Category Archives: Coaching/Counseling

Love In Abundance: A Book Review

kathyLabriolaHave you checked out the awesome book by Kathy Labriola, Love in Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice on Open Relationships?  Here’s what I said about it on Amazon the other day:
This review is from: Love In Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice On Open Relationships [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Kathy Labriola (Paperback)

Kathy Labriola’s book, “Love In Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice on Open Relationships” is a great contribution to the literature on polyamorous and/or open relationships. She gives excellent advice garnered from her extensive counseling experience, and backs up her recommendations with clear, helpful examples. Her topics are helpful and interesting, running the gamut from communication advice to suggestions for how to deal with jealousy, and much more. One especially unusual and helpful aspect to the book, in my opinion, is Labriola’s commitment to sexual orientation inclusiveness. In her relationship examples, she seamlessly includes same-sex relationships as well as heterosexual ones. She discusses several kinds of relationship formations as well, and not just the “usual” heterosexual, primary-secondary/hierarchical model.

On the not-so-perfect side, some people have found her section on advice about communication between men and women to be a bit “gender-essentialist,” and others find her advice in general to be somewhat “basic.” I myself think she has observed some true patterns over the years regarding communication between men and women, and has some good communication advice that isn’t limited to relationships between the gender binary, nor to any particular style of relating. I also find her advice to be grounded in reality, and a gentler introduction to the concepts than some of the books that came before.

I highly recommend this book to my clients and other people interested in polyamorous/open relationships. I think it fits in nicely, filling the gaps between the groundbreaking Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits : Secrets of Sustainable Intimate Relationships by Deborah Anapol, and the book touted for years as the “poly bible,” The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. Not as radical as Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines For Responsible Open Relationships by Wendy-O Matik and far less dense than Ravencroft’s Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful, I think this book is a solid guide in an often confusing territory, especially helpful to those completely new to the concepts.

Highly recommended for relationship explorers of any sort, and a must-have for any counseling professional who serves these communities.

By the way, did you know Kathy is releasing a new book in September? It’s the Jealousy Workbook, and it looks like another fabulous resource.  I have a small part in it too, with one of my Tools for “Riding the Green Wave” published in the section called “Ask the Experts.”  Hooray! The new book isn’t available yet, but you can pre-order it directly from Kathy.

Green First Aid KitAlso, Kathy and I are hosting a Teleseminar called Jealousy First Aid, on September 4th, at 5:45pm Pacific Time.  I’ll be doing a more formal announcement of that soon, but in the meantime, I’ve just finished the web-form to sign up, so if you’d like to get started, feel free to fill out this form, and get on the list! (And please do let me know if the form doesn’t work right or something; this is the first time I’ve used this program to do this, so I’m a little nervous about it working!)

Here’s hoping all your relationships are going along swimmingly this summer!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Interested in talking to me directly about your jealousy or other poly/open issues? I’m happy to do a free 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you. And through the end of August, I’m still running my summer special, so you can save over 30% on a package! Contact me via my webform, Or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time to talk!


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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]




Robyn Trask photo

Agreements Webinar Wed Aug 14th — Plus Discount!

Robyn Trask photo

Robyn Trask, head of Loving More Nonprofit

Good news, everybody! Loving More Non-profit is continuing their informative webinar series, Wednesday August 14 at 7pm Mountain Time/6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern. This month’s webinar is on a topic near and dear to my own heart: “Negotiating Boundaries and Polyamorous Relationship Agreements.” It’ll be presented by head of Loving More, Robyn Trask,

NOTE: Usually these webinars are $9 for non-members of Loving More, but Robyn is allowing me to offer a special deal for you to get a 10% discount.  Just use code DAWND when you sign up for the webinar!

You can read the whole announcement and sign up for this month’s webinar here:

August 14th, 2013 – 7:00 pm Mountain Time
PLEASE NOTE: Time listed is Mountain – Space is limited!!

Negotiating Boundaries and Polyamorous Relationship Agreements
with Robyn Trask

One of the biggest challenges in polyamorous relationships (actually all relationships) is understanding our boundaries, creating agreements that work as well as knowing how to negotiate and navigate the complexity of our emotional responses. This webinar will go through the basics of understanding boundaries and negotiating agreements that help create a safe container to expand love and connections. Included in the discussion will be safer sex agreements, how agreements change and evolve over time, finding what works for you and your partner/s and how agreements can be an important part in expending connections and creating lasting relationships.

Register Here

*Registration for this webinar is FREE for Loving More annual and monthly donating members, or is $9 for non-members, and is on a first come, first serve basis. You must fill out the registration form from the link below to attend.

Remember:  Use Discount code DAWND for 10% off when you register!

Members need to contact Loving More directly — — to receive member discount information. Include full name and and  type of donating member – monthly or annual.

(PSSST: Want to try out the Loving More webinar series for FREE?  Listen to the recording of the May webinar anytime!  — “Beyond Monogamy? Introduction to Polyamory and Other Relationship Choices” with Robyn Trask)

Want yet more information about Agreements?  Check out my KISSable Agreements Workbook entries! Or download the excerpt of the workbook, called Getting to Win-Win-Win.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to set up some Agreements for yourself, but don’t know where to start? I’m happy to do a free 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you, to get you started. Get clear on how to figure out what your needs are, and how those relate to Agreements.  Want more help?  I’m happy to walk you through the process of setting up Agreements, step by step!  I’m even running a summer special, so you can save over 30% on a package! Contact me via my webform, Or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time for a free intro session!


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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Robyn Trask (center), Jesus Garcia (Right), of Loving More Nonprofit, with Ben Silver (Left)

FREE Webinar: 8 Keys to Poly Relationships

Robyn Trask (center), Jesus Garcia (Right), of Loving More Nonprofit, with Ben Silver (Left)

Presenters Robyn Trask (center), and Jesus Garcia (Right), with musician Ben Silver (Left)

Robyn Trask and Jesus Garcia of Loving More Non-profit are continuing their informative FREE webinar series this Thursday, June 20 at 7pm Mountain Time/6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern.

You can read the whole announcement here:

The series will include topics such as polyamory and dating, making agreements, developing authentic communication, moving through jealousy, raising children in a polyamorous home and much more.

The Webinars are online and can be accessed from anywhere with a computer and good Internet connection and are also available by phone.

The June webinar is:

8 Keys to Successful Polyamorous Relationships

What are the keys to making polyamorous relationships work? This webinar will explore common challenges that set people up for failure in polyamory and loving relationships as well as how to overcome the obstacles. Our goal is to help people create relationships that thrive instead of merely survive.

with Robyn Trask and Jesus Garcia

Register Here

PLEASE NOTE: Time listed is Mountain – Space is limited!!

Registration for this webinar is free and is on a first come, first serve basis and you must fill out the registration form from the link below to attend.

Register Here

Missed the May Webinar? You can access a recording anytime!

“Beyond Monogamy? Introduction to Polyamory and Other Relationship Choices”
with Robyn Trask

Access Webinar

Should be another very interesting and useful call!  Space is limited, so grab your spot before it fills up. 🙂

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to set up a time to talk with me about polyamory, monogamy, and how to design your own best relationships? I’m happy to do a free 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you. Get clear on what your relationship structure is, and underlying assumptions about rules and boundaries, and your relationship/s will be easier and happier! Or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time for a free intro session!
PPS: In honor of Pride Month, you might also want to check out my Love Is OK T-shirt with the rainbow heart.  Because no matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK! (Tip: Use code 15SUNSETDEAL for a 15% discount when you order by 8pm Pacific on 6/19/13.)

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Positive STI Test? Don’t Panic! (Yet)

gamblingsign.phpShould you freak out if you get a positive [STI] test?  Probably not, depending on the number of “false positives.”  Here’s the mathematical reasoning, based on a disease with a 1% rate in the population, where the test finds the diseases 100% of the time, but has a 5% “false positive” rate.

The “moral” of the story? Don’t freak out (yet); instead, get a second opinion.

Of course, the exact numbers will depend on how accurate the test is, and exactly what the false positive rates are. But mathematically speaking, a positive test is not something to freak out about, at least not until there are TWO positive tests in a row.  Preferably by different testing methods.

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

This, by the way, is why you really shouldn’t “out” someone publicly who’s just told you privately that they got a positive test, and are awaiting re-testing (while taking appropriate precautions not to unnecessarily expose others in the meantime, just in case).  Because the HIGH probability is that the re-test will be negative. Making a big deal about whether they’ve told absolutely everyone yet is just going to cause drama that is likely completely unnecessary.  Giving them a little empathy about how challenging it must be to get this result and how hard it is to wait, on the other hand, would probably be really welcome. 🙂

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

Want some help negotiating safer sex (or any other kind of) Agreements? I’m always happy to schedule a free 30 minute session (or 60 minutes for half price). Read what other people are saying about my work here. Or read more about making Agreements in my KISSable Agreements workbook entries. 🙂  Still got questions?  Feel free to contact me on my Love Outside the Box webpage.

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Polyamory Therapy & Counseling: Resources, and Survey


Polyamorous people who have sought therapy (whether couples, family/group, or even individual) often experience challenges in locating a therapist that understands and supports polyamory as a valid relationship option.  As we discussed a couple of weeks back at the International Academic Polymory Conference 2013, there are numerous prejudices around polyamorous people and relationships, including such common misconceptions as “poly people can’t commit,” “polyamory is just another word for cheating,” or “polyamory is bad for the children.”

Fortunately for those seeking poly-friendly and poly-knowledgeable therapists, there are now some good resources available.  In particular, Joe Decker’s Poly Friendly Professionals site has been in operation for over a decade, and has a pretty good selection of therapists across the US, and some internationally as well.  The NCSF Kink-Aware Professionals (KAP) directory is another good resource, especially for folks that are both poly and kinky (but even for poly folks who are not kinky.) Of course, the more metropolitan the area, the better the selection, but even smaller or more rural areas are starting to feature folks who have some knowledge of polyamory. (And of course I also offer phone, Skype or Google Hangout coaching anywhere in the world, or in-person in the SF Bay Area. I’m happy to set up an introductory session if you’re interested.)

There’s also a good written resource for individuals and poly groupings to take to their therapist, to help to educate them on the topic. Normally one could find it on the NCSF site, but they’ve recently reorganized, and the link seems to be temporarily broken.  But I found a pdf of the document, called “What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory,” at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Also, for those who’d like to contribute to the body of knowledge about what therapists and counselors should know about polyamory (and thereby help future people who are seeking these resources), there’s a recently announced survey from researchers Mitchell and Barger at Edgewood College:

Subject: Polyamory Survey: What Therapists Need To Know
Date: 2/27/2013 8:00:37 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

We are graduate students at Edgewood College in the Marriage and Family Therapy program.  In an effort to support mental health practitioners in offering culturally competent care, we are conducting a survey to gather information about the experiences and attitudes of polyamorous people, age 18 and over, about therapists and therapy.  Would you be willing to post the enclosed link: and welcome message for our survey and welcome message on your Listserv, Blog, News Letter, or Website or email list?

Polyamory Survey: What Do Therapists Need to Know?  If you are 18 or older and polyamorous, please take our survey: and help us answer that question.  You will be asked questions about your personal and family history, experience you may have had in therapy, views of therapy, and the qualities you see as valuable in a therapist.   This information can assist therapists and educators as we work to create and enhance culturally competent models for therapy.  A reason we ask for informational on personal and familial history is because without this information, damaging myths, biases, and stereotypes can arise about polyamorous people and why polyamorous people seek therapy.  We are interested in presenting a realistic view of polyamorous people and supporting polyamorous people who seek therapy in getting the best quality care.  Thank you!

If you have any questions or would like to contact us, we can be reached at:

Thank you,

Atala Mitchell and Madeline Barger, MFT Clinical Interns


This project has been reviewed and endorsed by a community advisory board of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities, a community-based research support organization which includes members of alternative sexualities communities. This project has scientific merit, follows ethical guidelines for research, and avoids community harm in its design and methods. For more information, please contact

Please note that there have been some issues reported on p. 3 & 4 of the survey. They were supposedly addressed, but last I heard, there were still problems, so just be aware.

Thanks to those of you who choose to participate in the survey, and good luck to all who seek counseling/therapy.  And always remember:


No matter who and how many you love, no matter their gender, their body shape or size, their race or the color of their skin, their political affiliation, their talents and abilities, their spiritual or religious leanings, their education…

Love is ALWAYS OK.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well,

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you like the T-shirt above, you can get one like it over at Zazzle. Tell the world that your love is ok!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Is It Over?

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As I’m approaching the end of the Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements), one topic that often comes up is how to tell when a relationship is well and truly over, or at least in need of some serious changes. In a “standard monogamous paradigm” relationship, it would be easy to know: one or the other of you has cheated, someone has filed divorce papers, or one or both of you is dead. But here in the Uncharted waters, we relationship explorers often don’t find it so easy to tell. Our definition of “cheating” is usually different, for one thing (it doesn’t just mean having sex with someone else, obviously!), and we don’t necessarily think every relationship is destined for eternity. It’s often said that relationships are “for a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” and that means death isn’t the only “acceptable” reason for a relationship to end, or change form.  So how do you tell?

To answer this question, I wrote a handout with some helpful tips, titled “Is It Over? or, When Might It Be Time to End or Change a Relationship?”  You can download that handout via this webform, if you like.  (Some of the formatting of this one is a bit tricky to do here, which is why I’ve made it a pdf.) Please remember to give me a valid email address, because I’ll need it to send you the pdf! You’ll also get added to my newsletter list (if you’re not on it already), but if you don’t want to stay on it after you’ve confirmed your address and gotten your pdf, you can always unsubscribe with the link at the bottom of every email.

By the way, one of the comments I’ve gotten from some folks who’ve read the handout, is that they found it reassuring, since it helped them to see that the issues facing them were not of the sort that portended the imminent demise of the relationship!  And even if it is time for the relationship to end or change, you don’t have to view that as a failure.  Instead, you can choose to view it as a graduation.

Questions or comments?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

love_is_ok_rainbow_heart_tshirtPS: My Love Outside the Box t-shirts, mugs, and heart-shaped ornaments would make great Valentine’s Day gifts! There’s still time to personalize them and get them to your sweeties before the big day!  And through February 8th, Zazzle is running a 50% off special on Premium Shipping (use code SHIPPINGLOVE.) Sweet!

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Is It Over?

…or, when might it be time to end or change a relationship?

Respect.  Honesty.  Communication. Mutual consideration for each other’s wants and needs. These are the cornerstones of a functional, happy, healthy relationship. When these break down, no amount of writing and re-writing Agreements will help; no amount of “working on your jealousy issues” will result in comfort.  But when is it time to quit?  Here are some things that might be good to consider in making this decision.

First, consider your models of success

In our society, we tend to measure the success of a relationship based on assumptions of monogamy and permanence.  Especially if you’re in any alternative relationship structure, that might not be appropriate.

Common Societal Measures

  • Staying together no matter what
  • If they’re jealous, they must love you
  • They never want anyone else
  • “You complete me”
  • “Till Death do us part”

Some Possible New Measures of Success

  • Both people being fulfilled and happy
  • Compersion—I enjoy seeing my partner happy
  • You both enjoy your time together
  • Learning about yourself and partner(s)
  • Commitment to working things through

Even if your relationship is not a success by societal standards, it might be a success for YOU.  Make sure you’re not unconsciously following a set of standards that don’t fit you.

Yellow flags

If any or all of these are present, it might be time to consider ending or restructuring the relationship.

  • Not operating in “good faith”
    Repeated broken agreements with no apparent intention to change; lying; cheating; making excuses; justifying bad behavior; always blaming someone else.
  • Lack of effort or interest in you or the relationship
    Are they trying new things, new ways of looking a it, or even just continuing to try at all? If not, or if you seem to always be the one doing the work, it might be a sign that something more basic needs to change.
  • Complete and/or repeated failure to make or keep agreements
    Remember, once or twice is normal, but “forgetting” more than that is probably a bad sign.  Failure to keep Agreements after repeated attempts at re-writing is a very bad sign.
  • Contempt – “The sulfuric acid of love”
    According to John Gottman, one of the foremost researchers on marriage and long-term relationships, the single biggest predictor of failure in a relationship is contempt by one person for the other.  If they are belittling you, making mean fun of you, not taking your needs or wishes into consideration, non-consensually humiliating you, or otherwise demonstrating a lack of respect, you should definitely consider ending or changing the relationship.
  • Mental illness or addiction, especially untreated
    We don’t advise abandoning your mate or partner at the first sign of trouble.  However, sometimes illness or addiction prevent them from being able to change in ways that are vital to your health, theirs, and the health of the relationship.  If you suspect that this is the case, get outside assistance, possibly in the form of individual, couple, or group therapy.  Expert advice and perspective can be invaluable in helping you to figure out if this is a phase, something that can be treated or worked with, or if it is intractable and ultimately toxic to you.

Red Flags

  • Abuse: Physical, mental, or emotional
    Non-consensual physical, mental, or emotional torture is Not OK.  Get out, and get help immediately.  (If you’re not sure if you consented, that is itself at least a Yellow Flag. Get help figuring things out from a knowledgeable professional.)

Keep in mind that ending a relationship is not necessarily a “failure”

“Leslie and I are no longer married. Soul mates, to me, don’t define themselves by legal marriage. There’s a learning connection that exists between those two souls. Leslie and I had that for the longest time, and then a couple of years ago, she had this startling realization. She said, ‘Richard, we have different goals!’ I was yearning for my little adventures and looking forward to writing more books. Leslie has worked all her life long, and she wanted peace, she wanted to slow the pace, not complicate it, not speed it up. Not money, not family, no other men or other women, separated us. We wanted different futures. She was right for her. I was right for me. Finally it came time for us to make a choice. We could save the marriage and smother each other: ‘You can’t be who you want to be.’ Or we could separate and save the love and respect that we had for each other. We decided the marriage was the less important. And now we’re living separate lives.

“I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There’s so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation. We didn’t say, ‘I guess we weren’t led to each other, I guess we’re not soul mates after all.’ Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go.”

Richard Bach (in his now defunct personal website, originally penned on

(Jonathan Livingston Seagull is “a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules.”  Sound like anyone you know??)

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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

[Next Entry: Agreements — Good Faith Efforts (2 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)

[Previous Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency (1 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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RISK Motivational Poster

The Time for Love is NOW

This has been a hard week. I am surrounded by loss, impending and tangible. The impending loss is of a personal nature, and involves me facing my own mortality in the mirror of my parents.  The already-tangible loss involves several deaths I’ve heard of so far in the last few days.  In particular, the loss of community members Brian Baker and Adam Griffiths has hit many of us very hard. Adam was not someone I knew well, but Brian was a friend and colleague. He will be sorely missed, and many of us are grieving this week, for both of them.

These losses and changes bring up fears. Fears of my own mental and emotional stabilities, for instance.  Will I, like my grandmother and my mother, also face the gradual eroding of my self and my memories? Will it change my personality, or render me incapable of self-care? Even if that’s not my fate, I might have something happen to me (as with my father) that takes some portion of who I am, and leaves me permanently altered. How would I handle that?  Would I still be ME? And even if THAT doesn’t happen… we never know how many days are left to us, as is so clear in the passing of these incredibly vital friends, taken “at their peak,” as many shared at a memorial gathering the other night.

We never know what will happen. For me, this stirs up thoughts about risk and safety. Far from driving me to take fewer risks, it tends to make me feel guilty for NOT having taken MORE, for not having been bolder and stronger, for not having gotten my work out sooner. I try to be gentle with myself (it’s a lot of grief, and a lot to process, after all), at the same time I’m feeling driven ahead by this sense of urgency.

I wrote this to someone privately today:

“Safety” is an illusion, ultimately. It’s a FEELING within ourselves. We
have control over our decisions to proceed, in spite of or considering
risks. Choosing a lower risk activity or course doesn’t not, however,
generally mean NO risk… and therefore may still result in “unsafety.”
There are no guarantees in life, no matter how “safe” one tries to be.

A common motivational poster says:

RISK Motivational Poster

“A ship in a harbor is safe… but that’s not what ships are for.”

Being wholly and fully alive, living your purpose in every moment …
that is, in my opinion, far better than attempting to play it safe, and
ending your life unfulfilled. I honor and cherish your goal to use good
accomplishments to fuel your desire for a positive world.

So mote it be. 🙂

Love is also a risk.

It’s a risk to dare to connect with others, when we don’t know the outcome. It’s a risk to love in the face of rejection.  It’s a risk to love in our own way, despite the real potential for stigma or censure.  But thing is…

We never know if there will be a tomorrow.

So I’m urging you now, my friends, my family, my colleagues, and all you relationship explorers out there (whether I’ve met you yet or not):  Take your relationSHIP out of the harbor. Even if it scares you, even if you don’t know how it could possibly succeed, even if you are afraid of failing, or that someone might hate you for who or how many you love.  Take the risk.  Love boldly.

Tell everyone you love how much they mean to you. Pick up the phone, write an email, go into the next room and give them a hug. Send an old-fashioned letter!  Even if your relationship is strained, if you can, try to imagine how you might feel if suddenly, tomorrow, they were gone, and your words of love were left unsaid. Would you regret it? Then speak love to them, now. Loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean approving of everything they do, by the way. Sometimes loving someone is an act of will! or an exercise in choosing your words carefully. :^) But if that feeling is there (even a tiny bit), then in my opinion it’s worth sharing, now, in this moment… because now is the only time we have.

The time for love is NOW.


PS: I love you. :^)

Check In and Re-negotiate [Agreements Tip #10]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.Here at last is Agreements Tip #10, “Check In Periodically / Re-negotiate If Needed,” from my Agreements Workbook series! Learn more below about checking in, keeping perspective, and what to do if someone is “pushing the envelope.”

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Like my Love Outside the Box logo? You can get t-shirts and other stuff with my logo (and other poly stuff) at Zazzle. There’s plenty of time before Valentine’s Day to order customized T-shirts, mugs, or heart-shaped ornaments for all of your sweeties. You can get bulk discounts on ornaments and mugs, too! 🙂


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Tip #10: Check in periodically/re-negotiate if needed

Check in as you go

One of the key points in consciously constructed Agreements is that in most cases they can be re-negotiated.  Remember that (in this workbook, at least!) we’re not talking about legally binding Agreements that require a judge or a lawyer to change. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to make a change?

To begin with, it’s important to keep in touch with the Agreements you’ve made. Especially with Time Limited Agreements (but also with any sort of Agreements), it’s very important to note when things are not working, and to address such issues as soon as possible. Don’t wait till things break down completely before talking to your partner/s about any issues!  That just courts disaster in the form of broken Agreements, and broken trust.

Be flexible and creative

Remember that these sorts of Agreements are not “set in stone,” so it’s important to remain flexible and responsible to your partner’s needs, while still honoring your own as well. (Remember that the relationship needs your needs, AND those of your partner/s! p.___) Be open to renegotiating from a collaborative space. The more flexible and creative that both/all partners are, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that works for everyone.

Keep perspective

As you check in and perhaps renegotiate, it’s important to keep perspective.  Not all Agreements will work perfectly in their initial form the first time!  Some give and take is probably necessary in the process, and sometimes one or another partner will need to “overlook” something that’s annoying, but not really all that important in the larger scheme of things. Take a step back and consider the Agreement in the context of your whole relationship, and each of your lives.  What’s important? What might be ok to let drop, or to negotiate a bit around? Here are a few ideas:

Probably important:

  • Safer sex boundaries
  • Doing what you’ve promised to do and/or someone else is relying on you to do
  • Getting the kids to school or yourself to work on time
  • Actions impacting the family finances to a great degree

Probably not that important:

  • The direction the toilet paper roll unrolls
  • Whether you squeeze the toothpaste in the middle
  • Forgetting to write down what you spent on your coffee date one time (unless, for instance, you flew to Paris to do it…)
  • Returning from a date five minutes late one time (again, a pattern of this could be a warning sign; see “Pushing the Boundaries” on p. ___[in a future entry].)

If one of you says something like “Damn it, you put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way despite the agreement! I’m moving out!” you can bet that that person has lost perspective. Consider taking a break from your negotiations for 20 minutes or more [ref] to let that person calm down and regain their equilibrium.

Pushing the envelope: A warning sign

While it’s important for all partners to remain flexible, it’s also important to recognize when an Agreement is not really working, and is in danger of getting bent or broken. One of the biggest signs of an Agreement in peril is “pushing the envelope. This means one or more partners are repeatedly engaging in “grey area” activities and/or violating the spirit of the Agreement, even if not the letter of it. Both of these are warning signs that something is not actually working, and are a call to renegotiate sooner rather than later, before the Agreement gets broken.


Let’s say TJ, Sandy, and Loren have an agreement not to kiss anyone else outside of their own triad.  One day, Sandy goes to an event and kisses someone on the cheek, and then justifies it by saying “it was just on the cheek”! Depending on the reasons behind that Agreement, TJ and Loren might be ok with this behavior once, or even occasionally. But if Sandy repeatedly “forgets” this Agreement, and/or pushes the envelope even further (e.g., “it was just a peck on the lips; we didn’t French kiss or anything!”) then this may indicate that Sandy really shouldn’t have made this Agreement at all (Reason #5 of the Five Reasons; see p. ___ [in a future entry]), or that there is some other unmet need of Sandy’s that needs to be addressed through discussion and negotiation. Failing to address the boundary-pushing behavior, and therefore the unmet needs, is entirely too likely to result in the Agreement getting broken, and in subsequent hurt feelings and broken trust, which are much more difficult to repair.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency ]

[Related Entry: 2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory]

[Previous Entry: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]



Consorce — Alternative to Divorce, and/or Poly by Another Name?

Consorce is a new word derived from the Latin for “cohabitation.” It’s an alternative to “divorce” described in the article Don’t Get a Divorce, Get a ‘Consorce’.* Here’s an excerpt:

“The idea of married couples deciding on a ‘consorce,’ rather than a divorce, is this: Why should a couple split up the family funds, maintain two dwellings, involve the courts in their lives, hire attorneys and cause each other months or years of suffering when they could simply agree that the romantic part of their marriage has ended and that they will remain married and live together as friends and partners, in order to maintain a level of consistency for their children?”

Interestingly, the article insists that those who decide upon a ‘consorce’ arrangement are NOT engaged in an “open marriage,” because they are no longer having sex with one another. I find that an interesting position, and I’m not certain that I would agree.

Here are a few questions that occurred to me as I thought about this concept:

  • Is a ‘consorce’ ethical (especially for someone who originally vowed monogamy)?
  • Is it good for the children, because it keeps the family “intact”?
  • Might it be bad for the children, if, for instance, they remain exposed to volatile emotions, or tension in the home?
  • Is it necessary to lie to the children about what’s going on, to preserve the appearance of a “normal family”?  What about lying to school officials? Neighbors? Family and friends? Is that ethically justifiable?
  • Is a consorce another word for cheating or adultery?
  • Conversely, is it polyamory (or at least consensual non-monogamy or ‘designer relationships’) by another name?
  • Would a consorce be something to use a Time Limited Agreement on? Why or why not?

What do YOU think? As always, I welcome your input! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS: One of the services I offer is that of creation of “Life Milestone Ceremonies,” such as weddings, relationship change rituals, baby blessings and other markers of significant life events. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to explore creating a handfasting, handparting, consorce agreement, or any other Agreement or ritual with one or more partners. I’m happy to help support you in having the life and relationships of your dreams!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

*[Thanks to Eric C. in private communication for this interesting link!]

Time Limited Agreements [Tip #9]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry about Time Limited Agreements is Tip #9, from my Agreements Workbook series.  Find out below how short term Agreements with built in review dates can help support your relationships.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Maybe get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you may be interested in the package deals I’m offering on my 1:1 counseling/coaching services. Let me know how I can support your relationships and explorations! I’m happy to do a FREE consultation to get things started.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Agreements Tip #9: Time Limited Agreements

One incredibly important tool in the Agreements toolbox is that of Time Limited Agreements. These are Agreements that are made with a specific, planned “review date,” at which time the Agreement “expires” and must be re-negotiated, renewed, or dropped (upon agreement of all partners.) I’ve also heard these described as “Time-Bound Experiments,” which is a great way to express it that emphasizes the short-term and experimental nature of these Agreements.

Whatever you choose to call them, putting a deliberate review date on the Agreement is incredibly useful in certain cases.  In particular it helps when one or more of the partners:

  • must give up something temporarily, in service to the relationship as a whole
  • need to agree to do something for the time being that they don’t like, find inconvenient, or would rather not do
  • are in the process of rebuilding trust (see p. ___ [in a future entry.])

Why Time Limited?

Trapped in an experiment?

Feeling Trapped??

Sometimes when making Agreements, one or more partners can end up feeling “trapped” by the Agreement, especially when that Agreement is seemingly “forever,” (e.g., a standard marriage Agreement with an assumption or explicit agreement for monogamy.) Sometimes these feelings can become so intense that it leads people to break or ‘bend’ the Agreement, because they feel (rightly or wrongly!) that there’s no way to ‘win’ or to negotiate something that might work better. Having a short term to the Agreement can help to alleviate these feelings, while still creating the safe container that other partner/s may need for growth or experimentation)

How Long?

Therefore, when using Time Limited Agreements, it’s important to choose an appropriate time frame for the Agreement to be in effect.  In general, these Agreements should be made for the shortest time possible that will suit the needs of the individuals and the relationship. Only you can know what that will be for you and your situation, of course. That said, I’ve rarely seen any Time Limited Agreement work for more than about 3 months at a time. Often, if an extremely long period is chosen (e.g., a year or more), partners can start to forget that the Agreement existed in the first place, forget details, or forget that it was time limited in the first place (and therefore start engaging in boundary-pushing and other behaviors that the Time Limited Agreement was created to help avoid.)

For most Time Limited Agreements, I generally recommend a time frame between a week and 3 months, with two weeks to a month being the most common.  This seems to give enough time to perform the experiment, test out the feelings, and come to initial conclusions, without triggering either “trapped” feelings, or having one or more partners start to forget aspects of the Agreement.

Keep in mind as well, however, that choosing a time-frame that’s too short can give the sense that you don’t trust your partner/s, or don’t understand what they’re already doing. As in so many things, it’s important to achieve balance.  Here are a couple of examples illustrating time-frames that are too short:

Example A
Suzie asked her partner Tom to forgo engaging in a particular activity for 2 days.  In fact, Tom had already been abstaining from that activity for a week by then, and felt insulted that Susie hadn’t even noticed! When Tom and Suzie changed the Agreement to reflect this, with Tom reporting back once a week to start with, Tom felt supported, not micromanaged, and Suzie felt confident that she was getting accurate information.

Example B
Pat asked partner Robin for help in learning to manage financial resources more effectively.  Robin’s response was to ask Pat to report back daily about activities, and in such detail that it felt utterly intrusive and controlling to Pat. Rather than rebelling completely (though it was tempting!) Pat asked for a different schedule (reporting back 2-3 times per week, using an easy check-off form), that allowed Robin to get the necessary information, without wasting Pat’s time on reporting that Pat felt could better be spent on creating new financial resources, for instance. By finding the happy medium, both partners felt happier and got more of their needs met.


At the end of the period, the next step is to review.  Remember that the Agreement is neither presumed to go on forever (or it wouldn’t be Time Limited!) nor is it automatically dropped without comment. The review date is just that — a time to review, reflect, and possibly renegotiate.  Here are some things to ask during the review:

  • Was the agreement a full success, and it is no longer needed at all?
  • Did it work, but the conditions still apply, and it needs to be extended, exactly as it is?
  • Was the agreement partially successful, but a small change would make it better?
  • Was the agreement not successful at all? Perhaps it’s time to renegotiate a new agreement or set of agreements.  Go back to your Needs Inventory (p. ___) for ideas, if necessary.

All Time Limited, All the Time?

Some folks feel that all Agreements should be time limited ones. There’s definitely an argument to be made for this view.  After all, it’s hard to know what will change in life, and when. People move, babies are born, jobs are lost or won, and each of these things (and more!) can have an effect on relationships and Agreements. As a result, simply making it a habit to date each and every one of your Agreements, and revisit them periodically (say, every year or so, perhaps tied to an anniversary, or in a New Year ritual) can be a useful tool in keeping everyone from becoming complacent, or assuming a permanence to life that isn’t realistic in the modern age. It also helps to reinforce the fact that all relationships — ideally, and in today’s “modern world” — are a matter of free choice. By actively choosing our Agreements, and our partners, over and over again, we keep in mind that we have agency over our own lives, and the power to make new choices if the old ones no longer fit.

Man standing at mirror, trying on clothes

Check the “fit” of your Agreements….

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Check In and Renegotiate (Agreements Tip #10) ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down ]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]