lends that strength to all of the other relationships that first relationship is attached to. The feelings that I'm developing for him are not seen as a threat by anyone else he is involved with. For the first time, I'm finding myself in a relationship with a partnered person that's allowed to grow on it's *own* merit and feelings without needing to be trimmed or cut for the sake of protecting the other relationships. It also means that he trusts me enough to know that I'll make decisions that honor all of the people and relationships in his life as they will also make decisions that honor me and my relationship with him. So there's no need to set a "rule" to make sure I do that. It's quite lovely and drama free to get to experience NRE that isn't costing anyone else anything.

The other nice side effect is that I'm finding easy friendships developing between me and his metamours that are independent of him, but also connect me to him even more.

As an unpartnered poly person, it is generally harder to find relationships that do not have pre-set prescribed limits that have nothing to do with me. I find that when I have to enter into a relationship that's already full of such rules, it usually means that there isn't a whole lot of trust and that puts me in a very insecure position to begin with.

It's lovely to know that this doesn't have to be the case.


Oh yes! I could nearly have written this myself!

I am so blessed that all of the members of this amazing polyfamily I wandered into feel that allowing relationships to grow organically, with trust in the love between each member, is the healthiest way to relate.

And I agree whole-heartedly with the nice side effect that has of helping to forge greater bonds between all the members as well. Perhaps because right from the start, I knew that my presence was accepted and welcomed without qualification. Feeling respected and included early on made for fertile ground for deepening friendships. It doesn't hurt that we're rather alike in many ways as well ;)
 

AutumnalTone

New member
I have no idea how prevalent that might be--I've never looked to get involved with somebody who's poly and married (or has a long-term primary). It could be the most common sort of dynamic currently manifesting, though I think that would be a sad state of affairs.

I find it sad because I think it speaks to a fundamental problem in the primary relationship--and I have to wonder why'd they'd even consider adding other people to their lives when their primary relationship isn't very strong. Look, folks, if your existing relationships aren't good--and that means functional and strong on every level--then adding more relationships is not a wise thing to do!

I don't think I have to set any boundaries with regard to that, simply because I'm never looking to replace my wife. I married her for a reason and that doesn't change simply because I may be involved with somebody else. Should the laws ever change and we could add people to our marriage, that'd be cool--I just have no interest in trying to replace my wife.

As long as my wife and I are taking care of "Us," adding more "Us" combinations isn't going to be a problem. Setting boundaries on those other "Us" combinations can then be seen to be rather silly, I think.
 

ImaginaryIllusion

Administrator
Staff member
... simply because I'm never looking to replace my wife. I married her for a reason and that doesn't change simply because I may be involved with somebody else. Should the laws ever change and we could add people to our marriage, that'd be cool--I just have no interest in trying to replace my wife.
I hear that....

As long as my wife and I are taking care of "Us," adding more "Us" combinations isn't going to be a problem. Setting boundaries on those other "Us" combinations can then be seen to be rather silly, I think.
This part...might be situation dependant. If it's just "Us" adults...perhaps. There's at least two things I can see that stand around like monkeys waiting to throw wrenches...
1) Kids...there was a hottie talking about that earlier in the thread.
And
2) new partners take time...it's no ones fault, but the "Us"s that's wearing rings have likely known each other far longer...it's not that the same level wouldn't eventually be possible, but it takes time. In a similar fashion, I've watched countless friends go through the usual serial parade of relationships because they keep hooking up with people who are all kinds of NRE fun...maybe longer...often they find out too late...and eventually things go sour because they're not a good match...and one or the other is liable to be unkind during the breakup process.
I'd could see some of those unkindnesses as very real risks to the previously established 'matrimonial' relationship, even if it was strong to begin with.
And of course...this situation leads directly back to #1 when there's kids involved.

It is not a given...this is a worser case scenario...but it is possible. There is no reason in my mind why an established couple would be 'silly' to ensure some rules were in place to mitigate that risk.

Similarly I would not consider it silly for a prospective third to want rules to mitigate risks to them....since couples are twice as capable as behaving badly as a single.
 
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Ceoli

Guest
It is not a given...this is a worser case scenario...but it is possible. There is no reason in my mind why an established couple would be 'silly' to ensure some rules were in place to mitigate that risk.

Similarly I would not consider it silly for a prospective third to want rules to mitigate risks to them....since couples are twice as capable as behaving badly as a single.

Or you can chose partners that you trust will make choices that honor the relationship and behave well. Even in the midst of NRE.
 

GroundedSpirit

New member
Yes and...

Ceoli,

I agree with your perspective - at least to a large degree. Our style is also much like that (no rules-no limitations). But I also understand and tend to be maybe more empathetic with others and their particular situations. I think it's important to remember that most people are in their infancy in exploring what they see as having potential for something good. And yet I suspect we all know the horror stories that abound. If you've ever had open discussions around poly loving in a mixed group of poly minded and mono minded people you soon learn the fears and misinformation that circulates. I also respect the fact that relationships are (as others have mentioned) more than just an emotional one. There can be various physical factors involved (kids, finances, property etc) that really have to take priority for the greater good. You've shown your understanding & respect for that also.
But maybe here's another angle to consider...........
When we come across situations like this we try to dig beyond the "rules" by getting to know the individuals more intimately to understand why those rules may exist. Rather than blow them off because they don't meet "our" immediate need or perfect world view, we sometimes ask what "we" can contribute to them to help them move forward with their hopes & dreams. By giving them the opportunity to proceed slowly into waters that they want to swim but are afraid because of all the negativity commonly associated, we're trying to add to the net-positive. Rules can and often DO change because they are often constructed to protect against worst case scenarios. We all know even the nicest, best intentioned situations can turn ugly - sometimes because of factors not really related to the potential poly situation.
It's wonderful that you've stumbled upon some folks that are more evolved in their practice. We'd all wish for that. But in the mean time we also feel we have a valuable role as teachers - givers rather than receivers.

GS
 

Derbylicious

New member
Or you can chose partners that you trust will make choices that honor the relationship and behave well. Even in the midst of NRE.

Except when you don't know someone that well it can be hard to tell if down the line they will continue to behave well and honour the relationship. I trust my husband to do what is best for 'us' but until I know the new someone well there are some boundaries in place to prevent some of the drama that can happen. That's not to say that the boundaries aren't negotiable, it's just a starting point to work from where everyone currently involved is comfortable.

-Derby
 

NeonKaos

Custodian
It is not a given...this is a worser case scenario...but it is possible. There is no reason in my mind why an established couple would be 'silly' to ensure some rules were in place to mitigate that risk.

Similarly I would not consider it silly for a prospective third to want rules to mitigate risks to them....since couples are twice as capable as behaving badly as a single.
The established couple may have rules that apply to THEIR relationship, but they shouldn't have rules that pre-emptively dictate how their OTHER relationship(s) unfold and evolve.

The same thing re: the "prospective third". "They" may want to have rules about the relationship(s) THEY are in, but they don't get to dictate, "You two need to be / cannot be [a certain way] when you're together so that I can feel secure."
 
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Ceoli

Guest
Except when you don't know someone that well it can be hard to tell if down the line they will continue to behave well and honour the relationship. I trust my husband to do what is best for 'us' but until I know the new someone well there are some boundaries in place to prevent some of the drama that can happen. That's not to say that the boundaries aren't negotiable, it's just a starting point to work from where everyone currently involved is comfortable.

-Derby

Negotiating boundaries within a relationship that's forming or already formed is perfectly reasonable. Setting boundaries for a relationship that doesn't yet exist isn't so much. At least not for the person that may be entering that relationship.

It is completely reasonable for couples to have agreements for what they consider to be acceptable within their relationship. But when those agreements start to be about what's acceptable within my relationship, then I have a problem. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be boundaries. I'm saying that creating boundaries for the sake "protecting" one relationship against another can be problematic. Getting involved with a new partner is a gamble any way you look at it. But partner selection is a skill, and not a terribly hard skill to learn at that. I would trust that my partner can recognize when a potential partner is going to cause harm and make the choice that honors what we have. I don't see the need to set up an outside rule that makes sure he or she does that.
 

AutumnalTone

New member
It is not a given...this is a worser case scenario...but it is possible. There is no reason in my mind why an established couple would be 'silly' to ensure some rules were in place to mitigate that risk.

It still seems silly to me. If the couple is taking care of "Us" and is also taking care of the children--at all times, as a constant--then that care will always be operating and nothing more needs to be done to make certain that "Us" and the children are taken care of. If that "Us" is strong and functional, nothing else need be done.

And if that care of "Us" isn't happening as a constant, then no amount of rules or boundaries is capable of saving it. I do believe it really is that simple. You either nurture your relationships or you don't. The former protects them from essentially everything and the latter means they're unlikely to prosper regardless of any props or crutches.

And I swear my reading glasses are not rose-colored....
 
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