Author: Shrimp Teeth
Exploring queerness, polyamory, and sexuality.
“Agreements” in Ethical Non-Monogamy
Many newly open couples set “agreements” that they will only pursue casual hook-ups but aren’t allowed to fall in love.
Not only is this unrealistic, bordering on objectifying, but it reveals a false belief: that romantic love is special/exclusive.
Let’s reframe this issue. While many ENM folks are starting to reject the idea that sex is sacred (ie. must only be shared with one devoted partner), those same folks often aren’t willing to let go of that same notion when it comes to love.
Pals catching feelings for others is still viewed as a threat.
As a result, couples often embark on their non-monogamy journey JUST to explore sexually, while trying to protect/control their existing relationship.
There’s a naive belief that they can be emotionally detached from secondaries or stop seeing secondaries if they catch feelings.
These “agreements” are obviously meant to reassure the existing partner about the importance of the relationship. But these “agreements” ultimately set you up for failure.
Months later, the same people call me back panicking when their pal “broke” the agreement and fell in love. Note: I’ve talked ad nauseam about veto power.
To recap, no one is stopping you from exerting a veto, but abusing power is obviously unethical, unfair to secondaries/metas, and will likely cause long-term resentment from your pal.
But go off, I’m not here to proselytize.
The solution lies in asking “what do you DO with each partner that makes the relationships meaningful?”
Simply being in love does not define the significance of relationships, nor does having sex. There are many factors that culminate in closeness, so focus on specific actions.
In other words, love is intangible until you ascribe meaning.
It can outline commitment, interdependence, growth, longevity, life building, etc. But without a specific definition, love is nothing more than happy feelings.
Emotions aren’t controllable, but relationships are defined.
When you focus on carving out space in your life to fit multiple meaningful people, you discover overlap and competition over limited resources that illuminate the source of relational anxiety.
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Love isn’t the issue, love is abundant; scarcity of material resources is the problem.
The question becomes, how will primary couples offer grace and space for new pals to come into their lives? How will they recognize and organize the various needs for time, attention, and meaningful connections? Are they actually willing to be open? Is non-exclusivity possible? Yes.
When we look at friendship models, we see clearly how multiple people can be in symbiotic relationship.
We need to stop putting romantic love on a pedestal and recognize that we have the capacity to love many at once.
What we need to grow is our capacity to share resources.
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Sam is a sex educator and artist who explores queerness, polyamory, and sexuality through their work. She’s passionate about exploring ways to broaden relationship structures to foster more connections between people. They use art and illustration as part of their education process.