PQ 16.6 – What boundaries do I set for myself in relation to each of my partners?
For anyone looking for a basic introduction to boundaries as well as a quick framework to managing them in a polyamorous relationship system, I would recommend this post: PQ 3.2 — Polyamory and Boundaries, First Degree, Second Degree, and Beyond.
As that article states, boundaries are very personal. Very individual. There isn’t really a right and a wrong here. Only what’s important to you.
In this essay, I’ll address a few boundaries that are very important to me.
I Will Not Be Shushed.
In general, if another adult shushes me, it is not okay with me. I find it to be a high form of disrespect. This also applies to being told to shut up.
Especially if we’re in a private one on one situation, and I’m not disrupting third parties in public. If I’m delivering the Gettsyburg Address during a movie while at the theater, okay, I can see your point.
I can think of a few exceptions in private settings: Perhaps you hear something else that you need to focus on that might fade soon, like a noise outside in the street or something. Or you might be on an important phone call and you can’t hear what the other person is saying (although when I’m in that scenario, I walk away with the phone to a quieter place, i.e., I remove myself rather than shushing the other person).
But if we’re alone together with no one else around, and you say “shhh” or “shut up” without a very good emergent reason, then it’s just not okay.
There are an infinite number of other ways to tell the other person that you’re overwhelmed by the volume of their voice or need a break from conversation.
Or maybe you just let it roll off your back.
Because “shh” or “shut up” is not how adults speak to one another.
Since boundaries aren’t about telling another person what to do, I can’t set a boundary to stop other people from doing it. But I can be clear that I do not tolerate such behavior and consider it disrespectful.
I Have a Right to My Own Voice.
On a related note, I’m also very adamant that I have every right to talk about what goes on in my own life with other people. It’s true that in some cases, I may choose to keep some information private especially when it involves other people’s secrets, but that’s at my discretion. If I want to talk about something that happened to me or with me, it’s my story, too. Even if it makes people uncomfortable that I’m talking about it.
This one’s really important because I have a history of being isolated by abusive people. So I’ve pretty much opted out of people telling me what I can and can’t say to other people (outside of things told to me in explicit confidence, after I’ve agreed to it).
Having good boundaries also means I recognize that other people are entitled to whatever hurt feelings that my relative transparency could cause. I don’t get a say in that.
But they also don’t get to tell me that I don’t get a voice. Even if they hate what it says sometimes.
And I’ve found that people who know me well and love me get where I’m coming from and are generally pretty happy with this boundary.
If someone isn’t okay with this, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or anything. It just means that we probably can’t date one another.
I Will Not Tolerate Someone Being Moved Into My Home Without My Consent.
I’ve discussed this one a few times. I don’t ask for partners to get my permission or consent before they start seeing new people, but I would be livid if my partner moved someone into my home without consulting me first and getting my consent.
I’m actually quite open to having a metamour live with me if they were a good roommate, we got along pretty well, and it was beneficial to them and my anchor partner. But I think it’s completely unacceptable to move people into a shared dwelling without getting everyone’s approval.
That’s just wrong.
The home should be a safe environment. And it’s not safe if people can be brought in to live without any input into the matter.
I Don’t Enjoy Mandatory Gift-Giving (on Either Side). I Like to Give, But Prefer That Things Are Given Freely.
Sometimes I celebrate holidays, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I give gifts, sometimes I don’t. I never expect people to observe my birthday or to give me a Christmas gift. I’ll accept them when people offer them, but I think it’s important that gifts be given out of choice. And that people don’t feel obligated. Otherwise, it turns into a chore. Just like how fished-for compliments often feel less “true.”
I tend to like surprising people at random times and being surprised.
Choice is actually very important to me in general, which leads to my next boundary.
I’m Not the Person You Should Call in an Emergency.
I don’t do well with people who expect 24/7 access to me. From an earlier essay in the PQ series about what values are important to me:
I choose who I’m accessible to and when. It’s part of what makes those interactions valuable. I actively choose to interact with people. I don’t just catch every ball thrown my way.
And conversely, it’s important to me that those close to me interact with me because they choose to. Not because they’re beholden to, whether due to formal commitment or the idea that it’s right to help everyone or give everybody a chance. I want them to choose to include me in their life. Actively.
I’ve had this one be a bit mystifying to some friends and partners. Especially since people prioritize in very different ways. I had one ex who would literally get up in the middle of making out with me to answer their phone, even when they didn’t recognize the number or it said “restricted.”
Meanwhile, I tend to prioritize the person I’m speaking with currently over incoming calls. My phone ringer is usually off. It’s certainly off while I’m asleep. And not very many people actually have my phone number.
As I get to know people, I’ll often connect them with more ways to contact me. And my husband in particular is fairly good at contacting me quickly if he needs to — but depending on what’s going on, even he might need to wait a little bit.
Again these are very personal boundaries of mine. They aren’t right or wrong. Just what I know about myself. Some of these are actual dealbreakers for other people. And that’s A-OK.
Additionally, your boundaries are likely to be different.
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.