It has been quite a damn while since I’ve had to go through the depression and emotional work of a breakup, let alone set any new boundaries or relationship non-negotiables as part of moving on. Over six years in fact! This recent relationship that ended was my second longest overall, was technically my first ever explicitly polyamorous one, and it involved a very good friend of mine, so it’s been a lot harder to navigate than past ones.
But I’m getting there and we’re all embracing the awkward! While I’m still occasionally feeling sad over the loss of physical and sexual closeness with my bestie, I’ve finally hit that point after the breakup where the rose colored glasses are off and in retrospect I now realize that the relationship wasn’t really as mutual or balanced as I thought it was.
For those unfamiliar with relationship non-negotiables, these are the things in any bond (be it sexual, emotional, romantic, or platonic) that you absolutely MUST have in order to feel comfortable and fulfilled, and/or, would absolutely NOT tolerate. They are the things that guide your decisions on how to proceed, or not, with any potential new partner, lover, playmate, or potentially even a friend.
For some, relationship non-negotiables are geared toward behaviors with boundaries being things such as not tolerating lying or habits like smoking. Others center dynamics more with boundaries being around things such as maybe not wanting to be with somebody who wants kids or only wanting to date people who are polyamorous.
Here are my 8 main relationship non-negotiables going into the 2020s, some of which are just for potential future partners while others include friendships as well:
Fal and I enjoying a cuddle puddle with our good friend, Taylor J. Mace. Read more about how we’ve enjoyed physical and sexual intimacy together in: “Fucking Friends: Why I Need Ethical Non-Monogamy in My Polyamory.”
1. No more chasing people. No more games.
I’m far from perfect but I’m supportive, deeply caring, empathetic, a great communicator, can express myself clearly and concisely, I’m incredibly self-reflective, I’m very aware of my emotions, I’m willing to compromise in my relationships, I’m not afraid of having hard but important conversations, I’m honest, open to dynamics changing, and I’m an awesome partner to those who want to be with me. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I’ve exerted a LOT of energy, time, and emotion in the past on relationships with people who simply weren’t willing to put that same work, care, and effort into fostering a mutually fulfilling and enriching companionship.
That shit hurts, and it has definitely taken a toll on my mental health and wellness over the years. Going forward, if you’re not excited to be my partner, proud of me and my passions, wanting to be involved in my life, and willing to learn and grow and communicate together, even when it’s hard or scary, then it’s just not gonna work out between us.
2. No more disrespect.
There have been times when I’ve ignored, and/or made excuses for, hurtful behaviors from others when I knew that they were stressed, depressed, or otherwise overwhelmed. Sometimes I think that I did this a little too much and ultimately it led to me allowing myself to be an emotional punching bag for others when I probably should have spoken up for myself more.
I will no longer tolerate being yelled at, patronized, spoken down to, demeaned, belittled, or any passive aggressiveness, of any kind, be it from a partner, friend, lover, peer, or anyone I spend frequent time with. I expect to be treated with the same respect I am giving you.
3. No more bad communication or avoidant partners.
Nothing makes me feel more insecure, stressed, frustrated, and unfulfilled, than passive aggressiveness, stonewalling, silent treatments, emotion/physical/sexual withholding as punishments, unexpressed expectations, hidden resentments, and just basic bad communication.
I will not substantially invest in any long-term bonds of any kind with somebody who cannot clearly and concisely communicate, at the very least, their basic emotional, physical, affectional, sexual, and/or interpersonal needs, wants, and/or desires.
I’m not a mind reader, I’m not okay with being emotionally stonewalled, and I’m not going to sit around waiting for somebody to figure out if they want to be with me anymore. This is fast becoming one of the most important relationship non-negotiables to me overall.
4. No more toxic baggage.
Everybody carries with them little bits of their past experiences with others. That’s only natural. But there’s a BIG difference between carrying baggage, and projecting it or using it as an emotional shield.
A fulfilling, considerate, and respectful connection is not one that’s informed by the residual pain, fear, insecurity, anger, resentment, disappointment, or any other ill emotions, and/or expectations, from past relationships. Just to clarify, I’m not talking about trauma here. Trauma is valid and having trauma does not make one a bad partner.
What I’m saying is that there can’t be new growth where old relationship wounds still fester and I won’t stay in an environment in which I feel held to standards or expectations based around bad relationships, or punished for past hurts, that I was never a part of.
5. No more one-sided relationships.
I never though I’m tired of sometimes being the only one that wants to work on solving problems, tries to keep communication going, and puts in all the emotional work into a relationship or bond. Reciprocity and compromise are absolutely necessary to me, and while nothing is every truly 50/50, an effort needs to be made by everyone involved.
I will not fall into any more relationships that exist almost exclusively on the terms of somebody else, or otherwise revolve around a partner who is not mindful of, and/or cannot compromise on, satisfying at least some of my needs as well.
6. Queer Positive & Inclusive Sex
I’m a non-binary, chubby, hairy queer with a pretty girl cock and a sensitive prostate that makes my orgasms un-fucking-believeably good! While I understand that not everybody is into everything, I generally need my partners to be comfortable with my body (and bodies in general), open to exploring, and be willing to give me pleasure in the ways that maybe aren’t often reflected in other relationships.
I deserve to be treated as more than just the person with the penis. I have other parts that need attention too. I need to have sex and pleasure that is affirming to who I am as a cute enby queer.
Fal and I snuggling with our satellite partner, Rowan, after some outstanding sex during their visit last winter. For more on our dynamic read: “Like No Time Had Passed At All.”
7. Boundaries & Consent.
By far one of the most important things for me, and for any of my partners, is being able to set and respect boundaries and have a very strong understanding of what consent means. This covers a lot of ground, such as feeling that I, or any of my partners, can say no without being pressured or shamed for it. As well as everyone I am involved with respecting the dynamics and agreed upon boundaries of our relationship. It also means everybody practicing safe sex, being truthful about the sex they are having, and getting tested regularly to ensure both their sexual health and wellness, as well as mine and my other partners and play friends as well.
I absolutely refuse to engage in any sort of emotional, physical, or sexual relationship with anybody who regularly pushes or disregards boundaries, hides their sexual health status, refuses to practice safe and informed sex with any of their partners, and/or has a hard time with consent.
8. No more endless closets.
Now, I’m not saying that I could never date somebody who was partially closeted if they had to be, but if the person I’m getting involved with is not out to their family, friends, coworkers, peers, neighbors, doctors, dentist, acquaintances, the bus driver, or anybody else in their day to day lives, and has no intention whatsoever of coming out, not even a little, anytime soon, then that’s not a relationship that I can personally be in.
It’s too painful.
Especially if they also have the hurtful habit of talking about wanting a beard (ie; a heterosexual passing partner) to do public facing companionship things with instead of me. Yeah, that happened and it hurt like hell.
I need to feel like my partners are not afraid or ashamed of being with me, and part of that includes being a visible part of their life to at least some degree. I want partners who are proud to introduce me to their friends and/or family, take me out, and celebrate the awesomeness that is me.
Going into a never ending, fear and shame based closet at 33-years-old, after having escaped my own through so much personal growth and pain in order to get to this place of self-acceptance, self awareness, and emotional honesty and love, is just not something that I can do again.
Have you re-evaluated your relationship non-negotiables lately? What are some that you’ve had for as long as you can remember? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!