Hopefully you will get some good responses to your questions. I have only been completely poly for about 16 months and I know there are some great people on here who have more experience than I do.
But as one of the babies of the group, I'll give it a shot...
I personally agree with you. I started my poly relationship with no guidelines. My GF and I didn't want to restrict each other. We thought that true love meant living like sweet little flitting birds, flying where the wind took us. Ah, how beautiful. Ah, what a mess.
I'm sure there are older posts on here about what kinds of guidelines other people have. Some are very specific, some are very liberal. Some people operate on a polyamory basis (i.e. love multiple) and some people prefer polysexual (i.e. just sex with multiple). Some don't believe in the primary/secondary thing. Some do.
Some ideas/questions to help you think of guidelines?
- how soon after I leave for The Big City could I start actively looking for/accepting dates?
- if your BF wants to date, how soon?
- are overnight stays ok?
- do you want general timeframes and locations of dates?
- will you try to arrange dates at times that have the least impact on each other? i.e. you arrange dates on Fri nights because your BF always goes out with his friends that night?
- will you operate on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' (eeeeek), will you have general disclosure (I kissed/did some stuff/slept with him), will you have total disclosure? (we had sex this way, then that way, and I felt this and that....)
- will you want to meet each other's secondaries before sex happens? i.e. online if not in person?
- are you open to loving others and having other 'primaries', or are you thinking on a polysexual basis?
- do you want a limit on the amount of dates per week to help you balance? i.e. one date a week unless something special is happening?
- if you're going for full disclosure, how do you want to tell each other? on the phone after the event? wait until you're in person?
- ethics: can you both see people who aren't poly? people who are married? people who don't care about your primary partner?
- will you have time frames for dates, or have them open ended? i.e. you'll be back some time the next day?
It seems like a lot... hahaha... I don't think you should have 100 guidelines. But if you talk about as many of the little things as you can, then narrow it down to what is the most important and effective, it should give you a good starting point.
We started with about 9 or 10 general guidelines. We discovered about 500 little grey areas. 16 months later, the grey areas are less, but they still pop up with every new experience. And the guidelines do help us, personally.
It's great to talk about a lot of stuff before you start 'integrating' the poly lifestyle properly. But I will say... the first 6 months are known for being full of misunderstandings and silly mistakes! If you're patient with each other and you keep that in mind, you should work through them better.
What else can I tell you, based on my absolute wealth of experience?
One major thing I've learnt recently?
If I'm in a poly relationship, it means that I'm not single. I want to work as a team. I want to provide the kind of nurturing that my GF needs. I want to be considered. I want my GF to say to me "I'd like to go on a date with this guy I met... how would you feel about me starting to talk to him and pursue that?"
That's not because I want to restrict her. It's because I want to feel considered. Simply being considered in the first place ramps up my compersion levels tenfold.
Now, her natural inclination would be to say, "I met this guy tonight." then a few days later, "We've been talking online every night and he wants to take me out." or even "I'm going to meet up with him this week".
I've learnt what I expect and how that differs with my GF's way of acting.
We've tried to reach a better compromise.
How do you two want to operate? Do you want to be more like free agents, doing what you want, when you want, and checking in on each other's feelings about it? Do you want to ask before things happen if the other person is ready and feeling ok about it? That's really down to the two of you and how you work.
As for the herpes... I'm afraid that I can't give much more advice than practice safe sex! And be honest with new partners about it. If you are unsure about how likely it is to be transmitted, do research online or go into your local clinic and ask for advice. I'm afraid I haven't been in this position and my sexual endeavours have so far been: "Do you get tested? Show me the results and I'll show you mine." Even then, I know could get unlucky. My secondary partner is fine at the moment, but she could sleep with a guy next week, not tell me, and I could catch something. We can only control our end of it.