So I was reading the polyamory subreddit earlier today, like I often do, and came across someone asking this question: What were some questions about polyamory you wish you’d asked in the beginning?
Someone posted that the question they would have asked would be: “How do I navigate fluid bonding networks when I don’t have hierarchy in my relationships?”
(potentially NSFW, after the break)
This is how I responded (well, at least the important parts):
In my case, I am fluid bonded to two of my partners (I have 4.5… it’s complicated). They are the partners I have been with the longest, but that was not the deciding factor when I made the decision to do so. The deciding factors, because there was more than one, were/are:
- Did I consider them my partner? Not in the general “person I am with/dating” sense, but in the “I trust them with my self and I can definitely see a potential long term relationship” sense.
- Have they been impeccably honest towards me and their other partner(s)? As in, have they chosen to hide anything important regarding their health and/or testing status from me (and/or their other people)?
- Do I trust them? Do we have a bond of mutual trust, where I know that they would not lie to me (even if for my good)?
- If we have a kink relationship, do we work well together in-scene? Is there regular fluid communication?
- Have they made a point of being open about our relationship around the people they are closest with? I don’t mean, like PDA laden make-outs regularly in front of their friends, just an acknowledgement of who we are to each other. Or, if there are reasons why they are not open in some contexts, do I generally feel like they recognize me in the fullest sense as their partner? My hard and fast line on this is partners. I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone with a DADT arrangement.
- How often do we get together and how regularly is that? If I only see someone once per month or once every other month, then I am far less likely to consider fluid bonding, at least at the same point in time as I would someone I see every week or every other week?
- How long have we been together/dating? If it’s less than 6 months (massive NRE period), then no, it’s not happening for me. I will generally consider it at about 9 months, if everything else is working out well.
- Who else are they sleeping with? Who else are they fluid bonded to? Are these people honest about their STI test results and do they test regularly (at the least, if they sleep with someone new in a given period of time)? I am responsible to my partners, especially the ones I am fluid-bonded to, regarding sexual health decisions I make – I have tied myself to them in this regard.
Someone responded that, for them, this puts a lot of weight on emotional components and that pathogens don’t care about most of the things I put weight on when making this initial decision. Which is technically true. But is not the grounds on which I make that decision, as I don’t choose to be fluid bonded with just anyone who can give me STI test results.
It came up later for me the idea that fluid bonding, to some, might be a sort of hierarchy in and of itself. And I can see why that might come up.
I consider myself equally responsible to all of my partners with regards to sexual health, not just the ones I’m fluid-bonded with.
They all get the same information if something comes up*: if I sleep with someone new, if I decide to fluid bond with someone else (or start using barriers), if something pops positive on an STI test (or, as in my particular case, pops negative after popping positive… weird stuff going on there). I don’t tell people different information because of how we do sex – I tend to share a lot about it anyways with my partners, so even if I didn’t mention something that I didn’t think was relevant to a particular partner, it would probably still come out eventually anyways.
(* Trydaen has requested to be told information under different conditions than any of my other partners. There is some information that he does not want to know that all of my other partners do. I respect his decision here. This is the result of many conversations between us, trials and errors, over the years of our relationship. If he ever asks about anything, then I will give him all the same information as anyone else.)
I realized while typing this, that about half of my considerations are just things I need to have in a relationship period, at least to be satisfied in a relationship. So I guess what it comes down to off that list (at least to make the initial decision) is:
- Am I satisfied with the relationship emotionally?
- Am I satisfied with how that particular person handles conflict?
- Am I satisfied with how that particular person handles their safer sex practices?
- Are their test results within my range of acceptable risk, both physically and emotionally?
- How long have we been together/how often do we see each other?
I want to cover more stuff around fluid bonding in another post – more around the specific cases and probably something about what would factor into a decision to use barriers after being fluid bonded with someone – mostly because my meds are kicking in and I’m getting sleepy.