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Old 06-26-2012, 02:18 AM
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ksandra ksandra is offline
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Default Mono boundaries for a poly girl

I've been out of the forum for awhile (almost two years according to the little status bar eep!) and some things have changed.

Currently I am in a supportive, loving, monogamous relationship with a heterosexual man who identifies as monogamous and is not comfortable with having a polyamorous relationship. I am bisexual and have always identified as polyamorous, however I have made a choice to behave monogamously with my partner's understanding that even though I am sexually exclusive with him I am still capable of developing emotional bonds with other people and having sexual desires, even if they're not acted upon. He's okay with this, and has been great to talk to about my feelings.

However, I've run into an interesting dilemma. I have no idea how to behave when I am spending time with people I am attracted to. My partner has said that he is okay with things like massages and cuddling and even sleeping in the same bed and that for him the line is drawn when I enter into a situation where I feel like I have to conceal information from him.

So basically I know that kissing, petting etc. would not be okay but I still feel like there's a lot of grey area. I've tried asking him and he doesn't want to flat out say no to some things because he feels like it's limiting me even more and isn't fair to do without the context of the situation. I can't judge against what I would want because the idea of him being intimate with another woman doesn't bother me and at the same time I don't want to cross a line even if it's accidentally, since given the parameters of our relationship I feel like I am being given a lot of freedom and trust and I don't want to break that.

What are some normal boundaries for relating to people? What are some normal expectations for partners to have of their s.o.'s?

I also want to disclaim that telling me a mono/poly relationship that is mono is doomed will not be appreciated. I'm not denying who I am or what I believe, I'm choosing something different and I'm not saying this won't be hard but I will cross that bridge when/if I get there. Right now I'm looking for advice on how to respect my partner's feelings.

Thanks!
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Old 06-26-2012, 05:00 AM
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CielDuMatin CielDuMatin is offline
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I really don't think that "normal" is going apply here. If by that you mean societal norms...

I think that the only way you can get the boundaries set is in discussion with your partner, in as much or as little detail as necessary. It may well make you or them uncomfortable, but I think thet work just has to be done, otherwise you will be assuming stuff that may not be the case....
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Old 06-26-2012, 05:05 AM
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I think it's irrelevant what other people have as boundaries. What matters is HIS boundaries.

I would suggest you talk to him again. Tell him you understand that he doesn't want to limit you more, but not knowing makes you anxious, as you don't know where the line is and you would hate to cross it accidentally and hurt him. Tell him you realise it's probably not a pleasant talk for him to have, but it will save you from some other talks, and even if you never cross the line, constantly living wondering where it is and if you're crossing it is causing you a lot of stress, and for your sake you're asking him to help you have some clear lines.
If he's worried about being too absolute, tell him he's allowed to revisit them at any time if his comfort level were to change. You just want to know where you're standing.

Then if it helps you or him, you could write up a list of things. Tell him you're trying to be exhaustive and therefore you know you're included some things he is NOT fine with, and do include everything you can think of. This way it will be clear, transparent, straightforward. Then he can answer "yes, it's fine", "no, it's not fine" or "it depends on the situation/context" and then he can specify what he means by that.

I would include a bunch of things, from things you normally do with friends (hugging, holding hands) to things you usually don't do as much (cuddling) to things that are probably out of line but might not be (taking a shower together, watching each other change) and finally things that are completely out of line (sexual contact).

This way you can have a clear line and keep it in mind. Tell him the line isn't going to lock you inside its confines. It's going to free you because without a clear barrier, every step you take you are worried to run into the invisible wall you don't know is there. Once you can see it, you'll be able to walk freely in the space you can see, and that will be liberating.

Oh, you might also want to include things like (if you haven't discussed them yet), are you allowed to tell the person you love them? What if they love you back? Are you allowed to talk about romantic subjects and love, without anything sexual happening? Are you allowed to talk about sexual things happening as long as you know it's fantasy and they won't happen? Are you allowed to flirt? Basically, a bunch of language-based things rather than physical-based things.

Before I even opened my relationship, I was surprised by how much was fine by my husband (now ex): cyber-sex was fine, sending naughty pictures and videos was fine (both to strangers and to friends), masturbating in the same room was fine, hugging while naked was fine, taking a shower together was fine... I was pretty shocked as I would have assumed all of these were out of line. You might have surprises too as to what is or isn't fine with him (although I assume not the exact same surprises I did).
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Old 06-26-2012, 05:07 AM
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SchrodingersCat SchrodingersCat is offline
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I try not to think about "what's normal" because the more relationships I see, the more I realize there is no such thing as "normal."

What about discussing hypothetical situations with him? Invent circumstances that you could find yourself in, and discuss how he would feel about that.

Another thing to consider: is he willing to work through some of his jealousy in order to enable you to do things you want that he might not initially be OK with?

I've found that with good communication and a commitment to try to understand and respect one another, there are a lot of things you can work through that you wouldn't have thought you can. As long as you're doing your best to respect his boundaries, he's less likely to feel betrayed, even when he's feeling hurt.

Another question: how much does context matter, really? If he's not OK with sexual massages, does it matter whether you have a long relationship with that person or it's someone he just met? In other words, if you've agreed to a monosexual relationship (it doesn't sound like you've actually agreed to monoamory), then you've basically agreed to avoid situations that make you feel "sexual." If you can exchange massages and it's only friendly and intimate but not sexual, that's fine. But if it turns you on, then that could be a breach of his boundaries.

I just want to point out that this is all based on my interpretation of your agreement. It's possible I missed the point or misunderstood the agreement, so no one jumping down my throat now! Also, I want to point out to everyone that a poly person agreeing to be in a monogamous relationship completely changes the rules of "what's allowed" and what responsibilities the poly person has to alter their behaviour in ways that would normally be considered "un-poly" (because it is :P )
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Old 06-26-2012, 05:07 AM
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ksandra ksandra is offline
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Thanks for the reply Ciel.

It seems like my friends who are mono and in mono relationships just have things lines that they won't cross because that's just what's normally accepted for mono relationships and that's what I'm curious about.

I've been pretty good about discussing things with my partner as they come up but there have been a few situations where I've been unsure whether it's something he would be uncomfortable with and I want to try to respect that while not having to second guess every action I take. It doesn't help that for the next few months he is working up north and I can't just send him a text to check in. On average we get to speak for two hours every five days or so and I ask him then but usually the situation has passed.
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Old 06-26-2012, 05:20 AM
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Oh wow okay didn't see your posts SC and Tonberry!

First off...Tonberry that list is a great suggestion. That way we can find where his grey areas are and what is absolutely off limits for him. I do know that he's not okay with kissing and anything sexual occurring with another person.

SC...You've got the situation bang on. We've talked about monoamory (love the term) and we both agree that I am capable of physically being monosexual but that monoamory relates to my feelings and that there will be feelings for other people. He's supportive of this as he says it's part of what he loves about me and he wants me to be able to feel this way.

He's open to working through his insecurities as most of his issues come from a fear of being left for someone else. But this is something that is going to take some time and while I'm happy to answer questions and reassure him, for now we both want to be monogamous. We've come up against both an old lover asking for some time and new feelings for someone else and he's handled them remarkably well. For instance because I was with my lover long before R (my partner) and I even knew each other without anything serious developing he is okay with me spending time with my lover and even if he and I give each other massages. The other day when we spoke he was very excited because he had a crush on one of his crew members though he doesn't feel ready to pursue anything further.

I think I'm going to try and combine contextual situations with Tonberry's idea for the list in order to talk this through more thoroughly. Thank you!!
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Old 06-26-2012, 06:25 AM
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SchrodingersCat SchrodingersCat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksandra View Post
My partner has said that [...] for him the line is drawn when I enter into a situation where I feel like I have to conceal information from him.
Having re-read your post, I have something to add. What if you never feel like you have to conceal information?

For example, I'm poly and I have a girlfriend and a husband. I never feel like I have to "conceal" information from either of them, but that doesn't mean I tell them both everything that happens. However, neither of them have attempted to impose any limits on how the other relationships can proceed, hence nothing to "conceal."

The main difference between you and him is that you look at romantic and sexual acts completely differently. A mono person, when feeling turned-on by someone other than their partner, tends to feel guilty. A poly person tends not to. So using your own guilt as the compass is doomed to fail, without you breaking the letter of your agreement... "Well, sure we had phone sex, but I didn't feel the need to conceal it, so it's OK right?"

I would definitely go back to him and ask for an ultra-specific list of things that you're allowed to do, and things you're not allowed to do. Set an agreement that you'll use your "best judgement" for things that aren't on either list, based on how you think he would feel, with the understanding that you'll talk about it afterwards and be forgiven if you get it wrong.

Like I alluded to, it sounds to me like he just doesn't want you to have sexual relationships with people. Sex can be broadly defined as anything that turns you on.

Also, be honest with yourself. Is this really realistic? You can't just turn off your sex organs. Getting intimate with people, falling in love with them, is highly likely to arouse you eventually. It will be really hard to break up with someone just because you've developed sexual feelings for them...
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Gralson: my husband (works out of town).
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The most dangerous phrase in the English language is "we've always done it this way."

Last edited by SchrodingersCat; 06-26-2012 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 06-26-2012, 02:46 PM
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ksandra ksandra is offline
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You're right about the guilt thing. There isn't anything I feel the need to hide from him. A few years ago I was in a relationship with a mono guy who was trying to be poly and so far I've been trying to gauge my actions off of that (as I'm typing this I'm making a note that this needs to become a conversation with my current partner). However there have been a couple of times where I've ended up playing things way too safe and only found out after.

Is this realistic? I don't know. Everything that you've written is correct and you cant just turn a part of you off and there has been some frustration in regards to that. My partner has never said anything like I am not allowed to do x y or z. He has been very clear about where his comfort zone lies and what his own boundaries are. When we've discussed what would happen if I were to meet someone he has maintained that is a discussion we will need to have at the time in the situation. For where he is now and how he feels what I understand is that it would likely result in the end of a sexual relationship between us for now but that doesn't mean he would be out of my life.

For me I'm the type of person who likes to have a fair amount of physical contact even with platonic friends. I get crushes easily and when I have been in relationships that are open to it, I enjoy a varied sex life. I don't think it's worth it to pursue these avenues with this relationship and in large part I haven't felt inclined to with a few exceptions.

So I guess the short answer is I don't know if it's realistic but for now I want to try :-)
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Old 06-27-2012, 01:07 AM
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Okay so, I've been thinking about the list and I figured if I went to my partner with a list of what I thought was acceptable/unacceptable behaviour then we would have something to start with. Here are the items I've thought up but I was wondering whether anyone would be willing to add to it since I don't think I've got everything? Feelings like having a crush or falling in love are left off because we've already established that those are not the issue.

Cuddling
clothes/partially clothed/nude
Massages
clothed/partially/nude
Sleeping in the same bed (as someone else)
clothed/partially/nude
Hugging
Kissing
peck/making out
Holding hands
Text messages
flirting/phone sex/texting photos
Showering/Bathing together
Threesomes/moresomes
Sexual activity
manual/oral/genital
Bondage
Dom/sub play

Any additions, subtractions would be really appreciated. We only get to speak once every 4-6 days this summer so I've got a few more days to work this out. The advice so far has been great
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  #10  
Old 06-27-2012, 03:23 PM
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CielDuMatin CielDuMatin is offline
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Another dimensions to this is about WHERE these activities are done - your place vs. his place vs in a hotel room vs in public. Sometimes people feel very differently about activities based on the location.

When it comes to your house, there's the added idea of the bed you two normally sleep in, a guest room, other rooms (living room on the couch, kitchen on the counter-tops, etc). I'm sure you get the idea.

Sleeping can be taking a nap, or staying overnight. Sometimes those have very different emotional attachments to them.

Another issue around the phone calls/texting thing is that of context. Some people feel very differently about their lover receiving texts while they are at work, vs when they are at home, vs when they are out on a date, or on vacation.

There are many other areas in the "kink" field that you could include, of course, based on your/their desires and preferences.
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