Changing Relationship Agreements Over Time

Changing relationship agreements

We were inspired to do this podcast by a Dan Savage podcast where Dan suggested that a non-monogamous person starting a relationship with a monogamous person could always try a monogamous agreement for a while and then shift to a non-monogamous one.

We liked the ideas of seeing monogamy to non-monogamy as a spectrum that people could move around on over time. This is very much how we see it ourselves – check out our zine for more on this.

The rules or agreements that we make in our relationships can and should be constantly shifting, not something we lock into place forever. This is because both individuals and relationships change over time in all kinds of ways. More on this in MJ’s book Rewriting the Rules.

In the podcast we unpack two key ideas in relation to this:

It’s okay for rules to change over time and we should let others know if the rules are likely to change

It’s okay for rules to change

For example there are many reasons that we might decide that we have no capacity for further erotic and/or emotionally deep relationships right now. We might feel that all our capacity is taken up with one or more relationships that we already have. This might happen when we’re in new relationship energy, or when we have maxed out on the number of close relationships we can handle, for example. Or it might be that we have an illness, someone to care for, a big work project, or a trauma to deal with. During that time we might decide to be single, monogamous, polyfidelitous, or to only have casual encounters, in order to navigate that period. But it might well be that we want to open up more, or change the rules, once that period is over.

We should let others know if the rules are likely to change

Sometimes we have a pretty good idea that the rules or agreements we currently have in a relationship are likely to have to change at some point in the future. For example, we might be planning to have a kid or to move to another country, or we might be a monogamous person who is having friends-with-benefits relationships but only until we meet ‘someone’. It can be very painful to others in our lives if we don’t let them know that these things are on the cards, particularly if the change will mean a significant shift – or even ending – in our relationship. If you know that a change is likely to happen it’s good to be clear on that.

The final major point we discussed on the podcast is that it’s important to allow people to have the feelings they have around such changes. We often avoid telling people changes are coming, or avoid making changes that we need to make, because we feel hurting or angering people. Actually the trick is to get to a point where we do listen to our needs and make changes, and we communicate compassionately about that, because we can handle other people having their feelings: even if this thing we’re doing is resulting in sadness, grief, fear, or anger for them. It’s okay for you to change the rules, and it’s also okay for the other person to feel how they feel.

More on this in the next podcast on staying with other people’s feelings.