Building Your House Together: Using Rules for Good

Did you see that I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project?

Join the discussion on Twitter or sign up for the project yourself – it’s FREE and can be used any way you like. Today’s prompt is all about rules. Kayla and John simply ask:

Do you know what kind of rules you may want or need?

A note about this post: it doesn’t contain much in the way of practical tips. I will do one soon with some more concrete advice on setting positive and useful relationship rules. This one is more a primer on my personal philosophy on the concept of rules/agreements in romantic relationships.

What’s wrong with rules?

A lot of non-monogamous people are against rules in relationships. The thinking goes: if you need rules to keep your partner from hurting you, the relationship is already doomed. I kind of agree with that sentiment, in so far as it goes. But I think it presents an unhelpfully pessimistic view on the role of rules in adult relationships.

Mr CK and I have rules in our relationship. They include things like always using condoms with lovers outside of our dyad, STI testing every 3 months, not having sex with someone new until the other has met the person, and not engaging in ongoing (i.e. longer than a scene) D/s dynamics with other people.

The rules don’t exist to keep either of us in line or prevent us from running amok over each other’s feelings. If we were going to do that, no rules would stop us, in the same way that the “rules” of traditional monogamy won’t stop somebody who is determined to cheat.

We have them because they keep us, and our relationship, happy and healthy.

A better framework

Used properly, rules aren’t a tool to bash your partner over the head with or keep them in line against your will. Used properly, they’re are the walls you build – collaboratively – to contain the house of your relationship.

You can use the word “agreements,” if you prefer, but in this framework they amount to the same thing. They’re limits, boundaries or modes of behaviour that you both (/all) agree to operate within, for the good of the relationship and everyone involved. Good rules should bring a sense of safety and security, like the solid, stable walls of your home. They’re not a prison.

If the agreements of your relationship are feeling like a cage, a conversation with your partner is in order. If your partner is arbitrarily imposing new ones without due discussion and buy-in from you, that’s a major red flag. (Incidentally, you obviously shouldn’t do this to your partner either!) To go back to the shared house metaphor, you wouldn’t just decide to build an extension or divide your living room in half without consulting your partner, would you? (If you would, umm, your relationship operates very differently from mine so please explain to me how this works for you!)

Build your house – together

I was once invited to move in by a partner and metamour. The further into “how will this work?” discussions we got, the more I came to realise a troubling fact. Namely, that their concept was that I would have little to no say in the running of the house. From the colour we’d paint the bathroom to the guests who were and weren’t allowed in the house, I would have very minimal input – while paying half the mortgage, naturally. I realise now, looking back, how fitting a metaphor this was for our relationship. They made the rules and I got no say, both in our trio and in my dyadic relationship with him. We weren’t building the metaphoric (or literal) house together – I was a permanent guest in theirs. I was caged.

I share this anecdote just to illustrate how a framework of rules can be really badly misappropriated. Contrast this with Mr CK and me, who thoroughly negotiate every agreement we make as equals. We leave them all open to discussion of renegotiation at any time, and always consider them with the best possible outcome for everyone involved in mind. Saying all rules (/agreements/boundaries) are inherently bad is like saying walls or doors or windows or grey tiling are inherently bad. They’re not. They’re elements you can pick and choose for your house – your relationship – to make sure it’s designed exactly the way you want it.

Keeping the house clean

You don’t build a house, move in, and expect to never do any work on it again. That’d be ridiculous. You have to sweep, do the dishes, repaint the odd wall and occasionally rip a piece out completely and spend loads of time fixing it. Maintaining the ‘house’ of your relationship is exactly the same. You don’t set the rules once and then you’re done. No. You have to tinker, negotiate

Build your perfect relationship the way you’d build your perfect house, with walls – agreements – to keep you cozy inside. That way, you can prevent the leaking roof of drama, and always have a safe home to retreat to and invite your loved ones into.

Kinky item of the day: Nipple clamps, for squeezy, pinchy fun! I looove clamps so much, both on my nipples and labia. (Pro tip: leave them on for more than 5-10 minutes, and they hurt like hell when they come off!)

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through them, I may make a small commission. Opinions are, and will always be, my own.

Core Values

Content note: mentions of abortion, abuse, cheating.

Everyone has core values. They’re the ‘north’ by which you set your moral compass, the guiding light by which you make any difficult decision. Core values might be something like, always tell the truth, do no harm, or violence is always wrong.

It’s important to note, though, that not all core values are inherently ethical. Humans are by nature complex and multi-faceted, and what seems morally necessary to one might be morally reprehensible to another. One need look no further than debates about the current Controversial Topic of the Week to see this in action.

I believe, for example, that the absolute inalienable right of a human being to decide what happens to their own body is a necessity for a civilised society. An anti-choice crusader, on the other hand, probably feels with an equal level of conviction that compelling a woman to give birth against her will is morally justified because abortion is always wrong.

In a similar vein, it’s possible for a person’s core values to not go much beyond ‘do what benefits me the most in any individual situation.’ As I said – not always ethical. I once ceased communication with an otherwise attractive and seemingly compatible person on an online dating site when they revealed that they vote for a political party whose policies I find reprehensible, because “they’ve always benefited me personally.” I know people who’ve cheated on their partners because they didn’t see anything wrong with doing whatever it took to get what they wanted, when they wanted it.

But what I want to focus on in this post is the core values of a relationship, rather than an individual. If you have a partner or partners, do you know what yours are? Does your idea of the core values of your relationship match your partner’s? If not, consider discussing it with your partner. Knowing the central tenets crucial to your partnership is vital for a happy and harmonious relationship. Ideally, you should be able to name just two or three things that make up the “bottom line.” They will be different in every relationship depending on the set-up and the individual histories and baggage of the people involved.

I’m not talking about rules as such here. You probably have rules and agreements in your relationship. My primary partner, Mr CK, and I have a document of several pages which explicitly spells out our relationship agreements. Core values in a relationship are less about “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not,” and more about a small number of guiding principles against which any action or decision is weighed. I do not believe that it is possible to have a healthy relationship without core values.

Ours are, simply, as follows:

  • NO LIES. We do not lie to each other. This includes little white lies and lies by omission as well as big, bare-faced lies.
  • NO DOUBLE STANDARDS. Any agreement we make in our relationship applies absolutely equally to both of us.

They sound simple, but they cover an awful lot of ground. Everything else is negotiable – but these two principles underpin it all. To me, they sum up the mutual respect, consideration and equality that is necessary for love to thrive. Any time there’s a big decision to be made or a negotiation to be had, it will be held against these values. If it contradicts either principle, that’s a deal breaker – the thing won’t happen, the agreement won’t be made. We recently rejected an agreement that, on paper, made perfect sense because it would have violated Core Value #2.

Yours are bound to be different, but you need to know what they are.

One of the things that finally made me realise that my past relationship was abusive was the point at which I realised my core values were being eroded (as a Wiccan, a central value for me is do no harm, and my former partner was forcing me to act in ways that caused notable harm to others, a fact of which I am still deeply ashamed).

And when I look back now, I can see that that relationship had few if any sustainable values of its own – the “bottom line,” such as it was, was He Says, She Obeys. (Which is fine in so far as it goes – as a consensual kink – but it was going on a long time before he collared me and extended far into reaches of my life I’d never agreed to have controlled. It wasn’t kink. I was simply afraid of him). Once I saw that I was not living in accordance with my values and that the relationship did not have a solid value-based framework of its own, I could not unsee those facts and the undoing began.

So what’s the takeaway here? Your partner may have different interests. They may come from a different walk of life. They may have life experiences you have not lived, and vice versa. But if your core values – or the way you view the core values of your relationship – are very different or even opposing, you will probably be in for a very rough ride.

What are the core values in YOUR relationship? Tell me in the comments!