One interesting potential side effect of exploring polyamory is that it can bring people way down deeper into the question of “what does this relationship mean?” It doesn’t always—some people just don’t want to go that deep—but for people who are trying to pay attention to how they do relationships, extracting the notion of sexual exclusivity from the ingredient list can somehow ease the rest of it open for examination, discussion, and conscious choice as well.
So, what are some ways of making commitments once that whole “sex/love with you only” thing has been taken off the table, you mean? Well, here are some common options for commitments…
- Supporting each other, materially and emotionally, in pursuit of their individual and mutual dreams.
- Taking care of one another when they are poorly or injured.
- Creating a happy, comfortable home together.
- Showing up on time for date nights, social gatherings, airplane departures, and other important events.
- Being careful and aware about sexual health matters.
- Talking about relationship problems when they arise, and maybe checking in on a regular basis just for emotional maintenance.
- Being present and supportive when the other is having emotional challenges.
- If in a shared household, contributing an agreed-upon amount to shared expenses.
- Doing one’s best to be caring and conscious about the other person’s feelings.
The list goes on, but the point is: it’s not a different list than one that people in monoamorous relationships might make. A lot of it works for platonic friendships as well. All the commitments that could conceivably go into creating a solid, loving, good relationship are there for you, whatever your style of relationship arrangement.
The keen-eyed among you may have noticed that I didn’t put “getting married” in here. This was deliberate on my part; after having been married/civil-unioned three times, I have become very careful about just throwing marriage out there as a catch-all commitment array, or using it as a shorthand for some kind of higher-level relationship package, because falling into unexamined shorthand agreements as a default is a sure way to wake up one day and say, I thought we agreed to do this for each other, and then realize that was only your expectation, and it was only in your head.
Whether co-writing a set of wedding vows or having “the talk” (e.g. “what kind of relationship is this exactly?”), I find that commitments in relationships work best when they are discussed individually, with an eye for what the people involved need, and what they can actually provide. Clear expectations and caring communication: that’s what makes a commitment more likely to work.
Yes, sometimes the Fuckbucket goes into relationship territory. But don't worry, I'm still getting stuck into sex stuff up to my elbows most weeks, with Smut Slams around Europe (and mentoring them around the world) and new shows and programming happening all the time. If you like what I do for facilitating awkward but essential conversations around sex, sexuality, gender, and relationships, consider supporting me on Patreon!