Don’t Set Yourself Up for Broken Agreements

Conflict-Avoidance and Negotiating Agreements

Stepping outside of monogamy-centric assumptions about fidelity means that you’re going to need to have more and deeper conversations with your partner about what you each envision for your relationship. Those conversations will certainly require you to delve deep into emotionally challenging topics like jealousy, primacy, intimacy, and more.

  • Take it slow. You don’t have to figure everything out in the first conversation you have, or the second, or the tenth. You and your partner will both benefit from ample time to reflect, explore, and consider one another’s perspectives.
  • Consider setting a timer for ten minutes to remind you to take frequent breaks from the conversation to avoid overwhelm or escalation.
  • You might also consider having one person speak and the other listen and ask clarifying questions, rather than entering into a back and forth right away. Then, take a sizable break before switching roles.
  • This is not a decision-making process…yet. You can take your time to learn more about yourself and about your partner. You’re not going to lose anything by taking your time now, and deep understanding comes before effective decision-making. When you are in the role of speaking about your experience, let your partner’s questions help you get to know yourself better. When you are in the role of listening/getting curious, let your empathy show you what this looks like from your partner’s perspective, with their unique viewpoint.
  • Plan to take frequent breaks. As you begin talking about what is important to you, and really letting yourself hear and understand what is important to others in your life, make sure you agree ahead of time that you will take a break if a discussion gets heated. This seemingly simple step will save you a world of trouble but often is overlooked, in part because it is not as easy as it sounds.
  • Cultivate gentleness, warmth, and curiosity about your partner’s experience and perspective. What they are telling you is a precious thing. It’s a unique perspective you can only understand by really engaging with them and allowing yourself to really let in what they are telling you about their thoughts, feelings, and desires. If you become defensive, go on the attack, or shut down, it will effectively end the vulnerability and honesty you are hoping to foster. If you start to experience a lot of emotion or get bogged down, take a break. Remember, this stage of things is not a decision-making process. There is no rush.
  • Get curious about your own discomfort. Take uncomfortable emotions that arise as a signal to explore a bit more, and gently, rather than to pull away. This requires going slowly; as slowly as it takes to stay grounded and leaning toward one another emotionally, rather than getting guarded and pulling away.
  • Consider setting a timer for ten minutes to remind you to take frequent breaks from the conversation to avoid overwhelm or escalation.
  • You might also consider having one person speak and the other listen and ask clarifying questions, rather than entering into a back and forth right away. Then, take a sizable break before switching roles.

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