I started writing a blog about open relationship 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.
OPEN RELATIONSHIP RULES & POLYAMORY AGREEMENTS: SHARED RESOURCES
I'm often quoted by clients for saying "love and attraction are infinite, but time, money, and energy are not." Because these are limited in quantity they lead to lots of conflict in couples practicing polyamory and non-monogamy. It can be very important to create agreements around them.
Lots of folks build relationships based on assumptions that the ultimate goal is to share all our time, all our money, or all our energy with just one person. While that may be the right plan for some relationships, defaulting to this assumption without intention leads many to misunderstandings.
Shared resources are also often a way we measure intimacy, demonstrate priority, or evaluate importance in relationships. For couples practicing hierarchical non-monogamy (where one relationship is deemed more significant than others), it's essential to get clear about the weight these carry in your relationship.
If you read anything about polyamory you'll see this is the number one area of conflict for folks navigating open relationships. Folks often attempt to measure time in quality and in quantity. Typically agreements reflect this. Here are a few examples:
- "We know to put things on hold if our family schedule is disrupted."
- "It's hard to see you spending quality time with other people when we spend so little together. Can we set up some special time just for us?"
- "We try to go on more dates with each other than other people."
- "Our weekends are just for us."
- "I'm open to seeing folks any night, but our Sunday morning sleep-in sessions are important to me. Can you make sure nothing interrupts those?
- "We make our travel plans before making plans with other partners."
- "We only see other people on Fridays."
Because our society emphasizes money, and for many of us it represents stability, it brings up intense feelings of scarcity, uncertainty, and/or personal worth when it's connected to relationships. Here are a few agreements couples have made to help navigate those feelings.
- "We only share finances with each other."
- "We check in before loaning anyone more than $50."
- "We don't give gifts to other partners."
- "We need to save up for the new roofing project. I'd like to hold off on expensive dates for a while."
- "I don't care how much money you spend on your dates or gifts for other partners."
- "We shop for Christmas gifts for our partners and give them together."
- "We created separate accounts for our private dating lives."
- "We have a household budget for porn and leather supplies."
- "He funds his own travel to see her."
This resource is often overlooked in our over-busy over-committed society, but there is a limit to personal energy. I once had a client suggest she could run two businesses, be in graduate school, train for a marathon and add a third high-intensity partnership to her life.
Yes, you can do all the things, but you cannot do them all at once.
So I often think about physical energy boundaries as a far more personal boundary to set. How will you maintain the energy needed to maintain and manage multiple relationships? How will you reserve the energy needed to do your own emotional work as you open your relationship? What indicators can you watch for that will let you know your tank is nearing empty?
Here are a few ideas from my clients:
- "I know I'm out of balance when I start skipping the gym."
- "If I am complaining I'm tired two days in a row I need to refocus on sleep.
- "I can't take on another partnership until I complete my dissertation."
- "One of my partnerships needs a lot of care right now, I'm not going to pursue any new relationships until this one has stabilized."
- "I feel out of touch with myself. I think I'm too caught up in new relationship energy."
- "I know this is taking up too much energy because I'm not getting any alone time."
- "I feel overwhelmed by the response to my OKC profile. I didn't do this to add stress. I'm going to limit how often I check the account."
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.