PQ 11.5 — Do I clearly understand both the letter and the intent of the rules that will apply to my relationship? Am I comfortable maintaining a relationship within those rules? Am I comfortable with the reasons for the rules?

a steel sign with raised letters that say "THE LAW" viewed from an angle
Image by biscuitsmlp / CC BY

PQ 11.5 — Do I clearly understand both the letter and the intent of the rules that will apply to my relationship? Am I comfortable maintaining a relationship within those rules? Am I comfortable with the reasons for the rules?

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In my time, I’ve known some folks with very brief relationship agreements.

One couple I knew fell into lockstep with Google’s mantra of 2000: “Don’t Be Evil.”

Their entire relationship agreement was the following: “Don’t be a jerk.”

There was an elegant simplicity to such a statement. It was their guiding principle. Are you being a jerk? If so, stop it.

And yet… there were problems with it in execution. “Jerk” is subjective. And what constitutes being one depends on who you ask.

All it takes for one person to be in violation of this agreement is for the other person to say that they’re being a jerk. Which might have been what they were going for.

But having been exposed to the metamour from Hell in my past poly experiences, I can easily see how such unilateral judgments could well be abused. Or how a gut reaction (or overreaction) could easily turn into an unfair arbiter of our character.

“I feel bad, so you’re a jerk. And you’ve violated our relationship agreement.”

It can be a frightfully close leap from the pain to the accusation. Especially in times of emotional volatility.

So while it might work for others, I couldn’t see myself having that particular agreement.

The Letter of the Law Can Be a Powerful Ally

And indeed, when it comes to relationship agreements, I think it’s important to pay close attention to the letter of the law. And if there’s an intent behind that to let my partner know so that we can build that intent better into the agreement itself.

Be as specific, clear, and comprehensive as we can be so that no one has to mind read. Or risk violating our expectations because they weren’t properly spelled out.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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