Here at last is Agreements Tip #10, “Check In Periodically / Re-negotiate If Needed,” from my Agreements Workbook series! Learn more below about checking in, keeping perspective, and what to do if someone is “pushing the envelope.”
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Tip #10: Check in periodically/re-negotiate if needed
Check in as you go
One of the key points in consciously constructed Agreements is that in most cases they can be re-negotiated. Remember that (in this workbook, at least!) we’re not talking about legally binding Agreements that require a judge or a lawyer to change. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to make a change?
To begin with, it’s important to keep in touch with the Agreements you’ve made. Especially with Time Limited Agreements (but also with any sort of Agreements), it’s very important to note when things are not working, and to address such issues as soon as possible. Don’t wait till things break down completely before talking to your partner/s about any issues! That just courts disaster in the form of broken Agreements, and broken trust.
Be flexible and creative
Remember that these sorts of Agreements are not “set in stone,” so it’s important to remain flexible and responsible to your partner’s needs, while still honoring your own as well. (Remember that the relationship needs your needs, AND those of your partner/s! p.___) Be open to renegotiating from a collaborative space. The more flexible and creative that both/all partners are, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that works for everyone.
As you check in and perhaps renegotiate, it’s important to keep perspective. Not all Agreements will work perfectly in their initial form the first time! Some give and take is probably necessary in the process, and sometimes one or another partner will need to “overlook” something that’s annoying, but not really all that important in the larger scheme of things. Take a step back and consider the Agreement in the context of your whole relationship, and each of your lives. What’s important? What might be ok to let drop, or to negotiate a bit around? Here are a few ideas:
- Safer sex boundaries
- Doing what you’ve promised to do and/or someone else is relying on you to do
- Getting the kids to school or yourself to work on time
- Actions impacting the family finances to a great degree
Probably not that important:
- The direction the toilet paper roll unrolls
- Whether you squeeze the toothpaste in the middle
- Forgetting to write down what you spent on your coffee date one time (unless, for instance, you flew to Paris to do it…)
- Returning from a date five minutes late one time (again, a pattern of this could be a warning sign; see “Pushing the Boundaries” on p. ___[in a future entry].)
If one of you says something like “Damn it, you put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way despite the agreement! I’m moving out!” you can bet that that person has lost perspective. Consider taking a break from your negotiations for 20 minutes or more [ref] to let that person calm down and regain their equilibrium.
Pushing the envelope: A warning sign
While it’s important for all partners to remain flexible, it’s also important to recognize when an Agreement is not really working, and is in danger of getting bent or broken. One of the biggest signs of an Agreement in peril is “pushing the envelope. This means one or more partners are repeatedly engaging in “grey area” activities and/or violating the spirit of the Agreement, even if not the letter of it. Both of these are warning signs that something is not actually working, and are a call to renegotiate sooner rather than later, before the Agreement gets broken.
Let’s say TJ, Sandy, and Loren have an agreement not to kiss anyone else outside of their own triad. One day, Sandy goes to an event and kisses someone on the cheek, and then justifies it by saying “it was just on the cheek”! Depending on the reasons behind that Agreement, TJ and Loren might be ok with this behavior once, or even occasionally. But if Sandy repeatedly “forgets” this Agreement, and/or pushes the envelope even further (e.g., “it was just a peck on the lips; we didn’t French kiss or anything!”) then this may indicate that Sandy really shouldn’t have made this Agreement at all (Reason #5 of the Five Reasons; see p. ___ [in a future entry]), or that there is some other unmet need of Sandy’s that needs to be addressed through discussion and negotiation. Failing to address the boundary-pushing behavior, and therefore the unmet needs, is entirely too likely to result in the Agreement getting broken, and in subsequent hurt feelings and broken trust, which are much more difficult to repair.
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[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]
Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.
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[Related Entry: 2 Lists of 5 Ways to Fail in Polyamory]
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