Entry 5

About relatives and associates

One of the most interesting pieces of lore about the mysterious Oligoamorists, which had motivated me to travel to the remote island, was that in their seclusion they would not live together in classical families, but in groups called “Communities of Associates” [“Associates” as derived from the Latin word “associare” – “to join / to be united”]
Historically, this definitely made sense to me, because the island of Oligoamory was first settled at the beginning of the 19th century, as the increasing industrialization and the increasing labor migration to the cities started to dissolve the functions that once the classic rural extended family performed for its members.
However, I do not want to make this a historical excerpt, but I will return to some of the implications of this process that started at those times.

For I myself, who confessedly stem from the “Old World of Mono-Amory”, grew up there with aphorisms that seemingly upheld the old ideal of the family as an all-time support community, founded on biological affinity. One of best known proverbs in many European countries will be the maxim
“Blood is thicker than water”
which will also be given a long life by its recurring media presence in radio, television and on the internet. Additionally, in the bourgeois circles in which I used to live, the attendants were regularly sworn in on the reasonableness of the “Relatives-model” with the always passionately presented formula
“Friendship is a beautiful ‘maybe’ – family is a nice ‘must have’.”
In this sense, probably each of us “Old World-guys” will come up with some motto or statement, in which the value of the birth-family is emphasised or even put above everything else…

Some of my dear readers may now become irritated and think: “Now the ol’ Oligotropos is going against the family … – he will probably have had bad experiences there. But that is not the case everywhere else! “
And I would like to immediately turn to this and say that I know great families, in which several generations, connected in love and mutual support, promote every one and care for every one, while at the same time they still appreciate each other as individuals.
At the same time, however, these are almost always those families that do not have to emphasise any of the above mentioned beliefs in order to establish their inner dynamics.
I will try to point it out to you somewhat exaggerated: If grandfather sticks the grandson and his fiancée $ 500 for their planned carport at the family barbecue-party, then perhaps this may be a not entirely successful expression of “I love you – and I want to support you …”. But if grandson and fiancée go to the barbecue, just “… because there’s probably $ 500 from Grandpa …” – or if actually the grandson will be arguing with his fiancée beforehand, whether they would have to go to the terrible barbecue – for if they wouldn’t “… there would never be any kind of contribution from Grandpa again…” – then particularly in the latter example no blood or water needs to be cited anymore: (loving) “kinship” has long since given way to a “business relationship“. And to continue functioning, “business relationships” must be noisily proclaimed and asserted – whereas loving relationships are based on entirely different attachments.

Why then is the physical family still affirmed to this day with such striking terms as “blood” and a lot of superlatives?
Because it was not so long ago that above all the family had to serve as an emergency-alliance and as a protective community. This was particularly the case in Germany from the beginning to middle of the 20th century, especially during the post-apocalyptic collapse of all public support and order after the devastating World Wars. At that time, families and relationships became such emergency-communities, to which people always merge if their lives are utterly threatened. And therefore, there are such phenomena in all war zones and crisis areas, in bunkers, trenches, after acts of terrorism or natural disasters. Thus showing at the same time the awesome potential of humanity, such as spontaneous solidarity or even selfless behaviour right up to self-abandonment.
However, as e.g. Scott Peck writes in his book “A Different Drum” on community-building, emergency-communities gradually dissolve again and do not last forever, if the external threat that provides the community-creating trigger someday vanishes.
By the way, personally, I view that as a very hopeful sign for humanity: Otherwise, we always would have to rely on a feeling of threat and separation in order to stimulate fellowship or to conjure up the ability to relate! But that’s obviously not the fabric that binds us durably.
And that’s why I wish for us to stop looking at our birth families as such places to which we are bound first and foremost by literal imperative or obligation.

In the meantime, the realities of the 21st century have contributed to relativising purely biological bonds anyway: Only rarely do the generations still live together, more often many miles actually separate us. Sometimes folks have been able to choose their (separated) place of residence, but more often it is still the basic monetary security of our lives through paid work that determines it. Especially since the turn of the 21st century, our jobs have mounted additional demands on our flexibility, so that we usually spend more time outside than within our own four walls, that we have to change the place of work occasionally – and sometimes we are even more involved in our professional networks than in our social environments. Regarding that there are many causes that I’m not planning to highlight here extensively, not all of them are inevitable, but these causes affect some of our most basic human needs.

Concerning those needs, alongside the repeated crises of the 20th century, the psychologists Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Marshall Rosenberg focused on the appertaining rationales.
And no matter whether one assigns a hierarchy to their found parameters or not, they all identified our essential need for community, attachment and closeness, especially with regard to security, care, esteem and interest (in us from the others), autonomy and participation, communication and stimulation (by others), the possibility to show our feelings, as well as trust, stability and an emotional home.
Their research also started to show that our adopted lifestyle of increasing individualism and isolation scarcely guaranteed those goals to a sufficient degree, so that even our mental and physical health became endangered. In addition, there was increasing evidence that the ever-growing preesence of the “nuclear-family-model” alone, strictly speaking, is no longer able to ensure the fulfillment of the whole set of needs for its participants.
And, to the present day, research based on the results of these scientists confirms, that to experience community and attachment beyond mere goal attainment, the perception of these various emotional components is required for human beings in oder to maintain their mental balance and contentment.
These needs are of course fundamental to the healthy development of children, but regardless of that, they affect each and every one of us,regardless of age, throughout our lives and – as stated above: essential, belonging to our very being, vital.

This illustrated, it seems rather understandable to me why “blood relationship” or mere “relational-status” can not be an explanatory unique feature regarding this important need-fulfillment. How should my parents who live 300 miles apart from me contribute to it meaningfully every day? How ever a cousin with whom I have not spoken for fifteen years and who does not even know where I live? And if I already dread this meeting with Grandpa on his barbecue, then he will hardly be able to contribute truly to my well-being. That does not even necessarily have to be caused by Grandpa: For I myself decide and ultimately choose who belongs to the circle of people who really matter to me, who really have meaning in my life.

If this “meaning” is not only monetary or expedient in nature (after all, I have a “relationship” with my personal insurance agent as well …) but is provided with this famous metaphysical component called “love”, then transpires what I am describing in terms of Oligoamory as the “choice of my associates“: Therefore those are people who associate themselves with me. And to which, in turn, I feel associated to.
It is the moment in which emerges what is sometimes referred to as the “family of choice”, “the soultribe” or “the bonding of soulmates”. These “associates” are hence people who are mutually meaningful to each other, playing important, special roles in their lives, who truly share in each other. And – I would like to emphasise that in terms of Oligoamory – this “share” is quite comprehensive and tries to include the whole human being, with all its strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes and quirks.
But in the end, these “shares” establish what will jointly shape the benevolent “mutual we” described on the Start!-page and in Entry 4, when “yours”, “mine”, “his” and “hers” becomes “ours”.
(I have already written a bit about the time, the favourable proximity and the intensity required to this end – and I will continue to do so in the future.)

Exactly because of the above mentioned “metaphysical component”, I would also like that all my “associates” are always attached to me in an oligoamorous context: For if I’m in a good mood and brilliant, it might be easy to be fine with me, and I suppose I’m mostly enriching at those times. But even in an average week, I’m already dealing with deeds and mental games (about Oligoamory, for example), as to which not everyone may be thrilled.
But to whom can I entrust myself on those very days if even that is not the case? I will not always be attractive, eloquent and healthy. Presumably, times will come when I am in many ways in need of help or otherwisely unappealing…
At this point in time, hopefully, I have gathered around me those people who can endure me in the much-cited “bad times”, since we have previously contributed mutually to a sustainable treasure, which will comfort us even when things are not going so well anymore.

As an author, I wish that I managed to illustrate why even some “biological families” might be able to fulfil the criteria for such “communities of associates”. Or rather, that most certainly there is room for true relatives who contribute to each other in the “associates- model”, too.
But equally for any other form of heartfelt, emotional attachment that is mutually based in love and includes participation in terms of (intimate) nearness and everyday life (which, by the way, outlines the relationship-anarchistic share to my conception of Oligoamory).

Incidentally, I find the following two nonconforming platforms interesting in this regard:

Wahlverwandtschaften e.V. with the downright oligoamorous self-description
– Chosen familiy is
– showing interest
– listening
– committed
– designed for the long term
– The will to assume responsibility concerning each other
– Philanthropy: tolerance & trust
– pluralistic
– Solidarity: give & take

Bring-toghether.de with its website, App and newsletter

►Although personally I am not entirely enthusiastic regarding the concept of co-housing from my oligoamorous point of view: On the one hand, I’m worried that mere “communal housing” as a goal might lead to a latent objectification instead of a loving togetherness in the end.
And on the other hand, the further conception of whole Tiny-House settlements, which in my heart completely twist the whole purpose of Oligoamory, is frightening me because that way veritable colonies of modern hermits are created who can at best endure their fellow human beings for just a short time or in selected doses (e.g. in the central community building) before returning to their self-chosen ego-isolation again.

Last but not least, family-claims reloaded – and as long as it still has to be stated:

The German cultural philosopher, writer and literary scholar Friedrich von Schlegel (1772 – 1829) wrote:
“Only around a loving woman a family may evolve.”
Over a period of a few hundred years, this sentence – written to my regret by a Romantic – contributed to a myth that is still occasionally circulated to the present day.
According to it, in an adult human being, there appears to be some switch that predisposes to what kind of task the designated person would be particularly “fit”.
This myth has led over the above-mentioned centuries to the above-mentioned present to the fact that not only the remit “family” with its tasks of household, education, child care, nursing and geriatric care was attributed to the female sex, but also that this area was linked to the “metaphysical component of love” in such a way that all activities subordinate to this sphere of action would, naturally, be performed out of “self-sacrificing love” – hence voluntarily and free of charge.
I, Oligotropos, say that this myth contradicts Oligoamory’s belief in a justice of need in every way. Not only that there is no “switch” in any human being, of whatever race, sex, identity or gender, that “predisposes” her or him to anything. Further more: No one is born into this world as a perfect parent, educator, teacher, social worker, kitchentable-psychologist or qualified nurse. Nobody automatically seizes such tasks because it is supposed to be “her or his nature”, not even if such a task is already an inevitable and demanding fact.
In that regard love may be a foundation. But it is not a qualification and certainly not an implicit “vocation”.
If indeed we wish for such tasks to be performed truly out of “vocation,” then we must fully liberalise the choice of who feels called upon to do so. And these people must be adequately recognised and rewarded accordingly. Not with a romantic dedication, not with a social gesture, but as tangible as in respect to any other vocation.
That would be decent, committed – and loving.



Thanks to rawpixel on unsplash.com for great images,
to Gabriele Hartmann on Wahlverwandschaften e.V.
and Christoph Wieseke on Bring-together.de

4 Replies to “Entry 5”

  1. “Freunde sind die Familie, die man sich aussucht.”

    Ich bin im Übrigen mit den Beziehungskreisen nach Dunbar gut kompatibel. Da gehört Familie in Kreis 3 bei mir????

    1. Robin Dunbar hat die drei ersten Kreise mit 1)”Intimacy”, 2)”Friendship” und 3)”Participation” bezeichnet (und den 4. sogar noch mit “Exchange”). In seinem Modell sind also sogar noch der 3. und 4. Kreis Modelle aktiver Teilnahme.
      Wenn das tatsächlich so ist, dann sind in solcher Weise ja Menschen bezeichnet, die Bedeutung für mich haben – und ich für sie.
      In “sozialen Netzwerken” (virtueller wie realer Art) werden aber oft in Kreis 3 und 4 Personen hereingezählt, die nur noch, was das gegenseitige Leben angeht, rein passiv konsumieren (z.B. FB, Bilder gucken, Rundbrief rezipieren etc.).
      Menschen, mit denen ich in solchen Verbindungen stehe, würde ich persönlich für mich nicht mehr zu “meinen Zugehörigen” zählen.
      Und ja, da kann Geburtsfamilie durchaus hingeraten.

  2. Höchst erfreut und überaus erquicklich.
    Schwere Kost, in Form von reichhaltig.
    Also Vollkorn, kein Fastfood!
    Welch Weisheit und welch Gnade, wer das Geschenk darin zu erkennen vermag.

    Das liebe Carport, welch ein Humor des Schicksals.

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