PQ 14.5 — Is everyone affected by the agreement at the table negotiating it?
Ooooo… This one is a flashback: PQ 10.3 – Does everyone affected by the agreement have the opportunity to be involved in setting its terms?
In that piece, I talk about a situation in which you answer an ad to live with two roommates only to find that they’ve unilaterally decided that not only are you paying a third of the rent (which is fair), you’ll be doing 100% of the dishes (which is not). When you’re a new partner brought into a relationship system with established rules, it can feel an awful lot like this.
The trouble, of course, is that established relationship systems will have standard ways that they operate. Ways that web members are used to doing things.
What’s instrumental in these situations is the principle of informed consent. If there’s some weird rule about the dishes, it’s imperative that the new roommate know and accept that condition prior to moving in. Or in a polyamorous situation, if there are other limits or expectations, it’s best to let those be known. A written relationship agreement can be a powerful ally in these times, a way of making sure new partners understand how people within that polyamorous system typically operate and what expectations and rules there will be (if any, some webs are rather freewheeling).
And at that time if there’s anything that troubles the new partner, they can bring it up. Perhaps there’s a restriction too burdensome (which seems to be the scenario that More than Two is generally concerned with). Or, as has been more the case in my experience (since my anchor agreement is a rather bare bones care-based carte blanche), the new partner wants additional safeguards or new rules imposed.
When a new partner brings up amendments, I sometimes find it helpful to make sure I think them over for a few days. Not because I’m unwilling accommodate them (I can’t think of a situation offhand where I didn’t say yes), but because I want to take time to be sure that if I agree to new adjustments that they’re something I can actually follow through on. Because that would be even worse: Agreeing to a renegotiation in theory that I immediately reneged on in action.
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.