When the Mister and I first opened up our relationship, we had some rules. The rules were supposed to make us safe, and make polyamory easier for us to adjust to. In actuality, the rules were a way for us to control each other and try to control other relationships. As I'm sure many of you have experienced on your own journeys, the rules all got broken, amended, or discarded.
At the moment our rules boil down to communicate, have safe sex, and don't be a dick. That's it. The Mister doesn't really want details of my sex life, but he does like to know how my relationships are going. He asks about the new guy, Grey. He sends a quick "Hello!" to the old Flame, too. I have to remind the Mister about dates quite a lot, but that's normal for us.
Communicate, have safe sex, and don't be a dick.
We got here because while rules seem like a great thing when you make them, once you try to implement them things tend to go all wonky. Say you have a rule that no outside partners can sleep in your bed. That's all well and good, except at 33 years old fucking on a couch gets old really goddamned fast. Say you have a rule that a specific night every week is "your night." Great! What happens when the calendar gets crazy and you won't see one of the other partners for god knows how long and that's the only night that's open?
Rules inherently signal to me that partners have some degree of difficulty trusting each other. And sometimes that's okay. If you have rules and you're dating me, I'll go out of my way to respect them. But I won't promise not to get frustrated if I think the rule is a bit ridiculous (I once had a partner's wife FREAK OUT because she thought I left clothing behind on purpose) or if it's structured in such a way that it becomes difficult for a relationship to progress.
The number one rule that usually ends up affecting me is what I call the Black Ball. Lots of poly couples have a rule in place that allows the spouse to veto a new partner if the new partner makes them uncomfortable or if they think the new partner might not be a good fit for you. For the most part, I hate veto arrangements. Giving your spouse the power to just tell you "NO" often puts everyone in a very awkward position. I have been on the receiving end of a Black Ball with no discernible reasoning behind it, and it sucks for all parties involved.
Right now, I am in the middle of a potential Black Ball situation once again. Grey and I have been friends for over a year, and are just now getting started building a relationship. Because of my recent history Grey's wife is hesitant for us to date. We are bottlenecked at a particular point until after I meet her, at which point either we'll just continue being friends or we'll see how being lovers goes. All of this is okay. I respect their arrangement, but it is incredibly frustrating to go on a date with him and let myself get emotionally closer to him - all the while knowing that in a few weeks I could just end up with the black ball and a bruised heart.
This is part of poly dating. Negotiating the ever changing rules of multiple relationships can be exhausting, but it can also lead to some of the most rewarding relationships you'll ever have. Sure, it sucks to know that in a few weeks Grey's wife could simply tell us "This isn't a good idea." At the same time, getting to know him and letting him into my heart more than I would a friend is lovely. Even if I get black balled, we are going to be friends, and he'll be one of the friends I trust the most.
Dating is about making the leap and trusting the person on the other side to catch you before you fall. Sometimes they don't, and when you fall you learn something new. Sometimes they do, and what happens after that is one of the best things in life.