Proposed Bill of Rights for Established/Primary Partnerships
Caveat: Over the years I have been a primary, secondary and tertiary partner, a hinge, and an arm in a vee, a primary partner, an arm in an N, a member of triads, adhered to monogamy, negotiated long term mono partnerships to poly, have been single, and single-ish. I have had secondary partnerships that spanned over a decade, and lovers of varying degrees throughout that time. I have dated open/poly people of varying degrees of attachment - single, single-ish, partnered, and married. I have worked hard to have excellent relationships with metamours and treat existing relationships with respect. I have never cheated on any of my partners, and have an intense commitment to personal integrity in relationship. I feel that my experiences offer a unique vantage point. None of the below ideas are meant to offend, be put forth as written in stone, or take a stance 'against' anyone. They are open to being crafted, changed and commented on.
After reading a number of articles that seem to focus on the needs and rights of ‘secondary’ partners within relationship, I felt it was time to address some of the thoughts I have been having around the need for respect for established partnerships within the context of poly. Exterior relationships can support, respect and nurture an existing/primary partnership, or tear them apart depending on the approach of all involved, including that of a newer member.
While one can read the below requests as being applicable to any respectful, adult relationship, it can be easy to forget that an extablished/primary partnership represents an incredibly meaningful connection in a loved one’s life, and that newer/joining partners play a role in holding that in a place of esteem and importance. This is how I approach those that I date that are in established/primary partnership, and how I wish to be approached in my established/primary partnership.
A Proposed Charter of Reasonable Expectations for Established/Primary Partnerships
My primary partnership deserves to be treated with respect, compassion, consciousness, conscientiousness, kindness and as such, be honoured with integrity and honesty.
I have the right to set clear limitations and boundaries in new relationships, and have them respected by other partners.
I will be upfront, clear and honest about any boundaries and limitations that I may bring into partnership with you. I have the right to respect and honour these limitations and boundaries without guilt, pressure or expectation for them to rapidly change. I will openly discuss your feelings with about these limitations and boundaries should they adversely affect your experience in relationship with me, and will have compassion for any challenges they may bring up for you. I will respect your decision to vacate our relationship if these boundaries and limitations cannot be negotiated to match up to, or do not serve your needs in relationship with me.
I have a right to sexual safety.
I expect to have any and all exterior sexual contact (protected or unprotected) shared with me so that I may have the necessary information required to protect the sexual health of myself, and my established partner. I have the right to end a relationship if exterior sexual contact puts the safety of the collective sexual health of my relationships.
I have a right to make decisions that I feel are best for my life.
I have the right to be free from the assumption that my I am ‘protecting my primary partnership’ when making decisions in my life. While I take the needs of my primary partnership into consideration, I ultimately make my own decisions to determine the structure and path of my life. I alone am to be held responsible for my own life decisions.
I have the right to be part of a community built on respect and caring.
As a member of multiple relationships, I desire the fostering of a mutually understood structure of respect and care. My primary partner deserves your respect, care and non-violent communication. I would ask that you uphold good relations, and respect their place of importance in my life in your language and actions. If my primary partner and I struggle and you are witness to this, I ask that you not take sides and do your utmost to support our partnership in your words and actions. (Sidenote: Does not apply if abuse is happening).
I have the right to your compassion.
As someone new and exciting in my life, it is quite possible that your presence will incite feelings of jealousy, resentment or insecurity in my primary partner. While this is by no means due to any shortcoming on your behalf, I would ask that you be compassionate, caring and conscious of this emotional reality and strive to co-foster an environment in which it is safe for emotional growth to occur for all involved parties. I ask that you help create a non-competitive structure for the relationship that you and I share to exist in and be sensitive for needs of pacing should my partner or I be struggling. Wherever possible, I would ask for an attitude of reassurance and friendliness with my primary partner so that good relations can be established between all parties.
I have the right to work on issues within my primary partnership without assumptions being made.
There are challenges to opening a relationship that can only be experienced in the present moment, and I have a right to have that experience. I have the right to ask for space to work on those issues and have the right to have challenges without myself, or my primary partner being judged for being human. Compassion, patience, grace and tolerance may be needed as emotional hurdles are faced and overcome. I have the right to not have assumptive language/blanket terms, or negative projections placed on existing challenges.
I have the right to be independent from your decisions.
Being in partnership with someone in a primary partnership comes with many unique sets of challenges. I have the right to be accepted within the context of my existing relationship, and to not be held accountable for your decision to step away should our collective fit not be right for you. Each of us is on our own journey, and blaming others for our own problems is counterintuitive to growth.
I have the right to honesty.
It is integral to the success of our independent, and collective relationships to hear your feelings, and know your desires. I have the right to have the information that I need to see if I am able to meet your needs in relationship as they evolve. I have the right to be told the truth about your experiences, changes in expectations or any issues as they arise.
My established partner has a right to your care and consideration.
As a person of significant importance to me, it is paramount to me that my established relationship has your respect, caring and compassion. I encourage you to foster an independent relationship with them if plausible. I would like for their needs, emotional realities and limitations to be respected and upheld by you, and for you to extend your caring for me into their person. They are included in having me in your life, and deserve to be treated with the consideration that you would like to be treated with.
I have the right to change the structure or pacing of any of my relationships.
I have the right to express my desire for change within the context of a relationship. I strive for a state of balance within my relationships with others. If and when change is needed, I will state what I need, and have the right to have those needs taken into consideration.
I have the right to be free from ideals.
There are few relationship structures that bring out one's human joys and flaws as much as poly do. I have the right to be treated as a human being, and not an ideal; I will make mistakes, and so will my existing/primary partner, and so will you. Please do not project ideals that I cannot possibly match onto me; we all must have compassion for each other as we find our way.
I have the right to be held accountable for my actions.
If I behave in unethical, selfish or hurtful ways, I need to have this communicated to me. I need to be held accountable for my actions, and if I make decisions that are counterintuitive to having healthy relationships I have the right to be taken to task and have the chance to change my approach or actions.
I have the right to treat NRE with respect and caution.
I recognize the intense emotional high that NRE can create. I need to be cognizant of obligations and responsibilities in my present partnership, and need your assistance in being a good steward with NRE. I will be honest and up front about any measures I need to take to mitigate the intensity or frequency of our connection to respect my current partnerships, and will be open to any concerns you may have around this.
I have the right to be forgiven.
As footing is found, mistakes are bound to be made. I have the right to be forgiven. My established partner has the right to be forgiven. You have the right to be forgiven. No human relationship can survive without grace, tolerance and forgiveneness for errors in judgement and action.
I have a responsibility to be aware of possible privileges that I may have.
Each of us have privileges that have been given to us because of who we are, that have not necessarily been earned. Privilege may include sex, and or/gender privilege, race privilege and class, amongst others. I recognize that having privilege does not make me a bad person and will do my best to be cognizant, conscious and responsible in regards to it. I am also aware that lacking privilege in one area does not preclude privilege in another.
This seems more about affirming these things to oneself and one's established/primary partner(s) than it is about declaring one's "rights" to some hypothetical "secondary". i too am married, and if i came at my other partner (with whom, recall, i have been with for longer than married) with this checklist, they would get a kick out of it; but if i came at a potential new relationship partner with it, i would totally understand if they were all like "WTF?" or didn't want to get in the middle of all that. Of course, i have been told by others that spouse and i seem to have an unusually "independent" relationship for people who are married, whatever that means.
I feel similarly about the 'Secondary Bill of Rights'. Felt it merited putting forward a piece from a primary perspective. Essentially I think it all boils down to, "Have integrity, respect and don't be selfish" in all accounts. It was strange to me that there would be a 'Secondary Bill of Rights' but not a 'Primary Bill of Rights'. 'Tis the only reason I proposed one.
If you want to formalize something, it might be more helpful to think of it as a "Charter of Mutual (Reasonable) Expectations". As it happens, many of the points set out above might fit more readily under "reasonable expectations" than under "rights".
What about "personal standard?" Because that is what it is. You (and partners) are co-creating the personal standard for the polyship you share and what rights/responsibilities you expect to uphold to selves/each other and will be holding each other accountable to.
GG: It's a proposal for those entering into a relationship with a partnered couple. Tried to include many of the challenges that I've seen posted on this forum, other forums, discussion groups, in the experiences of friends, partners, and too, in my own experience. Would love edits/adds/etc. from others!
If I were to say that people ought to treat one another with respect, I'm not just saying how I feel, or how I want to be treated. I'm saying that all people have a reasonable expectation of being treated with respect. If others fall short of that expectation, they have done wrong.
Judgments like that are to be found in any thread on this forum, regardless of the particular details of any particular post. How many variations have you read of the following: "I don't care what s/he wants, or what you think you've agreed to, what s/he did is unethical; no one should be treated the way s/he is treating you!"
A Charter of Reasonable Expectations would simply articulate some of the basic ethical principles or ideals that should apply across all relationships, perhaps including the reasonable expectation that people shall 1) be able freely and without any kind of coercion, deception, or pressure to negotiate the particular terms of a particular relationship, and 2) be faithful and steadfast in abiding by those terms.
Those particular terms have to be compatible with the ethical bottom line, though: you cannot negotiate away your own dignity, for example.
I think these kinds of lists are useful things for folks to jumpstart thinking, discussions, and what they would add, take away, do differently and so on. They can assist people think and mull over things they might never consider based just on their own experiences. And that is a good thing.
I would add something along the lines of:
'I have the expectation to be aware of possible privilege I may have, and how that privilege may affect my relationships. I am not a bad person for having privilege. After all it is not earned but given to some because of who they are. Privilege may include couple privilege, sex and/or gender privilege, race privilege, class and many more. I am also aware that lacking privilege in one area does not preclude privilege in another.'
Couple privilege has been discussed here. I also found this blog post useful: http://solopoly.net/2013/02/05/coupl...-can/#more-514
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