Navigating Intimacy: The Power of Agreements in Queer & Lesbian RelationshipsSep 22, 2023
What has a relationship work? Why do some relationships last and others don’t?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve pondered these questions before. Sometimes we think about it when we are starting a new relationship and often, we think about it acutely when a relationship ends - What went wrong in our relationship? Why didn’t it work? Why didn’t it last?
At the heart of all relationships, whether you are a lesbian couple, in a queer relationship and yes, even heterosexual relationships, is agreements. Agreements form the foundation of relationship and without acknowledging them, both being on the same page about agreements, and even intentionally creating agreements, the relationship will at some point, break down.
So what are agreements?
Agreements are an understanding between people that creates harmony of opinion, character or action. We make agreements every day. I have an agreement with my hairdresser to show up at 8 am on Saturday morning. That’s a spoken agreement that two people have agreed on. I remember my agreement by putting the appointment into my calendar and setting a reminder on my phone.
Agreements create workability in situations and have natural consequences. When you buy a plane ticket, you have an agreement to show up at the gate before boarding closes. With all agreements, there are consequences of fulfilling on the agreement and consequences of not fulfilling on the agreement. If you don’t show up at the gate before boarding closes, the plane will not wait for you and you will miss your flight. That’s the natural consequence.
Your opinion or how you feel and the actions you take about that consequence is up to you. You might be stressed, upset, disappointed, embarrassed. You might be annoyed but go ahead and book another flight. You might blame someone else or beat yourself up. None of this changes the consequence. The outcome is still the same - you missed your flight. (Like I have done before!)
The sooner you can deal with the consequence as it is, without being driven by your upset about it, the sooner you’ll get the outcome you desire. That includes dealing with any fallout from not keeping your agreement. In this case, the fallout includes having to pay for a new flight. It includes not arriving on time at your destination and having to communicate with anyone impacted by you not being where you said you would be, by the time you said you’d be there. None of this is wrong. This is not a moral issue. You’re not a bad person. People make mistakes all the time. It’s how we deal with the mistake or the broken agreement that gives us our experience of life.
Honouring your agreements equals knowing yourself as a bigger person. Breaking your agreements equals knowing yourself as a smaller person. That’s it.
So how does this relate to navigating intimacy in relationships?
Have a look at the agreements that currently exist in your relationship. This includes:
- Agreements said out loud and all parties have aligned on them.
- Agreements not said out loud but expected anyway.
So how do we deal with the first category of agreements said out loud and all parties have aligned on them? Firstly we need a place to keep those agreements. When my spouse Chris and I got married, for our anniversary, I had our vows framed and put up on the wall where we see them every day. These form the foundation of our relationship.
- I promise to love you exactly the way you are, and exactly the way you’re not
- I promise to cherish you and love you devotionally every day
- I promise to empower you
- I promise to unconditionally love and empower our children
- I promise to have a great life with you
When we first decided to be in a committed relationship, we created some agreements then too.
- If you hit me, I will leave (not that they would, but I needed to have this said out loud for myself, given my history of dealing with domestic violence in past relationships)
- We don’t see other people (I’m not monogamous, I identify as polyamorous but this was an agreement I was happy to make.)
- We don’t drink or take drugs
Do we keep those agreements all the time, every day? Some of them, no. I’ve broken every single marriage vow in the last 3 years, several times over. But I use them as my anchor, to come back to and acknowledge the broken agreement and true myself up to it.
What does this take?
Let me give you an example. Back to my hairdresser - twice I forgot to show up for an early Saturday morning appointment. I have not been in the habit of checking my calendar once it’s Friday night - it’s the weekend and I’ve got the weekend off I tell myself. The first time I forgot to show up, he called me and I apologised profousely and we rescheduled. He was very forgiving.
The second time I forgot to show up, I said, I’m so sorry, this is so not like me. And it’s not. But something had to be altered so that I could ensure that I didn’t miss another appointment. I took 3 new actions:
- Capturing my agreement: I put a reminder into my calendar on the Friday night before the appointment. It says, Hair appointment in the morning
- Going public: I told my partner and my best friend about it.
- Make it hurt: At my rescheduled appointment, I insisted on paying my hairdresser the normal fee plus a 50% cancellation fee. He was all good about it and said I didn’t have to. But I said, please accept this money. It’s for me. I need to this painful enough that I don’t do it again.
This worked. I haven’t forgotten another appointment since.
Now let’s look at unspoken agreements and expectations.
Most arguments in relationships come down to three main topics.
Sex. Money. Housework.
When entering into a domestic partnership, in other words, moving in with your partner, you create agreements about the division of labour in running the household. My agreement with my spouse is that I do the cleaning and they do the cooking. Without those agreements being said out loud, you may find you have expectations about what your partner should be doing. But without communicating that with them, you may find yourself sorely disappointed when they don’t do the thing you were expecting them to do.
But what about agreements that really matter? Agreements that if broken are dealbreakers. This might include, domestic violence or cheating. Only you know what your dealbreakers are - and it helps to write them down and get really clear on them so you can communicate them to your partner.
One day, I was getting to know this woman. The attraction between us was electric. I had made it clear that while I did have a partner, we had an open agreement. She had said she was dating another woman but it was early days.
As she leaned in to kiss me, I asked her to pause. (I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult that was!) I asked her what agreement she had with the woman she was dating. She looked surprised.
“We don’t have any agreements. It’s early days. We’ve only seen each other a bunch of times.”
“Ok,” I said, “So you don’t have spoken agreements but I bet you have unspoken agreements.” She couldn’t see any so I said, “Here’s how you know if there’s an unspoken agreement or even an unspoken expectation between the two of you. If she was here right now, how do you think she’d feel about you kissing me? Do you think she would be surprised?”
She looked down at the ground, deep in thought. Then she got it. “Yes, she wouldn’t expect me to be kissing someone else at this point in our dating relationship - not without having had a conversation first.”
“Ok,” I said as kindly as I could. “So as much as I really want to kiss you, let’s not do that. Not while you haven’t had that conversation with her.”
And sometimes that’s what it takes to honour agreements.
I’d love to hear about your relationship agreements - and if they are spoken or unspoken. You can DM me on Insta @danicalani
P.S If you like this conversation, you’ll love the #1 problem that keeps queer, lesbian and non-binary couples from having a fulfilling sex life. Download your free gift now.
Hello my friend, 🌈 I'm Danica Lani, your empowering guide on a journey of self-discovery and liberation. With over two decades of yoga practice and a decade of teaching experience, I've led transformative workshops on queer tantra for hundreds of queer-identifying women, non-binary, and trans individuals since 2014. My mission is to empower you to disappear lesbian bed death and for queer people to enjoy long, juicy, and fulfilling lives together. Join me as we discover the power of tantra within a queer context. 🤗💖 #QueerTantra
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