The Wonderful Ordinariness of Being¹
In my January-entries, I dealt extensively with the issue of trust and entrustment in our relationships – basic requirements so that a true, authentic and intimate togetherness may become possible and can be experienced by all participants.
Several components that are important regarding successful Oligoamory reappear there, which, like a recurrent theme, are repeatedly addressed in my bLog:
Accountability (primarily for yourself and then – in an extended dimension – also for others), commitment (especially with regard to the choices you have made yourself) and last but not least, love that approaches the whole person.
I admit that – concerning the very detailed considerations on these topics- I may sometimes put my readers’ stamina to the test, especially in those moments when I seem to be working my way through the “theoretical underpinning” in great detail.
Nevertheless, accountability, commitment and integrative love are – if we start bravely to give these ideas more space in our relationships – in the end decisive trump cards for the everyday feasibility and viability of ethical (oligoamorous) multiple relationships.
Because in these relationships we always deal with living, breathing people, concerning whom we hope that we can count them among our “loved ones” – and accordingly we are usually confronted by most practical, everyday questions.
And these are usually quite tangible questions like e.g. are how much we should put up with our loved ones (and they with us), how much autonomous privacy a person should keep to itself – or what to do if people are already parents in the (upcoming/potential) network of relationships.
The essence of my personal answer to these questions can be found on closer inspection in my somewhat humorous Entry 34, which deals with our self-chosen “companions”.
Because all people, who have ever dealt with multiple relationships,sooner or later came to the point where they had to realise that at the end of all talks, agreements, regulations, consents and liberties, still one cake simply couldn’t be portioned indefinitely – and that is time.
Strictly speaking: our personal lifetime. Which we as an individual can divide, distribute, maybe even allocate; but which itself still remains relentlessly and unimpressedly finite.
The entire non-monogamy revolves around this dilemma and sometimes performs quite bizarre dances around this invisible but nonetheless irrefutable “elephant in the room”.
Which leads to such awkward approaches like sorting loved ones in a pokémon-like manner according to their “ability to meet needs” (see Entry 2) or to arrange affair-like flings with them on spatiotemporally limited “islands of happiness” (Entry 43).
But why do we remain unsatisfied in the medium term, somehow unfulfilled and needy, though?
Well, the theoretical oligoamorous answer to this question would be: Because such a relationship management is not sustainable at all (see also Entry 42) by violating all sustainability criteria, which are called consistent (stable), efficient (satisfactory) and sufficient (suitable).
And the philosophical-psychological answer would be: Because such strategies are hallmarks of a “reality of separation and compartmentalisation” (see Entry 26).
The latter, however, is not just a problem of non-monogamy, but an omnipresent contemporary phenomenon.
We can easily observe that when people talk about their work/life balance – and their attitude towards their jobs and their leisure time: There are certainly exceptions to this, but when you listen to most people in this regard, it sounds like they are talking about two completely separate areas of their life. Thereby, “work” often seems to belong to a sphere of quasi-divine punishment², “real life”, on the other hand, only takes place in leisure time – and if you can believe some people, it actually only happens during vacation: on a literal, remote, “island of happiness”.
In such descriptions, the “grey areas of everyday life”, that is, the transition moments, also often come off badly: Shopping, childcare, profane family interaction, everyday functional agreements (“Did you collect the car? / Did you call the plumber?”), etc., appear as annoyances which one wants to get rid of as quickly as possible – and accordingly they are often performed half-heartedly and harried. This reinforces the impression that these activities definitely belong more to the realm of “biblical plagues” than to our enjoyable true life.
Such a continuously maintained “reality of separation” will then confront us with a rather sad balance in old age – or at the latest in our last hour: Our existence had been predominantly “toil and labour”, and “true life” was experienced rather infrequently. When I look at this record, I become terrified and I am not surprised that Parkinson’s tremors, the forgetfulness of dementia or the despondencies of depression are among the “diseases of civilization” today…
“Well, but Oligotropos, it is actually hardly possible to accommodate more than one loving relationship (if any) in life. If we humans experience so little love, it’s small wonder that we are feeling bad and becoming ill…!”
“Aaaargh – no!” I want to call out. Trapped again.
Do you know the saying “One should not necessarily give life more days, but rather more life to the days” ?
Because the huge opportunity of ethical non-monogamy is to make multiple relationships practicable and liveable every day. This is one reason why in many of my entries I cite Scott Peck, who dealt intensively with the challenges of community building.
If we agree that the “cake most difficult to divide” is our limited and at some point finite individual lifetime – then we have to “bridle the horse” exactly from that side: Concentrating on the factor which in doubt is the scarcest resource in our sustainability mix!
And instead of trying to get around this fact with circumvention-tactics, by using as much energy as possible on how we could somehow still stretch the “cake” as thinly as possible, how we might chop it in pieces or finely grind it as a mere “spice”, we should instead“ embrace the principle ”and use it as potential in our favour.
Accordingly, when I talk about accountability, commitment and inclusiveness in so many entries, it serves as a kind of preparation regarding the question how we can experience as many wholesome human relationships as possible in our everyday life. An “everyday life”, which is then also experienced as a “full-featured, wholesome life” because we recognize in it: (all of) THIS is our true life, here and now.
That is quite comprehensible: We humans simply do not have the infinite luxury of projecting potential benefits into a possible “tomorrow / then / soon / when…”.
In the end, it could catch up with us quickly, as in Hans Christian Andersen‘s terrible story about the little Fir-Tree: “Now I’m going to live again!” he cheered and spread his branches wide: but alas, they were all dried up and yellow” ³.
“Let me have a look, maybe I have another weekend off in March…”
“I have annual leave in June, perhaps it’s possible then…”
“When the children have left home…”
I see – by then we will be changed people. Because by then our “true life” may start eventually. Because then we can finally be much more authentic, more truthful, more honest than now, while our ordinary everyday life prevents all that…
Our ordinary everyday life prevents us from being authentic, truthful and honest? And because we know that we are therefore insincere, inauthentic and unreliable most of our time, we do prefer not to let anyone into this ordinary everyday life?
Here we are getting caught by a very strange snake that seems to bite its own tail…:
Because we wish to be on our best behaviour regarding our loved ones – and, of course, we want them to be on their best behaviour in respect of us.
In this way, however, the obstacles that we build up for ourselves and for others become ever higher and more absurd.
So we have to get out of this vicious circle completely.
On my homepage I write:
“Finiteness – and the dawn of the 21st century makes it quite obvious in so many ways – immediately suggests a more attentive and sustainable husbandry regarding our available treasures of substantial as well as ideational nature.
Our awareness in respect of the ubiquitous finiteness has always evoked in human groups the fascinating aptitude of distribution, shared use, and optimisation of the available.”
This means that we have to stop perceiving our everyday life as an “inferior form of our existence”.
Or rather: That we may confidently leave that to our loved ones, whether they perceive it that way. Maybe they would happily collect the car from the workshop with us – because then they could talk to us 1:1 in the car undisturbed for 20 minutes. Or maybe they would pick up the car on their own because they know that this would provide us in return with the benefit of a relaxing bath. Perhaps they’ll listen to a scientific podcast with us while we have to sew this darn curtain – but at least we’ll have something to discuss afterwards. Or they go out with the kids – and we can finally finish this valance without annoying interruptions…
Maybe, loved ones like that would endure our burnt-up scrambled eggs in the morning because we left them out of our sight for 3 minutes too long while we were blow-drying our hair in the bathroom. Or perhaps we will endure their flabby scrambled eggs because they removed the pan to early from the stove to fetch the stupid newspaper…
Of course, a haphazardly prepared scrambled egg in the early morning could cause a lot of negative stress for everyone involved. But maybe also compassion and the (self)realization that it would have been ruined in any case, because everyone gropes around like a zombie in the apartment almost every morning.
At least today you didn’t wake up alone. And in the afternoon you realise that someone hasn’t left the blackened pan on the stove… Several voices are also practising Spanish vocabulary in the living room. And somebody let the cat out, even though you explicitly told everyone…
If we have recognized in such a manner that the real “treasure” of our life consists of the many things of “(ordinary) every day”, then we are well on the way to understand how we can enjoy this treasure together appropriately: accountable, committed and integrative.
Big words that simply mean human, fallible and tolerant most of the time.
Because if we would not dare to put up with our loved ones in our everyday life – and if we could only bear their ordinariness with difficulty – then we would transform the majority of our common treasure like in a fairy tale into mere muck: “worthless” lifetime, that we somehow have to pass.
[“No, Oligotropos. Precious life time that I do not always want to share with my loved ones…” Oh yeah? Then I would advise to change either the loved ones or the attitude towards them…]
The “Wonderful Ordinariness of Being”, which requires us to occasionally “endure” one thing or the other, which makes us cope with unexplained emotions, sensations (and smells) that are not always immediately attributable to the cause, represents in my view the same source that also provides acceptance and respect, thereby enabling true intimacy, familiarity and trust.
And with it a true loving togetherness, today, tomorrow and every day.
¹ Intended appeal to Milan Kundera‘s “Unbearable Lightness of Being“, which deals with the consequences of compartmentalized relationship management, flings and love affairs.
² Genesis, Chapter 3, Verses 17-19: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field!”
³ Hans Christian Andersen, „The Fir Tree“, 1862
Thanks to Jisu Han on Unsplash for the photo.