Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Monogamy Agreement

This post was inspired by two things; firstly, this post on Polyamory that Alicorn wrote in the Less Wrong community, and, secondly, a recent episode of the Big Bang Theory in which (spoiler alert) one character wrote up a relationship agreement for another to sign.

I hope you will read the above post, but I'm going to recap it anyway; the part we are most concerned with is the fact that the author, Alicorn, on deciding to enter a polygamous relationship, wrote a list of exactly what that would entail.  She began by writing down what was essential - to her - from a monogamous relationship, and seeing if those things could be met in a polyamorous one (spoiler - they could).

The thing that struck me was the fact that no one does this (except someone in the Big Bang Theory) for monogamy.  Because monogamy is the socially acceptable and normative relationship model for, I presume, the majority of people reading, we just assume that it means the same thing to everyone.  That everyone - specifically, all potential and actual partners - use the same, or very similar, models for monogamy.  We don't discuss what we expect from a relationship, we just assume we're on the same page.

(Or, at least, I assume this is the case.  Anyone who does have in depth discussions about new monogamous relationships, holler at me down in the comments).

For the sake of interest, I'm going to make a quick list regarding my current relationship, and what my ideal model of monogamy looks like.  Unless otherwise specified, all points apply to both parties, although, by necessity, the list is from my point of view.

  • I want to be the only romantic priority, and I want this to be symmetrical.
  • I want a don't ask, don't tell policy on minor flirting.  This is partly because I enjoy verbal confirmation of my attractiveness, and, if this is all expected to come from one person, it tends to create a huge strain on my relationship.  I also don't want to have to very carefully monitor all conversations with male friends.  However, anything beyond a certain limit will be considered adultery (I have yet to determine where that limit is, or how exactly it should be determined.  This is something Anthony and I should discuss).
  • Both parties acknowledge that each other has integrity.  Feeling jealous and acknowledging that is natural, and those feelings should be considered.  However, trust, and not being insane and controlling, is also important.
  • I want to have friends of the opposite gender - including one specific friend, who is an ex - and for this not to be a source of constant whining, jealousy, or emotional blackmail/abuse.  In this specific case, Anthony also has a friend whom he once had strong feelings for, and I, for my part, try not to be crazy about it.
  • Adultery consists of; dating another person, romantic physical contact (intentions are important, here), and romantic relationships with other people even if they don't move beyond the verbal.  Kissing counts.Adultery, as defined above, will result in an immediate end to the relationship.  Hiding these actions will be the worst thing you could do to me.
  • The flaw here is, of course, that my partner therefore has no incentive to ever tell me, since there is no chance of working it out.  This is where trust comes into it.
  • We both acknowledge and avoid the possibility of inter-relationship sexual abuse.  ie; yes, it is possible to rape your long-term partner, and no, that will not be happening.
  • We don't share every hobby.  I like, for instance, reading a book or knitting while Anthony watches football.  I don't want to have to sit and watch every second of the game, he doesn't have to read every book I own.  However, there should also be a mutual respect for one another's hobbies.  (I was once in a relationship with someone whose pattern for monogamy included doing everything together.  This often meant that his hobbies superseded mine, or, at least, that he felt like they should.  Trivia - he's also the reason for the "I'm-allowed-male-friends clause"!)
  • Like Alicorn, I also want to marry and reproduce exclusively.  Again, this is not on the cards for me at the moment.
  • Again, like Alicorn, I want to be able to secure attention on demand.
  • I try to avoid preparing food which is not vegan.  I have no problem with dating an omnivore, and I will cook for him (I'm cissexual), but it will be vegan food.  Open-mindedness is a necessity (but not the kind of open-mindedness where you go on and on about how open-minded and allowing you're being).
  • I am not your parent.  I do not want to organise everything.  If we attend an event together, I do not expect to have to tell you how to dress, constantly remind you of when we need to leave, or what time to be ready, or to carry snacks/water.  That said, both parties should be sensible regarding information; for instance, if we're going to an event I chose, then I will know when it starts, and how to get there, assuming it's in Birmingham, and will use this information to ensure a fun trip for both of us.  Likewise, for events in Liverpool, or that Anthony decides to attend, he will have more information than I do.
  • I don't want to do the majority of the cooking, or be expected to do the majority of the cooking.  Since I have particular dietary needs, I will do half.

The above is just a quick draft, and, obviously, there are some bugs to hammer out.   I really want to know; how do these ideas differ from what you'd put on your agreement?  Any specific clauses you wouldn't wish to include?  Anything I've missed?  Let me know!

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