The other day I came across a post on fetlife by petroglyph about love and rules. She talked in a beautiful way about the infeasibility of rules in love. Especially when you want to come to agreements which go further than what is considered “normal” in society. In this case that’s polyamory.

She outlines a common scenario of a couple starting out on their polyamorous adventure and wanting to create rules of engagement. Not unrealistic ones that would say you couldn’t fall in love and the like.

“No, these are basic, common-sense things. “Our bed is for us.” “Co-workers are off-limits for dating.” “We will not spend more than two nights a week with other partners.” Etc. It’s all very hypothetical, but isn’t it better to work out the details before you begin your polyamorous adventure?

And then your partner gets another partner. Hurray! Things are going well, and they start having sleepovers. Imagine two possible scenarios:

  1. They decide two nights a week isn’t enough, and schedule three sleepovers in one week.
  2. They stick to two sleepovers a week, but you find you’re miserable being left alone this often.

Which presents, in a nutshell, two basic problems with rules-based relationships:

  1. They’re unenforceable–and trying to enforce them makes people more defensive.[…]
  2. They don’t magically make people happy or secure.[…]”

Communication Is a Better Approach

If you need something from your partner, ask for it.
They’ll say yes. Or they won’t.
You’ll decide that you can live with their response. Or that you can’t.
The relationship will continue. Or it won’t.

Arguments Against Rules in Love

  • Who will check the rules and supervise the implementation?
  • How are you going to enforce compliance regarding those rules??
  • It will probably only give you a false sense of security and
  • It especially might be a problem when it comes to communication (because you can not enforce the fact that people should communicate)
  • You’re only human so you will sometimes forget that you had a rule. In this case it would be better to realize that you’ve lost sight of a desire. (“oops” and “sorry” combined with honest behavior are more important than rules.)
  • The only possibility, no matter how scary it might be, is to come out with your wishes and fears.

Talk & Trust

Don’t postpone… talk.
Don’t enforce… ask.
Don’t have to… grant instead.

All you can do is pick partners carefully. Trust they care about you as much as you care about them. And accept that, rules or no rules, the only actions that you control are your own.

If you are on fetlife, I recommend you read petroglyph’s full post Why Poly Doesn’t Need Rules.

Hans has over a quarter of a century of experience in the mental health sector. Hans is a certified physiotherapist, psychotherapist and relationship coach. The debilitating effects of shame and taboos have always had his attention.

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