I don’t want to write this column. I can’t possibly do the topic justice. But people ask me about this all the time, so okay; I give in. Here is a very brief overview of how to create a framework for transitioning into polyamory when you’re in a couple.
What I’m about to say assumes that you and your partner love each other, are happy together, and have both agreed you want a relationship that is not monogamous. But how do you open up your relationship while still staying committed? Well, you create and agree to a new set of rules. What I’m giving you here are not Official Poly Rules You Must Obey. They are simply examples of the kinds of things you might agree to. They are all actual rules that either I or someone I know have used. Hopefully these will provide you with a jumping-off place for your own discussion.
• Certain days/times are always reserved for us to be together alone.
• We agree to use safer sex practices, and we specify exactly what that means.
• I must approve your new partner before you sleep with him/her.
• We’re a package deal—we only date/have sex as a couple.
• No sexual behavior with other people in front of me.
• Don’t fuck any of our existing friends—all your partners must be from outside our social circle.
• Don’t say “I love you” to anyone else.
• We can have sex with whomever we want as long as it’s at a swing party.
• If you get a date, you must arrange child care so I don’t have to babysit.
• We agree to reserve certain activities just for us. It might be a sexual act, or it might be any activity that’s special to us.
• No casual fucking—this is about relationships, not swinging.
• Our other partners must also be in a couple, no single people.
• We will be each other’s primary partner. All other partners must be secondary.
• When you have sex with someone, I don’t want to hear details.
• When you have sex with someone, I want to hear all the details.
• We won’t do primary/secondary-type hierarchy—all partners are equal.
• No monogamous people—our other partners must also be into poly.
• No more than two nights in a row with other partners.
• I want to have other partners, but I do not want you to.
• It’s fine if you have other partners, but I don’t want to do that until I’m ready.
As you can see, you won’t adopt all these rules, and they speak to very different ways of being poly. And no matter what rules you set, if you keep doing poly, they will evolve and change as you gain experience. When you’re first venturing into new territory, having rules can make people feel safer. Eventually, however, most poly rules wind up being made to be broken—but only when you both want them to be.