I got a comment from a reader the other day.

Maybe it is you who does not listen and hear that something is OK when in reality it is not.

Following the rules is not how many would classify your behavior on any front. I’d go into details, but wouldn’t want to embarrass you or deflate your ego.

I was about to dismiss it simply because of how it ends: that, “I could say something, but I’m not going to,” attitude that internet bullies have. But this email got me thinking. It’s true that language is imperfect. It’s also true that people say things they don’t mean, whether on purpose or by accident. And everyone is entitled to change their minds.

Communication is a big deal. Without good communication, any relationship- monogamous or otherwise – is doomed to failure and/or pain. Being hyperaware of this, knowing that we have to know our boundaries and expectations, and making sure that at the time they’re happening that everything is consensual for everyone involved, all improve communication.

It’s true that I am a very pragmatic, a very logical thinker. I am a very conscientious listener. The problem comes when the words don’t mean what they are supposed to mean. Because of this, I check in frequently. I confirm. I repeat back what was said to make sure I understand it and to make sure that whoever is telling me stuff understands what I heard.

I’ve said before about how I have a compulsion to follow the rules and that I have to know what is expected of me in order to succeed. There is no job description for, “boyfriend,” or, “husband,” or “friend with benefits,” but I do my best to approximate one. I can’t not follow the rules. I always park within the lines. When I bought nuts and bolts from Home Depot a while ago, I realized that, along with the handful of hardware I bought, I accidentally walked out with one $0.44 nut that I didn’t pay for because I used it to size the bolt that I brought in. I went back in to return or pay for it. I couldn’t not go back and fix it. The customer service woman told me that was ridiculous, it’s less than fifty cents and I should have just kept it. That’s what anyone else would have done. It isn’t something I can do. I can’t. If this was old D&D, I’d be lawful good.

You can’t embarrass me or deflate my ego. And the last time a reader tried to, I had several girlfriends immediately leap to my defense. I was very touched and honored to have such amazing people stand up for me.

Classifying my behavior as not following the rules… No way. Judge me on how I act within guidelines that are ambiguous. Absolutely. I will take that critique. But I wouldn’t – I might go so far as to say I couldn’t – make a decision that deliberately violates a non-ambiguous expectation of me. I do listen. Intently. Intensely. If I hear that something is okay, I’ve confirmed it before I do it. It could be that the words don’t mean what they’re meant to mean. But words are what we have.

Thanks for your opinion, and thank you very much for reading. I respect where you’re coming from. If there are any questions I can answer to help you understand me or polyamory or my take on life in general, send me a message.

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