Safely connected? #Connectedness
A new year – a new annual review: My Entries in the past year 2023 were mainly dedicated to our most favourite people and loved ones:
Therefore, last January’s Entry started with the question of why we would want to have other people as romantic partners in our lives in the first place.
In February, I focused on the question that is so often heard in relationships: “Do you (still) love me?” – and how much the answer would be related to the appreciative nature of the connection that arises from it.
Accordingly, in the March-Entry I described our deep longing for attachment on the one hand and our desire for autonomy on the other; a dichotomy that sometimes makes it difficult for us to prove ourselves commited and reliable in our relationships.
Expanding on this, in April I shed light on the topic of “exclusivity”, which is controversial discussed time and again, especially with regard to multiple relationships – but which is certainly justified as long as the underlying principle of communality isn’t ignored.
That’s why, in the May-Entry, I recommended that we don’t venture out into the world as “irresistible dating gods”, but continue to pay attention to the much more important, groundbreaking inner signals when real love and infatuation enter our lives.
Otherwise there might be a risk of what I satirized in the June-Entry: a lack of communication and overconfidence that would soon lead to misunderstandings – and to always assuming that everyone else involved has the worst possible motivation for their actions.
In July, I supplemented this with an appeal to research your own needs carefully so as not to engage into multiple relationships with too fixed an idea in your head as a rescue plan for yourself.
The August-Entry therefore emphasized once again how important it is for the maintenance of multiple relationships to constantly cultivate and expand our “team player traits” with skills such as a change of perspective, tolerance and forbearance.
Something I specified in September by explaining that relationship work is always a “joint project”, which must not be performed by the same people over and over because of the pressure to perform, fear of loss or even business thinking.
In October, I used a personal example to explain how important our own transparency and honesty are in these matters for our loved ones, even if it is not always pleasant for ourselves.
The November-Entry once again dealt with the topic of “coming out” in multiple relationships – and how the decision to do so would also affect our self-image.
2023 finally ended with the December article, which invited us to show kindness, empathy and generosity towards our loved ones – beyond evaluative reason and critical judgment.
I would also wish for kindness, empathy and generosity in 2024, if it were possible, especially as a remedy for the numerous conflicts that our world is obviously currently facing.
As the bLogger Oligotropos, I will therefore continue to campaign for human beings to come together in small, loving communities and thus create a vision of a more harmonious and consensual coexistence.
To achieve this, multiple relationships (which are after all the subject of this bLog) nonetheless require a high degree of connectedness.
Connectedness is certainly a value that develops a certain “momentum of its own” at a certain point in a relationship – especially if the parties involved feel a deep sense of belonging to each other. But it will never be “self-sustaining” or even “self-generating”.
To achieve this, relationships also need the deep investment and dedication of their participants.
In this aspect, multiple relationships always have to deal with a kind of shadow, in terms of how much we actually dare to fully immerse ourselves in them.
After all, the catchphrase “multiple” in “multiple relationships” can lead us to believe that the mere choice of such a relationship-model will provide us with a “multiplicity” of love, attachment, security, closeness, respect, appreciation, intimacy, sexuality, friendship, companionship, acceptance or joy.
As a consequence, we may – if we find the potential for it in ourselves – begin to intentionally strive for several relationships.
Sometimes, however, this is the beginning of us starting to – in a manner of speaking – “spread our butter increasingly thinner”.
In this respect, I think of the play “Much Ado About Nothing“ by William Shakespeare, for example, in which the first scene of the second act mentions:
Don Pedro: “Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.”
To which the rather emancipated Beatrice replies:
“Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one.”
Whereby “double” here, in subtle irony, does not stand for “multiple”, but actually for “inauthentic / fake” (thus being even less than “single”…).
However, I don’t believe that – in contrast to Shakespeare’s play – for us who are affected the issue here is one of deliberate (pre)deception.
But at the same time, when it comes to this interpretation of “multiple-love” (which is also one of the direct translations of “Poly”-“Amory”), I regularly fear that the best that this relationship philosophy actually has to offer is in danger of falling by the wayside due to this kind of approach.
Above I used the terms “investment” and “dedication”. Both are quite similar in meaning, and both were introduced into our current language by the Romans. “Investment” comes from the Latin word “investitio” = equipped with clothing (just as the word “vest” still refers to a singlet/chemise in British English and a waistcoat in American English). The word “dedication” in turn once meant “endowment with a gift”.
So when we “invest” or “dedicate” ourselves, we are in a sense putting on a new dress and are bestowing ourselves on someone or something.
What a beautiful metaphor!
However, this metaphor implies above all that I a) prepare myself and b) let go of control. And so these are two processes that first and foremost have to do entirely with myself.
In my desire for a relationship – and also later IN a relationship – I therefore don’t look so much at what the others could contribute to my completion and the elevation of my state, but rather commit myself – and let go.
In a way, that’s quite a feat to be honest, pretty easy to write it down – but truly challenging to implement. That is because our world is largely based on control – while at the same time emphasizing the greatest possible individual autonomy to maintain it.
At the same time, however, this tends to make us feel even more powerless and insecure in the face of all kinds of events – precisely because we have to realize time and again how little we can actually influence after all.
Buddhism, among others – but also many similar philosophical schools of thought – have long since exposed “control” as an illusion.
For example, the relationship therapists Christine and Hendrik Weiß write in the foreword to the German translation of the book “The Two of Us” ¹ by Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgerald, that secure bonds are formed precisely when those involved succeed in turning to each other, are able to show their own vulnerabilities and want to be emotionally present for each other. Only in this way would those involved in the relationship feel safe enough to share feelings, hopes and disappointments with each other in order to have new emotional experiences in which they would no longer experience themselves as alone, isolated or “not right” – but as being seen and valued.
The main character in the dramedy series “Undone“, Alma Winograd-Diaz [played by actress Rosa Salazar] (Season 2, Episode 8 “We all love each other”) exemplifies it even more impressively for me:
»Maybe that’s what we’re ultimately meant to do here: Face ourselves, for the sake of our relationships. For the people we love. Maybe that’s all that matters: These invisible threads running between us and through us, throughout time. These invisible lines that bind us and set us free.«
And to further illustrate the nature and intensity of this bond, she even adds the following about her deceased father:
»I can still feel the tug of that tie. Someone very cool told me that part of life is accepting that bad things are gonna happen. And finding ways to move through them together.«
In order to enjoy this kind of connectedness, we have to literally “recover ourselves” in our relationships. And increasingly, also science has worked out more and more how significantly our (previous) bonding experiences play an important role in this². Once again the therapist couple Weiß:
“At most half of all people have grown up ‘innately’ securely attached. […] We take these experiences with us into our bonded relationships in adult life – until we become aware of them and change them.”
Already in my Entry 7 on this bLog I explain that connectedness and freedom are not contradictory in the world of multiple relationships.
We should therefore not fear the “loss of our personal freedom” in this everyday world, which by contrast so loudly proclaims the hymn of autonomy.
But in order to truly feel ” both connected and free”, it is important to initially find our way back to our own basic trust.
A year ago, I wrote that personal needs are often like looking in the pantry when you feel an unresolved inner desire or longing – usually with the realization when looking over the shelves: “What I actually need isn’t in here at all…” So instead of choosing the shopping tour as a solution “…then surely what I need will be out there somewhere…”, I wish that we would pause and first of all reflect on ourselves so that we can afterwards clothe ourselves anew and give ourselves away – then positively trusting that good things will indeed happen to us.
¹ Veronica Kallos-Lilly und Jennifer Fitzgerald: “An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us”, Routledge; Workbook Edition December 2021
² The author Jessica Fern, for example, recently wrote about the influence of biographically learned attachment behaviour in polyamorous relationships in her book “Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-monogamy”, Scribe UK, September 2022
Thanks to Anne Nygård on Unsplash for the photo!