Simple is not easy – or: All beginnings are difficult
I had opened the year 2021 with the call to take care in one’s own interest to perceive carefully whenever possible what really IS at the moment – by which I meant that we should not let ourselves prejudge the reality by an immediately executed unconscious step through our very own glasses of fears and resentments.
This reminder has lost none of its meaning with the beginning of this year.
In 2021 (yes, this is the traditional review of the previous year 🙂 ), I started with a three-part series on the topic of what kind of tools would be necessary to lead our close personal relationships as “meaningful” in an oligoamorous sense (Parts 1 | 2 | 3 ): Self-awareness, to consider the other participants (empathy) and tolerance in the face of impulses and perceptions that were not always immediately clearly attributable revealed themselves to be helpful, as did the awareness that in the end we were all – inevitably linked to one another anyway – in the proverbial “same boat”.
Therefore, however, oligoamorous “meaningful relationships” also require a high level of personal quality management, as well as the courage to allow these relationships a scope for development and evolvement, even beyond the traditional limits of common conceptions (“just pals“; “mere friends“, “lovers“…).
Because the resulting liberties and possibilities for experience are thus based on responsibility, commitment and self-dedication, a quasi-organic (relationship-)structure can be created in this way, in which all parts (i.e. the participants!) have an essential personal interest in the success through their interrelatedness and love for each other – and precisely for this reason will contribute within an all-round sustainable framework [sustainability criteria: view last paragraph of Entry 3].
With the following discrimination-Entry 65 I showed last year in this regard, nevertheless, that such a nonconformist, indeed to a certain extent queer philosophy in relationship matters can still regularly encounter rejection and even disparagement caused by fear and incomprehension in the “normal world”.
Also, in order to counter one of the most frequently voiced stereotypes of mono- and hetero-normativity, that multiple relationship constellations would lack the crucial component of “fidelity”, I dedicated an entire Entry to the topic of loyalty, faithfulness and attachment.
And because nonetheless many people still are still concerned about the supposed “openness” of such relationships – certainly implying the participants in them might not be completely sound… – I explained in Entry 67 that openness in Oligoamory consists above all in a systemic freedom of thought – and not at all in the arbitrariness or impulsiveness that some people project into it out of their own suppressed wishful thinking.
Exactly such bashful projections, however, reveal how strongly most of us are (still) wounded in our individual intrinsic value – be it through our upbringing, socialization or tradition. And that is why we all too often react precisely out of these injuries when we are confronted with something new or unusual (Entry 68).
Unfortunately, our best-practiced (self-)protective behaviour in such a case is still often the tendency to crave more control; a control that we are only too easily willing to extend on everyone else around us because “we know what’s good for them” (Entry 69).
Mostly, this protective reflex is triggered when old “life issues” are exposed (Entry 70) – overshooting negative energies that want to poison our loving relationships in the here & now because of suffered shortcomings long ago.
Therefore, I have dedicated Entry 71 once again to Polyamory itself, that form of ethical non-monogamy, which currently, due to the inflationary use of the mere term, gets exactly all the gloating about “system-inherent dysfunctionality”, which, unfortunately, is usually brought in only by those people who try to engage in it thoughtlessly and as they see fit…
However, any “good relationship” thrives on dedication, devotion and a uniqueness that reflects the appreciation of all those involved in it (Entry 72).
And so off we go into 2022 !
Once again (?) we have arrived at a time when many of us long for a “simpler life“ in the face of an often confusing outside world. And legions of coaches seem to be ready to support us in this, covering everything from material minimalism to the development of our higher selves.
Therefore, “alternatives” to our current way of life are called for – and these “alternatives” concern the objects and the living space that surrounds us, our spiritual potential – and just as much: our relationships.
Some of us are really serious about these changes and the transition towards a “simpler life”: So maybe life is rearranged thoroughly, the household is reduced to 100 (or 50? or 30?) items, one moves into a tiny house, if possible solitary (but not lonely!), weekend workshops are attended conducted by energy healers, and… – yes, now our approach to relationships must follow where the rest wants to lead: that, too, should be as simple as possible and also adequately alternative at the same time.
The “simplest” form of relationship in the above consequence would probably be to stay alone. But as a human being we are social beings – and therefore we also have some social needs that have to be fulfilled from time to time, that deserve to be fulfilled – “One cannot kiss alone” – that’s what Max Raabe sang already…¹
So “Polyamory” then, that is, as the advertising knows, three things at once: love, variety and chocolate, uh, nope…, and personal well-being (which as an effect, at least, is roughly equivalent to chocolate…).
If this appears to be too woodcut-like and simplistic to you (and you think: “Ok, I’m polyamorous but I don’t live in a tiny house and my garage is so full of stuff that I can’t even put my car in it anymore…” ), I would like to ask you to consider a phenomenon that I call “lifestyle crossover”. This might represent a lifestyle crossover like for example “Ren-fair- visitor / biker / metalhead / leather-culture” – but it might also be a lifestyle crossover like “Oshofan / peace movement / vegan / permaculture”.
By the way – fun fact – : Nearly all of the “subcultures” just listed also have an increased factor of people in “open relationship models” compared to the statistical “normal population”…
Why is that?
Basically, there is something good hidden here: People who have already “alternatively”, “non-conformably” or even border-crossingly looked over the edge of normativity (the average customary-common) in one area of their lives tend to extend this to other areas of their lives as well. Very often, it’s not so much the urge for “alternativeity” that’s behind it, but simply human curiosity and the desire to explore: For example, I meet someone at the medieval fair whose garb I’m enthralled by – two weeks later, I’m sitting there on the floor of my utility room, surrounded by leather cutouts, designing bold belt pouches and a pair of really hot chaps…. In doing so, I suddenly feel a rush of self-efficacy and think that I am getting more and more in touch with what is really important to me, what I care for and what makes me unique.
What is additionally ingenious is that with these topics, which are suddenly so close to our hearts, we free ourselves almost spontaneously from old beliefs, such as: “Mother always said that riding a motorcycle is for the suicidal…” or “Vegans are freaks…” or “Only destitute people sew their own clothes” or “Allotments and gardening are just for pensioners…”.
Suddenly, we open up spaces and opportunities to ourselves that we might even have walked past formerly with a sniffle – simply because our environment may have once set an example for us in this way.
So what does this have to do with our desire for a “simpler life”?
I believe a lot because we always perceive our lives as “easy” whenever we act out of conviction and self-determination.
If, for example, I no longer consume the medieval fair as an event, but possibly participate properly, then I feel connected out of an inner motivation; perhaps the historical epoch is important to me, the imparting of knowledge – or maybe there is something about it that reminds me that now and then it is good to do many ordinary things again entirely by hand.
Or there is a committed politician who does not let himself be picked up secretly by limousine from the club at night, but openly admits his BDSM inclination during the election campaign – precisely because he wants to highlight the urgent inclusion and entitlement of queer life in his city by personal example.²
Those who have read this far should now understand what I meant by the title of this Entry. Because these determined people really don’t try to make it “easy” for themselves – neither while laboriously practising Viking-Age tablet weaving, nor in facing the consequences that a courageous public outing can have for one’s career.
But if we could ask the acting individuals, then again they would probably tell us that what they are doing or have done “simply” and naturally flows from them. And it is “simple” because it is something that is deeply connected to themselves as a concern – accordingly it “comes easily” to them because they act authentically and without pretence in the process.
In order to be able to live “simply” in this way, one essential component is needed, which is often not at all easy to achieve: awareness.
Consciousness requires a willful and present decision FOR something – which we humans normally like to cheat our way around with somewhat lukewarm approximations.
And our attitude in Ethical Multiple Relationships like Poly- or Oligoamory I consider as quite appropriate examples.
Because, for this, it is not enough to merely decide against monogamy. It is not enough for the assertion of participation to reject another tradition as outdated. The danger with such kind of thinking is that we spend most of our energy on what we do NOT want – and, hand on heart, we humans are usually quite experienced and skilled at that. Rejection – sometimes called “destructive criticism” in educational language – is precisely not “constructive” by nature: It merely expresses that the old, the traditional should be gone, should not be. But what is it that we want for ourselves? What should a mode of relationship that suits us actually look like?
Whoever has nevertheless successfully avoided this process of realization will immediately stumble into the next dilemma in Poly- or Oligoamory – and that is why spectacular accidents occur just as often. Since, multiple relationships seem to us occasionally as promising, because there – in contrast to bad, bad monogamy! – we do not have to decide against one (possibly already existing) love when another love comes along.
But this is almost always just the lukewarm manoeuvring mentioned above again, because it allows us to hold on to our comfort zone without too much mental effort. Because this is where our “weaker self”, which I quoted in Entries 44 and 72, cleverly manipulates us: The “familiar” appears to us all too easily as “the right thing to do”, which allows us to leave many thought patterns and structures in place – but unfortunately this means that we are still much more strongly attached to a majority-led normativity than we would like to admit – and are thus forced to emulate its ideas and concepts far more unreflectively than we suspect. So, actually, we have not changed anything at all, but, strictly speaking, we have merely chosen a non-decision, by which we are almost forced to continue repeating old mistakes and negligences.
But Polyamory, Oligoamory means that we choose our loved ones by a pro-active choice. And that we choose them tomorrow and the next day and time and again. That in this kind of multiple relationship all involved choose each other time and again.
In order to be able to do this consciously, “comfort-zone stretching” will be required in any case, simply because we have to deal with variables such as acceptance and imposition, appreciation and significance, freedom and boundaries (and much more) on a regular basis.
This will probably never be “easy” – and that’s good, because awareness requires the presence of our whole being – sometimes even controversy.
At the same time, it may well be the hallmark of a “simple” – i.e. straightforward and truthful – life to devote oneself to these challenges with loving commitment and attention on all sides of a relationship, precisely because a conscious decision has been made and this part of life is now being embraced with conviction, wholeheartedly and willingly.
And this is also what I would like to bring about with my Oligoamory, especially in times like now, when inner restlessness and New Year’s momentum may drive us to tidying-up actions, where the confirming clatter of the dustbin lid easily drowns out what is actually important: In what is to come “instead”, to set the course with the heart, to follow no fashion, no trend and no supposed “easiness / lightness”; promoted “easiness / lightness”, which today too often conceptually whitewashes superficiality, low sustainability, non-commitment or excursiveness.
Simple is therefore not always light and easy – as well as difficulties do not necessarily imply hardship, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships – or as the Swiss aphorist and politician Ernst Reinhard once put it when asked for a recipe for more peaceful coexistence:
“Serenity accepts life as serious – but not as hard”.
¹ Max Raabe (und Annette Humpe): “One cannot kiss alone“, Decca Records 2011
² As happened, for example, in the 2021 municipal election campaign for the position as Lord Mayor of Göttingen.
Thanks to comfreak on pixabay for the photo!