Monday, July 2, 2012

Negotiating Boundaries & Setting Expectations

With all the changes going on right now, I'm finding that some of the boundaries and expectations previously set with my partners are not quite where I want them to be anymore.  As my relationships grow and change, things that were previously no big deal are suddenly causing huge emotional responses.  Things that were previously extremely important are becoming minor and inconsequential.  I've been with my partners long enough now to know what their hot button issues are, and they know mine.  But what do you do when a new hot button appears?  Or when something that used to get you hot no longer does?

In any relationship, poly, monogamous, or otherwise, you need to be constantly evaluating what you want versus what you need from your partner.  Things change over time.  Feelings deepen, or fade.  What once was new and exciting might become commonplace and familiar (or, gasp, boring).  In my marriage, for example, the Mister and I have a routine in place for day to day tasks.  He takes care of X,Y, & Z.  I take care of A, B, & C.  This arrangement has come about because I realized that I needed him to help with those things.  In the beginning, if he helped it was nice, but not needed.  It was a want, something that was awesome if he could provide but that was not critical to the success of our relationship.  A few kids and more job responsibilities later, and now those things are needs.  I can't physically do them myself on a regular basis, and my want for his help became a need - if he can't step up and help out, it affects our bond.  

This is true for just about any relationship .  Maybe you are okay with the way your sex life is right now, but you're curious about kink.  Asking your partner to explore with you is a want.  You don't need the expanded sexual experience to have a fulfilling, happy relationship.  But you want it.  Make sure you are being clear with your partners when you are discussing boundaries and expectations.   Don't tell your partner that something you need is really a want.  Being vague isn't going to get you where you want to go, and in fact it might result in the exact opposite! 

While you're evaluating boundaries, consider how your expectations mesh with those of your partner.  Do your wants and needs still line up reasonably well?  Does one of you want a primary relationship while the other only wants to get together twice a week?  That situation isn't going to work for very long.  Keeping relationships healthy and growing requires work, communication, and sometimes a good strong reality check.  If what you need doesn't line up with what your partner needs, it might be time to reconsider the relationship as a whole.  Maybe you need to simply evaluate if you are willing to realign some of your needs to meet theirs and vice versa.  As long as you meet in the middle somewhere, and communicate often, you can make it work.

Something I personally struggle with while assessing the state of my relationships is remembering to look forward, not back.  Yes, things that happened affect where I want my relationships to go, but once the new boundary is set, once a partner and I have learned from the experience and know what to expect, that event needs to stay in the past.  I have a hard time with this because I am an over-analyzer.  I need to figure out where I went wrong, or what I did that exacerbated the problem (even if it wasn't my fault to begin with).  Learning to let go of past events is something I'm working on as a person; no one wants something that happened a year ago to come up suddenly in the middle of a heated argument just because it makes a good barb.  

Everyone knows that relationships are hard work.  Be open to change, be willing to meet someone halfway on the big issues.  Be willing to concede the ones that don't really matter to you but are important to them.  Ask questions, ensure that your partner is getting what they need from you (and at least some of what they want).  Remember that relationships are about balance.  As the Stones said, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.  

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