One of the misunderstandings between Dude and I occurred with reference to a boundary that MrS and I had agreed to and “informed” him of. This was fairly early in my relationship with Dude (4 months or so). For those of you who are unaware of the backstory – we had foregone contraceptives in the past because I desired a baby, the agreement was that if I got pregnant by Dude (who had no desire to be a “father”) then the baby would be mine and MrS's regardless of the state of my relationship with Dude. MrS and I, as a couple, had decided that we were ok with this and Dude had agreed. (I posted a bit more about this here
At the time of this “misunderstanding”, we had just experienced our second miscarriage (of which Dude was likely the biological father) and I had a conversation with MrS that I was considering a contraceptive implant for a variety of reasons but that I was having a hard time coming to terms with the idea of never having a baby and I wasn't quite there yet. I was thinking of getting the 3 month shot while preparing myself for the longer-term (3 year) contraceptive. MrS supported my decision – he was of the opinion that he didn't think he wanted to experience the roller-coaster of emotion of pregnancy and failure again, that he was ok with a childless future and understood that I needed a little time to process and “sit-with” this before I took the plunge. With all of this being said, he asked that Dude and I use barrier protection for sex until I was protected by another form of hormonal contraception or we came to the decision that we were ready to cope with another pregnancy (and its potential loss) – I agreed that this was a good idea. We told Dude of our discussion, and he agreed (although he doesn't like condoms).
So one night Dude and I are trying to have sex but he was having difficulty maintaining an erection under the combination of the influence of alcohol and the decreased sensitivity due to the condom. He asked if he could forego the condom until a little further into the process. I said “no” – MrS and I had agreed, condoms until I had hormonal contraception or we were supportive of another pregnancy. Dude was confident in his ability to judge when he was in danger of ejaculation. Whether or not I “believed” Dude was, I felt, irrelevant to the conversation, the current boundary was “no sex without a condom.” (For the record: I had no real doubt as to his control, but I know that pre-ejaculatory fluid can contain viable sperm so the risk of pregnancy is low but not nil – and reducible with the use of condoms.) He asked if it would be ok if it was ok with MrS and promptly jumped up to ask him – I got REALLY pissed off...then Dude didn't seem to understand WHY I was so peeved.
Sex now being “off the table” (I am SOOOOO not horny when pissed off) we sat down to discuss. My position was that jumping up to ask MrS if it was ok to break a boundary was very disrespectful to me when I had already given an answer of “no.” Dude thought that, since it was MrS who proposed the boundary, then it was up to him (MrS) to decide if the boundary could be breached. I felt that the boundary had been discussed and agreed to by MrS and I as a couple
(the couple that would be raising any child that resulted from a breach of contraception) and that the boundary could only be rescinded by us together as a couple
– Dude had agreed to the boundary and was therefore responsible to BOTH of us to abide by it. Regardless of whether MrS said “yes” or “no” to Dude's question of whether MrS would be ok with Dude and I having penetration without ejaculation without a condom was not relevant as I had already said “no” (by the way, not that it matters, but MrS said “no” as well).
This, to me, revealed a bit of the “couple” ("dyad" if you prefer) dynamic that Dude had been missing and that MrS and I had assumed.. If either MrS or I (or Dude or I, for that matter) requests a “couple” boundary that we each agree to – once it is agreed upon then each member of the couple has the same stake in the boundary regardless of who suggested it. It was a decision that “we” made – neither member of the couple can agree to its negation without consulting with the other.
This is different than a “personal” boundary that other partners have agreed to until it is rescinded by the person who requested it. As an example: For us this would be the “anal sex boundary”. MrS has requested that I not have anal sex with Dude if I won't have anal sex with him. I have a personal boundary: anal sex is a complete turn-off for me, I won't do it. MrS can change his boundary without consulting me (i.e. he could decide that he would be ok with me having anal sex with Dude and not him – which would only come into play if my personal boundary also changed). I can change my boundary without consulting MrS – I could have a sea-change and decide I am ok with anal sex (in which case MrS's boundary would come into play – I could decide to have anal sex with MrS only or with both MrS and Dude but not Dude only – unless MrS also
I understand that this might be a bit confusing but I think it also lends itself to some interesting communications. Some things I see as “couple” decisions – things that are decided within the multiple dyads that our V consists of. MrS and I get to decide what is ok within the confines of our relationship. Dude and I get to decide what is ok within the confines of our relationship. Actually, MrS and Dude get to decide what is ok with the confines their relationship as well – as best friends and metamours. Additionally we three
together get to decide what is ok within the confines of our Vee - things that we all have agreed to or feel as axiomatic – for instance, keeping all members of the Vee “in the loop” if one of us is developing a romantic/sexual relationship outside of the Vee (hasn't happened yet – more on this later) OR condoms with anyone other than the three of us (safer sex/contraception agreement). Underlying all of this – each of us individually gets to decide what is ok for each of us individually. So for a given decision we have to pass through the “filters” of – is it ok for me personally?, is it ok for the relevant dyads?, and is it ok for the Vee as a whole?
Polymath is hard, eh?