After a number of requests over the years, I’m finally actively working on turning the information from my Agreements workshop into a workbook. Rather than keep it all to myself, it occurred to me that maybe you folks might like to see it as I write. Therefore, this entry is the first in my brand new series! I’m not sure how often I’ll update this series, but I’m shooting for at least once per week, possibly more.
In this introductory section, I talk about both what Agreements ARE, and what they ARE NOT. Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box.
What the heck are Agreements, and why should you care?
Agreements are a tool for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries between or amongst individuals. One way of dividing the world of Agreements is by “legally-binding” vs. “personal” Agreements. This workbook is will only discuss the sorts of Agreements that might be made between relationship partners (e.g., boyfriend/s and/or girlfriend/s), families (e.g., parents and children), small clubs or organizations (e.g., the knitting club), or other “non-(legally)-binding” Agreements. Legal Agreements are a subset of all Agreements that are codified (written down) in a special way, and which have some very specific consequences (e.g., fines, jail) if broken. [add refs to sources for legal agreements?] This workbook, on the other hand, focuses on Agreements such as safer sex agreements, household standards, or club rules; any agreements between individuals that do not have the force of law. In particular, this book has grown out of workshops presented at polyamorous conferences, and therefore the examples will most often refer to Relationship Agreements or Safer Sex Agreements. These techniques, however, can apply to most any sort of personal Agreement. (See Exercise #1: With Whom Might You Have Agreements, p.___).
“Meeting of the minds (also referred to as mutual agreement, mutual assent or consensus ad idem) is a phrase in contract law used to describe the intentions of the parties forming the contract.”
—Wikipedia, July 12, 2011
Agreements are called by many other names: Intentions, boundaries, concords, guidelines, compacts, contracts…. You’ll notice that some of these things are not quite the same as others. Which name you use will depend in part on what your intentions are in using your Agreements, and who is creating and who abiding by the Agreements. Use any name you wish that seems to fit your particular situation. In this workbook, I will continue to use Agreements to mean any of these.
What are Agreements NOT?
“…the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.”
—Barbossa, Pirates of the Carribean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003
As I mentioned above, Agreements are NOT a binding legal contract, the breaking of which sends you to proverbial or literal jail. Nor are they the Ten Commandments, set in stone and immutable for all time. They’re also not meant to be rigid fiats, instantly ending the relationship at the slightest infraction. Most importantly, Agreements are NOT one-way documents. By their very nature, Agreements require the active participation of at least two parties (unless it’s an Agreement with yourself). If one party is dictating without the possibility of negotiation and the other is required to follow or face consequences, that’s not an Agreement. It might be a demand, a law, a mandate, a dictate, an order, a rule, or some other one-way boundary. But it’s not an Agreement. To have an Agreement, both or all parties must agree to follow it. I’ll get back to this important point later.
Next post in this series: Agreements Workbook #2: With whom?
[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]