Hi, I’m Kale. Today I want to talk about relationship rules, and why I don’t have any, and boundaries, and why I think they are really important.
Both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships can have rules. These rules can be either assumed or explicitly agreed upon. For example, it is common for a monogamous relationship to have the assumed rule of sexual exclusivity. That might even extend to no flirting, or no close friends of the opposite sex. For some people those rules might seem obvious, other people might be surprised to find themselves expected to follow them.
In most polyamorous relationships couples will sit down and discuss rules, even create a relationship agreement where the rules are written down. These can be as simple as Communicate and Have Safe Sex, or as complex as how and when a person can start dating, how often and what kind of time they can spend with another person, if they can have sleepovers, and so on.
To me rules bring all kinds of complications, and limit autonomy. They remove trust in a person’s judgement, and come from a place of fear.
Okay, so what is the alternative when there are no rules? Does that mean that people act however they want, regardless of if other people get hurt? Is it just a big free for all?
Well, no. We still choose to be with people we trust and assume they will act in our best interest. We also clearly communicate our boundaries. That is a big piece, so I want to dig into it a little.
What is a boundary? There are all kinds of boundaries. Physical boundaries are about your personal space, privacy, and body. There are sexual boundaries, which are about comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.
They types of boundaries I’m going to talk about are emotional boundaries, which separate your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s.
Having clear internal boundaries means knowing your feelings. They mean taking responsibility for yourself, rather than putting the onus on someone else.
Rules are different. Rules tell someone what they have to do, and they restrict other people’s behaviour. They also often don’t often address the root need of why the rule is in place.
Here are some examples of a rules and boundaries.
You must always use condoms with everyone you have sex with, so I don’t have to and I feel safe.
The rule here tells the other person how they must act.
I will not have unbarriered sex with someone who is having unbarriered sex with other people.
The boundary is owning your own choices, it’s about your level of comfort around sexual health.
I have to meet and approve of all of my metamours.
The rule here does not make space for the metamours needs, it removes their autonomy.
My metamours and I will choose and consent to how involved we are in each other’s lives.
The boundary allows everyone to consent according to their level of comfort.
You have to sleep at home every night.
The problem with this rule is that it is controlling two people: takes the choice away from the person you are living with, and it imposes restrictions on someone else they may wish to spend the night with.
Rules are about trying to feel safe by limiting the actions of other people. Rather than fostering trust, they try to control people so we don’t have to feel scared or unsure.
Setting clear boundaries in place of rules allows autonomy, creates space for communication, and strengthens trust.
In my next video, I’ll talk about how to communicate boundaries, so follow me on Twitter or join our Facebook group down below, or subscribe to my channel. Thanks for watching, bye!