Where Do Your Boundaries Lie?

I have had the immense pleasure of working with couples that are new-ish to polyamory. They usually come to me with communication issues, unrealistic expectations, and loads of hurt and disappointment. While this seems to be the first sentence that would be off-putting to a couple that would consider a different relationship style, the issue isn’t really sharing or jealousy, but the lack of control and the amount of work one must put into their own sense of self and where they fit in the world beyond just their relationship/marriage.

Photo by cottonbro

Already established or long-established monogamous relationships tend to allow for a certain level of complacency. With this contentment comes a sense of control over our lives and that of our partner. Additionally, years of comfortable relating (even if it’s not completely what we’ve dreamed of) offers a sense of safety and stability that doesn’t require very much self-reflection. Sometimes this can lead to toxic monogamy

When these long-established monogamous relationships begin opening up – regardless of the circumstances – boundaries are one of the first challenges couples must overcome. Gone are the days where you know everything about your partner. That complacent sense of safety is gone. Insecurity, competition, and jealousy take over our minds and hearts. New Relationship Energy, or NRE, also tends to cause issues in already existing relationships. Like a sailboat caught in an ocean storm, the wild ride of emotional highs your partner experiences with their new partner tends to leave already established partners on the way side. 

Where do boundaries lie when you’re in a previously established monogamous relationship? There are so many aspects of a monogamous relationship that have to be unpacked, understood, and re-considered from new perspectives. Polyamory pretty much forces a person to take responsibility and accountability for upholding boundaries and learning how to express them. 

We learn that relating in any sense is a two-way process, regardless of how many relationships you have. Your relationship with Person A is very different from your relationship with Person B, the ways in which you communicate, spend time together, and even understand each other will be different. Person A and Person B’s relationship together will be different even from your relationship from either one of them. Additionally, Person A and Person B’s relationship is separate from the relationship you have with either one of them. The moments you share with each partner are special between the two of you. The moments you share with your friends and lovers all together are also just as special and significant. 

Forcing relationships between two people is a ginormous NO-NO. Expecting two people to exist in real life the way they exist in your mind is unreasonable, unrealistic, and very unfair. Allowing someone to dictate your relationship with someone else is also a huge red flag, regardless of how long you’ve been together, known each other, or if you’re married. Your boundaries lie with you. What are YOU responsible for?

Some folks want to dictate the time that their partner spends with their other partner, or meta, but that responsibility lies with the partner and the meta they are in the relationship with as far as their relationship agreements. That is not to say, that partner doesn’t have a responsibility to uphold prior agreements and promises made, however. Your partner is accountable to you and the relationship you share.

But the general idea is:

  • I am responsible for what I want my life to look like.
  • I am responsible for my intentions with each of my relationships.
  • I am responsible for my happiness and achievements of my goals.
  • I am responsible for my feelings and how I express them.
  • I am responsible for how I react to uncomfortable emotions and situations.
  • I am responsible for surrounding myself with people who are supportive.
  • I am responsible for entering into relationships with people who respect my other relationships.
  • I am responsible for communicating my desires, expectations, and needs.

Being able to determine your level of responsibility will save your polycule a lot of confusion and headache. If you’re a couple that’s new to non-monogamy, consider the perspective that your partner is a grown, free adult fully capable of making their own decisions and engaging other connections in a way that is fulfilling and comfortable to them, without having to ask permission. It’s incredibly important to talk through this idea BEFORE attempting to open your relationship as setting these boundaries dictates the future success of all your relationships. 

  • What boundaries do you have regarding your own sexual safety? 
  • What boundaries do you have around sharing your personal information? 
  • What boundaries do you have around your space and your dedicated date time?   

This is not an extensive list, but it’s a good start. I have programs geared toward learning how to set boundaries and communicate them as well as establishing better ways to communicate with your partner. This is longer than my normal blog posts but this is a really important subject. If some questions come up for you, feel free to reach out to me. I am more than happy to answer questions regarding your situation. 

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