Entry 44

Beloved Friends

Over two thousand years ago, a man from Nazareth climbed a hill to teach an amazed crowd how beneficial it would be for all of humanity and its relationships if we would love our enemies.¹
Over two thousand years later, I wonder whether it would not have been a good idea at the time to add to this remarkable thought the consideration that it would be just as beneficial for all of humanity and its relationships if we were at least be able to love our friends…

How did your travel guide, Oligotropos, came up with such a copious idea?
By contact with the surprisingly tough reality of present day, which bears witness to the fact that true “love among friends” does not seem to be a common topic in 2020 either. And that for many – perhaps even most – people it does not even seem particularly desirable.
A bold hypothesis? Well, then let’s have a look at real life:

In this still fresh year, I had two conversations in short succession with a downright déjà vu-like course.
In order to do justice to this (small) target group, however, I would have to admit that the déjà vu character was probably due to the fact that I was the interlocutor each time – and that both conversations dealt with the core concept of Oligoamory.
In that process I explained that it was essential to me in this regard that in all oligoamorous relationships always “the whole person” should be meant and addressed. Accordingly, it would be very important not to “compartmentalize” another person in one’s thinking. Because every human being would always be a “complex artwork” with different facets – being at the same time e.g. employee, possibly parent, member of an (already existing) group of friends and family, committed member of a hobby- or voluntary organisation , etc. Thus, I declared, if I would make friends with someone, I would suggest that in that case I would relate to the “complete person” with all its aspects and with all of its liabilities that already existed – and not just with a selected “fair weather face”.
So far, so good.
Then I expanded this description by the factor of “originary freedom of category”, which I borrowed from the concept of relationship anarchy and adapted regarding Oligoamory. By that I mean that, as far as the source of my feelings and the expression of my emotions are concerned, I don’t want to differentiate (any longer) between “just friends”, “mere acquaintances”, “close family”, “best buddy” etc. Because I want to be equally authentic “I” among all these people and be allowed to express all my feelings everywhere in the same genuine way.
Thereby my immersion, my love and my trust that I would invest into all my relationships would be energetically the same – originating from the same source. Which would ideally mean that e.g. I could be as honest with my children as with my handball coach, deal with the postman as committed as with my loved ones. As a result, I would endeavor to be authentically the same person in all of these areas of my life. [Which, by the way, is THE challenge of ethical non-monogamy and Oligoamory par excellence. And which makes me strive for a better version of myself, by the way…].

Alas, the reactions, in short succession, were as if my interlocutors had touched an electrically charged wire – or as if I offered them a box full of exotic worms:

Dialogue partner 1: “Oligotropos, I am responsible for all people I am related to; in practical terms, however, I mean that I only want to be responsible for the both of us, just you and me. But whatever you have agreed with third parties, how much you let them participate, what they may know – please keep those things among yourselves as you see fit.
Regarding me, a relationship – as you are imagining it – means too much responsibility; I cannot bear that and I would never be able to live up to it.”

Dialogue partner 2: “Oligotropos, I notice that I’m overwhelmed with the whole thing and that’s a little bit too much for me. I’m somewhat unsettled.”
And a little later, since this dialogue partner was actually a parent: “I wouldn’t even know how I would be able to explain a get-together like this to my child…”

Well, there I was left with my Oligoamory as if I had tried to sell buttons at the door².
Even though I had just tried to illustrate how great it might be if the people involved in a relationship would appreciate each other completely and comprehensively…
Maybe that wasn’t as desirable in reality as I had thought. Still more: It seemed to be so absurd that children had to be protected from it.

I am shaken: We bestow on our friends personalized pillows, sometimes even personalized wellness vacations, but at the same time we don’t dare to have personalized relationships with them, that is: relationships appropriate to this special person.
Because that thought could mean “too much responsibility”, because it “overwhelms” and “unsettles”

In my previous Entry 43, I outline some of the scary reasons that probably spark such a way of thinking. And in Entry 26 I describe the result of such an attitude: the continued persistence and experience of a “split reality” – both regarding ourselves as well as regarding our relationships with other people.

Most of us humans, however, seem to have come to terms quite well with this continually experienced “reality of separation”. Of course they do, because we grew up with it – and because it corresponds to the normal, everyday mode with which most of us conduct our relationships. “The familiar” easily seems to be “the right thing”; people are “creatures of habit”, and the comfort zone is known to be guarded by one’s weaker self.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the price we pay for this kind of relationships and friendships – which have (and should keep!) a purely situational and few-dimensional character – is rather high.
Because we human beings are obviously able to reject and even hate without any reasonable or obvious reason – but in return we do not allow ourselves the ability to conceive un-reasonable love, or its much more essential requirement: basic trust.

As a result, we create a very harsh reality that we unconsciously regularly reinforce ourselves.
If we were to accept a person “completely”, that would mean that we would also perceive them with their ideas and dreams, talents and weaknesses, worries and needs and with their pending everyday life. Because if we wouldn’t strive for a purely “aspectual relationship” or “fair-weather-friendship”, then the not always pleasant potentials of the other person would automatically become part of the relationship.
But how can we be able to really appreciate each other if we keep each other out of large parts of our lives? And now I’m no longer talking about handball coaches and postmen, but about our self-chosen friends!
If I would try to establish a close relationship, which I give would call “friendship”, upon only partial (personality) aspects, I would feel very dishonest and insincere when looking into the mirror, because – hand on heart – in that case I would not be able to allow myself any opinion regarding my corresponding counterpart, since I would know far too little about it, him or her.
And I think it is precisely this unspoken perception that underpins countless friendships – and many other intimate relationships. And because we are not stupid and because we still have a rest of healthy, well-functioning interpersonal instincts, we will feel incoherence (lack of connection, see also Entry 25) in such relationships and as a result we eventually DO NOT TRUST even our closest friends entirely.
How should we ever be able to love them…

If this is the last state of affairs concerning our current ability to relate, then old Goethe will continue to be right with his over 200-year-old sigh (Entry 39): “Communities and families behave like that against their dearest members, cities against their most worthy citizens, nations against their most excellent people.” And we will remain part of a distrustful and unpeaceful world, which we will pass on to our children if we do not know how we “would be able to explain a get-together like this” to them.
Do we really want to let our lives pass in the midst of such non-committed relationships?

At this point I would like to remind you again of the intrepid request of actor Anthony Hopkins, which I quoted in my Dating-Entry 30: We urgently need to stop treating each other as “afterthoughts” – or, as I specified – as arbitrary “bonuses and give-aways”.
We have to find a way back to increased self-honesty – which means that first of all we would have to take the sometimes painful effort to get to know ourselves quite well. Not to unleash the little perfectionist or control guy who dwells in most of us, in order to monitor and restrain us as much as possible concerning every error and imperfection that we have found inside and upon ourselves. But rather in order to empower and encourage us concerning our self-efficacy. In order to muster the courage – as mentioned in the last Entry – to really interact wholesomely with other people.
Since without being able to endure this courage for a while, without being able to endure its consequences for a while – by giving our own imperfection and that of the other people a little leeway – we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to find out whether there is a real chance towards a deep, familiar, intimate, connection.

By the way: In the US sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” you can watch during 279 short episodes how seven people slip into a surprisingly oligoamorous relationship. And there is by no means an idealized process of getting-to-know or getting-to-love each other. Even at the end of the last season, the viewer can imagine how the protagonists would probably still be sitting together in their retirement home, occasionally playing childish pranks or making flippant statements about the characteristics of the others. Nevertheless, I have never followed a television series in which the participants gradually grew closer together – across gender, racial, educational and stereotypical boundaries – and eventually openly and sincerely confess their literal love for one another.
Should it remain the prerogative of cinematic fantasies that something like this can only exist as an idyllic utopia of somewhat nerdy screen characters?

For this reason I invoke you once again today from the remote island of Oligoamory:
Keep trying to walk the “path of greatest courage”.
Dare to trust!
Allow yourselves to confess your own uncertainties in this regard and still – or rather because of it – strive for a little bit more than your present comfort zone offers.
And above all: Treat yourself and other people “full-featured” – that would be, to conclude with Bertolt Brecht³, “The Hope of the World”.

¹ Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verse 44 – and Luke’s Gospel, chapter 6, verse 27

² The magician Gandalf the Gray blames the reluctant Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book “The Hobbit” and reproaches him, that he would treat him “as if he were selling buttons on the door”.

³ The last paragraph from the text “The Hope of the World” Bertolt Brecht, Collected Works in Eight Volumes, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1967:
“The more who suffer, the more natural their sufferings appear. Who wants to prevent fish from getting wet?
And the sufferers themselves share this hardness against themselves and lack goodness towards themselves.
It is terrible that humanity so easyly to comes to terms with circumstances that already exist, not only with someone else’s suffering, but also with one’s own.
Anyone who has thought about this grievance refuses to appeal to the sympathy of one being in respect of the other. But sympathy is essential. It is the hope of the world.”

Thanks to Kelsey Chance on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 43 #Commitment #Trust

Committed – not entangled…

The philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin wrote last year¹: “In the philosophy of language, it is agreed that successful communicative practice can only be achieved if those involved in communication abide by certain constitutive rules. This includes the rule of truthfulness [synonyms: sincerity, honesty, loyalty, righteousness, commitment, reliability]. It requires that, if I say something, I myself am convinced that it’s true.
We can also expect our communication partners to trust us; that is, they may assume that what I say corresponds to my own beliefs.
These rules are only seemingly trivial. Since they impose on the communication partners the obligation to orient themselves – when communicating – to be guided by good reasons which they recognise and not on behalf of their own self-interest. Because in many cases, the mere self-interest would speak against compliance with the rules of truthfulness and trust. If we were always untruthful
[= insincere, dishonest, disloyal, corrupt, non-binding, unreliable!], if it were in our interest, the communicative act would suddenly lose most of its value.”

From an oligoamorous point of view, I think this text is great, since communication partners are treated as if they were involved in a relationship – and that is certainly true: When people communicate, even if only briefly or about an irrelevant (factual) topic, they are in a mutual relationship at this moment and an exchange (of information) takes place. Concerning Oligoamory, it is also remarkable that Nida-Rümelin mentions important relationship values in this context as well: “truthfulness”, “trust” and a “mutual interest”.
However, as far as the “good reasons” are concerned, I have to admit that I am a little more cautious about this than the author of the lines above. In Entry 11 of this bLog, I deal in detail with the “individual good reasons” and try to show – although we humans really value an “all-round common good” at the need-level and usually strive to bring it about for everyone involved – that we still are often sabotaged by the choice of our strategies to get there. If, despite being aware of our “good reasons”, we choose a fulfilment strategy in which external needs are ignored or even curtailed – we usually reach a point where we quickly slip back into the treacherous waters of our not-quite-so-selfless self-interest.

Likewise, “trust” is nothing we can count among our natural gifts. On the contrary. Both the scientist Stefan Klein² and the philosopher R.D. Precht³ indicate in their work that the evolution of the human species is rather based on genetically induced caution. If, for example, an early Homo sapiens had discovered a bush with blue berries on a hike, his brain would NOT have come up with the initial idea: “Great – there is my next meal!” – but rather with the thought: “Be careful, those berries might be poisonous…”. In other words, in an unfamiliar decision situation, our brain would have advised caution and avoidance in well over 50% of the cases. In the early days of mankind, such a “vigilance program” definitely made sense: Not every berry was edible, not every cat was suitable for petting, not every cave was uninhabited – and when suddenly a bunch of long-haired neighbours with crooked branches stood at the door, they rarely wanted to invite you to a hockey game.
One of our human problems today is that this vigilance program – which is actually a “survival security program” – is still active in us today in the manner of a predominant, initial distrust. And it is also active every time we are confronted with new people. Our primeval program tries to keep us alarmed and instead of saying “Hey, a new person – that might be an enriching opportunity…!”, we rather think: “Better be vigilant, let’s check out this guy first…”. And since we have a powerful brain, which is able to quickly search through its databases of past potentially bad experiences, a film of (pre)assessment and assumptions is quickly knitted. The results – even in the 21st century – are mistrust, avoidance and ultimately rejection and exclusion.

The combination of not always impeccable need fulfilment strategies due to only poorly clarified personal “good reasons” plus a tendency towards initial mistrust as a reflexive standard reaction easily results in what is to a certain extent the antagonistic nemesis of the Oligoamoy: NON-BINDING and NON-COMMITTED behaviour.
And as a faithful author and chronicler of Oligoamory, as an idealist, as a romantic and especially as a passionate advocate of a conscious and free human will, for me this is precisely the main problem of successful – or more often rather unsuccessful – ethical non-monogamy.

Non-committed behaviour – sometimes it starts at a very early stage, for example when someone says: “Yeah, well, Cathrin and I – well, we have this little something going on, I don’t want to label it in any way…”. Already in Entry 7 I try to describe that this is not necessarily a mature expression of personal freedom, but rather an admission of little reflected approximation.
Or it concerns the drama of clear nomenclature as a whole, wherever so-called “polyamorous” people come together, who use this term as a self-designation. Because let’s just imagine a social scientist who would ask those people present at any polyamorous regulars’ table, workshop, seminar or meeting, what would be the connecting characteristic of all participants with regard to the lifestyle and philosophy of Polyamory. You would probably be faced at first with a somewhat embarrassed bunch that would look a little waggishly before a few people would grin whimsically, poke each other in the ribs and finally answer: “…that we could all have sex with each other!”. Oh dear, I think, that would have been an answer if asked about promiscuity or sex-positivity. But if that is all that provides the smallest common denominator regarding polyamorous multiple “relationships”, then it is no wonder that this lifestyle will always fear and fight for its reputation and recognition. And that is why I also explain in detail in Entry 2 why I myself no longer want to be counted among such “Poly-people”.
Because in the end, this non-binding nature will rather sooner than later shape the view of any metamour-relationship (concerning the potential significant other loved ones of our loved ones): These are just some strange people the partner has in tow – and one don’t want to have anything to do with them. Neither in the sense of mutual togetherness (although you share the same significant other!), nor in the sense of any overall responsibility for a common good. Because that would get you too close to you, would be somehow almost unpleasantly “real”, no, that wouldn’t work…

Human beings resort to non-commitment, as seen above, when we define our personal self-interest as the most valuable asset in a relationship. Self-interest that frees us from the obligation to be always honest or sincere, which keeps our loyalty flexible, always leaves room for a little bit of seductiveness and always leaves some ethical leeway…
How on earth… – why do we want to be like that in our most intimate relationships?

Because we humans are very often afraid of obligations, commitment and expectations.
We are afraid of reliably “being someone“.
That seems to be a terrible reference which I am giving to all of us (including myself) here. And monogamy seems to be the sole way out – because we can only barely manage to offer a more or less tolerably authentic idea of ourselves to just one single partner, maybe to one-two-three children and a pet. And if the beautiful façade crumbles? Get out by means of a divorce – “better luck next time” – and off into the next kind of seriality?

In several entries on this blog I wrote that a characteristic of “adulthood” is a certain desire to take on responsibility. But true responsibility, which I once again highlighted in my previous entry as “accountability”, inevitably goes hand in hand with (self)obligation, with commitment and expectations.
Why is it still such a big deal to stand up for it in a relationship?

I believe the reason is Julian Nida-Rümeling’s “blind spot”: that our “good reasons” are often more closely intertwined with our “self-interest” than we usually recognise.
In Entry 11 I tell the story of the “Black Flittermouse-Man” who wants to be a good and ethical person in all his relationships. However, he gets into turmoil because he is trying to fulfil everybody’s needs to the greatest possible extent as well as he is trying to do justice to his own interests. For this purpose, he chooses different strategies, which ultimately do not turn him into a “great hero” for everyone, but in the end he has to deal with emotional outbursts and, as a result, even self-doubt.

Dear readers: We are all the “Black Flittermouse-Man”!
And today we live at the beginning of the 21st century still in a time when most of us have not learned to accept themselves with all(!) of their own feelings – and we are afraid of being rejected because they exist nonetheless.
Please think about it carefully for a moment.

How should our most intimate relationships ideally look like? They sholud provide a place where we can authentically be ourselves, where we can drop all masks – a place where we can trust that we will (always) be accepted as the person we are.
But we are also human. That is why we cannot always merely display a socially desired spectrum of positive and pleasant feelings. Sometimes, we are sad, angry, depressed, confused. We are also not always perfect. We will not always be sincere, honest, loyal, righteous, committed and reliable. We are humanly fallible – and that is why we will make mistakes.

Many of us today are (still?) trying to keep our relationships as the “last bastions of bliss”. Relationships in which there is always harmony, in which everything is joyful and easy, from which one always emerges energised and in which only appreciation and understanding are expressed on all sides.
As understandable as this longing may be at the beginning of this crazy 21st century and its unraveled work/life balance – it is also completely unrealistic. And it puts tremendous pressure on everyone involved: On the one hand, to pursue an ideal in which everyone has to hide in the basement, who violates it – on the other hand, to impose this unfulfillable longing on any new relationship in the vain hope that it might be fulfilled there.
As a result, in the harsh reality we are only able to create disconnected islands of short happiness, which must literally remain “non-binding”. Because if they were connected, the imperfect overall picture of our personality would be immediately visible again – revealing our temporary sadness, our situational anger, possible depressedness and confusion – and, above all – our faultiness. Accordingly, we prefer to have compartmentalized, non-binding, non-committed relationships. We do not want to show our deficits to the others since we have difficulties to trust in anybody: In the others and their possible reaction – and in ourselves and whether we can endure that reaction…

Folks, if we approach multiple relationships in this way, any relationship building, any relationship management, any attempt to “love (several) people (at the same time)” will remain a futile venture.
I emphasize the “mutual we” and the “all-round trust” in the Oligoamory that much, because they are at the very bottom the literal linchpin with which (strictly speaking) every relationship-management stands or falls.
Relationships cannot be places of perfection. They can’t be places where there is always cheerfulness and lightness. Where only a good moods and good feelings prevail. Where there are no differences and where no one is ever hurt.
That is why relationships must first of all be places of trust. Or respectively: everyone involved must first muster the effort and the will to create them together. In order prevent the above-mentioned pressure in the first place, not to be allowed to appear in that relationship in one’s own (fallible) human nature. To create a place where sadness, anger, depression, confusion and mistakes may occupy the same space as the supposedly easier “good feelings”. Ultimately, “good” is in this regard an (external) judgment anyway: I am human – and sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry – why should I put a bag over my head during one of it?
In addition: I can only be really authentic, honest and therefore credibly commited if I can entrust myself to my loved ones with all of my needs, emotions and feelings.
And as a result, relationships are authentic, honest and committed, in which everyone involved is allowed “be” completely.

But what if the others can’t endure it?
If we humans want it, we can endure seemingly incredible things: We give birth to babies, we cross snowstorms at night, rescue people from burning buildings or hold hands with the dying. Most of the time we have a choice – we don’t have to do any of that. All four examples just listed probably fall into the category “uncomfortable” – and difficult. Still they are done.
When it comes to people we love and trust, we can activate enormous abilities.
Having these abilities does not mean, however, that they make us invulnerable, impenetrable. Which in turn wouldn’t be human again.
But our humanity clearly shows that if we really want it and a thing or living being is really important to us, we can grow far beyond our primeval “avoidance strategy”.
In this respect, it may be like the first human being to pick up a burning branch: This person dared to trust. First of all, him*herself, because he*she wanted to accomplish something against which all his*her animal instincts and fears violently objected. But maybe he*she also trusted in a group that stood behind him*her – a companionship that would help in case of emergency – people who would be capable to “endure a failure”, who would endure such an imposition and would care for possible blisters.
But without the “imposition” that we all probably occasionally are for our familiar group in this way, we also couldn’t become heroes and sources of all-round well-being the next time or the day after. To be human, to be with each other, means to accept both occurences regularly – in respect of us as well as in respect of the other participants.

Therefore, I hope that all of us will always find the courage to make a conscious leap into trust, a trust that sometimes seems to be based on no plausible reason.
And that we end up with people who really dearly want to “endure” us.

¹ Julian Nida-Rümelin in “Digital Humanism”, Max Planck Forschung, 2/2019

² Stefan Klein, “The Formula of Luck – or: How good feelings arise”, Fischer 2014

³ Richard David Precht “The Art of Not Being Selfish – Why we like to be good and what keeps us from being it”, Goldmann 2012

Thanks to my constant muses Kerstin, Svenja and Tobias and to congerdesign on Pixabay for the photo.

Entry 42

…see, the good lies so near.*

The current German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is someone who regularly emphasizes that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. In his speech at the Futurium Berlin¹ last year, he even said that freedom includes an “expectation of responsibility” that arises from freedom itself.
I, as the author of this bLog, believe that he is right, especially because in my view “responsibility” has something to do with “sustainability”, which I embedded in the subtitle of the Oligoamory-project.
In the book scene I have already often cited, in which the “Little Prince” by the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry meets the fox, the fox explains: “You are responsible for that what was entrusted to you and for those whose trust you gained.” ²
Accordingly, trust and responsibility necessitate each other as well…

Freedom, trust, sustainability, responsibility – I would like to try to sort out a little bit why I think that these values are important for oligoamorous thinking and acting – and how they are related.

In my 3rd Entry I introduce sustainability as an important oligoamorous value by explaining that “sustainability” comprises three important core criteria³, namely consistency, efficiency and sufficiency. I wrote that concerning Oligoamory relationships should be ‘consistent’, since the participants “hoped, that their relationships would be lasting as well as steady in respect to the people and values involved. […]
But oligoamorous relationships were bound to be ‘efficient’ as well. That means in effect, that the relationship had to be conductive to all people involved, that it was meant to promote the participants to evolve themselves and to complement one another, depending on their individual potential.
And the relationships were bound to be ‘sufficient’ […] because the relationships were bound to be satisfactorily and literally self-sufficient, and for that reason precisely not unlimited and arbitrary, but suitable to a humane degree of clearness and nearness.”

Even if I read these lines again today, I notice that these are definitely somewhat ambitious goals for every relationship. At the same time, I almost involuntarily nod my head because I think: “Yes, such relationships would definitely contribute greatly to my personal well-being due to their predictability, their scope for my feasible freedom, and my perception of my acceptance/inclusion therein.”
And exactly that’s the point where in my view Saint-Exupéry and his fox come into play once more in several ways. Because the fox shows the “Little Prince” that such a longed-for state cannot be brought about quickly. As its condition, he constitutes a “gaining of trust”, that is, a gradual build-up that can only become means to its ends over an extended period of time – and that can only be achieved by mutual effort. And this process would result in a growing “familiarity with each other” being accompanied by the increasing “responsibility for one another”.

The fact that this is indeed a groundbreaking, sustainable way of thinking is particularly noticeable when we try to omit the responsibility:
Without responsibility or more precisely “accountability” it would probably be very difficult to obtain any trust at all. Who would trust a person or an institution that would decline accountability for its speaking and thus appear inconstant or arbitrary? In such a case even time spent together wouldn’t be a helpful ally any longer, because “coherence” (consistency) that is so important for our well-being wouldn’t ensue: a reliable, predictable pool of similar experiences wouldn’t accumulate.
Such a condition would keep us mentally constantly “on the go”, in a semi-alert state of careful vigilance, because in the next moment a completely new or different (relationship-) experience than the time before may come along – or the next time or the next…
Neuroscientists call this state, when the brain’s alarm switch is stuck in a middle position for a long time, “stress“. And who wants to be in a relationship in the medium or long term where stress would be the norm?
In this way, a sustainable “state of satisfaction” will never arise, because we could not be sure whether our relationships would be stable (consistent), suitable (efficient) and adequate (sufficient).

Without sustainability, in turn, we would most likely sooner or later find ourselves in an unfulfilled and needy state, which would sooner or later drive us to consumption and a certain degree of excess (= lack of measure). And since “satisfaction” actually means “contentment” and “being at peace”, we would also become more aggressive and uncompromising…
Did we just recognise something there? From our everyday life or even regarding the state of the world?

If I have succeeded in that, then I am very close to my bLog-goal today.
Because I’m trying with oligoamorous means to raise a desire for familiar and trustful circumstances.
And this can mean at times that I have to try not to flee from a situational “dissatisfaction” into consumption and excess. Or it can mean that I am asked to check whether I can be “at peace” with the “existing”, the familiar.
In this regard, we are living in a somewhat ambiguous time. Because although there are increasing initiatives that, like me, want to give sustainability more importance, there are still enough voices who want to stamp “familiar” as backward, old-fashioned or boring – and lure us out of our peace of mind (and without dissatisfaction there would certainly be less consumption…).
If we transfer this dynamic to the level of relationship management, we quickly see how we could be catapulted into an attitude of “higher-faster-further”, which earned the non-monogamous lifestyle such a bad reputation. Because once our inner peace is lost, there is a certain danger that our unfulfilled needs will always fuel the hope that “out there” could still be something (that is: someone!) that/who is more appropriate, more suitable, better – and the “swipe-and-away“ of modern dating sites is born. And at some point the goal won’t be any longer the fulfilment of our own needs (and may it be in some unattainable superlative); in the end only the next endeavour, the next excitement the next kick will vanquish for a short time our inner emptiness.

If we do not want to get into such a hamster wheel, then we have – especially in relationship matters – to (re)mobilize a somewhat forgotten virtue: To be satisfied with what we already have. Or what I prefer in dimensions of Oligoamory: To carefully consider what we already have.
This seems to me to be very important today in a time when consumer confidence is still so often artificially generated: What do I (still) need to be satisfied, at peace? Or at least: more satisfied. And: Is all of that (only) “out there”?

But by looking at the things (and relationships) I already gathered, I’m much better able to check, how my state of “satisfaction”, of “inner peace” appears. And concerning that, I can stay completely with myself – and do not have to point to the “world outside” or to other people.
For example, what about my own accountability? My accountability (and responsibility!) includes important cornerstones of every (multiple) relationship management: my honesty, my loyalty, the degree of my transparency. How much of such capacities am I willing to contribute to prove myself consistent, sincere, and, yes, predictable – as someone who is trustworthy? And do I have the will and the time?
The latter question isn’t that trivial. The other day I read the following sentence on a (non-monogamous) dating site: “Please only write to me if you really have the resources for another relationship in your life.”
Apparently, some people seem to conduct their flirts like they handle milk bottles: They come home with a new bottle, only to find that the fridge is already full – Consequence: No space for new bottles, and existing bottles become sour…

Sustainable relationship management, as I would like it to be in an oligoamorous fashion, must therefore be exercised with care. Therefore, my personal freedom actually goes hand in hand with an “expectation of (my) responsibility” : On the one hand, that I know myself well enough to recognise where my strengths, my limits and my possible potential are. On the other hand, that a relationship process, in which two (or more!) beings voluntarily engage, always means simultaneously the emerging acceptance of an overall responsibility for one another.

And that’s actually a good thing. Because sustainability, with its aspects of consistency, efficiency and sufficiency, means that a certain matter has gained a distinct value for us. Usually that much value that it is not arbitrary or interchangeable any more. And this (added) value has alway arisen from an increase of familiarity and trust regarding the object, the person or the relationship.
And everyone knows it: What has become “dear to us” in such a manner is in turn always treated with special effort, care, attention – and responsibility.

In this regard, the slogan from the environmental movement “Sustainability starts on your own doorstep!” can be directly transferred to our intimate relationships. We don’t have to “roam forever” * or gaze fixedly at the greener grass beyond the neighbours fence any longer. We can start proving ourselves here and now in our existing relationships as the best hopeful contestant – responsible as well as free.
Which is extremely sexy, by the way, really attractive…
And what better argument could there be for (potential) participants in multiple ethical relationships?

* second line from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s poem “Memento”.

¹ September 26th, 2019 at the Futurium, Berlin, speech for the campaign “Freedom is our system”.

² “The Little Prince” ; Chapter XXI; “Friendship with the fox”.

³ Thanks again for input by Dr. Bernd Siebenhüner.

Thanks to pine watt on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 41


“Well, yeah, Oligotropos… – your blog,” a friend from the social networks recently sighed. “But you always write that much … … and such long entries…!”
Dear readers: I plead guilty to all of these points. And when I say “guilty” I mean “causally” in the sense of radical honesty.
And when I was still quite active in various social networks, I occasionally even received the rather idiosyncratic comment “tl; dr” from recipients. This acronym originates from net-speak and stands for the words ” too long; didn’t read ”– and should mean in response to an article that is considered too long: “[The text was] too long; [that’s why I] didn’t read. [it]” *
But even such a fatuety can be surpassed with the bold introduction to a wellmeaning comment: “I didn’t read the entire text completely, but…” – and then the unwilling reader fires happily away…
Dear folks, who follow me into the wordy interior of the remote island of Oligoamory: At a time when simplification and bite-size information policy are often advertised as the imperative of the hour, I will not do this disservice to you.
Because I wouldn’t be honest if I would suggest to you that there are simple or quick or even universal answers to difficult questions in relationship matters.

From here the entries concerning the remote island of the Oligoamory go out into the world every month…

Of course, I can understand the desire for simplicity and ease very well. And our brain is often an overly willing accomplice in this regard: E.g. if we are infatuated, it floods our existence with a bunch of the body’s own substances of well-being – which make us overlook possible discrepancies and sources of conflict in the initial process of getting to know each other. Or it switches to “autopilot” in long-term relationships and strives to shift any deviations from our coherent routine as far as possible into the background, so that the relationship’s “functional harmony” always obtains the explicit preference.

However, ethical (multiple) relationship management – in any case according to oligoamorous ideas – will not settle for the idyllic surface only. Anyone who embarks on the adventurous waters of non-monogamy must be prepared: That gets under your skin. Because ethical non-monogamy, which deserves the prefix “ethical”, requires us to be able to “move among our equals, [and] to be willing to reveal who we are” ¹.
That is why I also wish that the Oligoamory-project should not be seen primarily as a daily blog – in which the top entry contains only the author’s situational state of mind or his latest world-shattering new insight – but rather as a compendium of interrelated topics. In this sense, of course, I think it’s great if someone considers one of my entries to be a good one and particularly emphasizes it, shares it, etc. But as a mere “treasure trove”, ethical non-monogamy and Oligoamory would remain difficult to understand, because they would lack the supporting backbone without reference to all their (related) topics.
Once again: Oligoamory is not a “method” that you can use purely situationally, e.g. like office-yoga, separated from it’s original context. Oligoamory is a philosophy and a way of life that wants to invite everyone involved to discover their (self)entitlement and their (self)empowerment by reflective self-awareness.

And I can’t pretend that there is a “simple” shortcut key to that.
Even more: Since I chose “relationship management” as the basic approach for my ideals and goals, I would like to employ our close encounters with other people in manageable, trust-based communities as the “culture medium” for that self-awareness mentioned above. Accordingly, I don’t want us to be meditating hermits who will wake up at some point on our lonely mountain with a lastEureka!” on our lips, but rather that we all are a self-development project on a living canvas – “Mobilis in Mobili” (lat .: “moving within a moving element”) ² so to speak.
Especially regarding the latter it is very obvious that – with so many literally “unpredictable” factors and influencing variables – we really have to muster the greatest possible courage to proceed without any autopilot or any externally generated recipe book. And that instead we should “dare to trust” ³ and practise a curious openness like a muscle that has so far been poorly trained.

That is why a major topic of Oligoamory is the unity of both free and committed conduct. In Entry 7 I explain that this unity can be lived consciously and without contradictions – and that this is actually not that difficult (Actually, I even believe that many people who are e.g. involved in environmental protection or animal welfare basically implement such a philosophy already, especially concerning their eating and consumption habits). Because in that regard the focus is on our personal integrity, our “individual actions based upon an internally consistent framework of principles (Quotation Wikipedia). Accordingly, those principles cannot be cast in stone for eternity: Because we are as alive as our surroundings with whom we interact. Therefore, constant observation, reassessment, learning and adaptation are an essential part of it.

In Entry 9 I therefore emphasize regarding the subject of the “Emotional Contract”, which lies – outspoken or not – behind every closer relationship, that it is important to know yourself rather well. Because in order to stand up for myself and to be able to negotiate and advocate for myself, I first have to know what I want and therefore have to take the trouble to get to know my own sensitivities and needs. Regarding that it is of no importance who my parents or teachers or bosses think I should be, but only who I really am just now – with my current strengths and weaknesses and my wishes concerning the pending relationship.

But because we often operate in default-mode based on a “predefined” self-image, I try in Entry 14 to highlight the complexity of what constitutes these “definitions”. And I try to outline that we do not all have the same good chances of dealing with our possible previous experiences in terms of “relationships” due to our disposition and our individual resilience. Nevertheless, also social science confirms that the recognition of our core self is the central task of our self-perception, in which all the favoured people of our choice play a very special supporting role.

Accordingly, I object in Entry 18 that it can sometimes be difficult for these “favoured few” in our vicinity, if they have to endure us during our sometimes strenuous efforts to develop our true potential. Because I also would be a dishonest author if I would try to conceal the fact that self-development does not always unearth purely beautiful or pleasant virtues.
But I also point out that such challenges can’t be hidden in a relationship of equal footing, which I explain in Entry 21 concerning ambiguity and Entry 37 concerning transparency.
In these contexts, I always point towards an attitude of utmost honesty, which in my opinion goes beyond mere sincerity, especially in the aspect of giving uncomfortable insights and feelings the space and the attention they need (yes, for everyone involved sometimes difficult to endure).

Acknowledging these “dark aspects”, I invite you not to bypass even phenomena such as depression (Entry 22) or a separated reality (Entry 26), since these are mostly facets of our being that have grown within us for a long time – which will never improve by simply denying, but rather will thrive and reinforce themselves – and thus will again build up difficulties in our ability to relate.

However, our “dark aspects” can also give us valuable information about our longing for (lost) intimacy – and what fulfillment strategies we apply for that pupose in the present. With that we have come a lot closer to the dynamic “We – and the others” and our place in it. And by that we might be able to unveil our true motivation why are tinkering with non-monogamous ideas – and where our talents and deficits could be in that respect (Entries 27 + 28).

That is why behind the philosophy of Oligoamory lies the almost relationship-anarchistic view of all of our loved ones as a whole community of affiliates/associates (of which we are a part), free of artificial classification or hierarchy. With regard to these self-chosen “associates”, it is therefore important which concessions and lazy compromises we would make to be a recognised community-member and how we can employ enough trust and inclusiveness to prevent classic structures of authority and trepidation (Entries 29 + 33).

And with that I’m back at the beginning of today’s Entry, where I mentioned that Oligoamory might be a philosophy which could lead to the entitlement and empowerment of all those involved in a relationship, as I distinctly emphasized again in my more recent articles 37 + 39.

As an explorer of oligoamorous realms, I thank all readers who make the effort to read my long (b)log-entries, to reflect on them and to talk about them. If there is anything I can wish for, I hope that we will all contribute to a more peaceful, conscious and inclusive world. Let’s do it!

* Source: Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia

¹ Quotation from Hannah Arendt; full length in Entry 39.

² Motto of the character Captain Nemo by the author Jules Verne – Captain Nemo, for his part, is certainly not a favourable example of a “community-being”…

³ Sounds almost like the well-known Willy Brandt quote (“We want to dare more democracy. We want a society that offers more freedom and demands more responsibility.”), but is only similar. Of course, I agree with the former chancellor in this aspect.