Tag Archives: Tools

Robyn Trask photo

Agreements Webinar Wed Aug 14th — Plus Discount!

Robyn Trask photo

Robyn Trask, head of Loving More Nonprofit

Good news, everybody! Loving More Non-profit is continuing their informative webinar series, Wednesday August 14 at 7pm Mountain Time/6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern. This month’s webinar is on a topic near and dear to my own heart: “Negotiating Boundaries and Polyamorous Relationship Agreements.” It’ll be presented by head of Loving More, Robyn Trask,

NOTE: Usually these webinars are $9 for non-members of Loving More, but Robyn is allowing me to offer a special deal for you to get a 10% discount.  Just use code DAWND when you sign up for the webinar!

You can read the whole announcement and sign up for this month’s webinar here: https://www.lovemore.com/conferences/polyamory-webinar/

August 14th, 2013 – 7:00 pm Mountain Time
PLEASE NOTE: Time listed is Mountain – Space is limited!!

Negotiating Boundaries and Polyamorous Relationship Agreements
with Robyn Trask

One of the biggest challenges in polyamorous relationships (actually all relationships) is understanding our boundaries, creating agreements that work as well as knowing how to negotiate and navigate the complexity of our emotional responses. This webinar will go through the basics of understanding boundaries and negotiating agreements that help create a safe container to expand love and connections. Included in the discussion will be safer sex agreements, how agreements change and evolve over time, finding what works for you and your partner/s and how agreements can be an important part in expending connections and creating lasting relationships.

Register Here

*Registration for this webinar is FREE for Loving More annual and monthly donating members, or is $9 for non-members, and is on a first come, first serve basis. You must fill out the registration form from the link below to attend.

Remember:  Use Discount code DAWND for 10% off when you register!

Members need to contact Loving More directly — Robyn@lovemore.com — to receive member discount information. Include full name and and  type of donating member – monthly or annual.

(PSSST: Want to try out the Loving More webinar series for FREE?  Listen to the recording of the May webinar anytime!  — “Beyond Monogamy? Introduction to Polyamory and Other Relationship Choices” with Robyn Trask)

Want yet more information about Agreements?  Check out my KISSable Agreements Workbook entries! Or download the excerpt of the workbook, called Getting to Win-Win-Win.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to set up some Agreements for yourself, but don’t know where to start? I’m happy to do a free 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you, to get you started. Get clear on how to figure out what your needs are, and how those relate to Agreements.  Want more help?  I’m happy to walk you through the process of setting up Agreements, step by step!  I’m even running a summer special, so you can save over 30% on a package! Contact me via my webform, Or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time for a free intro session!


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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Robyn Trask (center), Jesus Garcia (Right), of Loving More Nonprofit, with Ben Silver (Left)

FREE Webinar: 8 Keys to Poly Relationships

Robyn Trask (center), Jesus Garcia (Right), of Loving More Nonprofit, with Ben Silver (Left)

Presenters Robyn Trask (center), and Jesus Garcia (Right), with musician Ben Silver (Left)

Robyn Trask and Jesus Garcia of Loving More Non-profit are continuing their informative FREE webinar series this Thursday, June 20 at 7pm Mountain Time/6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern.

You can read the whole announcement here:


The series will include topics such as polyamory and dating, making agreements, developing authentic communication, moving through jealousy, raising children in a polyamorous home and much more.

The Webinars are online and can be accessed from anywhere with a computer and good Internet connection and are also available by phone.

The June webinar is:

8 Keys to Successful Polyamorous Relationships

What are the keys to making polyamorous relationships work? This webinar will explore common challenges that set people up for failure in polyamory and loving relationships as well as how to overcome the obstacles. Our goal is to help people create relationships that thrive instead of merely survive.

with Robyn Trask and Jesus Garcia

Register Here

PLEASE NOTE: Time listed is Mountain – Space is limited!!

Registration for this webinar is free and is on a first come, first serve basis and you must fill out the registration form from the link below to attend.

Register Here

Missed the May Webinar? You can access a recording anytime!

“Beyond Monogamy? Introduction to Polyamory and Other Relationship Choices”
with Robyn Trask

Access Webinar

Should be another very interesting and useful call!  Space is limited, so grab your spot before it fills up. 🙂

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to set up a time to talk with me about polyamory, monogamy, and how to design your own best relationships? I’m happy to do a free 30 minute, or a 1/2 price 60 minute phone session with you. Get clear on what your relationship structure is, and underlying assumptions about rules and boundaries, and your relationship/s will be easier and happier! Or call me (510-686-3386) to set up a time for a free intro session!
PPS: In honor of Pride Month, you might also want to check out my Love Is OK T-shirt with the rainbow heart.  Because no matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK! (Tip: Use code 15SUNSETDEAL for a 15% discount when you order by 8pm Pacific on 6/19/13.)

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

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

Sharing the Love (More) Safely

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

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

Here’s what they say on their website:

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

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

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

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


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

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

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

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

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

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

Want some help negotiating safer sex (or any other kind of) Agreements? I’m always happy to schedule a free 30 minute session (or 60 minutes for half price). And if you act before the end of February, you can still get my Valentine’s Day coaching discounts.

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

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

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

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

~♥ Dawn

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

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3) Differing Interpretations of the Agreement

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

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

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

What to do?

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

4) Agreement Was Not Additive

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

What to do?

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

5) Agreement Simply Can’t Work

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

What to do?

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

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

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

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.


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

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

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

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


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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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Is It Over?

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.As I’m approaching the end of the Agreements Workbook Series (aka “KISSable Agreements), one topic that often comes up is how to tell when a relationship is well and truly over, or at least in need of some serious changes. In a “standard monogamous paradigm” relationship, it would be easy to know: one or the other of you has cheated, someone has filed divorce papers, or one or both of you is dead. But here in the Uncharted waters, we relationship explorers often don’t find it so easy to tell. Our definition of “cheating” is usually different, for one thing (it doesn’t just mean having sex with someone else, obviously!), and we don’t necessarily think every relationship is destined for eternity. It’s often said that relationships are “for a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” and that means death isn’t the only “acceptable” reason for a relationship to end, or change form.  So how do you tell?

To answer this question, I wrote a handout with some helpful tips, titled “Is It Over? or, When Might It Be Time to End or Change a Relationship?”  You can download that handout via this webform, if you like.  (Some of the formatting of this one is a bit tricky to do here, which is why I’ve made it a pdf.) Please remember to give me a valid email address, because I’ll need it to send you the pdf! You’ll also get added to my newsletter list (if you’re not on it already), but if you don’t want to stay on it after you’ve confirmed your address and gotten your pdf, you can always unsubscribe with the link at the bottom of every email.

By the way, one of the comments I’ve gotten from some folks who’ve read the handout, is that they found it reassuring, since it helped them to see that the issues facing them were not of the sort that portended the imminent demise of the relationship!  And even if it is time for the relationship to end or change, you don’t have to view that as a failure.  Instead, you can choose to view it as a graduation.

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

~♥ Dawn

love_is_ok_rainbow_heart_tshirtPS: My Love Outside the Box t-shirts, mugs, and heart-shaped ornaments would make great Valentine’s Day gifts! There’s still time to personalize them and get them to your sweeties before the big day!  And through February 8th, Zazzle is running a 50% off special on Premium Shipping (use code SHIPPINGLOVE.) Sweet!

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Is It Over?

…or, when might it be time to end or change a relationship?

Respect.  Honesty.  Communication. Mutual consideration for each other’s wants and needs. These are the cornerstones of a functional, happy, healthy relationship. When these break down, no amount of writing and re-writing Agreements will help; no amount of “working on your jealousy issues” will result in comfort.  But when is it time to quit?  Here are some things that might be good to consider in making this decision.

First, consider your models of success

In our society, we tend to measure the success of a relationship based on assumptions of monogamy and permanence.  Especially if you’re in any alternative relationship structure, that might not be appropriate.

Common Societal Measures

  • Staying together no matter what
  • If they’re jealous, they must love you
  • They never want anyone else
  • “You complete me”
  • “Till Death do us part”

Some Possible New Measures of Success

  • Both people being fulfilled and happy
  • Compersion—I enjoy seeing my partner happy
  • You both enjoy your time together
  • Learning about yourself and partner(s)
  • Commitment to working things through

Even if your relationship is not a success by societal standards, it might be a success for YOU.  Make sure you’re not unconsciously following a set of standards that don’t fit you.

Yellow flags

If any or all of these are present, it might be time to consider ending or restructuring the relationship.

  • Not operating in “good faith”
    Repeated broken agreements with no apparent intention to change; lying; cheating; making excuses; justifying bad behavior; always blaming someone else.
  • Lack of effort or interest in you or the relationship
    Are they trying new things, new ways of looking a it, or even just continuing to try at all? If not, or if you seem to always be the one doing the work, it might be a sign that something more basic needs to change.
  • Complete and/or repeated failure to make or keep agreements
    Remember, once or twice is normal, but “forgetting” more than that is probably a bad sign.  Failure to keep Agreements after repeated attempts at re-writing is a very bad sign.
  • Contempt – “The sulfuric acid of love”
    According to John Gottman, one of the foremost researchers on marriage and long-term relationships, the single biggest predictor of failure in a relationship is contempt by one person for the other.  If they are belittling you, making mean fun of you, not taking your needs or wishes into consideration, non-consensually humiliating you, or otherwise demonstrating a lack of respect, you should definitely consider ending or changing the relationship.
  • Mental illness or addiction, especially untreated
    We don’t advise abandoning your mate or partner at the first sign of trouble.  However, sometimes illness or addiction prevent them from being able to change in ways that are vital to your health, theirs, and the health of the relationship.  If you suspect that this is the case, get outside assistance, possibly in the form of individual, couple, or group therapy.  Expert advice and perspective can be invaluable in helping you to figure out if this is a phase, something that can be treated or worked with, or if it is intractable and ultimately toxic to you.

Red Flags

  • Abuse: Physical, mental, or emotional
    Non-consensual physical, mental, or emotional torture is Not OK.  Get out, and get help immediately.  (If you’re not sure if you consented, that is itself at least a Yellow Flag. Get help figuring things out from a knowledgeable professional.)

Keep in mind that ending a relationship is not necessarily a “failure”

“Leslie and I are no longer married. Soul mates, to me, don’t define themselves by legal marriage. There’s a learning connection that exists between those two souls. Leslie and I had that for the longest time, and then a couple of years ago, she had this startling realization. She said, ‘Richard, we have different goals!’ I was yearning for my little adventures and looking forward to writing more books. Leslie has worked all her life long, and she wanted peace, she wanted to slow the pace, not complicate it, not speed it up. Not money, not family, no other men or other women, separated us. We wanted different futures. She was right for her. I was right for me. Finally it came time for us to make a choice. We could save the marriage and smother each other: ‘You can’t be who you want to be.’ Or we could separate and save the love and respect that we had for each other. We decided the marriage was the less important. And now we’re living separate lives.

“I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There’s so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation. We didn’t say, ‘I guess we weren’t led to each other, I guess we’re not soul mates after all.’ Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go.”

Richard Bach (in his now defunct personal website, originally penned on Amazon.com)

(Jonathan Livingston Seagull is “a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules.”  Sound like anyone you know??)

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

[Next Entry: Agreements — Good Faith Efforts (2 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)

[Previous Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency (1 of 3 on Caveats and Assumptions)]

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

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

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Click here to get personalized help with your own Agreements!

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What About the Children? Cover of Loving More Magazine #37

Poly Parenting Resources

There’s been some discussion on various poly lists recently about polyamorous children’s books, and therefore some discussion of poly parenting.  I thought I’d put up a quick post about a few resources, for those who are interested.


Facebook group discussing the creation of children’s books that touch on polyamory, run by Michael Fleming:

Jessica Burde is in the process of publishing an e-book called Guide to Pregnancy and Polyamory, which will be the first of her “Poly on Purpose Guides”:

Some resources about polyamory and parenting recently gathered and posted by the esteemed Alan M of Poly In the News:

There are also a number of poly parenting lists here and there.  One is run by the folks at Loving More (who will be sponsoring Poly Living in early February, remember!):

[ADDED in 2014, for Custody Battles and the like: – Poly-Parenting Nightmares: Links & Advice]

Not specifically poly, but aimed at any “sex-positive parent”:
Airial Clark, the Sex-Positive Parent, has two tweenage sons and her master’s in Human Sexuality from SF State, and she is committed that we parents have the information and support that we need for this task.  She’s giving away her Quick Start Guide to Sex-Positive Parenting (normally $15) for a limited time when you sign up for her mailing list:

Back on the topic of books of interest to the life of a polyamorous child, a couple of books that we enjoyed as our daughter was growing up are:
Love Is a Family by Roma Downey

(note, NOT the more well known “Love MAKES a Family,” which is also good)
This one is aimed at single parents with children, but covers a lot of ground familiar to any children with “weird” families.

Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore.

Sid the cat gets his needs met with six different families.  Is Sid a poly cat?? 🙂

And a bonus comment I posted in one of the threads on poly children’s books, about the idea of introducing a new partner to the kids… or to other new partners, for that matter:

I completely agree with the idea of gradually introducing a new partner to kids.  In fact, that’s what I’d recommend to adults, too! Attempting to suddenly add new partners to the mix to create the poly “Brady Bunch” [with or without kids!] has brought more heartache in my personal life, and more drama to those I’ve coached, than just about any other single practice. I find that gradually nurturing relationships, and moving *organically* into closer connection works much better.  This goes double with kids.  “This is your new Mommy” is unlikely to work well.  However, “hey, ‘Auntie’ Susie [who has been in the kid’s life for a year or more] is going to come live with us. That means she’ll get to be around for you when Mommy’s off at her new job. Isn’t that cool?” is likely to work much better.

There have been a few stellar examples of partnership in my poly-parenting life.  One was a woman (probably not coincidentally on the path to becoming a therapist at the time!) who actually only stayed a sexual partner of my husband for about 6 months.  However, she realized going in that she was forming a bond with our kid (then only about 2 or 3, IIRC), and therefore she stayed deliberately connected to her over time, showing up for birthday parties and household events regularly for years afterward. It was incredibly insightful, and a real gift in my daughter’s life, to get to see that these friendships and relationships did not HAVE to end even if the relationships between the adults changed in some way (that wasn’t really all that understandable or relevant to our daughter anyway, beyond the fact that she’d get less time with her friend.) This sort of interaction is only possible, of course, in a cooperative “split,” and is incredibly uncommon (IME) in the all-or-nothing “divorce” world.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well… and may your children grow up happy and well-adjusted, too!

~♥ Dawn

(parent of a 28-year old step-daughter, and almost-16-year old daughter)

PS: Want to talk about poly and parenting issues, or pick my brain for more resources?  Contact me to set up an initial 60-minute consultation for 50% off my usual hourly rate.  🙂

Check In and Re-negotiate [Agreements Tip #10]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.Here at last is Agreements Tip #10, “Check In Periodically / Re-negotiate If Needed,” from my Agreements Workbook series! Learn more below about checking in, keeping perspective, and what to do if someone is “pushing the envelope.”

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

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Like my Love Outside the Box logo? You can get t-shirts and other stuff with my logo (and other poly stuff) at Zazzle. There’s plenty of time before Valentine’s Day to order customized T-shirts, mugs, or heart-shaped ornaments for all of your sweeties. You can get bulk discounts on ornaments and mugs, too! 🙂


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Tip #10: Check in periodically/re-negotiate if needed

Check in as you go

One of the key points in consciously constructed Agreements is that in most cases they can be re-negotiated.  Remember that (in this workbook, at least!) we’re not talking about legally binding Agreements that require a judge or a lawyer to change. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to make a change?

To begin with, it’s important to keep in touch with the Agreements you’ve made. Especially with Time Limited Agreements (but also with any sort of Agreements), it’s very important to note when things are not working, and to address such issues as soon as possible. Don’t wait till things break down completely before talking to your partner/s about any issues!  That just courts disaster in the form of broken Agreements, and broken trust.

Be flexible and creative

Remember that these sorts of Agreements are not “set in stone,” so it’s important to remain flexible and responsible to your partner’s needs, while still honoring your own as well. (Remember that the relationship needs your needs, AND those of your partner/s! p.___) Be open to renegotiating from a collaborative space. The more flexible and creative that both/all partners are, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that works for everyone.

Keep perspective

As you check in and perhaps renegotiate, it’s important to keep perspective.  Not all Agreements will work perfectly in their initial form the first time!  Some give and take is probably necessary in the process, and sometimes one or another partner will need to “overlook” something that’s annoying, but not really all that important in the larger scheme of things. Take a step back and consider the Agreement in the context of your whole relationship, and each of your lives.  What’s important? What might be ok to let drop, or to negotiate a bit around? Here are a few ideas:

Probably important:

  • Safer sex boundaries
  • Doing what you’ve promised to do and/or someone else is relying on you to do
  • Getting the kids to school or yourself to work on time
  • Actions impacting the family finances to a great degree

Probably not that important:

  • The direction the toilet paper roll unrolls
  • Whether you squeeze the toothpaste in the middle
  • Forgetting to write down what you spent on your coffee date one time (unless, for instance, you flew to Paris to do it…)
  • Returning from a date five minutes late one time (again, a pattern of this could be a warning sign; see “Pushing the Boundaries” on p. ___[in a future entry].)

If one of you says something like “Damn it, you put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way despite the agreement! I’m moving out!” you can bet that that person has lost perspective. Consider taking a break from your negotiations for 20 minutes or more [ref] to let that person calm down and regain their equilibrium.

Pushing the envelope: A warning sign

While it’s important for all partners to remain flexible, it’s also important to recognize when an Agreement is not really working, and is in danger of getting bent or broken. One of the biggest signs of an Agreement in peril is “pushing the envelope. This means one or more partners are repeatedly engaging in “grey area” activities and/or violating the spirit of the Agreement, even if not the letter of it. Both of these are warning signs that something is not actually working, and are a call to renegotiate sooner rather than later, before the Agreement gets broken.


Let’s say TJ, Sandy, and Loren have an agreement not to kiss anyone else outside of their own triad.  One day, Sandy goes to an event and kisses someone on the cheek, and then justifies it by saying “it was just on the cheek”! Depending on the reasons behind that Agreement, TJ and Loren might be ok with this behavior once, or even occasionally. But if Sandy repeatedly “forgets” this Agreement, and/or pushes the envelope even further (e.g., “it was just a peck on the lips; we didn’t French kiss or anything!”) then this may indicate that Sandy really shouldn’t have made this Agreement at all (Reason #5 of the Five Reasons; see p. ___ [in a future entry]), or that there is some other unmet need of Sandy’s that needs to be addressed through discussion and negotiation. Failing to address the boundary-pushing behavior, and therefore the unmet needs, is entirely too likely to result in the Agreement getting broken, and in subsequent hurt feelings and broken trust, which are much more difficult to repair.

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: When Agreements Fail: Competency ]

[Related Entry: 2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory]

[Previous Entry: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9) http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?p=2222]

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

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



Consorce — Alternative to Divorce, and/or Poly by Another Name?

Consorce is a new word derived from the Latin for “cohabitation.” It’s an alternative to “divorce” described in the article Don’t Get a Divorce, Get a ‘Consorce’.* Here’s an excerpt:

“The idea of married couples deciding on a ‘consorce,’ rather than a divorce, is this: Why should a couple split up the family funds, maintain two dwellings, involve the courts in their lives, hire attorneys and cause each other months or years of suffering when they could simply agree that the romantic part of their marriage has ended and that they will remain married and live together as friends and partners, in order to maintain a level of consistency for their children?”

Interestingly, the article insists that those who decide upon a ‘consorce’ arrangement are NOT engaged in an “open marriage,” because they are no longer having sex with one another. I find that an interesting position, and I’m not certain that I would agree.

Here are a few questions that occurred to me as I thought about this concept:

  • Is a ‘consorce’ ethical (especially for someone who originally vowed monogamy)?
  • Is it good for the children, because it keeps the family “intact”?
  • Might it be bad for the children, if, for instance, they remain exposed to volatile emotions, or tension in the home?
  • Is it necessary to lie to the children about what’s going on, to preserve the appearance of a “normal family”?  What about lying to school officials? Neighbors? Family and friends? Is that ethically justifiable?
  • Is a consorce another word for cheating or adultery?
  • Conversely, is it polyamory (or at least consensual non-monogamy or ‘designer relationships’) by another name?
  • Would a consorce be something to use a Time Limited Agreement on? Why or why not?

What do YOU think? As always, I welcome your input! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS: One of the services I offer is that of creation of “Life Milestone Ceremonies,” such as weddings, relationship change rituals, baby blessings and other markers of significant life events. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to explore creating a handfasting, handparting, consorce agreement, or any other Agreement or ritual with one or more partners. I’m happy to help support you in having the life and relationships of your dreams!

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

*[Thanks to Eric C. in private communication for this interesting link!]

Time Limited Agreements [Tip #9]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry about Time Limited Agreements is Tip #9, from my Agreements Workbook series.  Find out below how short term Agreements with built in review dates can help support your relationships.

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

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Maybe get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you may be interested in the package deals I’m offering on my 1:1 counseling/coaching services. Let me know how I can support your relationships and explorations! I’m happy to do a FREE consultation to get things started.

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

Agreements Tip #9: Time Limited Agreements

One incredibly important tool in the Agreements toolbox is that of Time Limited Agreements. These are Agreements that are made with a specific, planned “review date,” at which time the Agreement “expires” and must be re-negotiated, renewed, or dropped (upon agreement of all partners.) I’ve also heard these described as “Time-Bound Experiments,” which is a great way to express it that emphasizes the short-term and experimental nature of these Agreements.

Whatever you choose to call them, putting a deliberate review date on the Agreement is incredibly useful in certain cases.  In particular it helps when one or more of the partners:

  • must give up something temporarily, in service to the relationship as a whole
  • need to agree to do something for the time being that they don’t like, find inconvenient, or would rather not do
  • are in the process of rebuilding trust (see p. ___ [in a future entry.])

Why Time Limited?

Trapped in an experiment?

Feeling Trapped??

Sometimes when making Agreements, one or more partners can end up feeling “trapped” by the Agreement, especially when that Agreement is seemingly “forever,” (e.g., a standard marriage Agreement with an assumption or explicit agreement for monogamy.) Sometimes these feelings can become so intense that it leads people to break or ‘bend’ the Agreement, because they feel (rightly or wrongly!) that there’s no way to ‘win’ or to negotiate something that might work better. Having a short term to the Agreement can help to alleviate these feelings, while still creating the safe container that other partner/s may need for growth or experimentation)

How Long?

Therefore, when using Time Limited Agreements, it’s important to choose an appropriate time frame for the Agreement to be in effect.  In general, these Agreements should be made for the shortest time possible that will suit the needs of the individuals and the relationship. Only you can know what that will be for you and your situation, of course. That said, I’ve rarely seen any Time Limited Agreement work for more than about 3 months at a time. Often, if an extremely long period is chosen (e.g., a year or more), partners can start to forget that the Agreement existed in the first place, forget details, or forget that it was time limited in the first place (and therefore start engaging in boundary-pushing and other behaviors that the Time Limited Agreement was created to help avoid.)

For most Time Limited Agreements, I generally recommend a time frame between a week and 3 months, with two weeks to a month being the most common.  This seems to give enough time to perform the experiment, test out the feelings, and come to initial conclusions, without triggering either “trapped” feelings, or having one or more partners start to forget aspects of the Agreement.

Keep in mind as well, however, that choosing a time-frame that’s too short can give the sense that you don’t trust your partner/s, or don’t understand what they’re already doing. As in so many things, it’s important to achieve balance.  Here are a couple of examples illustrating time-frames that are too short:

Example A
Suzie asked her partner Tom to forgo engaging in a particular activity for 2 days.  In fact, Tom had already been abstaining from that activity for a week by then, and felt insulted that Susie hadn’t even noticed! When Tom and Suzie changed the Agreement to reflect this, with Tom reporting back once a week to start with, Tom felt supported, not micromanaged, and Suzie felt confident that she was getting accurate information.

Example B
Pat asked partner Robin for help in learning to manage financial resources more effectively.  Robin’s response was to ask Pat to report back daily about activities, and in such detail that it felt utterly intrusive and controlling to Pat. Rather than rebelling completely (though it was tempting!) Pat asked for a different schedule (reporting back 2-3 times per week, using an easy check-off form), that allowed Robin to get the necessary information, without wasting Pat’s time on reporting that Pat felt could better be spent on creating new financial resources, for instance. By finding the happy medium, both partners felt happier and got more of their needs met.


At the end of the period, the next step is to review.  Remember that the Agreement is neither presumed to go on forever (or it wouldn’t be Time Limited!) nor is it automatically dropped without comment. The review date is just that — a time to review, reflect, and possibly renegotiate.  Here are some things to ask during the review:

  • Was the agreement a full success, and it is no longer needed at all?
  • Did it work, but the conditions still apply, and it needs to be extended, exactly as it is?
  • Was the agreement partially successful, but a small change would make it better?
  • Was the agreement not successful at all? Perhaps it’s time to renegotiate a new agreement or set of agreements.  Go back to your Needs Inventory (p. ___) for ideas, if necessary.

All Time Limited, All the Time?

Some folks feel that all Agreements should be time limited ones. There’s definitely an argument to be made for this view.  After all, it’s hard to know what will change in life, and when. People move, babies are born, jobs are lost or won, and each of these things (and more!) can have an effect on relationships and Agreements. As a result, simply making it a habit to date each and every one of your Agreements, and revisit them periodically (say, every year or so, perhaps tied to an anniversary, or in a New Year ritual) can be a useful tool in keeping everyone from becoming complacent, or assuming a permanence to life that isn’t realistic in the modern age. It also helps to reinforce the fact that all relationships — ideally, and in today’s “modern world” — are a matter of free choice. By actively choosing our Agreements, and our partners, over and over again, we keep in mind that we have agency over our own lives, and the power to make new choices if the old ones no longer fit.

Man standing at mirror, trying on clothes

Check the “fit” of your Agreements….

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

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Check In and Renegotiate (Agreements Tip #10) ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down ]

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

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

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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