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Chelsey’s Poly Contract (With Myself)

When I began my journey into polyamory, I had to decide what was healthy for me in my relationships. I eventually wrote down my boundaries and limits. These boundaries apply mostly to me and are reminders of healthy practices, but since most of the points are essentially spelling out respect and ethical behavior, I hold my partners to most of the same standards. I revisit it every so often to make sure it matches what I want (you can check the bottom of the page to see the update dates). I’ve posted it here not because it’s the be-all-end-all of poly manifestos, but because it might help others figure out where they want to start, even if it is to do the complete opposite of what I want and need.

Emotional Health

  • I am responsible for my own well-being and if that is compromised in any way, it takes priority over anything else.
  • I do not disregard other people’s needs, but I am not responsible for them.
  • I will only make agreements in relationships that I feel genuinely comfortable with. If I feel as though I am being pressured or coerced into a decision, it can be an immediate no, even if previously I might have said yes or maybe. If I do realize that I have been pressured into something, I will correct it as soon as possible.
  • If a relationship gives me more anxiety or stress than I feel is acceptable, I will end it to preserve my own well-being and/or that of my other relationships.
  • I recognize that maintaining a relationship takes work, and I will work to keep a relationship healthy. However, I will not put the relationship ahead of my own wellbeing.
  • I will not work on another person’s issues for them, even if it is affecting my relationship with them, and I will expect them to work on their own issues in order to maintain the relationship. I can help in ways that do not cause undue harm or stress on me.
  • I will be honest about issues I am working on, whether ongoing or recent. I will make as much of a distinction as possible between personal issues and relationship issues.
  • I will make my partners aware of those issues that affect them, and I may ask for help in working through them, though my partners will not be required to.
  • When I feel jealousy I will work to find the underlying emotion, feeling, or need and confront those directly.
  • If I am feeling uneasy, uncomfortable, or unhappy, I will tell my partner instead of complaining to others or letting it stew. I will not expect them to fix how I feel, but I can ask for reassurance, or ask them to correct behavior that I feel is harmful.
  • I will not make any rash decisions about existing relationships while in the NRE/limerence period that could have been affected by it. As a guideline, I generally define this as six months.

Communication

  • Every relationship requires honesty, trust, respect, and open communication. I will practice all of these.
  • I will discuss privacy with my partners and ask them what they would prefer to keep private and what they are comfortable with being shared. I will not agree to keep secrets that would detrimental to me or other partners, but if there are certain things said or done that are to be kept private, I will accept that.
  • If communication is not open or healthy, I will expect both my partner and I to work on that so that communication improves.
  • The sooner I know pretty much anything, the better. Whether this is about a new partner, a date or outing, a new event or activity, or a new level in a relationship. I do not need to be asked permission, just made aware.
  • As soon as possible, I will tell my partners about new partners, scheduling they need to be aware of, or a new development in relationships that they need to be aware of.
  • If I’m not sure of what my partner would say or think about something, I will ask, not assume.
  • It is not better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I will not breach my partners’ consent.

Time – In person and at a distance

  • If something is already planned, with a partner or friends, that takes priority over time that another partner wants to schedule, unless there is an emergency or urgency. I will support my partner in the same.
  • I have a habit of staying in touch with most of my partners pretty consistently, usually through texting. This can include while I’m spending time with other partners. If the person/people I am with at the time feel that I am neglecting our time together, they can ask that I end my conversations, and I will at the earliest opportunity.
  • I text, a lot. It’s the easiest way for me to stay in touch. I am okay with infrequent texting depending on how important it is to my partner, and the amount of contact desired will be communicated as-needed.

Structure

  • Each relationship is important, and each partner deserves equal courtesy. This does not mean that each partner will receive equal time or equal affection, but every relationship will have the same openness to growth and change.
  • I cannot and will not promise anything as far as affection, closeness, or relationship status.
  • I do not feel like an absolute veto is healthy and it is a hard limit for me. I will take any objections into consideration when it comes to a new partner, but a veto would only breed resentment. Similarly, I expect my partners to take into consideration any objection I would have to other partners, and I have the right to end a relationship if I feel that other partners are negatively affecting my relationship. I will also not enter a relationship where I know I could be vetoed.
  • I do not “share” my partners unless that is how the relationship starts, or it is discussed and agreed upon early on, or it happens organically. I don’t want to feel the pressure to change an existing, working dynamic. I also will not attempt to force my way into sharing my partners’ other partners.

Protection

  • Safer sex is essential. Penetrative sex without condoms will only happen after extremely clear negotiation and after all my partners and metamours are made aware of the possibility, so that they may make informed decisions about their own safety. The use of barrier methods for other forms of contact (such as oral) should be used, but can be renegotiated on a case by case basis, and is not required unless there is an existing STI that needs to be protected against.
  • I will notify my partners as soon as possible about new partners and/or any STI exposure in order for them to be able to make informed decisions for their own safety.
  • I will be tested for STIs at least once a year. If a partner requests that I be tested, I will at the soonest opportunity and provide proof.
  • I will request proof of a partner’s latest STI test, and request one if they have not been tested in the past year.
  • In the case of accidental pregnancy I would not carry it to term, and I will not have any type of sex with anyone that does not respect that decision.

Other

  • I do not want to or plan on being a part of raising any children. If my partners are parents or otherwise have responsibility for children, this is not an issue for me, but I will not take on any parental role.
  • Any BDSM agreements are made separately from polyamory agreements but will follow all these same boundaries.

What I Ask of My Partners

  • If you’re not sure of what I would say or think about something, ask, don’t assume.
  • It is not better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Do not do something with the intention of getting my consent after the fact.
  • I expect that my partners will be in contact with their other partners as needed, but also expect that they will respect my request to focus more on our time together as needed.
  • Don’t ask me if I can promise to love you, or ask me to promise we’ll get closer. That will only drive me away. I cannot promise emotion, I can wait for it to develop.
  • While I do not expect all of my partners to be best friends with each other, there must be acknowledgement of being in my life and at the very least, civil behavior towards each other, and ideally some form of friendship. If there is conflict between my partners, either I must not be dragged in to be the mediator, or I will change the dynamic or end a relationship.
  • I expect to be notified as soon as possible about new partners and/or any STI exposure in order to be able to make informed decisions for my own safety.

This has been updated on: December 22, 2014, January 27, 2015, August 15, 2015, March 1, 2016, May 17, 2016, and October 17, 2016.

Chelsey Dagger

Chelsey is a relationship anarchist, with multiple wonderful partners across the United States. They are in IT during the day, and at night they are currently in school for psychology, and on their way to being a therapist, with focus on polyamorous individuals, couples, and families.

  • Mark Plaga

    How do I love thee, let me count the ways.

    I am Torn between simply stating what a beautiful well thought out set of principles to live and love by, your rules/limits are, or just going fully Limereantic (made up word) and professing my undying love for you. Your no-nonsense, I will be responsible of my needs/issues/hangups and my partners will be responsible for there’s while always being fair, courteous, communicative, safe and introspective is simply wonderful.

    Thank you for providing your ruleset as an example of how we should conduct ourselves and consider our relationships.

    Just a little in love with you,

    Mark

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