Entry 99

Don’t dream it – be it…!

Dear readers, the time has come:
With today’s 99th Entry, the Oligoamory project turns an incredible 5 years old!
A proud age for a private bLog as a one-man business, which many similar ventures do not reach, though all of them also started out with passion and the convinced enthusiasm to have something to say on a certain topic.¹
Accordingly, I call out to you today: “I’m still here!” – and in accordance with Oligoamory’s three core values of “commitment”, ” involvement” and “consistency”, I will endeavor to ensure that this remains true next month, as it has been the case for the previous 60.

In a way, it’s a bit peculiar. Five years ago at this time of year, my last polyamorous multiple relationship had just ended with mutual misunderstandings and some boundary violations as well (also on my part). Strictly speaking, it was the end of a series of three shorter polyamorous arrangements that had disintegrated one after the other and all left a meagre feeling of – how do we say it nowadays? – “underperformance”, in fact: having fallen short of the potential possibilities.

Escaping into another relationship was not an option at the time – and I also felt that this would be highly counterproductive.
So I urgently needed some silver lining to stay true to my relationship-philosophy despite the fresh wounds on my heart and to keep moving forward – as well as I needed a space to reflect on what I had learned from the experience – and at the same time a vehicle to record what I actually expected for myself from an intimate romantic relationship with several people involved (a process that I had skipped every time before in a somewhat carefree way).
Additionally, I had assumed that the people I was in relationships with would perceive the phrase “ethical multiple relationships” in more or less the same way I did. Finding out specifically that this was not the case at all was one of the most painful realizations I gained from that time.

Ok, this is now probably a somewhat solemn introduction into today’s festive anniversary article…
Nevertheless, yes, the Oligoamory sprouted from this root, growing and unfolding with each Entry – and at the same time strengthening my confidence towards a way of loving that I felt for myself from deep within: The possibility of romantically desiring and cherishing some (select few) people at the same time.

From that point on, the Oligoamory, which had begun as “my journey”, so to speak, became more and more “your journey”, or rather, I should say “our journey” – as an undertaking and an affair of the heart for all those who feel similarly in this particular area of interpersonal relationships.

Yet from the very beginning, my “Oligoamory” was not born in a vacuum. Because its author and tour guide is a self-confessed idealist, it stood on the shoulders of all those bright minds who had already dedicated their lives (or at least an important part of them) to the possibility of multiple relationships – AND who had always consequently added the important little word “ethical” to this whole concept in order to clearly distinguish it from dishonesty, cheating, flingss or mere paramour status.
Which brought us full circle, because this clearly emphasized the importance of “working on the self“: finding out exactly what people would hope for themselves from such a kind of relationship – and at the same time what they would be able to contribute according to their own personal disposition…

As I compile the 99th Entry today, I come to think of three further insights that have repeatedly struck me over the past few years:

Firstly, and it is therefore no coincidence that I mention it right here, how important it is – especially in the “realm of Poly- or Oligoamory” – to seek, establish and maintain relationships with people and not with relationships.
In their Polyamory book “More than Two” ² – and also on their former joint website – the authors Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert even postulated this important maxim as a fundamental principle, which they consequently anchored in their Relationship Bill of Rights.
What may seem oddly self-evident at first glance is in fact not at all – especially if you rummage through almost 600,000 words of Oligoamory in order to find your way around. Because that way the danger of succumbing to “function follows form” in the end is surprisingly significant. This does not necessarily mean, as in classic “worst-case scenarios”, that people in multiple relationships are only assigned a certain predefined place with their specific role if they have literally signed a “contractual relationship agreement” beforehand (no joke: there were/are multiple relationships that really try to implement this with a self-written set of rules…). No, the much more present danger is that we simply unconsciously put on some “contractual relationship glasses” in our everyday lives and thus subject the people we approach – and who may even be attracted to us – to a kind of “ethical multiple relationship checklist”.
But what usually makes things even more difficult for us, as proponents of ethical multiple relationships, is that we in particular are often only perceived “from the outside” in this limited view, i.e. only in our capacity as “multiple relationship practitioners”. And that’s not only problematic, it usually nips any initial delicate relationship building in the bud.
It is precisely this initial delicate relationship establishment that is a very sensitive process. Because, of course, in the second step, it is absolutely essential to directly disclose your chosen relationship philosophy and how you identify with it in order to give all sides an informed choice. But the FIRST step is and remains to find out whether the people involved like each other, might enjoy and appreciate each other, maybe are able to develop feelings for each other…!
Too often in the last 5 years, I have experienced that the precautionary clarification of the relationship model at the beginning of a relationship has quenched every spark of infatuation, almost before it could even blossom. And this is not a human scale when the form becomes more important than the function. How much sympathy, how much understanding, support, empathy, chance of connection, yes, of possible infatuation and possibly real love are we missing out that way?

The 21st century should teach us that no ready-made blueprints for relationships can be pulled from the xerox machine of the past. Rather, the imperative of the time is that previously agreed structures must be revisited again and again and adapted to the current situation and topicality in order to endure and be appropriate for those involved.
That is why I say here and now: “Love, you wonderful people out there, love and fall in love if you have the opportunity to do so – and in the next step, establish the ethical framework for this serendipity – in which everyone involved feels perceived, valued, cared for and accepted to the greatest possible extent!”
The pre-emptive contractual relationship discussion is a bit like someone saying “You’re buying cauliflower – nah, I can’t love you…” or “Oh, you’re wearing polka dots – I don’t even want to find out if I could like you…” Does that sound silly? Then all it takes is a glance into the social networks, for example, to realize with disillusionment that our interpersonal discourse has long since reached this rather shallow level. And that we give up the chance to get to know someone else, who might otherwise have been a very likeable person – who might have enriched our life – because of petty outward formalities.

600,000 words of Oligoamory are (also) a lot of theory. But please don’t let that stop you from putting function before form. Get into conversation, get involved with each other, allow a first tender connection, the first perceived sparks, air and space to breathe and grow: Therefore, please initiate relationships with people, not immediately with relationships – or relationship models (as important as these – and the agreement on them – may be in the second step).

My secondly has – in a sense – a connection with the “firstly” above.
In last year’s March Entry 87, I wrote that many of “us” – in other words, those who deal with the topic of “ethical multiple relationships” with regard to their interpersonal contacts – have often already “thought themselves free” in certain other areas of their lives (e.g. ecological lifestyle, political activism, queerness, spirituality, identification with subcultures, veganism, etc.). Since such alternative approaches often require a conscious, often resistant stance against the normativity of mainstream society, these lifestyles often go hand in hand with establishing personal boundaries and asserting one’s own identity for example in language, commitment, clothing, choice of environment and the choice of like-minded peers.
After a while, one danger of being non-ordinary is that, because of the vigor that such an extraordinary approach requires adverse to the majority of society, even nonconformists tend to assume that this extra-ordinary approach has always to be essential for themselves.
However, this is not just a minority phenomenon, it also affects the aforementioned normative society: our ever increasing event and achievement culture is more and more numbing us against the subtle nuances – while establishing the spectacular as the expected standard.
The German-born spiritual teacher and self-help author Eckhart Tolle once appropriately commented on this:

»Why do we wait for something extraordinary to happen to feel alive?
Why does the excitement only kick in when a certain event occurs – a promotion, a vacation, a major change in life?
The truth is that every moment – yes, really every moment – can be a spectacle.
Even the most mundane activities, like drinking a cup of tea or walking to the bus, can become something great.
When you drink a cup of tea, take a moment to feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, savour the aroma of the tea, notice the taste on your tongue. Suddenly, this simple act becomes an experience full of sensuality and presence.
As you walk to the bus, you can observe the rhythm of your steps, breathe in the freshness of the air, perceive the sounds of your surroundings. You are fully there, in the moment, and every second becomes alive and meaningful.
This does not happen through magical transformation, but through your conscious and present perception of the moment.«

In Entry 45, in which I write about the “Wonderful Ordinariness of Being”, I also allude to this. The danger of missing out on 100% of life, because our threshold of stimulation has long since passed the 110%, causes us to regard everything supposedly below it as less authentic or even worthwhile. Which means we ourselves are pushing the bar higher and higher for ourselves as to what it takes to get us “excited”… And this is problematic for any establishment of a relationship – and thus also for our existing relationships – because by means of this artificial “upward comparison” we trivialize and diminish our current experience, which leads to the fact that we are always already on to the next (expecting) step – and thus are rarely actually present in the here & now.
However, love that expresses itself precisely in involvement, appreciation and being-there-for-each-other is an entirely present moment! Let’s not miss out on this moment because, in our attitude of entitlement, we are waiting for nothing less than the manifest appearance of the rainbow unicorn in the flesh in Cinemascope format and HD – and overlook the gift of luck that is just putting the canned peas in the shopping cart right next to us…

Thirdly – and because “firstly” and “secondly” can nonetheless feel frustrating after a while, especially if there is little actual progress and the longed-for loved ones are foreseeably not going to show up as speedily as we would wish it:
Stay true to yourself. And don’t lose faith and confidence in the rightness of your romantic feelings.
What’s more: don’t let anyone talk you out of it or let it be denigrated as a phase that surely must have expired due to a lack of evidence…
Not even by the fact that you yourself have perhaps not yet dared to take the final step – and have not yet acknowledged your desire for multiple relationships to the outside world.
Because that would be like someone else maliciously diagnosing: “What, you’re not outed yet? – Then you’re probably not really gay, lesbian, trans etc…!”
But here too, “form follows function” applies: An “outing“, the step towards openly admitting that you are capable and willing to engage into multiple relationships, is the final step in a process whose original, outgoing source is your own innermost feelings in the first place.
Take it from me, someone who hasn’t actually managed to be part of a more continuous multiple relationship in the last 5 years.
Because have I therefore become less poly- or oligoamorous?
On the contrary, every day, every single step along the way has constantly reassured me more about who I am and what my romantic experiencing is all about.
If I were to find another beloved person, no one would be happier than me, of course. At the same time, the self-knowledge gained from the initial hullabaloo of the past 5 years is the wealth I have gained by myself and for myself, which will accompany me throughout my remaining life (a treasure which will certainly still increase I think when I look back…). And after all, I have to put up with myself the most – especially when I mingle with other, perhaps potentially wonderful, people…

“Don’t dream it – be it!” – with these words from today’s title, the extraterrestrial transvestite and non-conformist Frank-N-Furter in the colorful musical The Rocky Horror (Picture) Showchallenges his audience to live and act boldly.
I can only agree to his invitation if we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are always dealing with human beings as counterparts in relationship matters, that we recognize that our wishes can be extraordinary – but that doesn’t automatically mean “more spectacular, better, more” (here Frank-N-Furter would have disagreed…😉) – and that being true to ourselves – even in times of “drought” and even if our inner sparkle has not yet fully emerged to the outside world – is always the best kind of authenticity.

Not so simply as Frank-N-Furter – but much more straightforwardly – the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh expressed all this for me with a quote that I’m sticking in the virtual buttonhole today to mark the fifth anniversary of Oligoamory:

»Normality is a paved road,
you can walk on it well,
but there are
no flowers
on it.«

So let’s meet off the road again! For another 5 years? I don’t want to promise that much today – but in any case: as long as love (for bLogging) lasts.

¹ Like for example, the feminist kleinerdrei project, which I used to hold in high esteem and which was supported by a number (!) of authors. Unfortunately, after 5 years they decided to quit…

² The book by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert “More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical Polyamory”, Thorntree-Press 2014.

Thanks to Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash for the photo!