Okay, I started writing a blog about boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.
There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them. Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things.
POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: PROCESSING
PROCESS/COMMUNICATION AGREEMENTS FOR OPEN RELATIONSHIPS
Lots of couples have mismatched and unspoken expectations about how and when they'll check in with each other and/or negotiate boundaries as they open their relationship. This leads them to one of three common problems on polyamory and open relationships:
Not talking about the hard stuff leaves HUGE gaps in communication where assumptions, missed connections, misunderstanding, and unmet expectations will lead to resentment, hurt, and distance.
Lots of couples have so much distress or difficulty sitting with discomfort they add enormous pressure to their conversations trying to resolve all tension by every conversation's end. These conversations can drag on for hours and are an incredible emotional drain for most couples. They often end up talking about non-monogamy more often than any other topic and find themselves processing agreements every day.
Lots of couples dive into non-monogamy well before they've created a plan to check in. They might go to their first sex club or play party without having clarified intentions or specified ways to check in throughout the night, only to find themselves triggered, miscommunicating, or feeling misunderstood and overwhelmed midway through what they dreamed would be a fun night out together.
Creating process agreements is less about WHAT you're going to discuss and more about HOW you're going to engage in effective conversations about tough subject matters like opening your relationship. Once you're clear what works best for you, you can apply these to other areas that get tense too.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Take into consideration the time, place, and manner that works best for you to be fully present in challenging situations.
- Try beginning from a place of connection. The tone you set at the beginning determines the tone of the entire conversation.
- Have a clearly stated intention for your conversation. Ask yourself: Why is this important? What's my ideal outcome?
- Be willing to own your contribution to any challenging conversation.
EXAMPLE COMMUNICATION AGREEMENTS IN CONSENSUAL NON-MONOGAMY
Here are a few examples of process (or communication) agreements. Remember, no two relationships are the same so not all of these may be a fit for you.
- "I'm not at my best before coffee or after 9:00 PM. Let's agree to check in after coffee and well before bed."
- "I don't care if you meet people online and flirt text/chat with them, but let me know when you start thinking about or initiating in-person plans."
- "If either of us raises our voice that's our signal we need to take some deep breaths before we continue talking."
- "If we meet another couple we're interested in let's step away to check in before giving out our contact information."
- "Can we agree to save this topic for couples coaching appointments?"
- "I'd rather not watch you play with someone else at this party, so I'm not going to the playspace with you right now. Can we reconnect in this room at midnight?"
- "Let's agree not to interrogate each other from a place of comparison."
- “Can we talk about non-monogamy for only one hour at a time? That will break up the intensity and give me time to think.”
- "I'd like to process this with my therapist first. Let's set up a time to revisit this tomorrow."
- "When you tell me you find someone interesting or attractive, can you also tell me if you have intentions for further contact with them?"
- "Let's check in an hour after we get to the party and see if we want to play together, separately, or not at all."
- "If we start to escalate let's take a 30-minute break and come back."
- "Can we agree not to communicate with other partners (chat or text) from our bedroom?"
- "Let's set aside one night a week where we're fully present for each other and not in contact with other partners."
I made a little worksheet to help you create process agreements. Download it here.
Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon.
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.