Tag Archives: books

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]

polyamory pride march banner

Poly Proliferation: Books, Conferences, and More!

polyamory pride march bannerPolyamory is certainly gaining in awareness!  Mentions in the media are off the charts, compared with 6-8 years ago. Showtime’s series about Polyamory has been renewed for a second season. Books about polyamory are proliferating. And conferences, formerly limited to just a few US-national conferences, are springing up all over.

If you’re interested in meeting other like-minded folks, perhaps taking some workshops, or hearing some speakers, and having fun at events during or alongside the conference, you may want to consider attending one of the upcoming conferences.  At the bottom of this post, I’ve included a little more information on just a few of the many that are coming up in the next half-year (in order on the calendar). Check ’em out!

(By the way, I’ll be presenting at the Academic conference on Feb 16th. I won’t be in the Academic track (since I don’t have Academic research to present), but instead I’ll be in the parallel Session B: Educational/Experiential Presentations. I’ll be presenting a very short segment — conference coordinator Dave Doleshal has asked for 30 minutes max! — about making Agreements, drawn from the material you can find serialized here in my Agreements Workbook entries.  I’m planning to have some form of the book ready for sale at that conference, so if you want it hot off the presses, you might want to consider attending!)

Want something smaller than a national conference?  Maybe you’d like to find a local group meeting? Check out the section on Groups and Events in my Resources page, or go directly to this awesome group-finder gadget on ModernPoly.com, and see what options there are for finding a group near you!

And remember: No matter where you are, and no matter whom and how many you love:  Love is always OK!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Did you miss Reid Mihalko’s awesome Relationship10x Webinar in December?  Good news!  You can still watch it!  Register here, and you’ll get access to all of his Relationship10x free informational videos, AND the free webinar! You can start the series at any time. Why not now? 🙂

PPS:  I’m an affiliate of Reid’s, so if you choose to purchase anything from that link, I’ll get a cut.  But I trust that you are capable of doing your own due diligence, and making sure that whatever you invest in is going to be of benefit to YOU. I think Reid’s awesome, and I think you will too. 🙂

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]


Poly Living 2013 banner

Poly Living in Philadelphia, Feb. 8-10, 2013

Since 2005 when George Marvil hosted the first Poly Living Conference in Philadelphia, it has been the best place to warm up your winter with fun, learning and polyamory community. Whether you are new to polyamory and wanting to find out more, a professional interested in helping clients or an experienced poly person looking to have fun with old friends, Poly Living is a great place to learn, explore and connect with real people.

Photo of Poly Living Attendees
Poly Living Attendees
 [Dawn sez:  I’ve been to Poly Living when it was in Seattle. It was a great conference there, and I’ve heard that the Philadelphia location is even better!]

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International Academic Polyamory Conference

Feb 15-17, 2013, in Berkeley, California, USA.

This conference will explore issues related to monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships from an interdisciplinary perspective. This event will be devoted to presentations of scientific and academic research related to polyamory, open relationships, “swinging,” other forms of consensual nonmonogamy and related subjects.  The conference does not take a position on whether consensual nonmonogamy is “good” or “bad,” or whether any particular type of nonmonogamous relationship is healthy or pathological. The intention of the event is explore the subject in as objective and unbiased a manner as possible. Presentations will cover various topics that offer some possible progress to a deeper and more complete understanding of the phenomenon of consensual non-monogamy.

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Atlanta Poly, Inc Logo

March 15-17, 2013
[This is the] third year of Atlanta Poly Weekend.  This conference is designed to further the education and advancement of poly friendly lifestyle choices in our community.  We aim to bring in the foremost speakers in our lifestyle to educate poly friendly community on matters regarding the family, the law, and social interactions and justice for those in our poly communities.

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CPAA logo

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association logo

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association is pleased to present
PolyCon – Claiming Our Right to Love

May 31 to June 2, 2013
in Vancouver, BC

Friday night reception.
Saturday all day workshop sessions and evening events hosted by local poly groups.
Sunday AGM for CPAA membership and poly community leadership networking event.

Forgiveness in the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope your Holidays have been happy and warm, and full of love and joy!

My friend and colleague Francesca Gentille wrote a great post recently that I’d like to share with you, about Chapman’s The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in all Your Relationships“.

I’ve written before about Chapman’s work, which I find very useful. His 5 Languages of Love is one of my favorite tools. [Sadly, Chapman’s publisher has asked me to remove the link to my gender-free 5 Love Languages Quiz (claiming copyright issues; I disagree but don’t have the resources to fight it), but if you write me privately I’ll send you a pdf version. In the meantime, you can find a link to their gendered official version here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?page_id=199]

In addition to the 5 Love Languages Quiz, Chapman’s site includes another quick quiz to determine which Apology Language most resonates for you. As I said in the comments to my previous post about the Apology Languages, I think that trying to describe 5 Apology Languages (to be analogous to Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages) is stretching the metaphor a bit.  Still, I think the model is helpful food for thought.

Like Francesca, I think that practicing the art of forgiveness is an essential skill in relationships. Being able to “let go” of past hurts is essential to moving forward into the new year (or at any time) with grace and ease. In particular holding on to grudges and allowing yourself to stay in resentment is actively toxic to relationships (if you want to know more, there’s a link to one of John Gottman’s videos about resentment my post on Agreements Tip #4.)  I hope you enjoy reading Francesca’s post (below), and find the 5 Apology Languages a useful tool.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Remember too that Reid Mihalko has a brand new series out to improve your relationships 10x in only 10 minutes a day.  You can watch a recording of last week’s Free Webinar by clicking here. And his 6 week program has only just started, so if you’re up for it, you can still hop on the bandwagon!

PPS: Want some 1:1 time with me? I’ve still got room for a couple more individual clients.  I’m happy to do a free 30 minute consultation, or a 1/2 price introductory hour! Contact me to set up a time to chat!

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

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I'm a Love Ambassador

Loving Yourself: The First Step in Loving More

I'm a Love Ambassador
Loving yourself is one of those foundational skills for loving others. This is especially true for polyamory, of course, where not loving yourself leads far too often to jealousy and other un-fun emotions. (You can see a little about my own journey toward self love in this blog post I wrote last winter.) Since I’m all about the Love, I couldn’t resist aligning myself with this new movement from Christine Arylo, author of the new book “Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend. (I mean, I get to be a Love Ambassador — how cool is that??)

Here’s what Christine (via her marketing dept. ;^) has to say about the new book:


People are always saying, “Love yourself,” “Self-care is important,” “The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.” But what the heck does all this self-love talk really mean? And more importantly how do you actually ‘do’ it?

Christine Arylo, the founder of the international Day of Self Love (Feb 13th) just wrote this breakthrough book on self-love that takes you beyond the idea of valuing, loving and caring for yourself into daring acts that help you experience it. It’s called Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend. It’s a must read!

It’s like this magical adventure into yourself… full of Daring Acts of Love, heart to heart conversations with yourself, a Self-Love Tree and more. It’s not just full of more information telling you how you should take care of yourself or put yourself first… it actually gives you permission to do and say the things a best friend would to you.

Big thumbs up!
GO here to learn more & Check out the book trailer at www.TheSelfLoveBook.com

What’s not to love about that?

Take some daring acts of love today — share love with yourself. You may find that more love comes back your way from others, as well as yourself!

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’m not an Affiliate of Christine’s (yet, anyway), but you need to do your own evaluation of whether an offer is right for you. And that said, it’s still true that I don’t recommend things that I think aren’t worth your while. Check it out, and use your brain as to whether it’s a good investment for you at this time. In full disclosure: if you click on any of the MinLwM book links, I’ll get a tiny percentage of any Amazon purchases you might make through that link in the next 24 hours (so do your holiday shopping while you’re at it, ok?? ;^)

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

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

YES written in a notebook in pen

21 Reasons to Be Yourself (and Other Thoughts on Identities)

“I’m speaking up for those who feel lost and alone, and who’ve been rejected by others for core pieces of their being, whether that’s paganism, poly, their bodies, kink, or whatever. I’m here to say “you are not alone,” and “you are fine, just the way you are,” and hand them some tools and roadmaps.”
— Dawn Davidson, Nov. 30, 2012

Over the past week and some I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of Identity. Some of this thinking was, of course, spurred by Dan Savage and his post about how he doesn’t think that polyamory can be an identity. In his world, it’s just something you do, not something you are.  As discussed elsewhere, I disagree with him (though of course Your Mileage May Vary.)

But that’s not the only thing that has me thinking about Identity. See, there’s been a kerfluffle in my world that affects my recent ordination. It’s mostly not even about me, but instead, about my sponsoring priestess.  Apparently, They (the powers that be in the organization through which we were both ordained) became quite concerned with the fact that my sponsoring priestess both practices and teaches Sacred BDSM (aka Sacred Kink — see here for the excellent book on the topic, Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths Of BDSM And Beyond, by Lee Harrington.) The reasons for this are several, but the biggest reason appears to be that They have conflated what my sponsoring priestess does, with what happened at the Sedona Temple earlier this year. Please understand that I have nothing against Tantra either (I practice Western Tantra myself and recommend it as a path of connection for individuals, couples and even groups in some situations). What my sponsoring priestess does is a) legal, b) ethical, and c) not what brought the Sedona Temple down (which was accusations of prostitution.) Ultimately, the point of the whole thing isn’t the details of what she’s practicing or teaching, but the fact that They took action based on misinformation, incomplete information, and fear. They feared being “tarred with the same brush,” and chose to denounce the whole of BDSM as a whole, rather than having detailed conversations first and taking actions later.

Now, to be fair, some of the situation was exacerbated by a lack of communication and missed communications between the org and my sponsoring priestess. However, I feel that greater efforts at understanding could have been taken before they chose to denounce several personal sexual practices and choices, revoke the ordination of my sponsoring priestess, and invalidate the ordinations of all of her sponsorees (myself included.)

(By the way, I’m continuing at this time to not speak directly about this organization in this public blog, because I’m still hopeful that some sort of rapprochement might be possible. I do not wish to make the situation worse. Additionally, one of Their issues with me in particular was that I had linked to their site using their logo on my own webpage about my ministerial services without first asking permission. Oops, my bad. For now, I’ve removed the offending references pending resolution. However, none of this changes my basic feelings about the situation, and I’m certainly not against anyone with a stake in the matter speaking out about their own experiences and feelings, or writing on behalf of my sponsoring priestess. I’m just trying to not make things unnecessarily worse for myself, or for her. Write me privately if you would like further information, including templates for a letter writing campaign to educate this organization about sacred kink, or to speak out on behalf of my sponsoring priestess in particular.)

It’s also important (in my view anyway) to note that their action (in revoking my ordination and that of all of the sponsorees) does not actually affect either my mission as a counselor, as a priestess/minister, nor does it affect my ability to perform weddings (and other such ceremonies) here in California (and in some other states.) I was ordained on October 10th, 1989, through the Universal Life Church, and I have confirmed with the ULC that they still have a record of that ordination. My ordination through this other organization was intended mostly to create community ties, and a mutual network of support (hence my cross-linking). I’m sad to lose that, of course, but it has no bearing on my legal ability to serve as a priestess/minister.

Even more to the point, as I told them in my response:

I was also VERY clear during the ordination on Oct 7th that I received that transmission from the Goddess herself, and whatever choices are made here on the physical plane in the [national and international organizations], you (collectively) cannot remove from me that Divine blessing and calling to service. I was called into Her service, and in her service I remain, with or without your blessing, acknowledgment, or papers.

Of course, all of this recalls for me my experiences earlier this summer, in which I was asked to hide who I was in order to stay in a particular online course. As I wrote in another letter to the organization:

Honestly, when I wrote my piece “Coming Out About Love,” which described some of my soul searching while preparing for the ordination, I was afraid to post it publicly on my website… but what I feared at the time was getting pushback from the *poly* community about my *spirituality*.  It never in my wildest dreams occurred to me that the trouble might be the other way around! And yet, here we are.

… Imagine my dismay to find myself facing what appears to me to be the same core issue in the very pagan organization with which I thought to align myself: prejudice and blatant lack of understanding and compassion regarding personal choice, and the teaching of these personal choices as loving, valid forms of relating.

Here I sit, my friends, with egg on my face about my (mostly private) judgments earlier. I am reminded, forcefully, of the bumper sticker one of my partners used to have on his car, that read:

Fundies are fundies, whether they pray to the Lord or the Goddess.

So I offer my apologies to my Christian — and pagan, atheist, agnostic, etc — friends who are NOT judgmental and/or fearful of things they don’t understand. Thank you to all of you good-hearted folks out there striving to understand and accept things outside of your experience.  I appreciate you so much! Thank you for being yourselves, and allowing the space for others to be themselves as well, even when you don’t fully understand the whys and wherefores.

And to all of you — whatever sort of experiences you may have, and whatever ways you might identify, let me reiterate that you are not alone, and you are OK, just the way you are. Whoever you are and whatever choices you make — so long as those are done in Love and respect, and between consenting adults — that’s totally ok! We don’t all have to like the same things, do the same things, or go the same places.  If we did, the world would be boring, and we’d all be trying to squeeze into the same restaurant.  Ugh!

So in that spirit, let me offer you something I started brainstorming the other night (inspired by the awesome Samantha Bennett again). At the bottom of this post I’ve added 21 Reasons To Be Yourself. I think I’m just getting started on this list, so if you have other reasons to offer, please let me know! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’d be happy to add your reasons, too.

Always remember how awesome you are!

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re interested in discussing issues around identity (or any other related topic, such as polyamory, kink, jealousy, Agreements, managing new relationship energy, etc), feel free to schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation with me.  BONUS: For a limited time, each FREE consultation comes with a Jealousy Judo pdf of tools to use to manage jealousy in yourself. Let me know how I can support YOU in being yourself, and speaking your own truth!

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

A 21 self-salute:
21 Reasons to be yourself

1) because no one else can do it — you are the only you there is

2) because you have something to say to the world

3) because your children (or your nieces, nephews, little siblings, etc) need you to — how else could you make it safe for them to be *themselves*?

4) because the world needs you to — it’s time for all of us to stop trying to be someone else, and to give up ransacking the world to “keep up with the Joneses”

5) because Deity (God, Goddess, the Universe, your higher self, the FSM…) put you here to do something.  You wouldn’t want to let God — or yourself — down, would you?

6) so all the other people like you don’t feel so much alone

7) because it isn’t anyone else’s business WHO you are, anyway

8) because otherwise, you’ll go to your grave thinking “what if?”

9) because THEY said you can’t do/be/say that

10) because it feeds your soul

11) because it makes you happy. And that’s enough, all by itself. Really.

12) because what if reincarnation is true, and you aren’t yourself this time, and have to come back and do it all over again?

13) because you’re ok — great, even — just the way you are

14) because you look silly in Julia Roberts’ clothes (I mean, unless you’re Julia Roberts, in which case, you look just fine!) Stop trying to be someone you’re not.

15) because otherwise, who’s going to [bake the cookies/fix the car/type the memo] if you’re off wasting energy elsewhere?

16) because somewhere, sometime, someone will be inspired by you

17) because otherwise, the terrorists (internal or external) will have won

18) because it’s a great way to silence that nasty voice in your head that says you’re “less than.”  By definition, nobody can be a better you than you!

19) because otherwise, how will the postal carrier know whom to deliver your mail to?

20) because *you matter*. Your thoughts, feelings, and actions in this world leave a mark in this world.  The lack of them would, too. Choose to make your mark.

21) otherwise, how could your college buddies find you on Facebook?

(Got more reasons to be yourself?  Share them with me!)

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

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

KISSable Agreements (Tip #7)

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This is Tip #7: KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly! in my Agreements Workbook series.

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!

‘Nuff said… ;^)

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’ve still got some slots available for a FREE 1/2 hour consultation. Right now, it’s the only way to get my “Jealousy Judo” handout, with a few quick tips on how to manage jealousy in yourself.  Interested? Click here to pick an appointment time now! It’s cheesy but true: These free sessions won’t last forever, so get ’em while you can.  Oh, and did I mention I’m raising my rates in January? But you can still get my old prices through the end of this month… 🙂


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7) KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly!

As with so many things in life, simpler is often better. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.  Here are a few quick tips for KISSable Agreements.

Practice makes perfect!

Most people need practice making Agreements, so start with small, easy ones, preferably ones that don’t have a lot of emotional “charge.” For instance, you might make an Agreement about turning out the lights when you leave the room, or picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper.  Once you’ve made these Agreements, and seen how the process works, move on to some of the smaller Agreements with more charge. Perhaps you might agree to reserve a pet name for one partner, or to each partner having one coffee-date with a new person. Whatever is a little stretch is good, but not too difficult. If you have the time, it’s great to build your Agreement-making muscles slowly, so you gain confident along with your expertise.

Short, specific, and to the point

Brevity is the soul of Agreements, as well as wit. Keep focused. Pretend you’re writing the Ten Commandments Guidelines for your relationship, and they all have to fit on a single tablet.

Break it down

Three small agreements are much easier to meet than one big complex one. The human memory can only hold so much at one time, about 7 bits of discrete data [ref: How We Decide However, we do some interesting stuff with “chunking” data as well, to make it easier to remember. That’s why our US ten-digit phone numbers are divided up into three sections, including the area code, the local exchange (or central office code), and the four digits of the phone number itself. So break down complex Agreements into several smaller ones, and if you can, arrange related Agreements near to one another in your book or document.


Conversely, if your Agreements book is starting to look like the US Tax Code—simplify.  Too many concurrent agreements will also be impossible to keep. It might be tempting to include everything you’ve ever been annoyed by in this or other relationships in one monster Agreement, but try to keep focused on the most important Agreements that really make a difference.

DO Try This At Home! — A Multi-tasking Exercise

When I present this material in a workshop, I often include this short exercise. I know you don’t want to get up from wherever you’re reading this, but it really does work better if you try it for real.

No, really. Get up and try it!

Part 1:

Do these things in order:

Stand up, both feet on the floor, head toward the ceiling or sky.

Take one hand (doesn’t matter which), and rub your tummy. Stop.

Take the other hand, and pat your head. Stop.

Hop up and down on one foot. Stop.

Whistle or hum.  Stop.

Part 2:

Now do all of those things in order again, but this time, don’t stop one before starting the next.

Stand up, both feet on the floor, head toward the ceiling or sky.

Next, take one hand and rub your tummy. Keep doing that,

AND take the other hand, and pat your head. Keep doing that,

AND hop up and down on one foot. Keep doing that,

AND whistle or hum as well.

Part 3:

Try to do all of them at once, starting all at the same time:

Hop up and down on one foot while patting your head with one hand, rubbing your tummy with the other, and whistling or humming at the same time.  Do NOT start one at a time; it has to be all at once. Go!

Part 4: Reflection

A few of you physically talented types will probably be able to complete the exercise without falling over.  Those few of you will just have to imagine my point, here. For most of us, though… Note how easy it is to do each activity one at a time.  Conversely, note how difficult it is to keep doing them all at once, despite the fact that you can quite easily do any one of the actions by itself.  Also notice that when you tried to do them all at once without working up to it, it was extremely difficult if not impossible to do.

The same is true in Agreements. Keep It Simple (Silly); start with small, easy Agreements and put them in place one at a time; work up to more complex Agreements; and don’t try to do too many of them all at once. You’ll find them easier to make, and to keep.


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

[© 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.

[Previous Entry: Keep Physical and Emotional Agreements Distinct (Tip #6)]

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

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


Keep Emotional and Physical Safety Agreements Distinct [Tip #6]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.After a delay due to illness (the nasty cold had turned to an ear infection), here at last is the next installment in my in-progress Agreements Workbook.  This is Tip #6: Keep Emotional and Physical Safety Agreements Distinct.

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

Wishing you and yours lots of love and gratitude on this (US-celebrated-) day of Thanks.

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’m working on a new program that I’ll be unveiling soon, called Jealousy Judo.  Are you interested in test-driving the first part in a 1/2 hour free session? Just drop me a line and we’ll find a time!

PPS: I got my test ornaments from Zazzle today!  I particularly like this one, with my logo on one side, and “Polyamory: Love Outside The Box” on the other. 🙂

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illustration of bleeding heart pierced and surrounded by thorns

“No falling in love” — Not a good safer sex Agreement!

6) Keep emotional and physical safety agreements distinct

Have you ever heard of someone putting this into their “Safer Sex” Agreements: “No falling in love”? In my experience, it’s pretty common, especially for those whose relationship structures tend more toward swinging or open than polyamory. However, although it’s tempting to attempt to mandate emotional safety via safer sex Agreements, it turns out to be extremely difficult if not impossible to do. Safer sex is primarily about logic and science, cold hard facts, and things that can be measured. You either used condoms, or you didn’t.  The test is positive, or it’s negative (usually). The heart, on the other hand, is notoriously capricious. Heart-decisions are most often emotionally based, and don’t respond well to logic. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, but you can be a little bit in love. And it’s really difficult to “back up” in a relationship, once two (or more) people have fallen in love. At the very least, it’s a recipe for drama and lengthy nights of processing.

Conversely, bacteria and viruses aren’t much impressed with how much in love you are, or whether you think you’re “fluid-bonded” or not when you kiss another lover right after going down on someone new. While there’s some evidence to support the idea that positive intentions do positively affect the immune system [refs], the evidence isn’t really strong enough to substitute “wishing really hard” for using condoms and knowing the testing status and risk tolerance of yourself and your partners.

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

Because of how ineffective emotional Agreements are in Safer Sex, and vice versa, and because of the difficulty of actually enforcing Agreements that mix emotions and epidemiology, my suggestion is usually to avoid making such Agreements in the first place. Instead, create separate line items for emotional issues and epidemiological ones, and if necessary, create separate documents for safer sex vs. emotional safety.

Now might be a good time to review Tips #2a, b & c on having Clear Standards and Consequences [p. ___]. In particular, make a note of whether something uses objective or subjective standards for success.  If the standards are all subjective ones, chances are this Agreement belongs in your Relationship Agreements, rather than your Safer Sex ones. If you’d discuss it with your physician or a clinic worker, that’s probably a Safer Sex Agreement. If it’s an Agreement you’d make with your kids, or a platonic housemate, then it probably belongs in your Relationship Agreements instead. If it involves latex or plastic on human or toy appendages, it’s probably a Safer Sex Agreement.

Note that there are some areas that overlap, particularly in the matter of pacing new relationships. Human bodies are chemically and hormonally based, and having sex often triggers chemical cascades that nature intends to cement relationships [refs, e.g. Alchemy of Love and Lust] … at least long enough to get kids conceived, born, and to about their 2nd birthday. [refs, e.g., Sex At Dawn.] However, biology is not destiny, and while the heart is difficult to regulate, behavior can be tracked and modified. So especially in these “grey areas,” try to make your agreements about behaviors, not about feelings, and you’ll find them easier to track and measure.

You can see some examples of various sorts of Agreements in Appendix B, including some that (mostly) separate out Emotional Safety from Safer Sex, and some that don’t. Be sure to check out a bunch of different Agreements, to see which ones resonate for you, and which don’t.


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

[© 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: KISSable Agreements (Tip #7) ]

[Previous Entry: Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)]

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

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

Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As mentioned in Monday’s post, I’m plugging away at finishing a draft of my Agreements Workbook.  Here’s the next installment, Tip #5:  “Create Clear Ownership of the Agreement.”

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

Thanks for reading. 🙂

~♥ Dawn

PS:  How about that election news, eh? Same sex marriage rights bills passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington State! And voters also rejected a bid in Minnesota to change their constitution in order to ban same sex unions. For once I kinda hope that the conservatives are c0rrect, and rights for multiple partner unions are a mere slippery slope away, because if so, it looks like we’re picking up speed! In the meantime, you may want to check out Woodhull’s Family Matters project. They’re still looking for participants in their project based on family diversity being a human rights issue (rather than a civil rights one.)

PPS: Want to talk more specifically about your own family situation? I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂 Just drop me a line!

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5) Create Clear Ownership of the Agreements

Suppose you and your partner/s have agreed that the cat’s litterbox needs to be cleaned every day. You even wrote it down.  It’s everyone’s job, so everyone is supposed to notice that it needs to be done.  But every day, the box isn’t clean, and no one seems to know why.  The answer?  Because you didn’t create “clear ownership” of the Agreement.  Because it was “everyone’s job,” but no one’s job in particular, no one felt any particular responsibility to do it, and everyone assumed that “someone else” would take care of it. (My ex and I used to call this an “SEP field” for “Somebody Else’s Problem.”)

Kitten in a litterbox

It stinks when someone doesn’t do their job…

To create clear ownership of the Agreement, designate who is responsible for the Agreement.  In some cases, this will be one person, though who that is might change from day to day. So for example, you might create an Agreement that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kitty’s litterbox will be cleaned by Person A, and on Mondays and Wednesdays by Person B, etc. That way, if the box isn’t clean, it’s clear who is responsible for that, and any consequences or requests can get directed to the right person.  This saves time, energy, and sometimes relationships!

It’s possible to have Agreements where more than one person “owns” the Agreement, but to do this, it’s very important that both/all people “own the Agreement 100%.”  You might think that it would be ok for two people to each own it 50%… but this just ends up being the same thing as no one owning the Agreement.  If each person owns the Agreement 100%, however, then each person will do the required action every time that they can do it, because they never assume that someone else will do it. So for instance, if everyone is responsible for keeping the counters clean, then every time each individual uses a dish, they clean it and put it in the drainer.  Each person owns their own part of that Agreement 100%. However, this only works if everyone is 100% responsible, and/or if there is some specific plan of action for what to do if someone slacks off.

Here’s an example of how this style of Agreement might work. My housemate told me a story about a shared household she lived in for a while where the rule was that no one ever left dirty dishes on the counter.  If you used it, you washed it immediately. The other housemates were empowered to put any dirty dishes on the bed of the person who left them there (assuming you could figure out who did it.) For me personally, I don’t like this version as much, because it can still end up with one person doing all or most of the work if every person isn’t 100% responsible all the time — or with all of the dishes in one person’s room and nothing to eat on! But she’s says it worked for them. For myself, I vastly prefer clear and individual ownership of each Agreement, but “your mileage may vary,” as they say!

Another challenge that arises if there isn’t clear ownership of an Agreement is that each person may be waiting for the other to do something, before moving on to the next step.  So let’s take an example of a primary couple who each have secondary partners. If we have an Agreement to only schedule dates when the other person already has a date, we might end up with no one going on dates for a long time, while each person waits for the other person to schedule a date! This is called a “bottleneck,” and it can bring things to a complete halt very quickly. (See the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
for more about this concept.)  It might be better to frame the Agreement in a way that no one is waiting for someone else, or agree on a maximum time that you need to wait after informing your partner/s of the date proposal before you can consider it finalized. Anything that addresses the bottleneck (and doesn’t create another!) would be helpful here.

Clear ownership of the Agreement — including any sub-parts it might have, or anything that differs from one person to the next — will help keep the Agreements functional, and will help to forestall bottlenecks and other such issues.

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

[© 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: Keep Emotional and Safety Needs Distinct (Agreements Tip #6)]

[Previous Entry: The Fun Factor in Agreements (Tip #4)]

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

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

Getting To Win-Win [Agreements Workbook entry]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

This is another “orphan” entry in the Agreements Workbook, [UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!] one I skipped earlier, and am returning to now.  It belongs right after the entry on the Continua Worksheet — you can download the Continua Worksheet itself for free — and right before Agreements & Requests: 4 Guidelines to YES!

Honestly, I think that this section might be one of THE most important in the book.  It’s crucially important to understand that without a focus on WIN-WIN-WIN (etc) for the entire relationship as a whole, it’s not possible to make functional and lasting Agreements. This shift to a cooperative, co-creative model of meeting needs — and away from a competitive one — is fundamental to what I mean when I talk about my own orientation toward Love as a spiritual path. For me, being truly IN LOVE with my partners means that their needs are as important to me as my own — not more important, nor less important, but instead equally important. It’s another place where I try to remember to ask “WWLD?” (What Would Love Do? ;^)

Do you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries? As always, I’m happy to answer questions or engage in discussion either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’m also happy to create coaching packages to help you create your own set of Agreements tailored to your situation. We can discuss your particular needs in a mini-consultation, if that floats your boat.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

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Getting to Win-Win

“Negotiating” is not a synonym for “giving up”

Some people[1] try to negotiate by just giving in. For whatever reason—perhaps they don’t know what their needs are; don’t think they’re worth having others help to meet them; expect that they can’t get them anyway, etc.—these people don’t bring their needs to the table, don’t state them, or don’t state them clearly. Then they’re puzzled as to why no one ever takes care of them, why they’re always so exhausted, or why they feel resentful down the line. They’ll often say “whatever YOU want dear,” but expect the other person to mind-read, already know what they want/need, or to anticipate their needs and factor them in.

This is a very bad strategy. At the very least, it often leads this person to be perpetually waiting for other people to fulfill needs that they’ve never stated (see the “Grandmother” joke on p. __.) In its most pernicious form, it’s flat-out passive-aggressive, confusing, maddening, and will eventually erode the relationship from neither party getting what they really need.

The relationship needs your needs

It’s important for both/all parties to honor that both people’s needs are important, and need to be met.  Why is this? It’s because the relationship needs your needs.

“Say what? That makes no sense!” I can hear some of you saying.

I’ll say it again: The relationship needs your needs.

One way to think about the dynamics of a relationship is to realize that to some degree, the relationship itself is one of the players in the negotiation game. The idea behind negotiation is to get to a win-win-win scenario, where no one feels taken advantage of, and everyone gets what they need, and even some or most of what they want. On the flip side of what I just discussed — passive-aggressive behavior — each party can end up feeling in competition with the other/s for scarce resources. (This is a really great recipe for jealousy, by the way; see Fig. __[Kathy Labriola‘s 4-Part Jealousy Model, which is available on the backside of the Jealousy Diagnosis sheet, also available as a free download].)

In Fig.___ below, I’ve included a very small matrix (a table) of a relationship between two people, with Person A along the top, and Person B along the side. [Sorry for the crappy formatting here; consider it a little incentive to buy the book once I get it out! ;)]

Person A:











Fig. __: Matrix of Win vs. Lose for Person A, Person B, and the Relationship as a whole


Of course, many polyamorous or non-exclusive relationships have more than two people in them.  However, if you break things down, it rapidly becomes apparent that one way to look at multiple relationships is as a series of dyads, or pairs, in addition to another entity, the relationship as a whole (see Appendix A for a more detailed explanation.)

So if we accept for the purpose of this example that the ideal in any interaction between two people in relationship is to end up supporting the relationship (otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for an Agreement…), then there is only one way in which that can happen in the scenario in Fig. ___. Only if both Person A and Person B feel like they’ve “won” does the relationship win. If either one feels like they’ve lost, then the relationship as a whole has lost.  If the relationship loses enough times—and especially if one of the partners loses all or most of the time—then eventually, there will be no relationship.

Please note that for the relationship to win, it’s not possible for one or both of the people to capitulate, “cave in,” or otherwise give up their needs completely. That also will lead the relationship to lose, and as we discussed above, eventually that leads to no relationship. Remember: the relationship needs your needs!

So somehow, you’ll need to get to a point where everyone’s needs are being addressed, and the relationship as a whole is “winning.” That’s where negotiation comes in, which I’ll cover in the next section.

[1] True confessions time: In this section, you can assume that when I say “they,” I really mean “I.” Not only have I gone there more than once, I’ve got a season pass, so to speak. I speak from personal experience!

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

[© 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: Have Clear Consequences (Agreements Tip #2c) ]

[Previous Entry: Resources: More Relationship & Safer Agreements Info]

[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!]

CPAA logo

Polygamy: A Cruel Arithmetic?

CPAA logo

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association logo

Heads-up, in particular to my Canadian poly* friends! Columbia Attorney General Craig Jones, who was the province’s representative in the polygamy law constitutional court case, has written a book about polygamy, released a few days ago:

“A Cruel Arithmetic describes how the author’s own views evolved from scepticism to a committed belief in the campaign against polygamy. This book is also an invitation to Canadians across political, philosophical, and religious spectrums to exercise their curiosity, approach the issue with an open mind, and follow along as the evidence converges to its powerful and surprising conclusion.”


[Thanks to Carole Chanteuse of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association for the tip in email.]

My own personal opinion here, is that the conclusion is not surprising at all. Unfortunately, this inability to distinguish between a valid, loving, alternative relationship style, vs. splinter groups based in patriarchy and abuse, seems rampant amongst those invested in the monogamous status quo as the only option for everyone (with absolutely no offense meant to the many thoughtful monogamous allies out there!)

The UUPA (Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness) have posted what I feel is a pretty good description of the distinctions between Polyamory and Polygamy, by Jasmine Walton. One of her main conclusions is:

Abuse must be dealt with separately from family structure. As in monogamous families, only sensational abuse makes the headlines. Polygamous families don’t want to be defined by the offenders in their communities any more than the rest of us do.

Sadly (in my opinion), Jones and others of like mind seem unable to grasp this essential point.

What do you think about all of this? Are polygamy and polyamory the same thing, or radically different?  … or some of each? Does polygamy lead inexorably to one man and many women, or might there be other ways to have multiple spouses? Are multiple-partner families necessarily headed for abuse… and/or perdition?

As always, I welcome discussion and commentary, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’d like to discuss this more privately (or any topic related to polyamory or other forms of ethical multi-partnering), you can drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help others chart their own ways to their own best life and loves.


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson