PQ 14.7 — Are the needs now the same as the needs when we agreed to this?

an assortment of Heinz Villiger pin-up playing cards displayed on a pink and white polka dotted tablecloth. They are starting from the 12 o'clock position and moving clockwise: A 2 of clubs taht portrays a woman in a polka dot bathing suit holding a painting and kneeling in front of a ladder, the 5 of spades which shows a woman in a tutu bending over on a ladder, the 10 of diamonds which shows a woman who is wearing a pink top with deep cleavage and a pair of black pants sitting cross-legged, the King of hearts which shows a woman leaning on her side who appears to be some kind of sexy pirate, the 4 of hearts which features a woman with a feather hairpiece and a green bathing suit and leggings who is carrying some kind of umbrella, the 6 of hearts which features a woman in a black dress with a flower on it who appears to be admiring herself in a mirror hanging on the wall, and the 9 of hearts which features a woman in a bikini top and blue pants sitting on some kind of 4-legged stool
Image by tiffany terry / CC BY

PQ 14.7 — Are the needs now the same as the needs when we agreed to this?


“I’ve never really understood permission,” he says.

We’re sitting on the floor of my office. Sipping peppermint schnapps playing a rousing game of Crazy Eights with a deck of XXX cards.

“No?” I say. “What don’t you get about it?’

“It’s just so awkward,” he says.

“You think?” I say. “I mean, I guess it kind of thrusts you into a parental role. Like you’re asking your partner if you can spend the night at Jimmy’s house, pretty please.”

He laughs. “Well, yes, there’s that. That is a little weird.”

I take an extra long sip of schnapps and stare into his eyes. I have an 8 in my hand and am trying to decide if I want to lay it down and declare a suit. Or just go ahead and draw. His face gives me no hints. All I’m learning from it is that he’s cute. And that’s not exactly new information.

“But I meant it’s weird if you’re the new partner,” he adds.

“Oh,” I say. “This sounds interesting. Tell me more about that.”

“Have you ever been lying there half-naked in someone’s bed waiting while they text their partner to ask if you can have sex with them?” he says.

I pause to consider this. “No, I can’t say that I have.”

“It’s awkward to say the least,” he says.

He lays down an 8 of his own. Changes suit. And proceeds to unload his entire hand on me.


I bring this to my partner Seth later. Neither of us relish the awkward precoitus “Can I? Can I?” text. Not as sender or receiver.

We’ve been adjusting well to polyamorous life. And at this point what we’re looking for more of is flexibility. In a series of talks, we change our whole relationship paradigm — from needing notification of a crush and permission to even kiss to having a lot more wiggle room.

I’ve been in violation of the crush statute for ages anyway — as my partners keep figuring out I have feelings for other people before even I’m aware (I’m dense that way). I’ve done the “You like them.” “What? No way.” “Yeah, you do.” “Oh my God, you’re right. Shit. I do,” dance so many times. I know all the steps. And so far no one has really cared. Or felt blindsided.

So we renegotiate the terms of our relationship agreement, redefining certain activities as “full speed ahead, no ask required.” Kissing is one of these. Makeouts become a testing ground for chemistry, a way to have flexibility and spontaneity with lower-risk activities. And oral, anal, and vaginal become the points at which we end up having to stop and check in (with each other and our other existing partners). But the makeouts and dates leading up to that point give us a clear idea of whether we want to have that talk,to go through the motions of sex bureaucracy, running things by the rest of the web.

I Have Gone Through So Many Shifts Over the Years

This first shift took place in 2011. Since then, I’ve undergone a number of alterations in my relationship agreements with people (see this post for more information on that progression).

The point of all of this is that depending on the people involved, our priorities, and what was going on in our lives, our needs were different at any given point in time. And if and when those things changed, the agreements changed along with them.


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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