Tag Archives: Real Life

More Poly Media

Poly vs. Tea Party on ABC-TV

Poly vs. Tea Party on ABC-TV

I’ve been busy this past week at a business conference, InfusionCon. A 7am to 11pm schedule each day left me with little time or energy, and as a result, I missed all the hullabaloo over last week’s episode of Wife Swap that included a polyamorous family from New York State. The Wife Swap folks have been nosing about the poly community for a number of years now, looking for someone willing to take on this gamble… er… challenge. Obviously, they finally found someone willing to chance it. This one, unlike the recent poly episode on  Our America with Lisa Ling, was available on Hulu (and is also viewable online at the ABC site), so several members of my household sat down to watch it tonight. So how’d it go?

As Alan M. of Poly In the News pointed out, it could have been way worse. In ways, I think it was just about as good an outcome as we could expect from such a show. Ultimately, the poly family came out looking fairly normal, quite loving, and very supportive of one another. The kids of the Tea Party family all seemed pretty reasonable and normal, but the adults were shown to be quite intolerant and unwilling to abide by the rules to which they’d previously agreed.

You can read more about the episode over at Poly In the News, if you’d like. Warning: there are definite spoilers in Alan’s review, so if you intend to watch the show, you might want to do it first, before reading the coverage.

For extra amusement value, apparently Rush Limbaugh covered the show as well.

A balanced documentary about polyamorous life, it was not, of course. But for something aimed at creating as much drama as possible in the name of “entertainment,” the polyamorous family ended up being a stand for love and diversity.

Yes, it could have been a lot worse, indeed.

Here’s hoping your life is as full of love — and as empty of drama — as you could wish!

~♥ Dawn

PS: I think the Tea Party family could use a bit of a refresher on how to make and keep Agreements, don’t you? If you’re interested in learning more about making KISSable Agreements, you might want to download the excerpt of my upcoming book,* which includes the most important tool for getting to Win-Win-Win.  Enjoy!


* You’ll need to give an accurate email address so I can send you the file, and I’ll add you to my fairly low-traffic list at the same time… but you can always unsubscribe if you don’t want to remain after you get the file.  Of course, I hope you’ll stay!


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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

RISK Motivational Poster

The Time for Love is NOW

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

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

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

I wrote this to someone privately today:

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

A common motivational poster says:

RISK Motivational Poster

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

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

So mote it be. 🙂

Love is also a risk.

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

We never know if there will be a tomorrow.

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

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

The time for love is NOW.


PS: I love you. :^)

Relationship 10x by Reid Mihalko

Relationship Tuneups: FREE Webinar with Reid, PLUS Dawn’s Coaching SALE

Relationship 10x by Reid Mihalko

Hey everyone!  I’m in Memphis, visiting my family. Mostly we’ve done ok so far, despite some of the usual communication challenges.  After all, they say your family knows just how to push your buttons… because they installed them!! If you’re having something like that experience as well, you might want to check out this free Relationship10x video from Reid Mihalko [TOMORROW December 27th at 8:30pm EST/5:30Pacific]. He’s got some great tips for better relationships, including not only your romantic relationships, but also the ones with your family. You can read lots more about the webinar below!

Don’t forget, too, that I’m still running some specials on my own 1:1 coaching. Call (510-686-3386) or email me to take advantage of my coaching package deal ($100 off of 4 hours of individual coaching), before I raise my rates on January 1st Not sure? Drop me a line and we’ll set up a time to do a free 30 minute consultation. In that thirty minutes, I’ll help you get clear on your next steps, as well as to send you my Jealousy Judo handout, just for spending the time with me. Whether you end up working with me, taking advantage of Reid’s snazzy new program, or something else, I’m committed to you getting what you need to create your own best life and relationships!

Hope your holidays are filled with all the love you want and need (and your relatives aren’t driving you TOO crazy! ;^)

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’m an affiliate of Reid’s, so if you choose to purchase something from him, I’ll get a percentage.  I never recommend anything I don’t think is truly worth your time and money, however, and Reid (and this program) is certainly no exception.  I wish I’d known some of his information YEARS ago! Check it out!

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How To Smoothly Relieve Conflict, Add Ease, and Invite Fun in Your Relationships While Juggling a Busy Life, Job, and Family
with Reid Mihalko of Relationship10x
December 27th at 8:30pm EST

Is your relationship out of tune? Are you feeling all the bumps and dips this holiday season?

Want to “pull over” and fix it, but you just can’t find the time?

It’s amazing how small changes in the right places can make the ride SO much nicer! If you could clear up that background buzz on the radio, restock the wiper fluid, and get the heater working in your car, the trip could go from annoying and wearing to enjoyable and relaxing! But when you’re juggling a busy life, it’s next to impossible to find the time, so you grin and bare it till the car breaks down and you HAVE TO.

The same is true for relationships. You may be out of alignment. Some old issues might be creating a lot of resentment and background noise, you may not be seeing everything clearly, and it may be getting pretty frosty… even downright frigid in the bedroom, but we grin and bare it with the best of intentions… Until it all explodes. And then it’s often too late to salvage anything and we scap the entire thing!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Ask yourself, Isn’t it time for a Relationship Tune-Up?

Why not exit 2012 and pull into 2013 with a smoother “relationship ride”…

If you’d like to learn how to warm things up and create more ease and laughter in your relationships, join Reid Mihalko, founder of Relationship10x, for an hour of easy to impliment and practical upgrades. You’ll love Reid’s humor and down-to-earth approach as he shares unexpected and powerful approaches that really work.

The best part is, the tools he teaches take very little time to use. In fact, you’ll find your life moving along with lots less friction and wear-and-tear!

On the call, Reid will cover:
– Three things you can do to lessen conflict in your day to day relationships (A.K.A. – What to do to get your partner to stop yelling at you!)
– Two common mistakes people make in their relationships that’s making them unnecessarily difficult.
– Why long term relationships are so difficult to keep “alive,” and the #1 thing you can do to reignite the feelings of passion, romance and FUN again!

PLUS: The difference between “erotic turn-on” and “sensual turn-on,” and how knowing the difference between the two can improve your bedroom experiences for all parties involved 10x!

If you’re tired of struggling along, feeling frustrated and lonely, spend an hour with Reid and discover the wonder of deep connection and authentic conversation. You deserve it. Your family deserves it. Give yourself this gift this holiday season and rediscover magic and delight in your relationships again.

Sign Up Now!


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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson, except copy about Reid’s Webinar, which belongs to Reid!]


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!

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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!)

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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

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.


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[© 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]

Fallen Lake cover art

Poly-themed novel “Fallen Lake”; Journey to Wholeheartedness Workshop

Hey folks!  Sorry for the delay in posting.  I’ve come down with a nasty cold. :^( I’ve been mostly on my back for a couple of days now, with a super-sore throat and other symptoms. Fortunately for you, THAT kind of virus isn’t transmissible via the Internet!

Fallen Lake cover art

In the meantime, I thought I’d let local folks know about two upcoming events that I’m involved in.  First is the local East Bay Poly Potluck and Discussion on Tuesday 11/27, at which we’ll be hosting local SF Bay Area author Laird Harrison.  Laird will be doing a reading from his poly-themed novel, Fallen Lake, followed by some discussion (facilitated by yours truly.)   You can read more about the book at the publisher’s website.  Want to attend the discussion group, but you’re not yet on the EBPP/DG announcement list?  Write to me privately with your address and I’ll send you the announcement with the RSVP Google-spreadsheet link in it.

Interested in the novel, but can’t make it to the discussion? You can get a DISCOUNTED copy of the book for only $9 ($6.95 off the cover price).  Again, write to me in email with your email address, and I’ll be happy to send you the discount code. Want a signed copy of the book? Write directly to Laird: lairdh-fallenlake@yahoo.com.

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Journey to Wholeheartednewss Logo

And in other news, I’m part of a team working to bring a new workshop to the Bay Area for the first time in January of 2013 (1/25 through 1/27). This experiential workshop, called the Journey to Wholeheartedness,  is based on Brene Brown‘s important work on shame and vulnerability.  Longtime HAI Intern and presenter David Spinney will be presenting. If you’re on Facebook, you can find out more on the Journey to Wholeheartedness Event Page.  If you’re not on FB, you can read more at the Journey to Wholeheartedness website, or download a pdf flyer.

In the meantime, I highly recommend that you watch the TED talks of Dr. Brown’s work.  Here are several YouTube links, for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying good health, and lots of love!

~♥ Dawn


PS:  Like my Love Outside the Box logo? Now you can get it on T-shirts, mugs, and ornaments! Check it out!


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[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]


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]

Making Positive Changes [Agreements Tip #3: Additive Agreements]

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

“The only constant is change.” — Heraclitus of Ephesus, c.535 BCE – 475 BCE

Right now, my life is undergoing some massive changes. I’m not really at liberty to discuss some of them, as they’re not my news, but suffice to say, they affect me and my family profoundly.  One result of this change, is that I’ve taken an immense “swan dive into the unknown” by taking another course (this one called Creative Genius CEO–how cool is that? :)) from my mentor Samantha Bennett.  Tangentially related, I’m participating in the National Obsession With Writing Month (aka WNFIN or NaNoWriMo) by attempting to finish a draft of my Agreements Workbook. So what this means is that you can expect to see significantly more of me in the upcoming weeks, for sure. I may not POST every day, but my goal is to attempt to WRITE (almost) every day on something related to the Workbook, and/or Sam’s course. And I’ll certainly be posting more often.

Therefore, without further ado, here’s the next installment in the Agreements Workbook, Tip #3:  “Additive Agreements, OR New Models for Old Situations,” which  is about providing positive options and positive frames for your Agreements.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries, feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

“We might as well enjoy the ride” — James Taylor in “The Secret O’ Life


Here’s hoping your ride is at least as fun as it is full of twists and turns!

~♥ Dawn

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

PPS: I’m a Really Big Fan (aka Affiliate) of Sam’s, so if you click on one of the links here to go to her website, I might eventually see a little money from anything you might choose to buy from her. But she’s worth it.  Not sure?  Check out one of her awesome poems totally for Free. 🙂


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

3) “Additive” Agreements:  New models for old situations

In making effective Agreements, it’s important to “stay positive” in a couple of different ways.  First, in changing any behavior, especially a habitual one, it’s important to know what to do differently.  Otherwise, then the same situation arises, the default behavior will be the habitual one. So what happens when the same situation arises, and you don’t have a new action to substitute for the old habit? Most likely, you’ll do the old thing again, with added shame and guilt in addition to your feelings of failure!  Whee! So instead of that, it’s a great idea to figure out in advance what you’re going to do instead, the next time that thing happens. I call this making the Agreement “Additive,” because it adds new options in place of the old ones.

Another way it’s helpful to stay positive in Agreements is to phrase your intentions in a positive way.  Generally, people who like to do Daily Affirmations [e.g., http://www.positivelypositive.com/2012/04/20/the-art-of-affirmation/] advise that it’s best to frame those as positives, otherwise, you end up accidentally affirming exactly what you don’t want. I have also found this to hold true when making Agreements, which are essentially “relationship affirmations” of a sort — things both/all parties agree to affirm with their thoughts and actions.

So let’s look at this very simple example. Suppose you need to keep the bedroom neater.  It’s tempting to try to write this down as “I/we will stop leaving clothes on the floor.”  However, this isn’t a great Agreement for several reasons:

  1. There is no alternative action.  Where exactly does the laundry actually belong, then, on the bed?  In the bathroom?  Draped over the lamp? If you want it in the hamper, it’s best to say that.
  2. It’s framed as a negative, which will continue to affirm the behavior you don’t want, rather than energetically emphasizing what you do want.
  3. Also, by phrasing it in the future tense, you may never see the results, because they’ll always be in some nebulous future. When exactly will you stop the behavior?  Tonight?  Next week? When you get around to it? Phrasing it as something you are doing now is generally more effective.

So instead, you might try something more like “I/we agree that we will place dirty laundry into the laundry bin immediately upon taking it off.”  That is specific, positive, and timely, and includes a specific action to replace the one you want to change.  All these suggestions apply just as well to more complex or more “charged” Agreements — e.g., those around safer sex, or resource sharing amongst several lovers — as they do to this simple example.


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

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson, except the song “Secret of Life,” which is © 1977 by James Taylor]

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: The Fun Factor in Agreements: Tip #4]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #2c: Have Clear Consequences]

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

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

Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Love Outside the Box: Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love is nothing to be ashamed of.

That’s the thought I finally came to, at the end of my journey of processing the request made of me a few weeks ago, that in order to stay in an online course, I agree to never mention my niche or the word polyamory. I was honestly shocked to get this request; shocked and traumatized, all of my worst fears about being ‘out’ about poly come to life. Here I’d signed on to this course to become more confident in bringing my skills and talents to the world, and to help people understand the joys and challenges of polyamory and other “outside the box” forms of relating (at least as I’ve experienced them and learned over 15 years of intensive study) — and merely mentioning my niche brought down censure on my head. Was she (the course leader) right, that polyamory is “not G-rated” and inherently “squirmy”? Was I the one out of line, to think it would be ok to talk openly about polyamory?

We here in the Uncharted waters have had many a discussion (on lists, in discussion groups, on the web…) about whether sex is an inherent part of the definition of polyamory. I generally don’t think it’s required, though of course I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….

Yes, of course, that’s a very extreme and somewhat silly example… but is it any more extreme and silly than presuming that because my context is “polyamorous people,” that when I talk about communication tools, they are necessarily about communicating about sex? What exactly makes polyamory “not G-rated”? For that matter, is sex itself automatically R-rated, never mentionable to anyone under 17? And if so, why do they teach about it in middle school?? I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t my mind making polyamory into a 24/7 lurid group-sex encounter. Though I will admit to amusement when viewing this old ad that was going around on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

Hanky Panky at the Beach?

Good clean fun at the beach?

No, it seems pretty clear to me that the issue with polyamory being an unfit topic for polite dinner-table conversation was in the mind of that beholder … and unfortunately in a lot of other as-yet uneducated-about-poly minds out there. When she thought about polyamory, she felt “squirmy,” aka uncomfortable, aka shame. One of the pernicious characteristics of shame is that it is “contagious”–it spreads from person to person, often below the level of consciousness.  Her shame triggered my shame. It took me days and a lot of processing to get through it. And that’s AFTER working on this stuff for years. Shame is pretty powerful stuff.

At the Open-SF conference in June, the excellent Charlie Glickman presented a wonderful workshop entitled “Love, Sex, and Shame.” In it he talked about the manifestations of shame (e.g., closed posture, averted eyes/face, mumbling or silence, “shifty”/”squirmy”, energetic disconnection), vs. the manifestations of love (e.g., open posture, direct gaze, easy communication, groundedness/ease, energetic connection, etc). Pretty much, actively experiencing love is diametrically opposed to actively experiencing shame. It’s hard to experience both at the same time.  Isn’t that interesting?

Unfortunately, much of our culture holds that sex is inherently shameful. By extension, anything that leads to sex (with the possible exception of procreative sex between male and female spouses) is by extension inherently shameful. I think that viewpoint is de facto harmful. Certainly it was harmful to me to hear as a young person that my normal feelings and thoughts were somehow bad and wrong… that *I* was bad and wrong. It’s hard to feel love, and to express it in a healthy way, if at the core you believe yourself to be broken. It took me many years, and a lot of heartache (not to mention a lot of money spent on therapists…), to finally move beyond that toxic frame into the freedom and joy in both love and sex that I now believe to be my birthright (and that of every human being.)

For me, the path of healing wound its way through many places, starting with making a choice to find my own spirituality, and winding up most recently with me refusing to be shamed and silenced for who and how many I love. Each step has involved me finding a bit that has been shamed, and being willing to entertain the notion that it wasn’t ME who was bad and wrong… but instead the unnecessary shame that had been forced on me for no other reason than that who and what I was didn’t fit into the particular box that was on offer at the time.

Understand that I believe that not all boxes are wrong, either. Sometimes boxes (or containers, or marriages–use the word that fits for you…) are places of safety. They’re where we keep our most prized memories. They provide support and boundaries. Sometimes they’re very beautiful; sometimes strong; sometimes fragile. But not all things (nor all creatures, nor all people) fit inside of every box. You know how there’s often that one package at the holidays that just refuses to fit inside the standard boxes, so you end up wrapping a small box with a note in it, or giving them a card, or sticking a million bows on it and hiding it in the back hallway instead?  There’s nothing wrong with the gift for not fitting in that box — in fact, it might be THE best gift of them all because of the very thing that makes it not fit in the box! And there’s nothing wrong with the box either, just because that gift didn’t fit inside. It’s just a bad fit between that box, and that gift.

Well, that’s how I feel about polyamory, and about love. Polyamory is a great gift that doesn’t happen to fit the box that we got issued at the Universal Post Office. Polyamory is so chock full of LOVE that it spills out the sides and cannot be contained in the “usual” ways. (And lest you think I’m all sappy and Pollyanna (ha!) about poly, I also think that polyamory is sometimes the gift that proclaims “some assembly required” and for which the directions seem to be written in a foreign language.)  Polyamory is bold and beautiful and complicated and drama-filled and a damn AFGO (“Another F-ing Growth Opportunity!”), and the worst thing and the best thing that I’ve ever done, all at once. (No, I take that back. The best thing I’ve ever done is to birth my amazing daughter. But poly is a close second.) When you get right down to it, polyamory is just a whole lotta LOVE all squished into one package (some assembly required).

And love, my friends, is nothing to be ashamed of.

Go sing your own song. Go chart your own ways.

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

Love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re looking for some assistance in singing your own song, you can always 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 in the Uncharted waters (to mix a couple of metaphors!) 🙂



©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

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