If anything starts to go wrong, it'll prob-ly be nipped in the bud,
Tossed to the compost of experience,
To feed the entwined roots of our love.
As already used by millions in business: The 12 principles of agile were created by a group of software engineers frustrated at the awful, so called "waterfall" method of trying to deliver software solutions.
We will show you how to effectively apply the principles of agile to relationships.
Before you start, each person involved in the relationship must commit to owning and sharing jealous and/or envious feelings without accusing others for causing them. Those receiving the feelings must commit to not becoming defensive or aggressive but to listen without interruption until invited to give their response.
Everyone experiences feelings of jealousy and envy and/or hurt and will do things(mostly not intentionally) that prompt those feelings in others but no one can "make" another behave unkindly, they choose to. Both the receiver and giver of such information have a right to be listened to and considered. Having had such a conversation, is how both choose to act in the future to improve things that is the make or break for the health of the relationship.
Unchecked dishonesty and secret-keeping(including not non-judgmentally sharing your own feelings of jealousy and envy) is a betrayal of trust. People who betray your trust have had theirs betrayed by others and probably represent way over half of the population. Babies are born into the world trusting others, not expecting to be betrayed.
Someone "cheating" on a partner has betrayed, but if the hurt partner then attacks them instead of non-judgmentally sharing how they now feel and opening up the chance for reconciliation and a possible change of agreement, they just betrayed trust back. Boom - game over!
If someone repeatedly betrays you, sensitively end the relationship with them. Only if they ask for your advice should you suggest they engage in talking therapy(not the same as "This is over, you are abusive and need professional help!"). Only when they have successfully addressed their own issues, should you consider reestablishing a relationship with them but you have no obligation to do so. Accept betrayal and you will begin to normalise it and become an abuser yourself.
When confronting most people with your hurt feelings, be brave and prepare for a hurtful, aggressive response - they may lash out defensively and claim that you are abusive because they can't or don't want to accept their part(it is highly destabilising for them) . They may claim that they are your victims and that you are manipulative and controlling or mentally unstable(this is known as "gaslightling"). You must not buy into this warped perspective or show them you are upset but, instead, cut off all contact immediately. They may well want to "keep" you close because you just became the kryptonite they need to contain and control to feel better about themselves and they became yours.
In extreme cases, they may resort to bogus criminal allegations and/or co-opt/coerce feeble mutual friends and family to enact your social isolation. This then becomes a serious matter of survival for you but, whatever you do, do not respond in ways that prejudice yourself with the Authorities(who may also regard you as a danger to their existence). You then help everyone to lock you(maybe literally) in a very real and hopeless situation. Always cut off contact at your earliest opportunity to avoid escalation. Please note: If you are lucky with individuals within the Authorities, they will have experience of such nefarious victimisation in their own lives and be wary of jumping to false conclusions about the credibility of accusers. This is, without doubt, the elephant in the room behind the low levels of domestic abuse, ex-partner stalking and rape convictions(not to excuse any of these prevalent crimes which destroy lives but are sometimes difficult to prove, for the reasons just given!).
From Wikipedia: "[kryptonite] is generally harmless to humans in the short term, but deadly in the long term."
It is especially important that you feel safe in your existing relationships and are already following the jealousy advice above before you experiment with group sexual activities(the no. 1 sexual fantasy for all of us, according to research by sexual psychologist Justin Lehmiller), otherwise you are certain to cause serious harm to yourself, your relationships and those of others.
Phew, with that heavy, but essential stuff out of the way, let's get on with some positive, love building advice with those you have now assessed as safe to have relationships with!
No one knows where a relationship will go and making one big change at a time is dangerous.
Break big changes down into reasonable, small steps or "stories" that can easily be prioritised and tested to see whether they work. Shared Google Keep notes are really good for this. Each story has an author and success criteria so go away and write a bunch - as many as you can think of. Write a headline for each story using this template: "As a <role> I want <action>, so that <justification>".
Be clear and own it! For example: "as a lover, I want to have good sex frequently so that my need for intimacy is met".
In relationships, it is best to talks about wants and needs because it opens up a conversation about how else needs might be met, by whom and how measured. In the above example, perhaps sex twice a week with x and a sensual massage once a week from y might satisfy that need. Agile is about extreme flexibility in how a problem is solved(the "problem" in agile being expressed as a need here).
Invite others to solve rather than demanding from them. In a poly relationship, there is no pressure on just one other person to meet another person's needs. Isn't that just a great idea that can solve the usual resentments?
You get together and discuss and clarify everyone's stories then give each a success test such as "I'll feel more amorous" a priority such as 1 (scale 1-5) and an effort rating such as 2. Agree the tasks that need doing such as "find something to do, organise it, let everyone know the date and time" and assign them. Agree when you need to get together to review what happened and the total "effort" reasonable. Pick stories from top priority downwards until you have got that total effort. Ignore the other stories for now.
The point about having a measurable outcome is that you are more likely to recognise that is was a result of trying the new thing when you come to review what happened afterwards. Put another way: If you don't know where you want to get to beforehand, you can't know whether you got there afterwards.
The sooner you try a story out, the sooner you can find out whether it is worth keeping and building on or discarding as a valuable lesson learnt.
Learn to embrace constant change and congratulate all involved for being brave and honest!
Here is a real-life example of someone's stories set out in this transparent way:
Each one addresses a need and is specific - this makes them easier to discuss and agree how the success of each will be measured afterwards(the tests). Whether each has been met fully isn't the most important factor but that a set of measurable intentions has been expressed, understood, explored, agreed, communicated and then prioritised. For example, being cooked for might be the most important thing over the next month(the "Try Out Period" in 3), but having group sex the next! They are all up for discussion and change at any time which is where they become agile(see 2 below).
NOTE: All of the above stories are "as a person" but you may have other important connections that are "Father", "son", "student" etc and so I am hinting that you could expand the principles out to other parts of your life. e.g. "As a student I want to read the latest research into frogs frequently so that my need to be up-to-date in the subject is met". Agile Learning?, Agile Parenting? Well why not indeed?!
Change is the only constant in relationships so learn to embrace the opportunity it gives you to learn and develop.
After all, everything changes over time, doesn't it? Then consider that at least two people are involved in a relationship who change in different ways and are affected by an ever-shifting world around them and you can see that trying to "keep things the same" in a relationship is, of course, what will harm it the most.
Often, the way things change in relationships is by one of the participants autonomously trying something new which may push the boundaries of the current agreement. Whether or not it involves a betrayal of trust is mostly down to prior intent and how transparently it is handled immediately afterwards. It goes without saying that repeated patterns of behaviour are key too.
Changes are ideally agreed in advance of actually trying them out but human behaviour means that agreement-pushing happens from time-to-time, whether intentional or not. That might(well, often does) extend to an act of intimacy with someone that was outside of the agreement with others. I am deliberately avoiding the term "cheating", because of the shameful(don't go there) connotations. The thrill of doing something naughty can be irresistible but instead of behaving like a guilty child afterwards, behave like a guilty adult and take responsibility for your "mistake", even if it feels dangerous; much more dangerous is to let it slide.
"But we agreed..." is not agile, and closes down conversation so when your partner/lover confesses that they pushed the boundaries that is the absolutely worst response. They may regret having confessed and not tell you next time. You may have just sabotaged the connection.
In order to stay on a positive course, it is important to adjust the heading frequently enough. You need to check-in with people to see what's working for everyone and be agile enough to change it at the drop of a hat.
By "enough", I mean for the needs of that relationship, at that time. Early on in a relationship you know nothing about where it's headed so you want to agree and make a few important course changes very frequently indeed before checking in. Later on, perhaps once every 2 weeks is adequate.
Even in an established relationship, you might find yourself in a particular situation where it makes sense to check in with each other each 15 seconds to see what new changes are working, and try a couple of new changes instantly. It's where the agility bit comes in.
Agree to make changes frequently, only select a few, high-priority ones that everyone agrees are worthwhile trying, and work through them from top priority down over the agreed Try-out Period (called a sprint in software development, but it sounds a bit dry here), so that at least the most important one(s) get tested out.
At the end of each Try-out Period agreed, have a review meetup to see how you did against the stories. Agree new stories off the back of them and reassess any that you didn't try to see whether they should be carried forward into the next Try-out Period - the priorities might have changed by then.
Communicate all the time to everyone, openly - no secrets, OK?
Interested Parties such as Children, grandchildren, brothers, friends - they all have some kind of interest in the success of your relationship(stakeholders in business but this seems a better term). They don't have to make key decisions but gather their insights and listen to how they are affected. You will be surprised.
Once you have identified all the Interested Parties above, encourage the ones who show an active interest in your decision-making process to contribute. Their energy and motivation could by key to success. It might by your 10 year-old son.
If this is a sexual relationship then the best time to talk about anything is after sex - you will feel more receptive, empathetic and compersive(opposite of feeling jealous). For non-sexual ones then make it face to face or, at a stretch, via video call. Text is rubbish and potentially damaging.
Use progress in your relationship as your measure of success. If what seemed like a good idea on paper or worked well in another relationship didn't work out, don't hang on to it like a dog with a bone. Agree to drop it.
Never suggest that a sex act that was great with a previous partner should work with a new partner!
Don't see this process as a one-off. Instead, build it into all of your relationships going forward and keep doing it - they are not static and change over time.
By following the processes set out in the best way possible, you will maintain that constant pace of growth within your relationships. Don't get lazy and stop meeting up with people or drop important friendships.
Have a big list somewhere of things you could work on in each relationship. Don't work on them now because the fact they are on that list means that they are not the top priority right now. You can look at them periodically to see whether the priorities have shifted and it might be a good time to discuss them. Don't take on too much at once!
Don't try to be in absolute control of making things that have been agreed work. Relationships thrive on consensual power and control. For example, your partner might be better at organising your romantic weekend away and enjoy it more than you. Learn to trust and enjoy the feelings of controlling or being controlled, as it works for everyone.
This goes back to not letting things slide - make sure you book in regular reviews of what's working and what's not. Is everyone being involved enough in decisions? Is there too much texting instead of face-to-face discussion? Are you being realistic about what is being expected of your partner? Is their control and jealousy creeping in? Is anyone going ahead and doing things that they know are outside of the current agreements and how can that be stopped? Have honest and non-blaming conversations about how to improve.
People will make "mistakes" where they have strayed outside the agreements of the relationship but see them as opportunities to learn and change the relationship and maybe turn them into new stories that explore the possibility of changing the agreement. Make it so that everyone feels able to admit and share them without feeling shame or blame.
Posts about all things sensual from the most ethical masseur in the UK.
The classic guide to love, sex, and intimacy beyond the limits of conventional monogamy has been fully updated to reflect today's modern attitudes and the latest information on nontraditional relationships.