“John. First of all. I like your poly articles. They’re informative and at times very funny. I also like how you admit that youre not perfect and its clearly a process for you and yours. My question is about limits. How far can you go? What are the rules or should there even be rules in something so emotionally charged as a poly relationship? Just curious, my wife and I are thinking about diving into this but we want to make sure that we encounter as little problems as possible.
Joe [name changed]”
Hey Joe, thanks for the email and thanks for reading.
Let’s examine this idea of limits and rules.
First, no two poly relationships are alike. You’ll find what works for one will be devastating to the other. One “unit” will have very few rules and limits while the one right next to them will have literally a written “Poly Constitution”, explaining the procedures and limits of their abilities and powers under this relationship structure. (“Unit” is my word for poly groups. Again, your results may vary. Some people call them “pods”, or just simply “groups”.)
Personally, within my unit, our rules are fairly simple and straightforward.
1.) Complete and total honesty about our encounters, and we have to receive approval on all partners prior to any physical contact.
2.) Protection will always be used during any physical encounter that is NOT with the primary.
3.) Any member of the unit can veto, or at east call to discussion anyone or anything within the group, at any time.
4.) No sleeping over, unless approved with a specific reason (too drunk, unsafe driving conditions, or pre-approved)
5.) If something does NOT feel right, DO NOT DO IT.
Now with our rules, they are more for me than they are for my wife. I have no issue with her sleeping over anywhere (if anything having a night in bed alone appeals to the bed hog in me), and I don’t really think there is anything that could cause me to veto anything my wife does, barring not having a good feeling about someone.
Some rulesets are simply a safety net to make sure that everyone is in the proper frame of mind for a poly relationship. In my case, it’s half and half. The total honesty and protection rules are there for obvious reasons of health.
Developing your own rulesets with your partner will allow you to explore what you are comfortable with, and what you are not comfortable with. In short, all of the expectations are on the table and that way, no one is surprised.
The general rule is you can only go as fast as your slowest member. In my case, my wife is a bit inexperienced in matters like this, so the rules and pace of our poly life coincide with how comfortable she is. This is not to disparage her, it simply is what it is. Poly is supposed to be organic, fun and comfortable. If it is lacking one of those elements, you’re doing it wrong.
As a rule, vetoing is a very important concept that will make the slowest member feel the sense of power and responsibility in determining their own niche within the poly lifestyle. For example, there was someone a few weeks ago who propositioned me, and I told her I would have to get permission from my wife. My wife promptly said “hell no”. Turns out that the woman who propositioned me had worked with her, and they did NOT get along at all. I disagreed with why she vetoed her, but I respected the decision and abide by it.
As far as limits, my wife has a very simple rule that she uses in her entire life, which is the 5th rule I’ve listed. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
For example, she does not engage in anal play with anyone else but me. That is a limit she set for herself because I am the only person she knows that is gentle enough to pull it off without it being uncomfortable.
The sleeping over is another limit she places on our poly life.
Some of the limits regarding the emotional aspects of poly are things she put there simply to make sure that she remains the primary focus in my life outside of our poly lives. The sleeping-over rule ensures that at the end of the day, we’re the one’s cuddling each other to sleep. Our alone time is very important to us and we enforce that. That’s not to say that we can’t have partners sleeping WITH us. I remember a great many days of waking up in a pile of blankets, bodies and early morning small talk.
But, one of those limits is that our alone time is sacrosanct. When it’s time for us to spend quality alone time, we respect this and do precisely that.
I’m sorry, and I hate to burst your bubble, but if the two of you are honest with each other, you are GOING to run into problems and roadblocks. This requires a great communications ethic. You have to have the ability to;
1. be very specific about what you’re feeling
2. be very specific about what you think the solution is to what you’re feeling
3. be very open and honest about everything going on
4. be willing to fix the problem together.
If you don’t approach any kind of talk with an open mind, it’s better to postpone the conversation until you are. But, expecting to not run into any problems with jealousy or honesty at first is a bit naive. However Joe, the fact that you want to try and deal with things before it actually happens tells me that you and your wife already have a good communications ethic, or at least want to.
At the end of the day, your rules and limits are what you’re comfortable and uncomfortable with. Very few human beings are capable of being comfortable with every aspect of poly lives but the good news is that for every problem encountered, if it is approached right, can end up laying the foundation for not just your poly lives, but the strengthening of your primary relationship with your wife.
Good luck, Joe.