Agreements for Safe Relationship

Agreements are the currency of safe & healthy relationship.* Agreements allow us to consciously choose how we relate rather than simply coming together and hoping for the best (which is how we relate most of the time). The purpose of safety agreements is to make ourselves safe and safe to be with. These proposed agreements are for both interpersonal and collective relationship, and are alternatives to supremacy/superiority culture.

Agreements make conflict and the violation of shared commitments impersonal, so that when someone violates an agreement the violation is addressed rather than the qualities of the person who caused harm. People are not disposable, but they can self exclude if they are unwilling to make themselves safe to be with.

These suggested agreements are based on my research, experience, and five years of practicing radical inclusion with The Impropriety Society™. A sex-positive community was the perfect crucible for wrestling with how emotional safety could be achieved in a highly charged space. 

Sovereignty: We Know Ourselves & Honor One Another’s Agency

To be sovereign over one's self is to be free of the control or coercion of others - to direct one's own body and life. We agree to respect our own sovereignty and the sovereignty of others. We agree to self-awareness and self determination. We do not try to fix, save, advise, or correct others. We value collaboration, cooperation, interdependence, and mutual aid.

Consent: We Ask for What We Need and Desire & We Give What We are Able**

Out of respect for one another's sovereignty we agree to practice consent. We understand that navigating shared space means acknowledging our needs/desires and negotiating getting them met. We agree to ask for what we need/desire. We do not expect others to fulfill our request and we accept no as an answer. 

We also agree to give what we are able. We express our boundaries for engagement with others. We do not give what we do not want to give or more than we are resourced to give. 

Consent includes practicing confidentiality. We agree not to share private communications with those outside of the conversation. We agree not to share details of what is seen, heard, and experienced inside the shared space with those outside the space unless agreed to in advance. 

Diversity & Difference: We Respect Difference & Complexity

We agree to recognize, acknowledge, affirm, and even celebrate differences. We are intersectional.  We acknowledge that humans are complex beings with layers of identity, experience, and belief that may be difficult to understand, paradoxical, and/or contradictory. We do not create an "other" by excluding, dehumanizing, or treating others as if they are one-dimensional.

We recognize that we are smarter together. We agree to listen to everyone's perspective in order to gain the broadest view of our issues and challenges before we make decisions that impact the collective.

Acceptance: We Strive for Unconditional Positive Regard

We agree to strive for acceptance and support without conditions. We accept all of who we are – everything about our human bodies, brains, hearts, and souls. We accept where we come from; what we look like; how we work and play; the ways we name and experience our identities; our abilities, gifts, and limitations; our illnesses, disabilities, brain differences, and the ways we cope with the hardness of life. We accept all of the ways humans do relationship - our sexualities, our gender expression or lack thereof, and our love for whomever or whatever brings us alive. We strive to accept our failures, trauma triggers, and shadow behaviors. 

The only time we exclude is when a person is committed to their superiority and violence. If a person does not agree to safe relationship after causing harm, then they exclude themselves until such time as they are willing to account, repair, and transform. 

Equality: We Equalize When We Relate

We recognize that no human is superior or inferior to another. We do not seek to establish ourselves as superior to others due to our differing identities, contributions, values, morals/ethics, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, etc. We strive not to give in to our inferiority beliefs by placing others on pedestals or other forms of hierarchy over ourselves. 

Equity: We Share Resources and Opportunities Equitably

Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal and positive outcome for all involved. We agree to share resources and opportunities equitably with regard to marginalized identities, disabilities, income level, etc. 

Accessibility: We Strive to be Accessible to All

We agree to work to make our space is accessible to all. We consider physical accessibility in the spaces we gather, both in-person and online. We consider accessibility for those who are neurodiverse and those who have mental health and/or behavioral challenges. We consider financial and public transportation accessibility. We consider accessibility for all ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, and religious identities. 

Witness: We Hold Space for One Another

Human beings as social creatures have a deep desire to be witnessed - to be seen and heard in fullness and without judgment. We agree to hold space for all voices and perspectives to be heard. We listen deeply. We ask honest, open questions. We do not judge, as judgment is a superiority stance.

Authenticity & Vulnerability: We Nurture Intimacy

The antidote to dehumanizing others is knowing their story. With the intention of actively building connection, we agree to express ourselves authentically and vulnerably by sharing the stories of who we are, where we come from, what experiences we've had, how we feel, and what we believe about the world.  

Safe to be Brave Space: We Allow for Conflict & Uncomfortable Emotions

We agree to have respectful and courageous conversations that may challenge our ingrained biases and ideas. We agree to accept and sit with our uncomfortable emotions. We agree to take a breath when we are hurt and express our painful emotions with vulnerability rather than hostility. 

We agree to be open to constructive criticism. We are willing to receive feedback, to be accountable for our impact, and to challenge our own biases. We are willing to learn in public and to change. We believe everyone is capable of transformation. 

We do not conflate safety with comfort. We do not conflate conflict with abuse.***

We do not allow violence. We do not give in to the defensive tendency to discount, deflect, or retreat. We do not violate the dignity of others by dismissing, blaming, shaming, telling it like it is, last wording, bullying, etc.

Transformative Justice: We Account, Repair, & Transform When Hurt & Harm Occur

We recognize that no matter what agreements we make, we will sometimes fail. We are imperfect humans who will cause hurt and harm to one another, usually because we are in pain/crisis ourselves. When hurt and harm occur, we agree to come to the table to account for the harm, repair the disconnection, and transform the relationship through new agreements and/or changed behaviors. If necessary, we agree to have a discussion of the issues facilitated/mediated by a third side, non-impacted community members, or an outside resource.

This is a living document that may change over time. I invite your questions and feedback. 

Sources:

*The Alive Anti-Superiority and Intimacy Nurturing Program developed by Hamish Sinclair

**The Circle Way by Christina Baldwin and Anne Linnea

***Conflict is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulmann

Image by John Hain at Pixabay