Workshop Wednesday Special! Relationship Charts

In celebration of the Kinaban Patreon reaching our first goal of $150, here’s a freebie post on charting your relationships!

I’m going to ramble about the following:

  • why chart your relationships?
  • needs, wants, and boundaries
  • the space-time continuum
  • feeling special
  • sharing lives together
  • when to use the charts
  • a link to the relationship charts in .pdf

Why chart your relationships?

Some folks like the organic, flowing, magical mystery of getting to know someone bit by incremental bit, or just U-hauling it and figuring it out afterwards. Not me. Well, not 30-something me. Definitely teenybopper me and 20-something-living-catastrophe me was into that high-risk fun and games. Now, as a person with multiple ethical relationships that have varying levels of physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy, logistics are a large part of my life– from my Google calendar, to my written agenda, to my online spreadsheets, to these relationship charts. They help me sort out my priorities and how I want to make them reality, while respecting what was negotiated with those closest to me. The charts specifically help me figure out what I want out of my life, and then with whom and how do I want to share my life with.
 
I also created these charts for political and anti-oppressive reasons. I wanted a way for folks who have relationships that weren’t necessarily heteronormative and/or amatonormative to be able to have a template to create the kinds of relationship networks and communities they want. As charts, they’re not a set of rules or guidelines, but something that can start an idea, or be rearranged and built on depending on who needs them for what. I wanted to give folks an easy way to challenge what society teaches us is “the one true way” to have relationships in our lives by giving them the option to create their own way.

Needs, Wants, and Boundaries

“Cool story, Lukayo,” you say, “but how the hell do you know what you want from your life?” Good question, imaginary yet beloved reader. For me, it definitely was trial-by-error, especially because my definition of what a “want” and what a “need” changed so often. I only figured things out after I’d been in a string of relationships that taught me so many lessons. You’re going to have to figure this out for yourself, too. If you already have, awesome! Then you can just fill out the charts based on order of priority. If you haven’t figured stuff out completely, you can use these charts by taking the titles of each row and considering these questions:

  • Is this something that I need absolutely in my life?
  • Is this something I want but it’s okay if it’s not in my life ever?
  • Is this something I absolutely do not want ever, and thus is a boundary?

That way you can start figuring out your basic needs, wants, and boundaries without anyone else in the picture first. You can put N, W, or B beside each row that corresponds to the concept of each letter. Or you can make up your own questions based on your own definitions of what a need, want, and boundary is! I’d love to read about them in the comments.

The Space-Time Continuum

Obviously, we all need time and space as 3-dimensional (4-dimensional?) beings. But before you fill out this chart with other people in mind, first ask yourself, how much time do I need to myself? Will I climb up the walls and want to run away to the woods if I constantly see people every single day from when I wake up to when I go to bed? Or will I love the hell out of it and cry if I wake up alone? Also, how much space do you want? Can you never absolutely share another bed with a person? Another room? Do you need your own bathroom and kitchen?

After thinking about what’s important to you, then you can start thinking about how much you’re willing to share with others. Is there some kinds of relationship you’re willing to give more time and space to? Traditional Western monogamy prioritizes a single person for all your emotional, romantic, and sexual needs. Are you also willing to give “best friends” some time and space? If you spend all your time with a romantic partner, are you content, or will you flip out because you’re not spending time with your pals or in community work? Are you okay ever living with complete strangers or do they have to be friends or partners?

If you’re thinking about giving this chart to someone, then you can also fill out this section based on how much time and space you’re okay with spending with this particular person. You can also add how much you may be willing to spend in the future as your maximum amount, just to add some clarity and to show, if that’s where you’re at, that you’re thinking of this person in the long-term.

Feeling Special

This section of the charts, entitled “Am I Special to You?”, can be filled out like the previous one, in that you first consider how you make yourself feel special, how you’d like others to make you feel special in general, how you’d like other to feel special in general, and/or how you’d like the specific person who is receiving your chart to feel special.

For “Titles/Names”, I’d like to suggest that you don’t have to choose titles that already exist or are common. You can have a new name for a non-romantic, non-sexual committed relationship because this person shares over 5 areas of their life with you in a long-term way. Examples of alternate names of relationship types or partners include: queerplatonic, quasiplatonic, zucchini, relationshipmate, cupcake, honeybee, packmate, etc.

I especially like this section because it gives options to aromantic, asexual, polyamorous and/or relationship anarchistic folks. Monogamy clearly spells out that you’re one, chosen sexual and romantic partner is the one that gets the special title, has special ceremonies (anniversaries and weddings), attends events together as the “plus one”, has tokens like rings, and is the one you exclusively have sex and kids with.  For those that don’t have sexual partners, or romantic partners, or have multiple sexual and romantic partners, there are other ways to express your caring for other folks to show how important they are, and you can plan that out together.

Sharing Lives Together

In the two-paged chart “What part(s) of your life do you want to share with me?”, I know the title focuses on the “sharing” part, but actually you should start with “is this area even important to me?” for each row before you consider if you want to share it with somebody else. Another exercise you could do with this chart is  figure out how many people you want to share each area with. Maybe only 1 person gets to share the sexuality/kink parts of your life, but hundreds of people can share in your community work. You can also denote what parts of the chart have a limited boundary, where there needs to be more time and trust built for someone to access that area (like children or being an emergency contact) versus you’ll manage with whoever gets stuck with you (like work). These categories are also really broad– you can make sub-categories, especially if you want different folks fulfilling them. You might want a different buddy to go to the gym with you versus go to the spa with you (both fall under “Physical Maintenance”) or you may keep your hockey game watching bros strictly separate from your Live Action Roleplaying community (which can either be “Social Events” or “Hobbies/Creativity”). Lastly, don’t forget to add new categories! I don’t know your lives better than you do, and if there’s an area that you prioritize and/or want to share, put it on there!

When to Use the Charts

Though you’re free to use the charts whenever you want, here are a few suggestions on possible ways you could use them:

  • when you feel stuck in your own life and want to figure out whether you’re spending enough time with yourself or what areas of your life need more attention
  • when you’re not in any chosen relationships and you’re trying to consider what you want out of your social life and/or friendships and/or romance
  • when you’re starting a new relationship and want to communicate what you’d like to offer to another person
  • when you’re in a relationship with another person and you’re unclear what they want from you, so you ask them to fill out this chart
  • when one of your relationships needs to transition into another form and you’d like to work that out with the other person as to what will decrease, increase, end, change, or be maintained in the relationship

Hopefully this gives you some ideas of when and how to use these charts! Though they’re good for organizing, always remember that they can’t replace good ol’ communication.

Link to the charts: Relationship Charts


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