Rules, or the lack thereof.

June 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , )

When we first opened our marriage four years ago, we established some rules we would operate under, as many couples do:

  1. One partner is permitted to veto the playmates of the other partner.
  2. If a playdate must be hosted in our home, do not inconvenience the non-participating partner in order to do so.
  3. The marital bed is not to be used for playing with other people.

Veto power was only exerted once, and by me – a friend of a friend wanted to play with the DH, and we had a difference of opinion about her. He saw her as a free spirit; I saw a woman desperate for any kind of attention. No more than a month later, we found out she had gotten pregnant by another man and was attempting to entrap him (and by extension, his wealthy family) into a relationship with her. Some very icky drama resulted, and we were both pretty grateful that we weren’t involved in it.

Rule #2 proved problematic. In the early days particularly, the DH played around a lot more than I did, and for various reasons his playmates could rarely host. In spite of this rule there were times when I felt I had no choice but to get out of the way, because I was nowhere near comfortable with the thought of sitting around the house doing my own thing while listening to my husband fuck another woman upstairs. This lead to some resentment on my part until we talked about it further and made a more concerted effort to coordinate schedules so I didn’t feel forced out of the house in order for him to have a friend over.

Over time, though, all three rules went away. Not through any conscious decision or deliberate discussion – I slowly stopped enforcing them. They were, after all, my invention, rules I had requested to establish boundaries and comfort zones. And truthfully, they were pretty arbitrary, serving only to exert control over him and over the potential threats to our relationship. They were like a bulletproof vest, placed over my areas of potential emotional wounds. The rules weren’t helping me overcome my fears of abandonment, of not being “good enough” for the relationship to endure. So as I grew, as I became more confident in the security of our relationship, and as I learned to trust both him and myself to make wise decisions, I let the rules dissolve.

We now operate on trust and respect. We have some basic principles for how our relationship works, but I wouldn’t call them rules, because they really are fundamental principles of good communication. We no longer ask each other for “permission” to be with someone else; we trust each other to make good choices in who we spend time with or become intimate with. We don’t view one another as property to be “shared” with (or withheld from) someone else. We keep each other informed of our plans with others, just as we agree to what & when we do things together, and make sure plans don’t overlap.  And that’s about it. And it’s working very well.

As I meet other people who are polyamorous and who have their own rules, I’m starting to question why they have them. I know everyone is different and what works for me may not work for others, but I do wonder if they have thought about the real reason why they have certain rules in place. Is it to exert control over their partner; is it a form of possessiveness? Is it to cover up and cushion a fear instead of exposing and resolving it? People don’t like me asking these kinds of questions. So far, it’s even resulted in a couple of potential friendships not getting off the ground.

Additionally, I wonder if others would be willing to re-negotiate their rules once another partner with potential for a real relationship enters the picture. Shouldn’t a new partner have a say in the guidelines that affect their relationship? Would you enter a legal contract into which you had no input? Why should a relationship be any different? But this leads to a dissection of the hierarchical nature that many poly people assign to their relationships, which troubles me very much, and will be covered in another ramble at another time.

The husband and I are fortunate to have both evolved our thinking about our relationship at a similar pace and along the same path. It’s one of the reasons why we are so compatible – on many issues, we come to the same conclusion independent of one another. For others, their mileage may vary; their fears may be deeper-rooted and harder to resolve, or their need for control may not be easily sated. Ultimately, though, I know this will become a factor in other relationships the husband or I establish with others, and asking others to justify their rules may lead to fewer relationships than we’d like. But as with many areas of life, we can only live in the moment, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.




  1. Mrs. Pan said,

    My husband and I just opened our marriage. It is a big learning process. I set up a number of rules, but I imagine they will fall by the wayside over time as well.

  2. Anne S Morgan said,

    It’s hard to describe how happy reading your blog has made me, I thought I was strange, alone and out there among the community of people I know. I have two loving relationships, my husband and my lover, who both know of each other. Your blog is insightful and thoughtful and I look forward to reading more.

    • Alice Digitalis said,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m just sharing what I’m experiencing and I do hope it helps others somehow. Please feel free to read & comment!

    • veronica said,

      truly, discovering this blog made me happy too~~~

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