Tag Archives: Connectedness

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. 🙂

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

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) ]

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

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

Bird Sculpture by Robriel Wolf, archangel.robriel@gmail.com

A little bird told me: Be yourself

Bird Sculpture by Robriel Wolf, archangel.robriel@gmail.com

“A Little Bird Told Me”: Sculpture in wood, metal and glorious paint, by artist Robriel Wolf

In response to a conversation yesterday, I’ve been struggling with being authentically myself, doing so with joy, and without fear or shame. In short, I’ve been asked to “tone down” who I am, in order to stay in an online course — I can say “alternative relationships” but not “polyamory” for instance, in order not to cause others in the course to “feel squirmy,” and to ensure that everyone there finds what I talk about “G-rated” at all times. This has engendered a lot of soul-searching, as you might imagine, and has left me feeling both triggered and unsure of my path.

Then this morning the following subject line appeared in my inbox: “Listen to the birds and they will tell you.” Penned by guest blogger Gwendolyn Morgan in Patrica Pearce’s wonderful blog, she goes on to say

Often I take time to listen deeply, and encourage others I am working with to do so as well throughout the day – to listen deeply to our bodies, our breathing, our hearts, our intuition, as well as to the clouds, animals and birds, the plants and trees, all sentient beings.

I took a moment to listen to the birds outside of my office window. What are they saying to me today?

Yes, I realized: the birds sing. They do so as a matter of being, as an expression of who they are. No one asks a songbird to sing a different song, nor do they shame them or tell them that they’re wrong for being a bluebird instead of a robin. Their message is their message. People will either listen to it and enjoy it… or not. Those that are meant to hear the song, will hear it. Those who find it shrill or discordant (or can’t hear it at all) will pass on by. Either way, the bird is still the bird, singing their song, in joy and truth.

Whoever you are, and whatever you’re doing — whether you’re a bluebird, or a robin… or a parrot! *laugh* — I hope you’re singing your authentic song today.

Singing my song of joy and love,

~♥ Dawn



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

12 Tips on How to Care for Introverts

Poly for Introverts

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
Emily Dickenson

One of only two poems I managed to memorize during Middle School, this paean to anonymity has lent me strength over the years, in those moments when I was feeling particularly unwanted or overlooked… or occasionally when I wanted to feel overlooked. *wry smile*

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed in the last month or more, after a particularly active and social period involving hosting multiple parties and attending the groundbreaking Open-SF conference. Another friend (in a locked personal journal post) recently gave me a new term to describe what I think has happened to me, and that’s “Introvert Shock” — The state of doing too many extraverted/social activities in a short time, and then wanting to hole up for days or weeks at a time, to recover one’s energy, with the result that activities on the calendar get dropped or rescheduled by the droves, no matter how attractive they originally seemed… or indeed still are.

Of course, some of this is “just” the definition of Introversion, aka being the sort of person who recharges best alone, and for whom social activities are draining. But Introvert Shock is more than this, I think. More like a panicky, overwhelmed feeling (at least for me), in which the idea of any kind of exposure to other people is abhorrent and tends to bring up a desire to order in for pizza and watch Netflix movies (or better yet, read a nice quiet book) A.L.O.N.E. in one’s room … FOREVER.

My friend’s post contained this wonderful graphic on How to Care for Introverts that I’m sharing here, because I think it’s got a lot of good stuff to say on this topic in general:

12 Tips on How to Care for Introverts

In another thread of conversation about this, I hypothesized that this list of behaviors is not necessarily limited to introverts, but represents a pretty good set of suggestions for respecting other human beings in general (especially children, as mentioned by yet another Friend of mine.) It’s not 100% applicable to everyone all the time, of course (few things are), but I think it’s a reasonable place to start for many if not most people.

I also noticed — and I think that this is important for geeks especially (… of which we have many in the poly community, in my experience…) — that I’ll go into Introvert Shock over “excessive” activity ONLINE. If I’ve been writing and posting and putting up invites for events and engaging in lots of dialog on lists, that will register for me emotionally as the same as being out in the world surrounded by dozens or hundreds of people, even if my body has indeed been holed up in my room alone. The result is a sudden cessation of output, even though, and possibly because that’s exactly what I need to be doing to generate (online) income. The very process of exposing my thoughts and feelings to a crowd of faceless strangers (Dickenson’s “admiring bog”) causes me to be (at least temporarily) unable to continue to expose those thoughts and feelings, no matter how nice each individual out there undoubtedly is, nor how much what I have to say might be helpful on their path (or how helpful it would be in continuing to support my dependence on pesky things like food, or the Internet.) I long to return to the state of being “nobody,” even while attempting to keep some sort of contact going, because I know that a silent blog is a dead blog. It’s an exhausting and painful cycle.

Another of the things that strikes me as I go through this process (and am obviously starting to come out of it, as witnessed by me making this post!) is to observe once again that polyamorous introverts have a particular challenge here. As it happens, “Poly for Introverts” was the very first discussion group that my almost-ex and I convened, in the early 2000’s. The process of the discussion group, and then writing a workshop with that information and presenting it at the next Loving More conference, was a watershed moment in my life, and I gained a lot of insights in how to work with introverted polys. In particular in this situation, I’m struck by how there is a way in which polyamorous introverts — especially but not limited to ones in group households — are almost never alone. Lovers (especially extraverted ones) can start to get upset when their lover indicates that they want to stay home rather than spend time with them, or doesn’t want to go out with them tonight when they did just go out with another partner last night.

“Are you losing interest?”

“Do you love them/value them more than you do me?”

“When am I going to get my needs met?”

are all anxious questions that can start to crop up when a polyamorous person needs to step back and spend a bunch of time alone. It’s like we somehow give up our right to alone time when we get involved with a 2nd (or 3rd, or…) person. There simply isn’t enough time to go around already, so what often gets sacrificed is that “blank” spot on the calendar where I’m “not doing anything anyway.” It’s hard enough for introverts to guard their alone time as it is, but add being poly to the mix and sometimes it feels like one almost has to set up steel walls and guard dogs to keep a “free” night on the calendar!

So how do we, as people who are often driven toward and sustained by multiple connections, manage these connections in a time of overwhelm, or when we need to DISconnect? How do we do this without insulting our partner/s, or sacrificing future connections? What are some strategies to use … or NOT to use? What are some strategies that might have worked for YOU in the past? I’d love to hear from YOU about this. Feel free to comment here, or in Facebook. You can contact me directly, or use the handy web form. It’s all good!

In the meantime… I’ll be in my office… alone. ;^)

~♥ Dawn

Communication Tools Roundup for OPEN-SF Conference

Hey folks!  I’m off to the OPEN-SF Conference tomorrow, so this week has seen me busy with information formatting and technology wrestling (new Olympic events for presenters ;^).  As supporting information for the discussion I’m leading on Sunday at 1:15pm, I decided to create a new version of my handout that covers three of my favorite communication tools:  Non-Violent Communication (NVC); Appreciations; and Chapman’s Five Love Languages. Limitations of WordPress mean that the formatting on the NVC section isn’t as good here as it is in the actual handout… which I suppose means y’all should come to the conference to get a hardcopy! 😉

If you’re a Bay Area (or possibly Northern CA) local, it’s not too late to join us at the conference.  At only $100 for the whole weekend, it’s one of the best conference deals I’ve seen.

I hope that you find the Communication Tools valuable, and I look forward to seeing some of you in SF starting tomorrow!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  As always, feel free to comment here, or in my Facebook, LoveOTB. 🙂

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From Triads to Triadic Relationships (a response)

I had this whole post ready to go, and then my computer ate it.  Murphy and Mercury are laughing at my expense this week!  So rather than wait for perfection (I’m “getting a C!” as one of my mentors, Samantha Bennett would say!), I’m posting something shorter now. Please understand it’s not because I think this doesn’t deserve a longer post.  It does!

The other day, I had my mind blown. Here’s a quote to start with, although I’m not certain that it’s fully understandable without the full article that goes with it:

“Intimacy is, itself, the relationship between influence and risk.”

The article was first presented as the Opening Keynote at the recent Atlanta Poly Weekend, and is by a friend and* colleague of mine, maymay.  His thought is nuanced, complex, uncomfortable, and highly provoking.  I also think it’s brilliant and possibly one of the most important things I’ve read in quite a while.  It’s long, so take your time. But I think it will be worth it.

I think this bears directly on some of the stuff I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, e.g., my last post on Primary Privilege, and an earlier one, Appendix A: A model of polyamorous relationships. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on any of this.


As always, I welcome your input.  I think this deserves a lot of thought, and equal discussion.  Feel free to comment here or on my Facebook Page, LoveOTB.

Enjoy… or not…  ;^)

~♥ Dawn


*4/26/12, Edited to Add:

Wow. Maymay seems to think it’s perfectly ok to savage those who don’t agree with him 100%, call them names, and accuse them of derailing. That’s not really a communication style that I’m in favor of, and it leaves me feeling pretty uncomfortable to link to his speech.  I still think that his main thesis around triadic relationships is bold, interesting, and perhaps brilliant. I remain unconvinced of his assertions about “the BDSM community” being “unrepentantly evil.”  At this point, I’m not sure I’d advise attempting to engage him in conversation, in any online medium. The person I was previously pleased to call my friend seems to have left the building, to be replaced by maymay’s personal Mr. Hyde. Your mileage may certainly vary, so feel free to put on your asbestos undies, as they say, and read and/or comment as you see fit.  I certainly wouldn’t want to Dominate you without your permission, after all. (*wry smile*)

On the other hand, in the process of looking to see if a copy of his speech (sans comments) happened to be curated somewhere else, I did find this extremely interesting entry by thirdxlucky, On Dyad Fetishism: A Parallel Between Metamour Relationships and Body-Policing.  If you still have room for more thinking after reading maymay’s speech (or not reading it, as you decide…), I highly recommend reading this one, too.


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

Michael Zwerling, owner of KSCO radio

Dawn & other poly activists on radio 1/21 @10pm Pacific

Michael Zwerling, owner of KSCO radio

Michael Zwerling, owner of KSCO radio

Hey folks: I was unexpectedly on the Radio this morning, along with Sarah Taub, Michael Rios, and a host of other great poly activists! See below for details on how you can listen to the show!  There’s a replay TONIGHT at 10pm, and later there’ll be a podcast to download.


~♥ Dawn

[UPDATE!!  The podcast is up!  Listen to it here: http://www.ksco.com/saturday-special/28300-saturday-special-january-21th-2012-mz-explosive-discussion-on-newt-gingrich-open-relationships-a-adultery-right-wrong-or-something-in-between]


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Transparency and Trepidation

Relationship wisdom sometimes comes from unexpected places. I got this in my inbox today. Can you guess who wrote it?

We’ve always looked at trying to create a more authentic and transparent relationship with our community, and involving them in our lives to some degree. I talk about my personal life and the important people in it, and that’s because I want people to know me.

I don’t hold back my opinions for fear of being judged or alienating people, because when you hold back who you really are, it’s impossible to create any kind of authentic connection.

You might think words such as these were (electronically) penned on a relationship site, or by a coach or a therapist. Or maybe by someone on the Poly Leadership Network, in support of poly advocacy and education. But no, these words, though I think they are extremely applicable to both relationships in general, and to my own work in particular, were actually written by a fellow named Greg Habstritt, of “Simple Wealth,” a mainstream entrepreneurial coaching site/business. (No, I don’t (yet) have an affiliate relationship with Greg, though I may develop one.  I just think he’s had some smart things to say.)

In the aftermath of last week’s the National Geographic spot* (profiling my friends Dany, Lon, and Troy, collectively known as the MFM triad “The Rabbit Warren”), I’ve gone a little quiet. You see, this kind of exposure is difficult for me (even when I only have a cameo!). Many folks seem to think that it’s easy, or something I long to do, appearing on television or in large broadcast media.  I assure you, it’s the opposite. I was raised in an environment with a huge fear of being bad/wrong (which could bring physical and emotional punishment… with threats of hellfire and damnation!), and a large helping of “what would the neighbors think.”  Past media experience has told me that the neighbors think a lot of things… and most of them are wrong.  When that happens, I have a desire to hide, to go underground, and disappear from the online world. Which, of course, is the exact wrong thing for me to do, in terms of getting my message out, and sharing my experience with other poly and non-monogamous folks. As well as being the wrong thing to do in correcting those false impressions left by the sound-bite laden media. :^/

So today I’m here telling you, transparently, that transparency is a good thing. Not everyone needs to be transparent on the level that Greg Habstritt, The Rabbits, and I are currently practicing, of course.  You don’t have to confess your biggest fears to a public audience. But in polyamory, transparency amongst your partners is nearly essential, in my experience.  After all, if you can’t share the truth about yourself with your closest friends and lovers, then who can you share it with? And if you’re not sharing it with them, then I’d venture a guess that there is no one who truly knows you.  And isn’t that one of the points of living?  To know and be known, and to connect with other humans on a deep level?  I know it is for me.

Last week, my piece on Polyamory: What’s IN and What’s OUT was re-printed over at the Loving More Magazine. In it, I talk about what I consider to be the truly foundational components of polyamory: Multiple, Open, Honest, Consenting, (adult human) Relationships. Transparency–being fully open and honest about who and what you are–is right there in the foundational definition of polyamory, in my opinion. And I think it’s one of the main differences in world-view with how most of our culture practices relationships. Monogamy itself can be a beautiful thing, of course, and I’m not knocking those who have found beautiful, long-lasting and fulfilling one-on-one relationships. But the dishonesty that goes along with the unhealthy version of the “private” view of the world (which is what happens in monogamy’s shadow side, of cheating and “unspoken arrangements”), that’s what concerns me here. It’s what allows us to think that we are separate from one another, and that what one individual does doesn’t matter to another, even in close relationship.  It’s ultimately what allows corporations to fence off public parks in the name of “private property ownership,” in direct conflict with the whole idea of public parks, in my opinion.

One of my friends posted last week that she feels that polyamory (and all forms of open and honest multiple relationship) is one way that some of us in the 99% can help to address the selfishness and greed of the 1% corporate model.  As I have contemplated it since, I have found that to ring true. Polyamory isn’t “the answer” to Wall Street greed of course–there can’t possibly be a single answer to a multifaceted problem. And certainly not everyone in the Occupy movements is polyamorous! But by simply BEING polyamorous ourselves, and by transparently sharing who we are with one another, and with the world (to the degree that it’s safe for each person to do so), we help to shape a new/re-newed way of thinking that places relationship above exploitation, helps to educate others about a different way of being, and fosters transparency and honesty as a foundation of relationship.

I have found it to be true in my life that, to the greater degree that I can be open and honest about who I am and what I’m about, that I find myself happier, less stressed, and with more energy to continue my work. My work here is about sharing what I know about polyamory and other relationships, with those who are interested in trying it out. Being open and honest about myself here, as well as in my individual relationships, is a key component of that. I’ll also share that I’m concerned that in telling you that this IS my work–and that therefore part of what I’m doing here is generating income for myself–will bring judgement on my head. Telling you that is nearly as difficult for me as telling the world about my personal polyamory–and, I think, just about as important.  I’m here to share my wisdom with you, and I do hope that some of you will be inspired to hire me as a coach, and/or to buy products (when I have them!) and services from me. (You can find out more about my work in my Services tab, to the right –>.) But if you never do–if you only utilize what I place here for free–that’s OK too! It’s free for a reason.

For me, sharing the truth about my relationships and life, and sharing my hard-earned experience, is something that drives me strongly enough to write about it here, in a public blog. It’s part of my whole way of being, as a polyamorous person, to be transparent and open, and to connect with a variety of people in a variety of ways. I encourage you to be transparent as well, and to share the truth of yourself with others in your life. If you’re just starting out, please be gentle at first.  Don’t “out” others without their permission, and speak from as centered a place as you are able. Feel free to start out small, and even to stay that way.  Share the truth about how you feel with a partner, or tell someone who’s curious about what polyamory means to you. Big or small, it’s all good.

I’d love to hear from you, as well. How are you going to be transparent today? What community or relationship are you going to foster with your honesty? What’s important to you, so that others can know who you are? If telling the world would be good for you, feel free to comment here, or on my Facebook Page, Love Outside The Box.  And if you’d like to work with me one-on-one (or multiple-on-one!), drop me a line.

I’d honestly love that. 😉

~♥ Dawn

*According to Alan, “The show will re-air January 24 at 10 p.m. Eastern time, according to the National Geographic Channel’s schedule. The schedule shows no further airings through February 12.”


©2012, Dawn M. Davidson




Holidaze and Poly-days: A Media Surprise!

Capital Letter If you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably noticed I’m a fan of Alan’s Poly in the News blog.  My own polyamory has ended up showcased in his blog a few times, most recently by my appearance in the hotly-debated “Taboo” segment on polyamory that my friends “The Rabbits” were profiled in last June.  Apparently, it’ll be appearing on TV on Jan. 9th, considerably before the March guestimate that they gave us all last year. Here’s a direct link as well:


In other news, I also contributed to a thread in another online article brought to my attention by Alan. He titled it as “Polyignorance in Ireland,” and I heartily agreed.  Here’s what I posted in the comments to the article:

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Appendix B, pt 1: Relationship Agreements example

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry in the Agreements Workbook series is from Appendix B, a collection of example Agreements. This one is an example of a Relationship Agreement (as opposed to a Safer Sex Agreement, which I’ll cover next).

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

~♥ Dawn

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

True confessions: I was hopeful that I’d be posting Tip #2 next.  I have officially given up that notion for the moment in favor of posting some of the other stuff I wrote while out on the boat with my friend.  Just because I have writer’s block around the next section doesn’t mean I can’t put up some useful stuff! It’ll just be out of order. [Death to perfectionism! “Get a C!” as Samantha Bennett says!] Since when has order been required for information to be helpful, after all? (Certainly my life is often “out of order”–in many ways!!)  You want it in order?  You’ll have to buy the book once I manage to get through this!

Onward. :^)

So this section will be another of the Appendices. This one is tentatively part of Appendix B, a collection of various example Agreements.  As I discussed in last month’s East Bay Poly Discussion Group (on the topic of making tricky/safer sex Agreements), I usually recommend that agreements around safer sex/epidemiology/virology be separated out from Agreements around emotional safety, and other Relationship Agreements.  Trying to achieve safer sex through emotional safety agreements (e.g., “No falling in love!” as a safer sex agreement…) is often ineffective, leads to drama, and is sometimes downright dangerous.

Caveats, Whys, and Wherefores

This is (somewhat obviously) NOT a Safer Sex Agreement.  I’ll give you the matching Safer Sex portion of this Agreement in the next post. And then I’ll give you some other examples, written by other people.

This is an example Relationship Agreement. It is not the One True Right and Only Way to do an Agreement.  It’s just ONE way. It’s not necessarily the best way.  You’ll need to work out for yourself what the best way is for you.

It’s very couple-centric (aka “hierarchical” or “Primary-Secondary type”).  If that’s not your relationship style, it may be less helpful to you as a “recipe” to follow. However, you can still use it as a jumping off point, or a way to generate ideas about what YOU might find important to discuss, or to put in a written Relationship Agreement. Try it on.  Keep what works for you.  Don’t worry about the rest.

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Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.Ever feel like polyamory is “just too complicated?”  If so, you’re not alone!  This entry in the Agreements Workbook series is an appendix entry, showing one possible way of imagining the relationship dynamics in a polyamorous relationship, specifically a triad.

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.


Appendix A: A model of multiple partner relationship dynamics

A triad relationship (three people, each involved with the other), could be shown as:

Equilateral Triangle with vertices labeled A, B, & C

Which, when broken down into individual relationships is:

A <—> B

B <—> C

C <—> A

In addition, the relationship as a whole can be seen as a single entity. We talk about “saving the relationship” (as if it were a drowning person,) “building the relationship” (as if it were a house,) and “being in a relationship” (as if it were a boat.) So in addition to each person in the relationship, the relationship itself has a kind of separate existence as a function of the combination of relationships.  And on top of that, each person, in addition to having a relationship with each other individual person, also has a relationship with the relationship as a whole:

A <—> Relationship

B <—> Relationship

C <—> Relationship

So added all together, a triad relationship has at least seven sub-relationships, in contrast to the three found in an exclusive pair relationship (the relationship between the two partners, plus the relationship each of them has to the relationship).  If you add in the relationship that each member of the triad has to the relationship between each pair in the triad, it gets even more complicated.

Of course, most people aren’t consciously tracking all of these relationships all the time. But breaking it down like this can help to illustrate why subtle changes in the dynamic between two partners might affect the third partner, even if they aren’t directly involved, for instance. Or why many newcomers to polyamory conclude that it’s just “too complicated” for them to handle.

In addition, a triad is arguably the least complicated form of polyamorous relationship. If the form of polyamory that you practice is, say, an open network, then the number of sub-relationships can quickly multiply beyond the point of being able to track them all without software. (Which might be part of why many polyfolk joke about the handheld computer being a logical choice as a symbol for polyamory.)

It should be noted, however, that these sorts of relationship dynamics are occurring around us at all times, between three friends, three children, families of three, three co-workers, etc. It’s worth remembering that the only difference between any of these sorts of relationships and a polyamorous triad, is that the polyamorous triad has the possibility of a sexual relationship between more than one pair of people. Otherwise, they’re just the same.


~♥ Dawn

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

[© 2011 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: Agreements Tip #1: Begin With Brainstorming]

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