Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Opportunity to Consent


Consent.  It's a cornerstone of poly, right up there with communication, and yet is often confused with "control".  These days, I am highly motivated by consent, and most specifically by being given the opportunity to consent by my partners.

S has a new connection, C, that is developing, and D is also ramping things up with another partner, which is leaving me immersed in other people's NRE.  My other partner, J, and her two children are in the process of moving to a much closer home.  In addition, there is another major situation unfolding on a parenting front that is enormously stressful.  In short, I'm feeling attacked by change from multiple sides, and even positive changes can feel scary.

One of my first stops in managing stress levels has been to take things off my plate as much as possible in other areas.  Another has been to request additional assistance and flexibility from people in my network.  All of that has been good, and I feel like there is a great level of support across the board.  Where I've been feeling shaky has been that so much change makes me feel unstable and out of control across the board.

This weekend I came across a concept that I think will be highly helpful to me in my relationships:  Being given the opportunity to consent. As with most things discovered in poly, there was stepping in something triggering, figuring out what was difficult about that, and trying to come up with a strategy that will create a better outcome!  Gotta love those opportunities to learn! ;)

This weekend, S and I were at a party together.  We'd set it up as a date for he and I.  Although other partners were slated to be present, they all had other dates set up as well.  At some point, S disappeared with C for a while.  They pulled things up before crossing lines that hadn't been previously negotiated, but I was still pretty hurt and upset.  Not because they were making out.  Not because I don't like her (I do!).  But because I found myself sharing date time that was supposed to be focused on our dyad.

It was a violation of consent for me.  NRE can be pretty compelling, and I get that.  If S had come to have a conversation with me, and see if I were open to some non-exclusive date time, chances are pretty good that I would have said yes.  I want to get on board with their relationship.  I want to buy in.  To give to my partner and metamour willingly, rather than having assumed consent, and sort it out later.

Sure, it's his life, and he gets to do it any way he wants.  He can give his time, energy and affection as he sees fit.  What I'm talking about here is often referred to as the difference between inform and ask. A lot of people get really irate about the idea of asking a partner for something that relates to another relationship.  Rather than asking for "permission", try reframing it as giving your partner the opportunity to consent to what you want.

There is no desire for me to have decision-making power in my partner's other relationships.  However, in a landscape that may feel very chaotic/scary/threatening, having the choice to say "yes" to something, rather than being informed of a decision, can be extremely empowering.

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