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Old 01-02-2011, 06:05 PM
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Default boundaries - when are they ethical, when aren't they

Hi everyone,

I'd like your opinions on a major discussion point between my poly wife and mono me. The question is about boundaries:

When is it acceptable to unilaterally set a boundary? Where does this change from 'asking for respect for a personal preference/problem/value/issue' to 'denying the other person to fully express his- or herself'?

Opinions?

robin
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:15 PM
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and to answer my own question:

When setting a boundary, I think you need to balance the comfort you give up for yourself with the freedom you take away for the other. Very important is that these things should be valued by the persons to whom they apply. E.g. when setting a boundary for my partner, I should be the one that values the comfort I have to give up, but my partner should be the one to value the freedom that she has to give up. Only after communicating very clearly can you ensure these are balanced.

As long as there is balance, the boundary is ethical. When I try to take away too much freedom, or when I have to give up too much comfort, one of the partners gets an unfair deal.

(Since this answer is not working for the relationship I'm in, I'd like to hear others, so I can learn something.)

Thanks!

robin
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Old 01-02-2011, 06:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erithacus View Post
As long as there is balance, the boundary is ethical. When I try to take away too much freedom, or when I have to give up too much comfort, one of the partners gets an unfair deal.

(Since this answer is not working for the relationship I'm in, I'd like to hear others, so I can learn something.)
This^ I would suggest that if its not working then you aren't finished negotiating... of course NRE can get in the way for a good long time so that boundary might have to be negotiated constantly. No biggy, just sit down and get comfy with that.

Relationships in general are a series of negotiations. Poly isn't different just more intense and negotiations happen more often. It seems like too much at the beginning I think, but in time, and with practice, the communication flows. Comfort comes when there is a solid foundation to work from. To me this why poly foundations are so important. We wrote a thread on that, but to me they are respectful communication, integrity, empathy and honesty.
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Last edited by redpepper; 01-02-2011 at 06:53 PM.
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Old 01-02-2011, 07:32 PM
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This^ I would suggest that if its not working then you aren't finished negotiating...
Thank you redpepper. This is very true. The reason I started this thread was that we have trouble negotiating. I have the feeling that whenever I ask for a boundary, or demand one, I am being accused of unethically holding back my partner. I hear arguments like 'This is just the way I am', 'I want the freedom to express my feelings', 'You are controlling my life' whenever the subject of boundaries (or even just taking things slow, for that matter) comes up. I have one big need that is not getting met, and that is time to adjust. I don't mean time where nothing happens, but I do mean time where not everything is happening all at once.

But to get back on the topic: the fundamental difference in our (my partners and mine) opinions is the question of when a boundary is ethical and when it isn't.
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Old 01-02-2011, 11:55 PM
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In my view, not everything is negotiable. Those things that are not negotiable - I tend to call those things "needs" - are what I use to set boundaries. Those things that are negotiable - I call them "wants" - are used in the give and take to complete whatever the contract is.

I work hard to separate my needs from my wants. The only thing that would make my needs unethical is if they were generally unethical (e.g., called for murder, inflicting intentional harm, etc.).

So, if my needs themselves aren't unethical with respect to setting boundaries, then it is how I handle those needs that might make them unethical. For example, if I hid them while acting upon them and used those needs as an excuse for breaking the rules of a particular agreement.

The trick to remain in your integrity is to communicate those needs as early as reasonable and set the relationship on that solid ground. Selfishness doesn't come into the picture - as if our respective needs are incompatible, the relationship never starts or develops beyond the initial exploration stage.
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Old 01-03-2011, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erithacus View Post
Thank you redpepper. This is very true. The reason I started this thread was that we have trouble negotiating. I have the feeling that whenever I ask for a boundary, or demand one, I am being accused of unethically holding back my partner. I hear arguments like 'This is just the way I am', 'I want the freedom to express my feelings', 'You are controlling my life' whenever the subject of boundaries (or even just taking things slow, for that matter) comes up. I have one big need that is not getting met, and that is time to adjust. I don't mean time where nothing happens, but I do mean time where not everything is happening all at once.

But to get back on the topic: the fundamental difference in our (my partners and mine) opinions is the question of when a boundary is ethical and when it isn't.
Based on what you're saying, I wouldn't call your needs unethical - even if they do infringe on someone else's needs. But, you may be running into a core incompatibility - if what you're struggling with is actually a need and isn't masking something else more fundamental.

It seems that when something conflicts with our own values we all too easily accuse someone else of being unethical. When in reality, differences in core values are a relatively common occurance. It is possible, with re-examination, for us to challenge and subsequently change our core values. But, it's a low probability event. I wouldn't bet on such a thing.

If I were in your position, I would try to unravel these issues so that I can get beyond the language of "your needs for certain boundaries are unethical."
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MindfulAgony View Post
It seems that when something conflicts with our own values we all too easily accuse someone else of being unethical. When in reality, differences in core values are a relatively common occurance. It is possible, with re-examination, for us to challenge and subsequently change our core values. But, it's a low probability event. I wouldn't bet on such a thing.
I like how you have written this. Too many people forget that our values can be changed and not everything we think we need is actually a "need", most of the time it's a want, especially in relationships.

The best way to know whether a boundary or whatever is going to work is to see if it's logical or not. If someone can present a coherent, logical argument on why they don't or do want something then I'll listen. If all they give me is "I feel like this" then I'm less likely to consider it until they have had time to think more about it. This is how you grow, this is how you move past your old childhood issues and reprogram yourself into a better human. And I question myself like this also.

"Feeling" is a weak way to explain something. If they told you "I've just got this feeling that we'll win the lottery next week so let's use the mortgage payment for a big screen TV" you wouldn't be like "ok honey".

Last edited by preciselove; 01-03-2011 at 02:28 AM.
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:52 AM
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I'm not sure I can go along with that analogy. Sometimes we need something and there may not be a rational reason why. I'm all for being logical and coherent but relationships and human beings can't always be quantified and rationalized. Feeling is not weaker than logic, it's just different. There also is a difference between stupidity and feeling. There is just as much idiotic, incorrect logic out there as there are stupid actions based on feelings. For instance, if you are a musician, and all you have is logic, your music may have great technical proficiency but it will be fairly empty. As a person that primarily is motivated by feeling I am still able to recognize the importance of logic but I think people can be quick to dismiss feeling as weak and frustrating. I think it's perfectly reasonable if a couple is starting out in poly and when they negotiate boundaries one of them says, I know it's illogical, but I would really appreciate it if you wouldn't use the same pet name for your OSO as you do for me. I would imagine as you progress you may find yourself needing less of the 'illogical' boundaries but that doesn't mean they're not valid when you need them.
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Old 01-03-2011, 03:03 AM
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I will trust someone's intuition/gut instincts (which comes from the nerve ganglion in the solar plexus) more than their logic! Logic is needed for certain situations, to be sure, but in matters of the heart -- such as relationships -- I feel it is very important to honor someone's feelings and not demand that they comply with my system of rationalizing.
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Old 01-03-2011, 05:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray View Post
I think it's perfectly reasonable if a couple is starting out in poly and when they negotiate boundaries one of them says, I know it's illogical, but I would really appreciate it if you wouldn't use the same pet name for your OSO as you do for me. I would imagine as you progress you may find yourself needing less of the 'illogical' boundaries but that doesn't mean they're not valid when you need them.
I don't find your scenario illogical though. Using different names for people helps you identify them quicker, that is one thing I would expect my gf to say to me if she has a problem with it. It's also not illogical to want to feel special as that is a basic human characteristic that we cannot change, so if they said this also I would be fine with it in this particular case.

If people can't explain to me why they feel a certain way then they shouldn't be talking to me about it as that's just a waste of energy. This idea that as soon as we feel something we must act upon it or tell them to somebody is about as damaging as you can get for a relationship. If I made sure every thought I had was given to everyone around me I wouldn't have anyone in my life.

Most negative "feelings" that people want to express to you are born from a cultural programming most of us received growing up. Since this culture is on the verge of collapse we do not need to entertain most of those feelings do we?

Of course this is all based on the premise the people involved aren't assholes/selfish/stupid/willfully ignorant/etc, and going from my experiences with people, that's hard to find. I know that most of my advice is probably worthless to the average person.

Last edited by preciselove; 01-03-2011 at 05:33 AM.
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