What are the consequences of broken rules?

Sigh. I'll try not to be longwinded.

We have an agreement with a few rules. She's "bent" the rules several times lately, making me upset, and then definitely broke them.

Among other things, we're not allowed to sex new people until we've discussed it, and supposed to keep each other informed of possible dates before they happen. She spent the night with a guy while out of town for the weekend and the first time I ever heard of him was when she told me apologetically the next day. Standard excuses of "It all happened so fast", etc. and, when pressed, "I am bad at following rules".

Anyway, I don't know what to do. Part of me thinks she's terrible and I would dump her if I were a real man with any self-respect. Part of me thinks I am being unreasonable and have nothing to be angry about and am making up a controversy about a technicality. Probably the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I don't know how angry I should be, and I don't know what the consequences of breaking the rules are. And if there are no consequences, then what's the point? Our agreement is just "I wish you would do this, but if you don't, nothing bad will happen (except to my feelings)"?

I need some perspective.
 

Emm

Stealth Mod
The consequences are whatever you and she have agreed the consequences are. The reason you feel that enforcing them is unreasonable may be that deep down you feel the rules themselves are flawed. Do they serve any useful purpose or are they like old laws against witchcraft that have just hung around for years because nobody's gotten around to writing them out of the rulebook?
 
The consequences are whatever you and she have agreed the consequences are.

We didn't, and didn't realize we needed to. What are some options, other than "break up" and "change the rule" (which would make the rules pointless in the first place)?

The reason you feel that enforcing them is unreasonable may be that deep down you feel the rules themselves are flawed.

Part of me feels that way. Other parts don't. How do I decide which part of me is right?

Do they serve any useful purpose or are they like old laws against witchcraft that have just hung around for years because nobody's gotten around to writing them out of the rulebook?

Finding out about things afterwards makes me upset. It feels like something is being hidden from me. I don't see any reason why she can't tell me "Hey I have been talking to this guy I like and I might try to meet up with him while I'm out there" and then "Hey I texted that guy and he wants to meet, I don't think anything will happen but I'm letting you know just in case." Is that an unreasonable expectation?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you hurt. :(

What are the purposes of these rules? Be physically safer with safer sex activities? Be emotionally safe by not having anxiety provoking things sprung on you? That could hint to the possible consequence.

For instance, you might stop sex entirely with her or start to use condoms and stop fluid bonded sex with her til a few clean rounds of labs. Both of you could go get tested.

Or you might be on strikes for the emotionally safety. That is another option. Mistakes can happen, there is a learning curve to new stuff. But if this becomes chronic it erodes trust/respect. I go with "three strikes you are out. " You might have your own personal number for your limit of tolerance for learning curve mistakes -- 2? 5? But certainly not 1000, right? After a certain point one has to accept it not learning curve growing pains, but a person's character.

You feel how you feel. Right now you feel angry and hurt. That you cannot help. Some feelings are fun to experience, some are not. It is also appropriate to feel let down in these circumstances.

How you respond and handle it is up to you. You can help how you choose to behave. You can decide if you want to stick with it here and work it out or if you are done here.

You could not go beating your own self up calling yourself names like "not being a real man" etc. The situation stinks, but you could handle it appropriately.

Figure out if this is something repairable or if this is deal breaker.

Galagirl
 
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MightyMax

Banned
Some people can't get what they desire out of polyamory and stick to rules that essentially govern how they interact with other people. Some people chose to be polyamorous because it allows them the freedom to respond to their desires as they have them. For these people, having a rule where they have to check in or discuss their desires defeat the object of having this relationship style. You may have to accept that as much as you need her to follow these rules, they obstruct her happiness. This might be something that is too big of a discrepancy between your needs and part ways.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Isn't her responsibility to not agree to rules that she does not like in the first place? Could be a case of "willing but not able" --- thought she could in theory but in practice learned she could not.

They still have to sort it out between them. Is this repairable? Or not?

Galagirl
 
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MightyMax

Banned
Isn't her responsibility to not agree to rules that she does not like in the first place?

Galagirl

I think it can be easy to assume that mono normative rules should apply to ethical non monogamy. For example "of course I should check in and ask my partner's permission to have sex with someone else because when you're committed to someone, they do have ownership over your body. It's my partner who lets me do this because on some level, we own each other".

We have all been pretty much raised thinking that monogamy and sexual exclusivity is the norm with our partners being the gate keepers of our sexuality, it can take a while to shed that line of thought and realise that it actually doesn't have to be that way and you can work out your own arrangements with your partner(s). This means that people "opening up" often agree to rules that won't work for them in the long term and when you're still transitioning from mono normative thinking, it's hard to admit that you want total control over who you love or share intimacy with when you've been taught all your life that people who don't conform to the ideals of monogamy and exclusivity are selfish and bad. Remember, people often conflate the ideals of monogamy with commitment and serious relationships. Without monogamy, many people feel that commitment is also non existent.

In other words, yes, she shouldn't have agreed to rules that she couldn't stick to but it's very possible that she didn't know she couldn't stick to them when she initially agreed and that it seemed the only realistic way people could be ethically non monogamous whilst still remaining in a serious and committed relationship.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
She could not SAY she isn't sure? What's so horrible about that? Baffling to me.

In other words, yes, she shouldn't have agreed to rules that she couldn't stick to but it's very possible that she didn't know she couldn't stick to them when she initially agreed and that it seemed the only realistic way people could be ethically non monogamous whilst still remaining in a serious and committed relationship.

Could you be willing to clarify what "it" is for you there?

To me "it" is (the basic ability to keep a "Word" and communicate honestly -- say what you mean, mean what you say, don't make promises lightly) I could say to my partner "At this time, I do not know I can actually do that. I am willing to try. But no promise. I cannot promise you things I am not sure I can actually deliver. " To me that is totally ethical, honest, and realistic communicating with a partner up front about my current abilities. My partner is not a mind reader. It is more realistic to expect me to say wassup with me than expect them to just mind reader.

To me whether growing up in a mono world or poly world? I think in both worlds a person could choose to have and maintain some kind of a Word. To me that has more to do with one knowing their own self and choosing to cultivate integrity in their dealings with themselves and with others.

If it were me? It also does my partner a respect -- spares them double load grief. That's a loving thing to do -- lessen my partner's load where I can.

1) They get clear data where I am at in my abilities. Now fully informed? They can then choose to skip it or choose to go there with me in a shared risk.

2) If they go there with me and I fail to meet the desired outcome? They know I was honest about my unknown and untried ability and gave it a good faith effort. My Word at least, was honest and up front. That can be a comfort while navigating new territory.

3) Rather than my partner dealing in double disappointment.
  • That I didn't meet the promised outcome
  • I have a flimsy Word to boot. I promise to deliver things while secretly leaving out the fact that I am not sure I can actually deliver (lie of omission) rather than me owning it and voicing that out loud so the partners can deal with it up front.

Hang in there as this continues to unfold, cuddlecakes. I encourage you guys to talk and sort it out one way or the other. I am hoping it is "learning curve" issues you can sort out.

Galagirl
 
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MightyMax

Banned
"It" is interacting with people and acting on your desires without running it past your "primary" or longest standing partner.

If you don't understand that a person can have a ethically non monogamous relationship that doesn't involve this sort of permission giving for interactions outside the dyad, it's not really possible to say "I'm unsure whether this is going to work for me". You think that it has to be present for you to maintain a serious relationship and see other people. It's the same reason some bisexual women agree to a OPP. They think that all men would be unwilling to "share" their partner with anyone but especially another man so it's perfectly reasonable and understandable that their male partner wants to restrict any non monogamy to females only. It seems to make sense at first glance.

I don't think she should be congratulated for breaking agreements but I think that he has to acknowledge that many poly people would struggle to feel happy in a situation where they feel they have to check in before acting on their desires. This doesn't make either person "not poly" but may symbolise that they cannot be poly with each other.
 

Vinccenzo

New member
You were born male and there is no decision on how to react to this situation that can change that unless that decision is to get gender reassignment.

You're human. You feel this decision hangs your self respect in the balance. Keep the "real man" BS out of it. Its an illusion that will only muck up your decision process.

That said, its pretty unrealistic to think you're never going to ding her emotionally or screw something up yourself. If you do ever have a misstep, how would you like HER to handle it?
 
What are the purposes of these rules? Be physically safer with safer sex activities? Be emotionally safe by not having anxiety provoking things sprung on you?

Yes, and yes.

Or you might be on strikes for the emotionally safety. That is another option. Mistakes can happen, there is a learning curve to new stuff.

Well we've been together 4 years. Stuff like this happened at the beginning, but I thought we had settled it and it wasn't going to happen again; it hadn't for a while. Changes like that make me worry that things are falling apart.

But if this becomes chronic it erodes trust/respect.

Yep, that's happening. I start to wonder if other rules are being followed, or if other things are happening that I'm not hearing about at all.

I go with "three strikes you are out. " You might have your own personal number for your limit of tolerance for learning curve mistakes -- 2? 5? But certainly not 1000, right? After a certain point one has to accept it not learning curve growing pains, but a person's character.

That's a good idea.

You could not go beating your own self up calling yourself names like "not being a real man" etc. The situation stinks, but you could handle it appropriately.
Like I said, "part of me" thinks that way. Perhaps a rephrase could be "I want to make sure that if I stay with her, I'm not being a pushover or being taken advantage of"?

For these people, having a rule where they have to check in or discuss their desires defeat the object of having this relationship style.

She's had no problem following it in the past in other circumstances. Isn't poly all about communication? The lack of communication makes me feel like she's stopped caring whether I'm happy, that seeing someone else is more important than keeping me.

Isn't her responsibility to not agree to rules that she does not like in the first place? Could be a case of "willing but not able" --- thought she could in theory but in practice learned she could not.

She wants me to follow these rules too (unless she's changed her mind).

For example "of course I should check in and ask my partner's permission to have sex with someone else because when you're committed to someone, they do have ownership over your body.

The rule says "discuss it first", not "ask permission". It's about keeping each other informed and not surprised. I guess we have the ability to veto things, which essentially makes it a sort of asking permission? But I don't remember ever using that.

That said, its pretty unrealistic to think you're never going to ding her emotionally or screw something up yourself. If you do ever have a misstep, how would you like HER to handle it?

I don't know, I've never cheated on anyone in my life, and can't imagine ever doing that to someone I care about. If I saw someone without telling her first, I would expect her to be very upset. I don't know what the consequences would be, but I have no plans to find out.

When I was dating someone else, I broke the rule about changing the sheets between partners a few times. She scowled at me and I immediately fixed it. There were maybe a few times where I went to the other girls' place without explicitly telling her and she felt upset when she found out? I had thought she knew already because we did the same thing every week at that point. I apologized and made sure to tell her my plans in the future even if I thought she already knew them.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
"It" is interacting with people and acting on your desires without running it past your "primary" or longest standing partner.

Thank you for clarifying, MightyMax

If you don't understand that a person can have a ethically non monogamous relationship that doesn't involve this sort of permission giving for interactions outside the dyad, it's not really possible to say "I'm unsure whether this is going to work for me".

I think we will have to agree to disagree on that one. You connect things that for me are separate.

In general -- I think is possible to have an ethical polyship where people do not check in with each other -- to me that is a "free agent non primary" open model.

In this specific case, I do not get the impression this is the model being practiced here.

To me people do not need permission. They do need to be on the same page on what kind of open model they are trying to practice together for all participants to feel good about participating there. If she's happier in a "free agent non primary" type open model, it's still on her to say so. And within that model? She could still not make promises lightly.

I think it is possible for people to say "I am not sure this is going to work for me. I am willing to try, but I am not going to promise you anything" regardless of upbringing, regardless of model they practice. That is not asking anyone for permission. That is giving clear communication to me.

It is no different to me than "I'm not sure I will like this restaurant, but I am willing to give it a try." I am not PROMISING to like it, I am saying I will try it on. No more, no less. For me it is about the promising. If not sure, that's fine, but don't promise then. I do not care for wishy-washy promises. Not giving them, not receiving them.

I think she could "own" her stuff a bit more. Rather than bending a few times and finally breaking agreement -- just give the heads up. "This agreement? No longer fits me. I am not up for it any more and do not plan to follow it. I am making you aware."

Cuddlecakes -- I don't know what to tell you if this is 4 years together of polyshipping. Perhaps she tripped up and got caught up in NRE with the new guy because he IS a new guy?

If this is the bottom line for you:

"I want to make sure that if I stay with her, I'm not being a pushover or being taken advantage of"?

Maybe you decide you are willing to let this one mistake go because it has been years since this was a thing. And because you did not lay out your clear cut boundaries/consequences. Making her aware of your stuff is your responsibility. She cannot mind reader you. You cannot mind reader her.

Could correct it now and spell it out. Have updated and clearer expectations, boundaries, and consequences articulated between you.

  • You list yours
  • She lists hers

Everyone's owns their own stuff. If those things are still compatible so you both can continue to be in relationship together? Could give it another go with new understanding of how it is between you.

  • Could decide to let this mistake go, chalk it up as learning many things, and let time heal it emotionally.
  • Could decide to take appropriate physical health steps like STD testing.
  • Could decide to take relationship steps like getting clear on your boundaries. You tell her yours and she listens. You listen to her telling hers. Agree to respect each other's boundaries. Then all you have to do is sit back, let her own her behavior now that she's been made aware of where you stand. If she keeps racking up strikes, you simply bow out. You are not telling her what to do. You are telling YOU what to do if she crosses your boundaries.

    You might be disappointed if it goes there, but you bow out with your self respect still intact because you do articulate clearly and you do follow through on your word.

Healthy boundaries are for YOU to follow so you can treat yourself with respect. "She does X? I will do Y for myself."

If even after all that she STILL agrees/promises things she really cannot follow through on? Fine. Accept she's just unreliable with her Word.

You determine if you are up for more of that or not. I really can't see that there is anything else to do. :(

Galagirl
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hi cuddlecakes,

I wouldn't say there's any official "poly rulebook" out there, although Franklin Veaux's new book "More Than Two" might kinda fit the bill.

The only consequences you *can* enact are consequences enacted by *your* choices (about your own behavior). Your partner isn't a child; she can't just be ordered to stand in a corner.

What sort of things can you do that would appropriately punish her? You could stop talking to her (for awhile) I guess. I don't know. Honestly, anything short of breaking up with her seems a little, well ... infantile.

As I think about it, when adults break rules, their only real recourse is to talk about it -- unless the infraction is severe enough to be a deal breaker. You can ask her to enact a consequence on herself, but that only works if she agrees to do it.

Oh I guess there is also doing a temporary separation ... less severe than a breakup. Spending a few weeks apart to think about what happened and reevaluate whether you want the relationship to continue.

Given the specific situation in question, I think I would try to let it go this time. In fact you may want to sit down with her and talk about the possibility of altering the rules. Barring any alterations, your hope is that she won't make a repeat behavior out of this.

I mean, is it really really important for you to know about her encounters ahead of time? Is it something internal you could work on within yourself? Would the learning opportunity be a beneficial one?

Re (from cuddlecakes):
"I don't see any reason why she can't tell me, 'Hey I have been talking to this guy I like and I might try to meet up with him while I'm out there,' and then, 'Hey I texted that guy and he wants to meet, I don't think anything will happen but I'm letting you know just in case.' Is that an unreasonable expectation?"

Not necessarily per se, but at the end of the day it comes down to what *she* thinks is reasonable *for her.* She gets to decide what rules she will or won't follow, as well as whether to promise you she'll do something simply because she knows that's what you want to hear.

Those are some of the things I would consider.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

Vinccenzo

New member
One of the things my partner and I discovered was that we had different things that bothered or triggered us. Its a learning process. What it all boiled down to was that rules don't apply in every situation because you can't predict every situation.
The rule of no sex till the intention has been announced leaves no room for spontaneous opportunity. Most single people move to intimacy by having the autonomy to chose intimacy when they find themselves wanting. Its enjoyable to act on your own impulse. I don't believe we own other people's bodies. While I believe in living up to agreements, I can't deny the learning curve of poly in a predominantly monogamous society. I found that if I really wanted some sense of primacy in my partner's life while we explore poly, it would be by being the person he could turn to and tell everything without fearing an end to it all.
 

MightyMax

Banned
@galagirl

My point is that one can make the agreement whilst ignorant of the fact that an open model as you describe it is a viable option under the ethical non monogamy umbrella. For some people, the idea that you can have relations outside the dyad at all is so off the wall that they don't even consider that there would be any other way of doing things apart from a closed, hierarchical structure with lots of couple privilege.

These people often view their desire for a more open model as selfish or unrealistic because their mononormative thinking tells them that nobody in their right mind would allow such things in a committed relationship. So, they either sacrifice having that sort of relationship or they agree to the closed style that their partner is most graciously offering. When you also consider that they probably have their own qualms about the possibility of being replaced, accepting the closed model deal makes sense in theory. In practice when feelings get involved, it doesn't work as well.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
We have to agree to disagree, MightyMax. It isn't that I do not see your point of view. I do see it. I just do not agree.

Yes, one might agree at first to things that do not quite fit out of newbie ignorance. My point is that one does not have to choose to stay in things that do not fit.

In those shoes? I could speak up. I could choose to renegotiate and help create something closer to what I want. I do not have to go with the idea of "I think nobody would ever want what I want. Rather than actually ask my partner, I'll go with my assumption. I have to take what I can get otherwise I might have nothing."

I just don't share that point of view. *shrug*


So, they either sacrifice having that sort of relationship or they agree to the closed style that their partner is most graciously offering.

Correct. They could also change their willingness to ASK their partner if they are up for it. That is another option.

In this specific case? Their model not Closed. It is Open. Date whoever you want, just give a heads up. This relationship is not newbie either. This is 4 years in, not 4 weeks.

In a monoship thing? In a newbie polyship thing? In a longer aged polyship thing? My point is that one could choose to speak up when they discover things do not fit them or they want to know stuff rather than assuming. Could ask to talk and nip in bud, rather than continue in an ill-fitting thing and risk it growing more ugh and more ill fitting. That's about it.



Galagirl
 
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MightyMax

Banned
We have to agree to disagree, MightyMax. It isn't that I do not see your point. I do see it. I just do not agree with that line of thinking. You place the unwillingness to speak up in a lot places -- upbringing, models, ignorance, fear, etc.

I put it on the individual.



Correct. They could also change their willingness to ASK their partner if they are up for it. That is another option.

In this specific case? Their model not Closed. It is Open. Date whoever you want, just give a heads up. This relationship is not newbie either -- where a certain level of newbie could be forgiven. This is 4 years in, not 4 weeks.

In a monoship thing? In a newbie polyship thing? In a longer aged polyship thing? My point is that one could speak up when they discover things do not fit them.

That's about it. One might agree at first to things that do not quite fit out of newbie ignorance. One does not have to choose to remain ignorant. One does not have to choose to stay in things that do not fit.

Galagirl

I simply can't see how you can disagree with the fact that an option one was oblivious to isn't really an option. I also think you grossly underestimate the influence growing up in a society which not only greatly endorses monogamy, but actively condemns non monogamy.
 

Emm

Stealth Mod
An option one is oblivious to isn't an option while one remains oblivious to it. Once one works out that it exists it becomes an option which can then be brought up and negotiated. A relationship isn't set in stone with the "rules" agreed to on the first date; it grows and changes as more information becomes available.
 

MightyMax

Banned
Has anyone said to her that you could do this the way you have been doing it so far, with check ins and vetoes or you could do this the way other people do it where you aren't obliged to check in or gain any sort of permission, but you are expected to be honest and tell your partner the things they need to know to make informed choices?

Until someone has outlined that there are other options she could take, perhaps not with this guy, but with someone else who also wants to take that option, one can't really say she has made an informed choice and she remains oblivious.
 

ClockworkDragon

New member
We didn't, and didn't realize we needed to. What are some options, other than "break up" and "change the rule" (which would make the rules pointless in the first place)?

I don't think anyone else commented on your parenthetical here, and if they did (Galagirl usually covers EVERYTHING. ;) So if I'm repeating her, I'm sorry.)

Changing rules doesn't make them pointless. One of the most important parts of learning to practice poly is being willing to change. Most of us honestly don't start out with poly relationships, so we have to figure out how to change our perspective. What we think MUST happen in the beginning, we often discover later that this wasn't reasonable, or didn't work the way we thought it would.

Changing the rules don't make them pointless. It's simply acknowledging that things can and do change.

Now, am I advising that you do so? Not at all. Only you guys can decide what works for me.

Let me put it this way. Originally, my husband wanted to limit so many things. He wanted to control how things happened, and when. He wanted to meet them before I had sex with them, etc.

We learned REALLY, really fast that this was untenable, unworkable, and unreasonable.

That didn't make his requests pointless, it simply provided a stepping stone for learning.

Now, our relationship has very few hard and fast rules. Now, it's all about safety, and respect. Our two main rules?

1) TALK. We must communicate.
2) Safety. Condoms required for all. Period. This is non-negotiable.

Beyond that? We don't do rules. But that's just us; each relationship has to determine what works for them, in the bounds of their relationships.
 
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