How to Write an Open Relationship Rules Agreement that Works
What Questions to Ask When Creating Your Relationship Rules Agreement
Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you begin to brainstorm your own document:
Are you interested in exploring open love together, separately, or both?
What kinds of experiences thrill or excite you? What kinds create fear or anxiety?
Where is the definite “line” you would not want to cross? What feels like dealbreaker territory?
What is each of your ideal relationship visions?
What are your respective risk thresholds for sexual / physical safety?
What do you need for emotional safety?
How accessible do you want your partner(s) to be when they’re with others?
How would you handle sleeping arrangements and overnights?
How do your home and bedroom fit into your vision?
How will you incorporate children?
What kinds of qualities are you looking for in new partners?
How integrated do you want your partners to be? (Acquaintence, friends, lovers, domestic partners)
What could your partner provide to meet your needs so that their desire to do ABC with XYZ isn’t an immediate “no”?
What communication toolsets will you use to maintain an open, healthy conversation around your relationship?
Below is our relationship agreement as it exists at time of writing. For reference, I am currently in a relationship that falls somewhere in between a “V” formation (one person with two unintegrated primary partners) and triad (three fully integrated partners).
What Our Open Relationship Rules Agreement Looks Like
It is my greatest intention to…
Honor “Team Relationship”. This is not an “every person for themselves” environment.
When questioning a relationship decision, it is better to ask for permission, not forgiveness.
Provide emotional and physical safety to my partner(s) according to these guidelines:
Our family prefers inclusion in connections whenever possible. However, a partner being unavailable to connect or preferring not to connect will preferably not prevent the other(s) with moving forward.
We define three intimate relationship types as such:
Connection: one-time or sporadic engagement
Connection-ship: ongoing engagement occurring from once per month to once weekly
Relationship: full partnership that includes multiple visits per week and the potential for building a life together
We will engage with partners that visibly support and embrace our foundational relationships. Outside partners with a taking or undermining energy will be discussed and reconsidered.
Engage in any new potential connection with full disclosure of my partner’s existence, with accepting acknowledgment from the new partner.
Engage in sleeping overnight, oral and/or penetrative sex preferably when STD test results have been exchanged and a meeting between metamours has been established
Engage in sleeping overnight without an established metamour relationship only when sleeping alone would result in inconvenience, awkwardness or shame for the metamour and it is unlikely to evolve into a full relationship
Attempt to check in at least once during an exclusive experience for reassurance, sharing as many or few details as desired by my partner(s). A brief but loving voice message before bed and in the morning is appreciated.
Demonstrate my commitment to my partnership(s) with:
A zero tolerance policy for slut-shaming. We honor each other’s needs as human beings wired for intimacy with more than one person at a time.
Honor the partner with lowest common denominator of comfort level in all experiences. We meet each where we are at.
Consciously integrate new partners into the relationship by considering reasonable pacing and depth of sharing. Respect the psychological impact of drastic life changes for my partner(s) beyond their control.
Work to release triggers and wounding that no longer serve me or our relationship(s)
Use non-violent communication to co-regulating and holding space for each other when we struggle
Resist burying discomfort that could lead to resentment and passive-aggressive behavior
Allow my partner(s) to “own their no” and give space for explanation and heart-centered discussion
Share anything that is tempting to hide from my partner for fear of shame or guilt
Prevent outside influence, peer pressure, and judgment from friends, family, and lovers that steer my compass in a direction that compromises the integrity of our relationship
Make a reasonable effort to respond to my partner in times of their discomfort, even if during my own experience
Assess the gravity of interrupting my partner’s experience to address my discomfort. I will ask myself these questions:
Have I examined my observations, meanings, emotions and needs?
Am I still triggered enough to need to interrupt my partner’s experience?
Have I exhausted all possible paths to self-resolution?
Will waiting until the end of their experience to communicate jeopardize the relationship?
Introductions of outside partners to children and family will be discussed prior to invitation.
We will avoid sleeping with new partners in our bedrooms without prior consent.
We will avoid sleeping with new partners at home with children in close proximity.
Avoid engaging in ongoing connection-ships or relationships with unavailable (i.e. monogamously married or committed) people.
If I can’t recall the specific details of a particular intention, I will try to check in with my partner.
As in life, intentions are always subject to consciously communicated and accepted revision.
Phew! Yes, that could seem overwhelming. But note the final line regarding the potential for revision. It is crucial to understand that this is a living, breathing document.
Its words are not carved into stone tablets; rather, its spirit is a fluidity that ebbs and flows with the nuances of life. It’s gone through several iterations as our various life experiences have evolved our needs and desires. In the poignant words of Miyamoto Musashi:
“Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life.”
Why Our Relationship Agreement Works For Us
This relationship rules agreement gives our partners a safe container in which to explore. Our container isn’t like a sealed Tupperware; rather, it’s like a mesh basket that keeps our investment safely tucked in while allowing the fresh oxygen to flow through.
Now, is the relationship rules agreement a silver bullet for avoiding the emotional challenges of polyamory and open relating? Do we feel safe all day, every day of the year? Um, no. We are human beings with millennia of societal conditioning, triggers, and trauma to break through. But breaking through to returning to our more natural state of loving can be really rewarding.
Simply creating the open relationship rules agreement is a testament to a mutual understanding of our human nature and a signpost of compassion for those we hold most dear in our heart.
Just for comparison, I’ve included a manifesto for the way humans have been told is the only way to do love:
No one else besides me. Forever.
Is that simpler? Easier? Of course. And yet…forever sure is a long time. Makes you think, yes?