Tag Archives: assumptions

Owning Ourselves, Our Loves, and Our Desires


Who owns YOUR bed??

Who owns YOUR bed??

Today I ran across an interesting article, about one woman’s journey of self discovery.  You can read it under the title: Finally Embracing Desire.

The author, Monique, chronicles some of the changes taking place within her, as she moves her consciousness from the compulsory-monogamy paradigm, toward the idea that she (as the original title apparently said), can “own her own bed,” (http://www.purpleclover.com/relationships/576-finally-owning-my-bed/) and make her own choices about with whom she shares her bed — and her life and love:

…I watched myself as many old beliefs dissolved. The first to go was my need to feel like I’m “special.” This need had fogged my desire for love and acceptance, preventing me from offering my true self in relationships. I’d preferred to disguise myself as whatever I thought my partner desired so that he would make me the most special love.

I think the original title gets to the heart of some of the changes necessary in making this shift from compulsory-monogamy, into other ways of viewing relating (e.g., open relationships, open marriages, polyamory, etc.) A reliance upon external authority is gradually replaced by an understanding of personal responsibility. Ownership and control of partners (e.g., in marriage) is replaced by respect for individual needs. The dichotomy of Dependence/Independence merges toward freely-chosen Interdependence. As Monique shifts from others “owning her bed” (e.g., partners, religious authorities, or the government through marriage), she takes on more and more of her own authority — and her own power — to make her own choices, and to live with the consequences of those choices, thoughtfully and responsibly.

(BTW: If you’re interested in exploring these topics — ownership, primary privilege, paradigm shifts —  further, you can find a few more paradigm shifts within the report called “Is It Over,” downloadable for free on my website (with your valid email). I’ve also made a few other posts about primary/couple privilege, and the concept of “ownership” in relationship, which you can find here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?s=primary+privilege. I’m also always happy to discuss these concepts with you in a free exploratory 30 minute session if you’d like to go a bit deeper.)

Monique concludes her essay by saying:

I never thought I would actually place myself, at forty-five, on a new road to self-discovery that would challenge something so core to my way of being. But I’ve decided that being myself and honoring the call to be sexually expressed as a sensual woman is not only okay, it’s paramount.

What paradigm shifts have you experienced in your life? Which ones have most affected your poly/open relationships? What values are of of “paramount” importance to you, and honoring the call to be fully yourself? What choices and actions might take you away from your true self?

As always, you can comment here, or on my Facebook page, Love Outside the Box.  Or drop me a note via my LoveOTB Contact form.

And remember:

Love is an amazing thing.  It can be a wild tempestuous journey, or a sweet, quiet smile between friends. It can make us feel the best and the worst that we ever feel in our lives. Love is often a teacher. Sometimes it’s a spiritual journey… or a crucible of change. We often don’t choose who and how we love, even though we can choose how and when to express that. But no matter what makes your love special, no matter how long or short that love is, no matter who and how many you love…

Love is always OK.  And so are YOU. — Dawn Davidson, in “Love Is OK”

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to talk more at length about designing your own best relationship/s? I’m running a Summer Special right now, where you can get a free hour if you purchase a 6-hour package.  And as always, I’m happy to do a  FREE 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you. Contact me via email, or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time for a free intro session!

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Our Cheatin’ Hearts

According to the National Opinion Research Center, women in the US are catching up to their male counterparts.  Not in making money, leading companies or accumulating wealth, alas.  No, we’re catching up in the percentage of women who have “extramarital affairs.” In the last two decades, the per­centage of wives having affairs rose almost 40 percent to 14.7 percent in 2010, while the number of men admitting to extramarital affairs held constant at 21 percent.

But is this a good thing, or a bad thing?  Fellow PLN member Franklin Veaux thinks that there’s a good side to all of this (as quoted from email):

“In all seriousness, without being flip, I think it [statistical increase in women vs. men engaging in infidelity] IS progress. It shows that we’re moving away from a woman-as-possession model of marriage toward a woman-as-self-motivated-agent model. The cheating thing isn’t good, per se, but the reasons behind it are.” — Franklin Veaux

I’d have to agree with that. It seems that the double standard around who gets to sleep around may be starting to abate. Women are, more and more, making their own choices around with whom to have sex. But is there more to this than meets the eye?  I think so.

Tale a look at some more “infidelity” statistics, as quoted in http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/ :

Marriage Infidelity Statistics Data
Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional 41 %
Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57 %
Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54 %
Percent of married men who have strayed at least once during their married lives 22 %
Percent of married women who have strayed at least once during their married lives 14 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker 36 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips 35%
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law 17 %
Average length of an affair 2 years
Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered 31 %
Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 74 %
Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 68 %
Percent of children who are the product of infidelity 3 %

800px-Divorce_for_men_onlyI notice several things.  For one thing, that 41% figure contains both people who have actually had sex with someone other than their spouse, AND those who had emotional affairs. Compared with the usual US standard of counting “infidelity” as “sex outside of marriage,” though, this significantly inflates the numbers. Also, from this table, we can’t tell the percentage of men vs. women who engage in either form of infidelity. I bet those numbers would be interesting, too.

For another, there is no room in this chart for polyamory, open relationships, or ethical non-monogamy. If presented with this poll myself, I might answer “yes” to questions about historical infidelity going back to the time before my marriage.  I might also answer “yes” to either emotional or sexual “infidelity” depending on how that term is defined.  It’s certainly true that I’ve had sex AND emotional intimacy with more than just my husband.  *I* don’t call it cheating… but those writing this survey might.

It’s also interesting to me that the average affair lasts about 2 years… just long enough for the “Disney chemicals” to wear off, and the infatuation to fade. Hmmm….

However, on the whole, I’m forced to conclude that the data isn’t particularly firm here, and doesn’t actually say much.  It is, as the saying goes (attributed to Mark Twain), “Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” raising as many questions in my mind about the research, as about the results.

On the good news side, given that it does seem to indicate an increase in people (of any gender) willing to talk about their “infidelity,” this probably bodes well for transparency and honesty in relationships, which in turn probably bodes well for fulfillment within the ones that last — or even the ones that don’t. If people are happier by pursuing outside relationships, and that happiness leads to them choosing new partners, then that would be reflected in the oft-quoted 50% divorce rate — but that might also indicate that people feel more free to pursue what actually makes them happy and fulfilled in relationship, even if that means having sex with someone other than their spouse, or even divorce.

What do you think about all this?  How would you answer a poll of this sort?  Do you think women’s “gains” in equality here are a good thing, a bad thing, or something else altogether?

As always, feel free to comment below, in my LoveOTB Facebook Page, or by contacting me via my web page.  And if you’e looking to talk to someone about creating your own creative and flexible relationship design, I’d love to hear from you.  For a limited time only, I’m running a summer coaching special, so drop me a note to take advantage of the free introductory session, and the extra hour if you buy a package. I’d love to help you avoid common pitfalls, navigate jealousy, and create your own best relationship!

May you always remember that no matter who, or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK!

~♥ Dawn


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

© 2013, Dawn 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.

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Polyamory and Polygamy: Compare and Contrast


Occasionally I get some interesting letters.  Recently, I was contacted by a High School Honors student seeking information for a paper. Here’s what the student wrote:

Hello, […] I am currently working on a research paper on polygamy. I found your information on the lovemore.com website and I was wondering if you would be willing to answer the following questions.

  1. How does dating work in a polygamist relationship?

  2. Did you choose to be a polygamist? If so what made you choose to be a polygamist?

  3. Did you grow up in a polygamist family? If not how does being a polygamist affect your non-polygamist family?

  4. How do the children interact with multiple mothers?

  5. How does being a polygamist child affect childhood?

  6. Do you have to be a certain religion to be a polygamist?

  7. What are your feelings on Warren Jeffs?

  8. Do you believe that Warren Jeffs is the reason polygamy is illegal in some states?

  9. How does being a polygamist affect your day to day life?

  10. Why do you believe polygamy is illegal in multiple states?

  11. Does polygamy being illegal affect your day to day life?

  12. Is there anything that you think that I should know about polygamy in order to write my paper?

Thank you for taking time to read my email and answering my questions

This email, while clearly interested in the topic and asking some worthwhile questions, shows the vast gulf in understanding in the general public of what polyamory and polygamy actually are.

Oops! Road sign

Here’s my response:

Dear [    ]:

I’ve been debating how to answer your questions since your first message.  The issue, you see, is that you have contacted the wrong person to answer the questions you’ve asked.  I’m not a polygamist.  I practice *polyamory*. Here’s a quick definition:

Polyamory =
poly (derived from the Greek for ‘many’)
amory (derived from the Latin for ‘love’)

In other words,

Polyamory is the belief in and/or practice of multiple loving relationships, with the full knowledge and consent of those involved.

Polyamory and polygamy are not the same thing, though they share the same Greek root meaning “many.”  Polygamy, however, shares the root “gamy” with the word “monogamy,” which refers to human marriage customs.  (See more here: http://www.affixes.org/g/-gamy.html)

You can read more about my definition of polyamory at this blog entry:

If you’d like to know more about polyamory, you might want to look up some of the resources (websites, books, etc.) on this list:


For more on the distinction between polyamory and polygamy, see the informative web page “Polygamy and Polyamory” a brochure by the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: http://www.uupa.org/Literature/PolygamyComparison.htm
Best wishes on your paper,



In addition to that letter, I’ve also compiled a DRAFT of a table highlighting some of the similarities and differences between polyamory and polygamy.  I’ve been hesitant to publish it, in part because I haven’t yet run it by any representatives from the groups discussed (other than polyamorists, where I’ve run the paper by some researchers into polyamory, a few months ago.) So if you, dear reader, identify with any of these groups, and you find areas that you feel need improvement, please do bring the matter/s to my attention (gently, if you can!) I wish to provide this list as a starting point for thought and discussion, not as a prescription for division.  I myself am not a social scientist and do not claim to be an “academic.”  The references and suggested readings listed are also not meant to be an exhaustive list, but instead a starting place for further research.



(as popularly understood in US;
aka religious polygyny) (1)

Some similarities

Multiple adult partners Multiple adult partners
Deserving of human rights Deserving of human rights
Stigmatized and misunderstood Stigmatized and misunderstood
Lack of governmental or social recognition of family status Lack of governmental or social recognition of family status


Some differences

Egalitarian (shared power in relationship) Patriarchal (decisions and responsibility reserved to male head of family)
Structure not based in organized religion (though practitioners may be religious and/or spiritual) Structure originates in religious doctrine or belief
Any combination and number of genders in relationship structure Relationship structure limited to 1 man, multiple women
Mostly not prohibited in the US (2) Mostly prohibited in the US (3)
About love/romantic relationships About marriage relationships
Long-term commitment optional Long-term commitment a requirement
May be sexually open (individuals in the relationship may or may not have additional sexual relationships outside of the polyamorous relationship under discussion) Always sexually closed (individuals within the relationship may only have sex within the relationship)
Same gender sexual relationships may be allowed Heterosexual relationships only
Allows for gender fluidity and other non-normative gender expressions Binary gender expression only
Relationship focused (May or may not consider themselves part of a family) Family-focused

© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson

(1) Other forms of polygamy exist worldwide that are not based in religious doctrine or belief. This table does not address those and is not meant to imply that they either don’t exist, nor that they are the same as the religious form of polygamy discussed here. This table exists primarily to clarify the most common misperception of polyamory being “the same as polygamy,” as represented by, for instance the TV shows “Big Love” or “Sister Wives.”

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_polygamy and http://jezebel.com/5981095/polyandry-is-actually-way-more-popular-than-anthropologists-have-thought

(2) Cohabiting polyamorous groups may be prohibited by bigamy laws in some states, e.g., Utah.  See also http://non-monodiscourse.blogspot.com/

(3) Some Christian polygamy groups advocate marrying and then getting a legal divorce in order to create a “spiritual marriage” only. This form of polygamy (in essence, a form of serial marriage) would be legal in the US. (Source: http://www.christianpolygamy.com/)

For more information, see also:

“Polygamy and Polyamory” a brochure by the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness: http://www.uupa.org/Literature/PolygamyComparison.htm


Do you have anything to add to this table?  Any great references, important line items, or any comments or questions? As always, feel free to contact me on my Love Outside the Box webpage, to comment below, or to visit my Facebook page, LoveOTB. I welcome your discussion and feedback.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well,

~♥ Dawn


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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Qpid.me drawing of two stick figures sharing a heart outline

Sharing the Love (More) Safely

Qpid.me drawing of two stick figures sharing a heart outline

I was recently introduced to a new resource for managing safer sex and testing results.  It’s called Qpid.me, and it claims to be “A free, simple way to share your verified STD results” by registering with them, and having your results sent directly from your doctor to their private database.

Here’s what they say on their website:

To make informed sexual health decisions, you must not only be informed about your own health, but also about your partner’s health as well. We enable you to privately share your STD [Sexually Transmitted Disease, aka Sexually Transmitted Infection or STI] status however you choose. We believe that sharing is a good thing and that it can lead to better sexual health decisions, more (safe) sex and fewer STDs.

The service is limited, and doesn’t include a couple of important STIs (e.g., HSV, aka Herpes), and so far doesn’t seem to include a way to make any statement (or have your doctor make a statement) about those STIs, either.  Here’s the list of what they DO cover (from their FAQ):

  • » HIV: PCR/RNA, antibody and viral load (for HIV positive users)
  • » Gonorrhea: genital/urine, rectal and oral
  • » Chlamydia: genital/urine, rectal and oral
  • » Syphilis
  • » Hepatitis C antibody
  • » HPV vaccine
  • » Hepatitis A vaccine

I myself have some concerns over this whole idea, around the idea of the results being useable to potentially stigmatize someone/s in the community who turns up “positive” for something.  On the other hand, stigmatizing is certainly being done NOW, without benefit of this service to speed up the process, so I’m not sure how much actual increased risk there is.


I’m also concerned about things like financial accessibility, and that requiring a certain kind of testing might become a way to effectively marginalize some less-privileged parts of the community. Of course, there are some free or low-cost resources available, at least in most urban areas in the US (e.g., Berkeley Free Clinic), but in the current economic and social climate, this certainly is not a guarantee for everyone in all areas… and even if you live somewhere that’s covered by such services, accessing them can be more than a little bit of a hassle. (Not to mention the issues inherent with contributing to the unsustainable medical-industrial-complex in the US. (Thanks to Charlie Glickman in Twitter for that link))

One of the other things I’m concerned about is the common misconception that clear test results mean there is no risk of getting an STI. It doesn’t.  It’s incredibly important to remember that testing gives you a snapshot at a particular point in time, and that any sexual contact with others means that the snapshot may no longer be 100% accurate (see more about the “window period”).  Depending on how active you and/or your partner/s are, the accuracy could range anywhere from “still good” to “completely false.” Clear tests are never a substitute for good safer sex practices (e.g., consistent and correct condom use, and being mindful about cross-contamination), honest conversations with your prospective partner/s, and possibly having a Safer Sex Agreement (whether that’s something that’s “only” an Agreement with yourself, or whether that includes 1 or more partners as well.)  Remember also that any Agreements you make are best made in advance of clothes coming off, and when everyone’s awake and sober!

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

In any case, I thought this might be of interest to some folks here, as one part of a comprehensive Safer Sex Agreement or plan.

(And now my brain is suddenly full of  images of eggs and juice and the phrase “[brand name cereal] is part of a complete breakfast”! *chuckle*)

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). And if you act before the end of February, you can still get my Valentine’s Day coaching discounts.

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Reasons 3, 4, & 5 of the 5 Reasons Agreements Fail

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, [UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!] comprises Reasons 3, 4, & 5 of the Five Reasons (Most) Agreements Fail. Find out below what to do when you and your partner/s have differing interpretations of the Agreement, or there isn’t something new to do in place of an old behavior, or if you just shouldn’t have made that Agreement in the first place.

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

~♥ Dawn

PS: It’s after Valentine’s Day… but you can still get my Valentine’s Day coaching discounts. 🙂  Hurry though, since they’re going away at the end of February!

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3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement

Sometimes you think you have an Agreement, but you really don’t. It’s like the classic situation portrayed so ably in Woody Allen’s 1977 film, Annie Hall. [see Figure, below]

Fig. ___
Alvy [Woody Allen’s character] and Annie [Hall]  are seeing their therapists at the same time on a split screen
Therapist: How often do you sleep together? Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy Singer: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week. Annie Hall: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.
—Woody Allen, in Annie Hall (1977). From IMDB “Memorable Quotes,” 2/11/13

Sometimes you’re even using the same words, but to each person they mean slightly (or radically!) different things. Perhaps you’ve found one of your ambiguous terms (see Tip #2a), or perhaps you and your Agreement Partner have different Secret Rulebook entries [see RelationDancing: Consciously Creating What You Really Want In Your Relating, by Mark Michael Lewis] Whatever the case, these sorts of fundamental misunderstandings do sometimes occur, even when everyone’s doing their best.

What to do?

Again, the action to take is most likely to revisit the Agreement, renegotiate it with the new information, and possibly clarify or change the wording. Other things that might be helpful are practicing compassion, assuming positive intent (and/or good faith), and remembering that different is not necessarily better/worse.

4) Agreement Was Not Additive

Remember that in Tip #3 (Make Additive Agreements) we discussed creating Agreements that gave new behavioral options when encountering old situations. So rather than agreeing to “stop spending too much money on your other partner/s,” you might wish to agree to “only spend $x on each partner per month.” The second option gives a concrete alternative to the behavior that’s being changed. Failing to provide a replacement behavior is one of the main reasons for an Agreement to fail, in large part because humans are creatures of habit, and habits are notoriously hard to break, once formed [http://www.spring.org.uk/2010/07/how-to-banish-bad-habits-and-control-temptations.php].

What to do?

By now, you know the refrain!  Go back to your Agreements with the new knowledge.  What sort of replacement behavior might work for this situation? Perhaps you need several options? (Remember to make the Agreements KISSable, though!) And remember that everyone involved needs to own their part of the Agreement. Scapegoating isn’t additive, either.

5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work

Sometimes, even if you’ve tried as hard as you can, checked all the assumptions, looked at all the options, reviewed and brainstormed, and generally done everything in your power… sometimes you discover that there’s some reason that the Agreement simply cannot work. Maybe there’s a pre-existing commitment standing in the way.  Maybe you were trying an experiment, and you’ve discovered something new that tells you it just isn’t going to work. Maybe it’s just more effort than you’re willing or able to put in, for not enough return.  Whatever the reason, sometimes, you just can’t.

What to do?

So what happens then? First and foremost, practice compassion. Finding out that an Agreement can’t work is a piece of data.  It might have been a mistake, it might have been a failed experiment, but in any case,  an Agreement that can’t work isn’t a judgment on any party to the Agreement, nor is it necessarily an indication of moral failure, nor the imminent demise of the relationship.  People make mistakes.  Sometimes people make big mistakes.  Remember that mistakes are part of learning.  Have some compassion for yourself and your partner/s, take a breath, and don’t panic.

Oops! Road signNext, do what you always do for a broken Agreement, just on a slightly bigger scale. A small amount of tweaking won’t fix this one, unfortunately.  Is there a different Agreement, or set of Agreements, that you can make? Do you need the help of a mediator, a counselor, or a physician? Evaluate the situation as clearly and calmly as possible, and see if there are clear next steps.

Sometimes those next steps might mean writing new Agreements… and sometimes they might mean changing the form of the relationship.  If you suspect that there’s something in need of fundamental change in your relationship, you might want to consult Appendix C (Is It Over?), or check with a counselor, therapist, or mediator (see the suggested Resources.)  In any case, remember that just because an Agreement or a relationship needs to change or end, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failure… it could mean that you’re ready for graduation [ref Richard Bach.]

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

[© 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.


[Previous Entry: Reasons 1 & 2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail]

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

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

[UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!]


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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Cultural Clashes and Other Caveats to Making Agreements

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in my Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements) series, is the third of three discussing some Caveats and Assumptions in making Agreements. Read more below about cultural mismatches and agency in making mutual Agreements.

And remember, I’ll be giving a short presentation on the topic of Agreements at the upcoming Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17). My presentation is currently scheduled for mid-afternoon on Saturday in the parallel non-academic track.

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

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentines Day Card with intertwined hearts

Remember, no matter what makes your love special, no matter how long or short that love is, no matter who and how many you love…

Love is always OK.  And so are YOU.

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Remember to check out my Valentine’s coaching specials before they’ve flown away like Cupid!

PPS: See you at the  Academic Poly Conference in Berkeley, CA, this weekend (February 15-17)? I’ll be there!

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Caveats and Assumptions (Part 3 of 3)

General alignment in cultural norms

Occasionally you’ll encounter a situation in which it appears that everyone is attempting to create functional Agreements, but things still aren’t working. Sometimes this can be traced back to a mismatch in cultural norms. There are some cultures (e.g, the Southern United States, or some situations in Japan, among others) where direct requests are often considered rude or gauche. This can make it extremely difficult to create functional Agreements using the patterns outlined in this book.  Especially if you’re dealing with people from two or more different cultures, you may want to get some help from someone who understands both/all cultures, to make sure that some fundamental misunderstanding isn’t occurring, or some unintentional slight being offered.  Other styles of negotiating or making Agreements may need to be employed.

All parties are able to negotiate freely

It’s also important that each person be able to make the Agreements in the first place. This is closely related to “Competency” above, but not quite the same thing. In particular, you’ll want to make sure that there are no pre-existing Agreements that interfere with the ability of each party to make and keep these Agreements, e.g., Agreements with a spouse or Primary partner, M/s Agreements that assign this ability to one party, and the like.  Even Agreements with bosses or other non-romantic relationships might interfere with some Relationship Agreements. You might also want to review the list in “With Whom Might You Make Agreements” at the beginning of the book [p. ___] to make sure you’re negotiating with someone who can negotiate with you.


And if you’re the one in a pre-existing relationship, you’ll want to make sure that you’re clear what you can and cannot negotiate around.  Is there someone else that needs to be brought into the discussion? Is there another relationship that needs to change first? Or if permission or gatekeeping are chafing, and/or your power exchange isn’t completely by choice, then maybe you want to re-examine the structure of all your relationships. Remember that it is always about the Win-Win-Win, and the relationship needs your needs in order to succeed.

[Next up: starting The Five Reasons Agreements Fail (and what to do when they do!)]

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

[© 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: Reasons 1 & 2 of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements: Good Faith Efforts (2 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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2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory


“There’s no One Right Way to be Polyamorous, but there are plenty of Wrong ways!”
Miss Poly Manners

Polyamorous people are often known to proclaim that one of the advantages of being poly is that there is no “One Right Way” to do it.  This allows us the freedom to create our own “designer relationships,” that fit the needs and wants of the individual partners, rather than trying to shoehorn ourselves into a set of “standard” or “societal” expectations that don’t. This is great in theory, but sometimes falls down in practice.* And it turns out Miss Poly Manners is right about all the ways that there are to be wrong.

Deborah Anapol (author of Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners, in a recent article in Psychology Today, lists “Five Ways Polyamory Can Fail”:

Pitfall #1  Using the same words to mean different things
Pitfall #2  Taking on more relationships than you actually have time and energy for
Pitfall #3  Agreeing to polyamory and then having a “secret” affair
Pitfall #4  Making promises you can’t keep
Pitfall #5  Trying to transition quickly and smoothly from being discovered engaging in a secret affair to creating an open relationship

You’ll want to read the rest of the article for more detailed information, since (as usual) she has some good observations.  The first thing I noticed, though, is that Anapol’s list overlaps with my own 5 Reasons Agreements Fail (from my “KISSable Agreements” workbook series) in a couple of areas.  Here’s my list:

Five Reasons Agreements Fail (from “KISSable Agreements,” by Dawn Davidson)

1) Simply Forgetting
2) Missed Contingency
3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement
4) Agreement Was Not Additive
5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work

You can see that in her Pitfall #1 and my Reason #3, we both talk about making sure that when you’re using the same words, you’re actually talking about the same thing!  I also cover some of this ground in Tip #2a, in the sub-section “Avoid Ambiguous Terms.”

Anapol also suggests in Pitfall #4 that “making promises you can’t keep” is a surefire way to have Polyamory fail.  I agree, and I think it doesn’t apply just to polyamory, but to any Agreements (whether it’s in a polyamorous context or not.) As you can see above, Reason #5 that Agreements can fail is the “Agreement Simply Can’t Work,” (aka “I just shouldn’t have agreed to that”.) It covers situations where you thought you could agree to something and found out later that it’s beyond your capacity to do so, or where some other Agreement got in the way (maybe one to another person that you forgot about in the moment, or that you weren’t completely clear about at the time.)  Whether or not you intended to keep the Agreement, though, the fact is that you can’t … and that means you made a promise you couldn’t keep (i.e., fell into Pitfall #1.)

The 5 Reasons posts aren’t up yet (sorry for the delay!), but all of the Agreements Workbook Entries I’ve already posted are here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?tag=workbook. I’ll have the first of the 5 Reasons posts (on the topic of Caveats and Assumptions) up tomorrow (Sat 2/2). :^)

In the meantime, I’m very curious to know… what reasons have YOU experienced that caused your poly relationships or Agreements to fail? What did you do to recover when those happened?  As always, feel free to comment below, contact me via my webpage, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box.


May all your poly (or other) relationships succeed more often than they fail!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Did you know I’m running a Valentine’s Day special on my coaching packages? If you’d like to talk more about how your Agreements are working (or aren’t!), I’d be happy to set up a time to meet in person (in the SF Bay Area), by phone, or via some other remote means (e.g., Skype).


[*That brings up a favorite joke of mine: Q: What’s the difference between theory and practice? A:  In theory, there isn’t one, but in practice, there is!]

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

[See the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

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

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) http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?p=2222]

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

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


Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This is Tip #8: Write It Down, in my Agreements Workbook series.  Whether you write them in a fancy book or keep them in an online file, it’s a good idea to write down the Agreements that you make. Find out why and how in the entry below.

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? Get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you’ll be glad to know I’m running some holiday specials!  Contact me through the end of December 15th and make arrangements for sessions to be completed by the end of December. I’d love to help YOU design your own best relationships!

PPS:  I’m raising my rates in January, so you might want to call me Real Soon Now. ;^)

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YES written in a notebook in pen

Agreements Tip #8: Write it down

One of the common issues with Agreements is that once they’re made, we eventually forget about them.  When you make the Agreement, you’re certain that you’ll never forget. But human memory being what it is — i.e., faulty! — eventually someone is going to forget something. (In fact, that’s the first of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail: Just Forgetting! We’ll come back to those on p.___.) Having a written copy will also help to avoid arguments about “that’s not what I meant!” The easiest way to deal with all of this is to simply write down your Agreements.

Keep Agreements all in one place

It’s a good idea to keep them all together in one place, whether that’s in a book, or on a computer, or up on the web somewhere.  The advantage of using (for instance) a bound blank book is that you can physically sign the page, to indicate that you’ve both/all seen and agreed to this. Having only one copy, however, can occasionally be inconvenient.

The advantage (and to some degree disadvantage) of having the Agreements in an electronic form is that it’s easier to make changes when you need to update things. If you want to keep a record of the various forms the Agreement has taken, it might be good to keep the document in some software that has the ability to “track changes” or keep a specific record of the revisions.

Keeping your Agreements in electronic form also makes it super simple to share your Agreements with prospective sex or relationship partners, for instance.  I have found that this sometimes reduces stress in those initial disclosure and negotiation discussions, as it’s clear that what you’re asking isn’t something that you made up just to annoy this prospective partner, but in fact are Agreements you came to regarding any prospective interactions with new partners.  It’s also helpful when negotiating with someone long-distance… or just someone who’s extremely busy!

hands writing in datebook

Date the Agreements

Writing the date on the Agreements will help with several things.  First, it provides a record of exactly when you made the Agreement. If you’re using a Time-limited Agreement (see Tip #9, p. ___), that’s crucial information so you know when to revisit the Agreement.  It can also help to show your progress, as you keep a record of the original Agreement and each modification. Sometimes it’s great to look back and see how far you’ve come!

Include Related Information

It can be very helpful to keep related information all in one spot with your Agreements.  You might want to include things like:

  • Your List of Needs (see exercise on p. ___)
  • Quiz and personality assessment results (e.g., Myers-Briggs, 5 Love Languages, Enneagram, astrological charts, etc.)
  • STI testing results
  • etc.

Include any information that you and/or your partner/s might find helpful in making future Agreements, or in explaining the existing ones.


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

[© 2012 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: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9) ]

[Previous Entry: Tip #7: KISSable Agreements (aka, Keep It Simple, Silly!)]

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

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