One of the most important “formulas for success” concerning multiple relationships – or rather relationships as a whole – is to contemplate their level of “inclusiveness”.
The psychiatrist and psychotherapist Scott Peck² once said that it would be great if the key question for successful integration and “inclusion” would read “Is there any drastic reason why someone could not become a part of us? ” – rather than the usually (excluding) phrasing: “For what reason should anyone become a part of us? “.
As the author of the Oligoamory-project, I like the “inclusive” version very much (of course), because with this bLog I’m trying to promote multiple relationships in which the individual participants experience that jointly they can generate “more than the sum of their parts” – by creating synergy effects, getting encouragement and benefiting from resource pooling.
The access to this integrative as well as inclusive approach of living and loving together requires – as Scott Peck puts it – that we change our “default mode” of “rugged individualism” to a philosophy of “gentle individualism“. “Gentle individualism” begins in all community-building processes – and therefore in Oligoamory as well – with a distinct decision for committent and a firm will to be together – a committent which has to be constantly renewed by all parties concerned. And – of course – there will be ups and downs in this process.
Scott Peck wrote:
“Community, togetherness and loving relationships require it that we hold ona bit when things get uncomfortable. All of it requires a certain amount of commitment. Our individualism must be balanced by commitment. […] Perhaps the most important key to achieving this goal is recognising differences. In real communities, human differences are not ignored, denied, hidden, but valued. […] And in all cases, overcoming [the differences] has a lot to do with love.”
And because all this may sound rather idealistic, he added two pages later:
“An important part of realism or proximity to real life must be mentioned here: Modesty. While rugged individualism tends to self-exaltation, gentle individualism leads to modesty. As we begin to appreciate the talents of others, we begin to recognise our own limitations. When we hear others speak about their inadequacies, we become able to accept our own imperfection.”
A (multiple) relationship that would be understood by its participants in this way would be oligoamorous in the highest possible degree. For the above-mentioned declaration of commitment would facilitate personal integrity (“continually maintained agreement of the personal value system and personal ideals with one’s own speech and action”) – which would concurrently lead to a substantial level of responsibility for the overall relationship.
Once more Scott Peck:
“As soon as we think with integrity, we realize that we are all (co-)caretakers, and that we can not deny our responsibility for the maintenance of any part of the whole. […] As caretakers, we can not be adherents of isolationistic thinking.“
So far – so wonderful. If we could reach that level in our loving relationships, then we would be close to a kind of inclusiveness which the cartoon above depicts – and we probably would have far fewer problems on Earth and especially with each other…
If we were 100% inclusive, then probably all dating-sites in the world would lose their power immediately. For example, getting to know one another would become like the (intended) anonymised application processes – and we would be very close to a potential “universal love”: Any human being on this planet could become our feasible relationship-companion if the famous metaphysical component of love would turn up as well and light a mutual fire. Especially for multiple relationships, this state would be auspicious: Other loved ones and even the beloved of our significant others would be relatively easy to include, because our universal confession concerning inclusiveness would regularly pave the way, and the relevant question would simply be “Is there any reason at all that wouldn’t make it possible?”.
At the same time, we are all human beings who live in this world today. And in this world, there are currently ecological, social and political processes that put our “will to be inclusive” to the test every day:
In her highly topical song “Liebestöter” (Love-Killer) the musician “Alice im Griff” (a wordplay: English meaning approximately “All under control”) describes how she suffers when she finds out that she’s in love with an AfD³ voter.
It all started so well when you contacted me at Parship
I started falling in love already by your first message
120 Magic Points – Wow! – how could that be?
When you finally hugged me I completely fell for you
but now we have to part – oh my god it hurts so much
why are you doing that to me, why do you vote for AfD?
I would have chosen you, even if you were poor or a snorer
would have fried meat for you even if you didn’t insist on it
I would have stayed true to you, alas, if it would only be a bad joke
but you say you vote for AfD and thus you break my heart.
I look in your beautiful eyes and feel your tunnel vision
your yearning for a sympathetic ear, for trust and some happiness;
you’re getting to few cuddles, you feel mocked and left behind
but your search for the culprits has limited you mentally a lot.
Perhaps it is my duty to save us at this time
but as much as I want you, man, damn, I can’t do that!
Chorus: I would have chosen you, even…
I was already hormonally prepared for you, I called you god of love
oh why didn’t I recognise the fault in you at first sight?
Your appeal was so erotic – but not in my back yard!
I was prepared for “50 Shades of Gray” but I can’t stand this.
Chorus: I would have chosen you, even…
Oh, please tell me that you think about it and please do not break my heart!
According to this song, the counter question in the cartoon above would have to be “And if he is misogynist, animal abuser or a Nazi? ”
Well – then what?
Regarding Polyamory I criticised in my 2nd Entry that some participants of multiple relationships are routinely “compartmentalising” their loved ones. Because that would be really convenient in such a case: simply ignore the political attitude of the gentleman in the song and still share with him board and lodging (and bed) – problem solved.
But I wouldn’t be “Mr. Oligoamory”, if I did not point out in my 6th Entry that this approach is not viable in Oligoamory, because it’s philosophy is about loving a human being as a”whole”, including all parts of her/his/its life. And such an approach of “compartmentalization” certainly wouldn’t be “inclusive” at all – and a “sum of the parts” could of course never emerge in this way.
Even more, if we go one step further and extend this problem to a multiple relationship network: What would happen if my significant other brought home a misogynist, an animal abuser or an right-wing extremist voter as an additional sweetheart? Then, according to Entry 6, I would have to love this new love as a part of my significant other as well – even if I wouldn’t establish an independent relationship with the “new arrival” on my own…
According to Scott Peck, I would even be a kind of “caretaker”, responsible for the new arrival – and thus her/his/its words and acts.
That’s when Alice sings: “Man, damn, I can’t do that!” No, I couldn’t do that eiter.
Our “will to be inclusive” obviously touches personal boundaries. And these personal boundaries are apparently rather individual; because concerning her vegetarianism Alice wouldn’t have sacrificed it on the altar of love – but at least she put into perspective for the sake of her new sweetheart – something she failed to manage concerning his political attitude.
This seems to be almost a kind of paradox, because if these boundaries exist, then the approach to any true integrative coexistence is pointless from the outset.
Or alternatively: To ensure “true togetherness”, would I have to put up with everything, or wouldn’t I be allowed to have any personal viewpoints and boundaries at all?
When I think of a human struggle for “inclusiveness”, I think of my favorite figure, the Jewish dairyman Tevje, from the musical “Fiddler on the roof“:
It’s not easy for Tevje to dispose of his three daughters in marriage. They all choose successively a husband who for different reasons does not fit into the system of the paternal ethos. Thus, Tevje gets utterly upset every time – but then he withdraws to the stage for an inner monologue (in which the audience participates that way) and ponders by a detailed “On one hand…” / “On the other hand…” until he calms down and is finally able “integrate” the new son-in-law into his personal value system.
The figure of the “Tevje” depicts vividly a phenomenon, which also Scott Peck describes:
“Integrity is never painfree. It requires that themes rub against each other, and that we feel the tension between conflicting needs and interests and feel emotionally torn between them.”
Tevje, too, encounters in his story – as Alice in her song – his personal limits. His youngest daughter wants to marry a Russian, which would not only result in a change of religion regarding the daughter, but also make a “Jew’s enemy” the new son-in-law (because at the time shown in the musical, the Russians are trying to expel the Jews from their country by force). Consequently, Tevje gets stuck in his third monologue and finally recognises “There is no ‘other hand’…! ” – because this time he would have to deny himself spiritually, ethnically and politically too much to be able to obtain “inclusiveness” for the sake of family peace. In the musical there is a dramatic quarrel and a subsequent rift with the daughter, which can only be cured after many hardships for all involved. But also because in the end all (!) participants recover their “will to be inclusive”, overcome prejudices and approach each other once more.
Scott Peck’s book “A Different Drum – Community Making and Peace“², often quoted in this article, describes various kinds of community and relationship, all of which, like Tevje, are struggling for their “inclusiveness”. As examples the author outlines numerous incidents – from external difficulties, such as war and economic crisis, to individual dramas, such as meetings where one person regularly appears drunk. And at the end of this paragraph, the author reassuringly explains that in his long practice he hasn’t experienced any community that has ever been 100% inclusive at all times.
Is “inclusiveness” therefore an unattainable ideal, maybe just a “paper tiger”?
As to that Scott Peck answers:
“Perhaps the first step on the path to community is recognising the fact that we are not alike and never will be. […] I would like to remind that people in communities [in multiple relationships as well! (Oligotropos)] are in a state where they learn to dismantle their defense mechanisms rather than hiding behind them. Not only do they learn to accept their differences, but to rejoice over them instead of putting them down as usual. Through community diversity loses its charcteristic of being a problem. Community is truly an alchemical process that transforms the difficulties of our diversity into golden harmony.“
Transferred to loving relationships, this means what Tevje, his youngest daughter, and the Russian son-in-law are experiencing at the end of the musical – and what Alice is whishing for at the end of the song: That a loving relationship and a loving togetherness can be the place where all voices are allowed to be heard.
Thus, Tevje learns that his son-in-law is ultimately a great guy (and a political oppositionist even on his side) – and that his daughter has become an idealist who follows the voice of her heart – a trait Tevje has always longed for in his fatherhood.
In this way, Alice’s new sweetheart might also find out that he no longer needs the AfD because he eventually experiences trust, happiness and acceptance in his new relationship – and thereby he may discover that accepting responsibility is always the job of everyone involved, and that there is no need for “scapegoats”. And Alice might learn that she was strengthened in her “integrative persistence,” because she held on to her love (nonetheless) because of her inclusiveness which made her believe in ultimate understanding (at least the last scene of the music clip could be interpreted like that).
Therefore, inclusivity does not mean acceptance at all costs, nor does it automatically mean harmonious appeasement.
To that end, I’ll leave the closing words to Scott Peck as well:
“Integration does not mean equalization; it does not result in a stew. Rather, one can compare community with a salad dish whose individual ingredients preserve their identity and are highlighted in the interaction. Community does not solve the problem of diversity by eradicating diversity. Rather, it looks for diversity, welcomes different views, embraces opposites, wishes to look at the other side of every issue. It includes people into a living body.“
¹ Photo credits: With NetzTeufel, the Evangelische Akademie in Berlin has launched a project that operates directly in digital spaces: In Social Media is analysing the dissemination of group-focused enmity in the name of the Christian faith. On this basis it encounters questions such as how #DIGITALEKIRCHE can strengthen moral courage on the internet:
² Scott Peck: The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (Simon & Schuster, 1987) ISBN 978-0-684-84858-7
³ AfD (Alternative for Germany), German nationalist, right-wing populist and Eurosceptic party.