Nesting Relationship Agreement That Work: Six Questions to Ask Yourselves [Polyamory Conversation Cards #13]

Not everyone who is polyamorous wants a nesting relationship – one where you live together with your partner or partners. Some people prefer solo polyamory, or being their own primary partner. Others are highly introverted and prefer to live alone for this reason. Some live a nomadic lifestyle, travel a lot, or prefer to be able to change their living situation regularly.

For many of us, though, living with one or more partners is our current reality or a desired future state.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“Is it important for you to share (or keep sharing) your home with one or multiple partners?”

So let’s talk about nesting relationships and the agreements that govern them. Here are six questions you and your partner(s) should be asking yourselves and each other, whether you’re thinking about moving in together, transitioning from monogamy to polyamory while in a nested relationship, or revising your agreements.

A quick reminder on terminology, as we are going to be talking about agreements, boundaries, and rules in this post.

Boundaries pertain to yourself and the things that belong to you, such as your body, mind, time, and possessions. An example of a boundary is “I will use barriers during sex to protect my sexual health.”

Agreements are made by, and followed by, both or all parties in a relationship, household, or other group. They should enhance the relationship, providing safety, stability or structure without being overly restrictive or onerous. One example is, “we will keep each other in the loop when we take on a new sexual or romantic partner.”

Rules are imposed on people from the outside and involve compelling or forbidding them to do certain things. Rules are generally seen as controlling and frowned upon by the polyamorous community. An example of a rule is “you’re not allowed to have sex without a condom with anyone but me.”

What are your individual and collective needs around shared vs. private space?

When I moved in with my nesting partner years ago, one of my requirements before agreeing to the move was that I would have my own office space. This was essential for me, but may not be for you. On the other hand, maybe you’d like your own bedroom? A shared living space where you can have your friends over for D&D night? A room where you can close the door and play video games in peace?

Negotiating your needs and wants around shared and private space is essential when you’re navigating nesting relationship agreements.

Under society’s monogamous paradigm, when a couple moves in together the assumption is usually that they will share a bedroom and bed. This works for many couples, but not others! I know many polyamorous couples or groups who live together in a setup where everyone has their own bedroom. They may bed-hop or stay over in each other’s rooms, occasionally or regularly, but everyone has a space that is ultimately their own.

If you prefer to sleep separately some or all of the time, or if you generally want to sleep together but also need your own room to retreat to, that’s something you will need to work out as you create your nesting agreements. (By the way: it’s also fine to have your own bedrooms if you’re monogamous!)

Will other partners be able to visit us at home, and under what circumstances?

Some people practice a strictly parallel form of polyamory in which metamours never meet or interact. This is a completely valid way to be polyamorous, but it can present challenges when one dyad is nesting together.

If you practice parallel polyam, one or both of you dislikes your metamour(s) for some reason, or you are just someone who dislikes hosting people in your space, this might mean that other partners cannot visit you at home.

In some circumstances, this will be totally navigable. Perhaps your non-nesting partners can host at their places. Maybe one of you travels a lot for work and the other can have their other sweeties over during those times. Perhaps you have the money to get a hotel room for regular date nights. Perhaps your other partners are long distance and you only see each other very occasionally. In other circumstances, though, it can present a major issue. These restrictions can even prevent non-nesting relationships from growing, developing, and thriving if they are not carefully managed. If this is your situation, employing creative solutions is called for.

You may decide that not being able to host other partners in a shared home is a dealbreaker for you. Conversely, you may decide that having your metamours in your living space is a dealbreaker. Both are valid choices but, if you and your nesting partner or potential nesting partner aren’t on the same page about this, it might be a sign that living together isn’t right for you.

If you do agree that it’s okay to host people at home, do you need any agreements around that? Are there any limitations, requests, or boundaries that will make it more comfortable for everyone involved? For example:

  • “Please give me a heads-up if your other partner is coming over so I’m not surprised by an unexpected guest”
  • “Please keep the noise down after 10pm as I have to get up early for work”
  • “We generally won’t have other people over on Thursdays as that’s our date night”
  • “Until our new partners have met our children, we’ll only invite them over after bedtime or when the kids are out”

Do we need any agreements or rules around use of beds, certain spaces, and so on?

I wrote about polyamory bed rules recently, and I touched on a common agreement that many nested polyamorous couples make: no other partners in our bed/bedroom. If you and your nesting partner have agreed that having other partners over at home is okay, then do you need to make any further agreements or provisions around use of beds or particular spaces? This will depend on a few factors, from emotional needs to the practicalities of available spaces.

I’ve seen all kinds of different variations on this theme – everything from “whoever has someone over gets the main bed, and the other nesting partner decamps to the guest room” to “other partners only in the guest room, never in our room.” If you each have your own rooms, this becomes somewhat simpler because each person can host in their own room and bed. If not, you will need to work out what feels most viable for everyone in your household as well as other partners.

Factors such as disability (does someone need close access to a bathroom? Can someone not manage stairs?) can also play a role in making these agreements, as can concerns relating to children, pets, sleep needs, work schedules, and so on.

Is there scope for other partners to live with us in the future? If so, under what circumstances?

This can be a difficult one, and people have strong feelings on both sides. Perhaps you feel as though all your relationships should have at least the potential for nesting down the line. On the other hand, perhaps you are perfectly happy to live with one person and never want to open up that possibility with any other partner.

Living preferences are deeply personal, so I won’t tell you that any one way is better than any other. What is important, though, is to ensure that you and your nesting partner are on a similar page. If one of you wants to keep nesting exclusive but the other wants the possibility of a big happy polyamorous family under one roof, this is a recipe for big problems down the line.

If living with other partners is potentially on the table, what circumstances would make that possible? Perhaps the relationship with the incoming partner would need to have been stable and healthy for several years. Perhaps this is only a possibility once your children have grown up and moved out. Presumably the metamours, as well as the partners, would need to have a strong and stable connection with one another.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to be honest with other partners. Don’t tell someone (or allow them to believe) that nesting is a possibility if it is not. Likewise, if you are looking for other potential future nesting partners, don’t downplay or obfuscate this desire to seem cool or “chill.” If you’re open to nesting after five years, don’t imply that it could happen in two.

It’s also important to remember that people’s wants, needs, and views can change. Perhaps you both genuinely feel that you never want to live with anyone else right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same way forever. You might, of course, but you also might not.

Talking about and accepting the possibility of changed minds – because relationships and connections can change us profoundly, and in ways we may not understand until we’re in them – can help to alleviate pain down the line. That’s not to say it will be easy if one of you changes your mind or wants to significantly overhaul your nesting agreements. But understanding that the possibility exists can reduce or eliminate a sense of betrayal if it does happen, opening up the door for more productive communication and problem solving.

What will happen to our relationship if one or both of us decides we no longer wish to be nesting partners?

Denesting means transitioning a nesting relationship to one where you don’t live together, but continuing the relationship in some form. Denesting is very rare in monogamy. It’s relatively uncommon in polyamory too, but I have seen it done and I have seen it work well. Polyamory makes it more possible, because continuing a romantic and/or relationship after denesting does not preclude the possibility of either or both of you finding other nesting partners down the road.

If you’re excited about moving in together, exploring polyamory, or making some other significant change to your nesting relationship, “what happens if it doesn’t work out?” is probably the last thing you want to think about. But it is really, really important to consider and to talk about.

Does your relationship have the potential to continue in a different format if you decide to denest? Does the reason behind the denesting matter? (For example, some people might feel that they could denest relatively happily if their partner received an amazing job opportunity in a different city, but not if their partner decided they’d prefer to nest with another lover instead.)

What discussions, agreements, and boundaries might be needed if you did choose to denest? How might your relationship look if nesting was no longer a part of it?

Of course, none of this is set in stone or constitutes a binding commitment. You might think you’ll feel one way, but feel completely differently – for better or worse – in reality. But having the conversations and imagining the possibilities can save you heartache and pain down the road.

How will we share finances, chores, and other responsibilities (e.g. childcare and pets?)

This isn’t really a polyamory question, of course, but it is a vital nesting relationship question. If you’re not on at least roughly the same page about these things, it’s a sign you are not ready to live together or not compatible as nesting partners.

How will finances work? (I wrote a long essay about polyamory and money recently.) Who will be responsible for which chores and tasks? How will care for children, pets, and other dependents work? How will you navigate it if one of you is much messier than the other?

It’s been said that the vast majority of domestic issues in relationships are actually roommate issues. I think there’s a lot of truth to this idea. Before you can work out how (or if) you can live together polyamorously, you need to work out how (or if) you can live together, period.

What agreements do you have in your nesting relationship? Any pearls of wisdom to share?

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