Entry 77

Love. Separate. Repeat.

Ingo has to hurry. He certainly has a lot of catching up to do, having recently been released from prison where he served five years for copyright piracy. That’s why he’s now plunging right into life. Because also in matters of relationships and love, of course, things haven’t been going anywhere in the past. Today, the next best pub is therefore immediately good enough for Ingo. Feverishly, he lets his searching gaze wander over those people present. The pressure to make up for the time lost is intense, Ingo is accordingly nervous, he already can feel sweat on his tense face – hectically he strikes a match for a quick cigarette, which is supposed to loosen his initial inhibitions at least a little. A few seconds later, in barely three hasty breaths, he has already inhaled his fag, because at last his restless glance has fallen upon a single unescorted lady at the bar, whom he immediately approaches with determined steps. Without delay, he initiates eye contact and addresses the surprised woman straightforwardly: “Hello, I’m Ingo…”; and at the same time, his stare literally absorbs all the features of her face in fractions of a second: Quickly he scans her hair, her well-proportioned face, the bright eyes, the shapely lips, her shining teeth. And in the same fractions of a second Ingo also has made up his mind, adding to his greeting: “…I love you, I want to have a child with you!” Therefore he puts on his most engaging flirting face, so that his amazed counterpart, speechless but amused, is visibly entertained by this brilliant pick-up line. But the matter is very serious to Ingo. He knows he has broken the initial ice, now it is high time to let things become committed: “Well, now that we’re going to have children together…, I wanted to ask you…, will you marry me?” he continues, looking faithfully into the now increasingly perplexed face of his chosen lady. The latter must visibly struggle to even find her voice for a somewhat appropriate answer – a tension that Ingo, in his haste and compulsion to achieve, can no longer endure. His whole body tingles and vibrates. Almost thrown off his game by this, he virtually snatches the glass of beer that the bartender is about to serve out of that man’s hand and downs it in a few gulps. In doing so, a terrible thought seizes him: Things are not going as he had expected! And without delay, he also informs his still-surprised beloved of this discomfort: “Well, you know, I think we really should have a talk about our relationship…” By now his entire body has been seized by rising nervousness and his bladder relentlessly calls; uttering “I’ll be right back!” Ingo flees in a flash to the men’s room, even before his potential sweetheart is able to object with a single further remark. Emptying the troubled bladder, barely hitting the flush, closing the fly, it’s almost one continuous action nonstop. For Ingo is already back at the bar next to his intended fiancée, but his thoughts have started to darken. “Look, this can’t go on, I mean, lately we just haven’t had anything to say to each other…” he confronts her about her quietness in the past few moments. And finally, she manages to break the silence: Now, wait a minute…!” she tries to object, irritated. But with that she now hits the completely wrong side of Ingo: “No, it’s too late, don’t try to stop me!” he blurts out with bitterness, “There’s just too much that’s broken between us!” A terrible reality, of which he himself also becomes completely aware right in those seconds. And thus he consequently finishes: “It’s over, bye!” – and he ends this whole unsuccessful relationship initiation, which again has yielded him no success. It’s only a few instants, but then he can already be heard again – somewhere in the background, obviously already relentlessly on his way to a new target: “Hi, I’m Ingo, I love you…!”

You can find the corresponding video clip HERE (Link to YouTube) [Only German version available]

This informational short film lasting just 44 seconds including credits (!!!) was once produced by Zukunft Kino Marketing GmbH [Future Cinema Marketing GmbH] at the beginning of the current millennium in order to warn in a funny as well as reflective way about the consequences of criminal actions.

However, I believe that for this kind of depicted neediness (and the resulting mania) no crime or even a long prison sentence is required, but that we can all find ourselves unexpectedly and rather mundanely at some point in Ingo’s shoes; and that most of us (hand on heart) have probably already experienced ourselves – or concerning another person close to us – how we have slithered through an “Ingo-relationship”. “Relationships,” in other words, that like a kind of fast-forward lasted in this way perhaps only a few weeks or months.

But especially “we”, who identify with a philosophy of ethical multiple relationships, are, in my view, more challenged than the followers of a normal-mononormative¹ relationship initiation when dealing with this phenomenon.

Why? Because we are more confronted with that risk?
I don’t believe that, because in a mononormative¹ world ( in spite of the noble assertions to the contrary) there is no safeguard against such seriality, too. And that’s why the clip also works in the cinema: Ingo, that’s the eternal seeker; one who always slips into one romantic entanglement after the next, only to find himself – after he thinks he has just unravelled the last thread – once again standing in front of a pile of shreds. Self-generated shreds, caused by careless activity due to impulsiveness and an enormous high pace as a result.

I fear, however, that “for us multiple relationship supporters” both the imponderability of collateral damage is much higher, and even more so the danger of profoundly messing up the values that underlie our relationship philosophy in such a way. Which, in both cases, will ensure an equally profound hangover to our disadvantage – from which we ourselves will suffer the most.
Apart from that, we of the “multiple-relationship people” still have to work against a perception gap in society as a whole, which still assumes that we, who for example occasionally adorn ourselves with the term “multiple love” (Poly-Amory), that Ingo probably represents the prime example of such multiplicity in love: Constantly on the move from blossom to blossom, always needy, never constant, never “satisfied with only one partner”, permanently “on the go” and thus not patient enough to offer depth and scope to a true relationship…

So what is it about “Doing the Ingo”?

Since I have just recently committed an “Ingo” myself, I would like to draw on my own experience with it – and at the same time I would like to acknowledge that the creators of the above-mentioned cinema spot were quite precise in their knowledge of human nature as well as in their talent for observation, which enabled them to capture quite a few all-too-human aspects in the short amount of time they did cover.

For example, when I meet a person, I know for myself relatively quickly whether it is “love” as far as I am concerned. For many other people, however, this is quite astonishing, especially how “quickly” I can claim an asset like “love” for myself while still largely unaware of the other person.
On this bLog, however, I have already described (Entry 67) that I consider “love” for myself as a kind of energy; an energy, in a way, that flows from me to the other person. For this purpose, so that this energy will flow from me, it requires a – as I usually say – “sublimely metaphysical component”, which in my opinion roughly corresponds to the “spark of infatuation” and is composed on my behalf of an olfactory-haptic-energetic overall sensory impression plus a “feeling of familiarity” regarding my counterpart (by the way, I interpret most of this mainly as an indication of my [heightened] sensitivity).
Even if it is somewhat exaggeratedly satirized in the short clip: This approach also seems to be inherent to Ingo. He has met an interesting person, very quickly his senses have gathered an overall impression – and something inside him says “Yes”. And since he perceives this inner “Yes”, he can consequently also express “I love you” on his behalf, since this indicates to him that he can now enter into a “process of initiating a relationship”.
At this point I have much sympathy for Ingo, since I too would never be able to get involved in such a process with any person in whom I would not a) be strongly interested and for this b) feel extremely high sympathy, affection, fondness, goodwill – call it what you will, I call it love.

In the same sentence, however, when he nimbly attaches the question of procreation to his confession of love, Ingo strays onto an unfavourable path. And it is right there already, where – in my opinion – the greatest part of the drama that follows lies hidden: Ingo obviously already has his own, quite determined plans.
This is fatal in several ways. Because with that, he immediately knocked over a whole shelf full of solid multiple relationship values. Transparency (his counterpart did not know anything about his plans until now), consensuality and mutual agreement (Ingo has obviously already made completely autonomous decisions for all parties involved), eye level and equality (Ingo has apparently already established himself as the authority who is allowed to make these announcements) as well as responsibility (which, especially for such profound and long-term decisions in a relationship, should in any case be a multilateral responsibility for the entire relationship). On top of that – and to quote my Entry 19 – Ingo has already completely left the area of the only important moment at the beginning of any getting-to-know-each-other, which is the “Here & Now”. By which he has unaware just lost his openness and flexibility for what could happen right from the moment of his self-revealing confession of love.
In an unfortunate move, Ingo, in order to present himself as a potentially good partner and companionship person (and certainly to emphasize it), gambles away several other (multiple) relationship qualities that he probably possesses: He tries to show his readiness for a long-term commitment at an early stage and thus his willingness to engage intensively in the relationship – thus also claiming the important value of loyalty.

Only…., at the relevant point in time, there is no relationship in a proper sense yet! Ingo confuses his inwardly felt positive declaration of intent already with the entirety which still has to be built in the future. An “entirety”, to which he then could contribute, but which as is known only becomes an entirety through the sum of its parts (with shares therefore, which will not only be his alone).

Ingo’s counterpart thus also does not get a chance to experience the moment with Ingo unrestrictedly in the “Here & Now” – and to explore from there how the further (joint?) journey could possibly proceed. Ok, in favour of Ingo are his wit, his rather forthright sincerity, and certainly his ambitions for a sustainable long-term relationship. But there is also an “obscured” part of him, in which he is in a way patronizing and inflexible. And in this part, his own needs are almost the only decisive ones. In front of himself Ingo can probably justify this very easily with his already wasted life time; “good reasons” therefore probably for him – which, in turn, are not known to the other side and therefore make his behaviour seem all the more difficult to predict ( on our “good personal reasons”, which do not always have to be so “good” for the others, see in detail Entry 11).
A need that has not been met for a very long time can furthermore easily even develop trauma energy, out of which a person can be perceived all the more as somehow driven and additionally quite inflexible, since long accumulated trauma energies have created real “highways” in the network of pathways of our inner nervous system, from which an “exit” can only be found by great effort, consciousness and more often only with outside assistance.²

Ingo’s counterpart reacts to this ambivalence with corresponding puzzlement. And Ingo senses this instinctively: The “thing is not going as expected”.
But now that Ingo has ventured far ahead with his “declaration of love”, his “inner controller” reacts to this ambivalence with uncertainty and fear – whereby this entity has all too easy a game due to Ingo’s highly nervous tension.
A stirring rational part even tries to gain the upper hand once again for a brief moment, when the sentence “…talk about our relationship…” somewhat irritably bursts out of him. Yes, he even tries, because he can hardly bear his own tension any more, to get some kind of additional “time out” (the toilet break).
But unfortunately, he has long since passed the right moment to hold his horses (e.g. to give the other person enough time or to listen himself). Since in this way he receives no further (helpful or appeasing) information for himself, he remains trapped in the racing whirlpool of thoughts of his own inner workings, which from now on only drags him further down.

Back at the bar, all his limits are altogether transgressed: From his point of view, Ingo did not experience any accommodating gestures from his counterpart; on the contrary, he was able to read uncertainty and indecisiveness there. Since he himself claims admission and loyalty as important values, he registers “nothing” of the kind on the other side. His initially felt confidence to meet a companion who is sympathetically familiar to him and therefore somehow similar, crumbles at the same pace as his inner critic whispers to him that with this potential partner all other longed-for goals such as a relationship or children will certainly not be achievable (otherwise there would have been certainly a storm of approval by now…).
Indeed, it’s “too late”. By his muddled demeanour, Ingo has conjured up exactly the fears about himself that have been throbbing in a hidden place inside him all along, and made them “come true”: His fear of being left on the shelf, of not being seen as a whole person, of being rejected on sight.
Ingo leaves in frustration, and if he does not succeed in revealing his own hidden motives, he will probably soon be driven by them to make another foolhardy attempt.

In his book “Hearticulations” (Enrealment Press 2020), the Canadian author and moviemaker Jeff Brown wrote:

»Love can happen in a split second. Bondedness can’t. That’s the thing we learn the hard way. That love is not the end of the story. It’s just the first chapter.
The next chapters demand that we acknowledge our wounding, clear our emotional debris, strengthen our capacity for attachment, learn how to authentically relate, mature in the deep within.
Chapter after chapter of refining our ability to meet love with a true heart. This is the work of a lifetime. Our opus of opening.
How terrifying.
How delightful.«



¹ mononormative (Adjective): Of or pertaining to the practices and institutions that privilege or value monosexual and monogamous relationships as fundamental and “natural” within society. [Source: Wiktionary.org]

² How trauma energies can cause us to be biased and inhibited I describe, for example, in my Jealousy-Entry 36.

Thanks to Alex Voulgaris on Unsplash for the photo!

And thanks to prilstrudel at YouTube for submitting the short film.

Entry 76

Disarmament

»Emotional armor is not easy to shed, nor should it be.
It has formed for a reason: as a requirement for certain responsibilities, as a conditioned response to real circumstances, as a defense against unbearable feelings.
It has served an essential purpose. It has saved lifes.
Yet it can be softened over time. It can melt into tenderness at its core. It can reveal the light at its source.
But never rush it, never push up against it, never demand it to drop its guard before its time.
Because it knows something you don’t:
In a still frightening world armor is no less valid than vulnerability.
Let it shed at its own unique pace.«


These thoughts were shared by the Canadian author and film-maker Jeff Brown in his book “Spiritual Graffiti” (Enrealment Press) in 2015.

I believe that there is a great deal of truth in these words – and I also believe that almost all people who are in some kind of ethical multiple relationship right now can somehow recognize themselves in them.

I write this today in my continued conviction and recognition of the fact that probably no relationship type truly confronts people with their inner-soul potentials as intensely as multiple relationships are capable of doing.

At this point, I must first insert a kind of – how do they say nowadays? – “disclaimer”: I certainly consider dyadic¹ models – and especially the best-known model of mono-amory², the ” one-on-one relationship” – to be basically suitable and very well able to guarantee this in the same way. However, as I have already tried to illustrate in Entry 9 by means of the “car metaphor”, I am quite sure, based on my life experience, that this standard model – due to the often also very standard acknowledgement (or rather: non-acknowledgement) of the pending general terms and conditions applicable to the respective “occupants” – usually tends to avoid an all too intensive consideration of the particular sensitivities of the reciprocal inner states [by which, as it is well known, the explosive power often becomes particularly volatile in the event of a crisis…].

This “safety margin” (which is rather a kind of “ignorance buffer”), does not exist in multiple relationships from the first moment of being established.
Because there are no patterns, no blueprints, on the basis of which the potential participants could simply make a copy of something that already exists or has been experienced. Every step into the relationship – yes, even just the creation of a multiple relationship – is rather challenging and always new.

Somehow a strange thing. A multiple relationship develops (or expands)… This is, after all, for the time beeing, a moment of great joy – which is often equally greeted and cheered by people belonging to a positively minded environment with appropriate congratulations and enthusiasm.
Accordingly, the participants themselves (hopefully) experience this great joy as well. But besides the obstacle course that any non-normative occurrence has to overcome in an otherwise still largely normative world (Polyamory? Is that something like cheating with permission…?” /“Did you even think about the children…?”), the real challenge for the participants themselves will sooner rather than later be the encounter with their own “emotional armour”.

This is a matter that is seldom brought out in the open. Since on the one hand, those involved in multiple relationships are regularly already under great pressure to justify and to prove themselves (“I knew it from he beginning: Polyamory CAN’T work…!”). Furthermore, the more practical issues frequently dominate and need to be dealt with first and foremost (“On Tuesdays? On Tuesday this week I have yoga until 5 p.m. and then I have to pick up the kids – we’ll have to postpone our joint meeting unless…”). And last but not least, the topic mentioned at the top of this article is extraordinarily personal.

Multiple relationships are based on core values such as openness, transparency and honesty. And to reconcile more than one person and their schedules and needs – and goddess forbid if there are probably more than two! – flexibility is needed as well as “ambiguity tolerance” (explained in Entry 62).
But the word “armor” alone suggests that our openness and flexibility may not be as forthcoming as we would admit to ourselves (or even to others) over a cup of coffee. Even our tolerance is limited by the firm seat of our armor – after all, it was once formed in order to endure the excessive demands of external influences arbitrarily imposed on us by others – but not in order to gain an understanding of them, since that would not have helped or protected us at that time.

But now finally “off into a real multiple relationship”. When this time comes, for many of us a long-cherished wish may come true – and for some, even the admission of this subliminally long-standing wish may be midwife as well as witness to this event. And some of us ” are struck ” simply out of the blue and a new world emerges in us, which may not have been born until these new people arrived, because it was only through this meeting that this world was born…³
Whatever the case. On this bLog – as being highlighted by my Oligoamory – I formulate multiple relationships as a synthesis of intimate loving relationships and community building. To this end, I hereby promote the model of self-chosen “kin” (family of choice) as companions with whom we wish to share our lives (esp. Entry 5, Entry 34, Entry 55). In essence, therefore I am concerned with nothing less than establishing jointly our self-created “home”, wherein each person can also be “at home” within him*herself.

However, in his book “Hearticulations” (Enrealment Press 2020), Jeff Brown adds:

»You can’t run away from home. Because you bring it with you everywhere you go.
There can definitely be value in escaping to another geography – but you will still have to go back down the path and reclaim your childhood. Because it s still alive in you, still dictating your relational patterns, still controling your choices.
It must be owned. It must be confronted. It must be healed.
And until it is, it’s still the place you live.«


My childhood? The place where I still live? How could that be true?

In the US science fiction television series Deep Space 9 from 1993, there is a highly interesting sequence in the debut episode:
In his first adventure, one of the protagonists of the series encounters a species of alien beings who live eternally and therefore do not know the factor “time” as an ever-progressing phenomenon – for them, everything that is, exists in a perpetual state of oneness. For an understanding with the otherworldly beings this is unfavourable at first. Because from their point of view, the aliens perceive the protagonist as erratic, self-centred and unpredictable, since they do not understand that his actions are due to his linear existence “in time”. Nevertheless, the protagonist finally succeeds in establishing communication: He explains to the alien beings that we humans are subjected to exactly this linear existence by our biology of being born and death – which in particular also affects our acting, thinking and planning. To illustrate this, he chooses the analogy of a game, which is subject to fixed rules, but where the exact course of events cannot be predetermined. As a contrast to the alien beings, who seem somewhat rigid and rather passive in their “eternalness”, the protagonist explains the curiosity and flexibility of the humans precisely by their linear nature: Because the “course of the game” is not fixed, surprise, curiosity and agility towards what might come are thus typical characteristics of our species.
The extraterrestrials are able to understand this explanation quite well, although the concept is, of course, very much in contrast to their own kind of existence. Then they suddenly discover something astonishing in the psyche of our protagonist – and immediately they confront him with that scene, which they promptly put before his eyes: He himself, in a burning spacecraft that is falling apart, unable to pull his dying wife out from under a contorted steel girder. Our protagonist is horrified and says that this is a terrible incident of his past and that he wants to get away from it immediately. The aliens, on the other hand, are puzzled and ask him why he would still exist there so much on an emotional level. At this moment, the protagonist realizes that, at least in our minds, there are places that are “non-linear”, frozen time, trauma-places of vulnerability and exposure from which we have not yet been able to break free.

It is precisely these “places of vulnerability and exposure” that Jeff Brown is referring to when he says that we “still” live there. Unredeemed soul places that continue to influence our present intentions and relationship dynamics with their forces of disregard, loneliness, powerlessness, helplessness, humiliation and even violence. Are still able to take influence – because in some way they have not yet terminated inside of us.
Unfortunately, however, also places that because of the choices we have made (or not made – but, strictly speaking, these are choices, too) we still consider to be “our home”.
Third-party-induced disregard, loneliness, powerlessness, helplessness, humiliation and violence of the past therefore still “live” inside us today – and thus, strictly speaking, they are already waiting for those people whom we will foreseeably invite into our lives, into “our world”.

Which will be the point at which multiple relationships can become a severe distortion of the “more than the sum of its parts” I otherwise so eagerly propagate on this bLog – far more dramatic than any mere couple relationship of just two people.
Especially when we enter into multiple relationships out of an unconscious desire not to be alone “at home” any longer with those other unpleasant “room-mates” of our past. Already in Entry 58 I caution against using other people for personal gaps in one’s need-fulfilment in order to increase the degree of one’s own well-being by means of such a stunt.
In fact, this way, it will be much more likely to confirm the old Polyamory axiom: “Want more drama? Add more people!”.

In order to clean up our own house we need – as I wrote in numerous Entries – awareness, the willingness to look closely and above all a lot of courage. At best, other people may be able to support us in this, but the work itself remains entirely and nonetheless ours alone.

Today, as I myself am on the verge of a new beginning in terms of multiple relationships (again), I probably can’t present you, my dear readers, with a redeeming punch line.
However, I wanted to share with you in this article the wisdom in the words of Jeff Brown, as his opening remark holds for me an important key in this matter: Specifically, the acknowledgement of the existence of our armor and the recognition of the respective nature and origin of that armor.
Because we did not put on the aforementioned armor (and we know this very well in our hearts) out of arrogance, vanity or self-aggrandizement. So, therefore, our loved ones have also not done this accordingly with theirs.
Consequently, in our (multiple) relationships we will always encounter each other in a certain degree of still existing “armament”, because a part of our world, of “our home” – in the words of Master Brown – is still sufficiently “frightening” to us. In fact, the beginning of a multiple relationship itself may even include or add quite a bit of “fright” on top of that – depending on the nature of our own unredeemed moments of inner vulnerability and exposure.
Hence, pressure, rushed action or expectations are the worst approaches here in any case.

But what gives us hope for disarmament?
I think this is our love. Or, if you prefer, one size smaller at the beginning of a relationship: our infatuation.
Because somewhere there, at this beginning, there must have been that moment when our counterpart – even if only for a small moment – showed him*herself vulnerable, lowered shield and armor, so that we were able to perceive the “light at its source”.
And it was exactly this light that attracted us, fascinated us; the light in which we could already recognize the affection and connection of our souls for a brief moment.

If the writer Henry David Thoreau is right that “love must be both a light and a flame”, then it will be that same flame that shall melt the core of our armor into gentleness.
Let us therefore allow ourselves and each other time for redemption.
At our own unique pace.

¹ dyadic = referring to a system of two units (which also consists exclusively of those two units).

² On this bLog I use mono-amory/monoamory as a deliberately opposite phrase to the term “Polyamory“. Since “Polyamory” is composed of ancient Greek πολύ poly “many” and Latin amor “love” and therefore denotes “many loves” or “loving many”, “monoamory” (composed of ancient Greek μόνος monos “one/single” and Latin amor “love”) stands for the love towards only one other person. For example, one manifestation of mono-amory is marriage = monogamy.

³ And thanks again to Anaïs Nin (diaries 1929–1931) for this wonderful quote!

Thanks to 4317940 on pixabay.com for the photo!

Entry 75 #Conflict

Trains always arrive at your station. The question is which one to take?*

A few weeks ago, after three years almost to the day, it happened: Oligotropos has officially rejoined the world of multiple relationships in person!
That it took two Corona years and a Russian invasion to get there…– well, let’s put these facts under “irony of fate”. Likewise, that the first shared date promptly had to be postponed because of the unexpectedly approaching hurricanes “Ylenia” and “Zeynep”…
Stormy times, on the other hand, are a good keyword for today’s Entry, because we only needed two dates before we had our first minor relationship(formation) crisis – tempest in paradise.
What had happened?
Well, since my bLog is about Oligoamory, which I consider to be a subtype of Polyamory – and if you like, also about Polyfidelity¹, since by using the prefix “oligo-“ I am promoting the participation of rather few relationship participants – I could first of all invoke good old Scott Peck, who, as far as community-building processes were concerned, always stated that a first phase of harmony in relationships would inevitably be followed in the next step by a so-called “chaos phase” in which the egos of the participants would merrily clash with each other (first quote on this bLog Entry 8).

This realisation in advance I would like to encourage all multiple relationships that are perhaps in some kind of clinch right now: Don’t panic – maybe you have just entered (once again) a “chaos phase”.
Did I say “once again” ? Yes, I have, also in agreement with the brilliant Scott Peck, who stated that in every existing relationship or community structure, the chaos phase must be periodically revisited after a span of harmony – and therefore would also occur (whether one wants to or not). Scott Peck added, however, that subsequent “chaos phases” would usually (but by no means always…) turn out to be less violent than the first ego collisions, especially those of the early stages and the shaky founding period.
As a particular comfort, I would like to mention that Scott Peck also implied that, in comparison, a conflict-free relationship was probably the less favourable indicator concerning the degree of familiarity with each other, since regular chaos phases were unambiguous characteristics of a deepening community-building process; relationships which, on the other hand, appeared outwardly harmonious all the time were most likely structures in which the expression of individual diversity of the participants was suppressed in some way.

What actually had happened here with me, with us, in this specific case?
I, Oligotropos, had shared a private matter about the favourite person already by my side with the newly joining favourite person. Either way, this was not exactly a fine move at all and therefore certainly not the wisest manoeuvre, as I had not even asked the favourite person at my side about the current nature and extent of this matter.
Therefore, strictly speaking, I was already operating at this point in the realm of my own assumptions, which, as we know from “Nonviolent Communication (NVC, Entry 20)”, is highly unfavourable because by doing so we render the person concerned powerless – and usually this alone opens up a path into conflict.
“If you know that so well, Oligotropos, why did you do it anyway?”
Very good question. I think that when I look back at the turmoil in my unfolding relationship several days ago, the main motivation on all sides turned out to be “fear” in terms of “insecurity”.
I, for example, was unsure about my existing favourite person and his/her possible reactions. And so I tried, in a way manipulatively, two things: On the one hand to get the new favourite person on my side (a behaviour, by the way, that can be observed regularly in many families and established groups of friends – which is called “taking prisoners” by trying to secure supposed supporters for one’s own position among the existing bunch of people at an early stage, e.g. à la “Tony, you also said the other day that Mira is always a bit sloppy in the kitchen; surely you agree…”) – on the other hand, and more importantly for me, I hoped that the information would prevent my new favourite person from behaving in a way towards my existing favourite person so that I would be put in a stressful situation afterwards. To sum it up, pure narcissistic self-protection of the brand “I don’t want to feel pain / Don’t hurt me”.
At this point it is even more striking how deeply I was already caught in a world of my own resentimental assumptions: I attempted an interception for a possible – but also perhaps not possible – behaviour with regard to a circumstance that had not yet manifested itself and which might have never occurred at all. So my mind was already trying to play a card out of a triggered fear that maybe a circumstance would arise “exactly as I had experienced before”. Which is the core essence of a “resentment” concerning which I last explained in Entry 70 (but also significantly in Entry 36) that our mind is always unfortunately only able to provide us with a very inaccurate copy of a painful experience from our past as a blueprint for possible expected circumstances, especially when there is any room for ambivalence.
And on top of that, this works all the worse the less established evidence of trust we can muster as a counterbalance for comparison – which is why something like this will regularly hit us hardest at the beginning of new relationships.

At the same time, by performing this foolhardy piece of clumsy two-way diplomacy, I hoped that I had taken sufficient precautions for potential incidents between my two favourite people, which is unfortunately a common dilemma of “people in the middle ” (therefore sometimes called “hinge partners” ) on in-between positions in multiple relationships – because they can quickly fall prey to the belief that they have the most decisive obligation regarding harmony in the overall relationship (only to, as we have seen above, cause disempowerment once again, which usually does a disservice to all sides).
Hence, Scott Peck’s first sentence in his chapter “Chaos” is indeed appropriate: “Chaos always arises from well-intentioned but misplaced attempts to remedy or change the others.” I had tried both – and even aimed at a future that would possibly not happen at all….

Through my blurry move, I now passed my original fears (“I don’t want to feel pain / Don’t hurt me.” ) on to my new favourite person. Accordingly, the latter intuitively and correctly did not appreciate the already somewhat patronising protective aspect in my actions, but immediately perceived in them the intrusive as well as disempowering limitation of one’s own freedom of action. And since I had also included a detail about my other favourite person in my clumsy communication, my new arrival’s distress and drama alarm about the state of agreement in my existing relationship was also triggered. Which, again, was not such a big surprise, since the new joining person, couldn’t yet fall back on a sufficiently established basis of trust from shared experiences, either, as far as I or I or my other favourite person was concerned.
What happened, however, was that the “anxiety train” I had set in motion was now in turn re-dressed inside my new favourite person with his/her own resentments ( in other words: roughly matching previous experiences): Since this person saw herself as someone who would have less relational experience than me, she took my initiative as an attempt to assign her – as a “junior partner” so to speak – an already predefined, narrowly delimited place with only minimal agency within the unfolding relationship structure. As our relationship was just beginning, this fear intensified that there was potentially no room at all for individual relationship development in dyadic terms (= as a relationship of two only between her and me) and that she felt exposed to the decisions of my already existing relationship – including an unilateral termination of the relationship (= effects of hierarchical polyamory, unicorn status and couple privilege² in their worst manifestations, so to speak).

In times of fast messenger services, something like this can take on a remarkable dynamic, e.g. when, as happened in our case, both my existing partner and of course I were then confronted with this concern by text message and a request for resolution (among us as a couple!).
This message came out of the blue and struck my long-term companion (not a very good starting position for a potential conflict…) and even I had to sort out between sad surprise (How could my good intentions have been SO misunderstood?) and surging anger (And how could anyone perceive me, Oligotropos, in SUCH a way in the first place?) while everything was actually blowing up in my face.
Of course, the favourite person at my side was also upset at how s/he was so unexpectedly branded as part of a hegemonic privileged couple – and it didn’t exactly help that the person concerned could thereby conclude razor-sharp that there had to exist somewhere in the gradually unravelling chain of events an element of information of which he had hitherto been the only one probably not to know…
And with that, the “anxiety train” reached the next station, where another resentment refurbishing took place: For my existing partner, the information gap – according to a failed previous relationship – was exactly a sign of being locked out and not taken seriously, which in turn caused her warning light to signal that probably an information bubble had already formed between “the new lady and me”, from which she herself in turn was cut off, and even more: that my new potential companion was probably not really interested in her as a person anyway…

Which meant that through my hasty panic diplomacy I had conjured up exactly that scenario that I had originally wanted to prevent; classic drama including bad feelings and negative vibes on all sides.

Quite a fitting image concerning that regard seems to me the song “Sieben” ³ by the pagan folk group “Faun”, which describes a kind of conjuration between two people who – apparently close – consider to enter into a relationship with each other. At first, things are offered, promises are made. In the course of the song, however, the quality of the incantation gradually changes from a pledge rather to a kind of banishment. At the end it even says: “In your world I would be wrong – and you would lay my ring around my neck […]; Seven steps are seven too much – paths lead on without a goal”.
This almost archetypal song seems exceedingly wise to me.
Sometimes there are only seven steps between us – but even these “seven steps” are already too far for our resentments and our fears – which want to claim that the present situation cannot be trusted.

So what can we do – especially when we are in the early stages of a relationship – and we are tempted for a (sometimes lengthy) moment to believe the voices that want to suggest to us that there is no basis of trust towards the other at all?
What helped me – and what helped us in the end?

The most important thing for me – apart from a quick reflection on how this “railway” could come about at all – was to consciously get off my own anxiety train. But at the same time to recognise that the train of fear is nevertheless there: “Hey, yeah, Oligotropos, you are afraid, you are insecure, you are currently quickly scared that you could still lose this new tender relationship.”
This admission has helped me enormously – also because it has supported me in finding out how and where I had deviated from my straight path of feeling, thinking and acting, preferring to chase after the crazy tricks of a frenzied “what-if” scenario. That anxiety train in me is still there, the relationship simply hasn’t been in my life long enough for anything else.
But as the Buddhist sifu Shi Heng Yi once said “Real freedom means not having to give in to every thought within me.” And that is an important message for my anxiety train: He’s allowed to be there – but I no longer have to let him race out of my station with a belly full of blazing coals. This enables me to show my other favourite people much better what is inside me – and that there is also this fear. But when I do this in such a comprehensible way – and stay with myself – I am perceived and received with compassion and empathy.

What also helped me enormously was to follow the famous Indian proverb and “put myself in the others’ moccasin for once”. This enabled me to enter their “stations” as far as I was able and to recognise how, with my own insecurity, I had above all passed on precisely this insecurity (and not my rather haphazardly interwoven communication), which could then only too easily manifest itself further in the respective fears of the others. And I could realise that in the capacity of the basic trust that had not yet been established, we were literally “all in the same boat” – in a way that none of us had any supposed advantage or disadvantage because of this. And above all, it made me realise that, regardless of this, there was no reason at all to distrust any of the others.

All the more, through the confrontation that inevitably followed, I once again learned even more to assume responsibility for myself and accountability for my actions. In Entry 11, I blog about the good reasons that underlie our respective personal and situational actions. And it’s all understandable for ourselves; we should know ourselves – and our motives (yes, also and especially the not so linear ones…) – best of all.
But if we have caused confusion and even pain among the other parties involved, then we do not have to go through all these with the other participants in detail, and if only because we would like to be understood therein quite properly. After all, perhaps we are only trying to establish for ourselves in some kind of argument that we could not really have acted any other way. But it is much more important that we ourselves realise that, despite all our own well-known good reasons, we were not at all forced to act in exactly the outlined way. And sometimes it was simply a not so wise decision to let our own train leave the station, out into the wide world, loaded with old fear, situational insecurity and premature distrust. That such a cargo out there would produce anything beneficial was rather unlikely after all.
But such a train, which will soon grow into a veritable convoy with many carriages, has only one track – and in the end it only leads collectively down into the abyss.
So if “freedom means not having to give in to every thought within me”, then it is better to leave the station building in good spirits and – instead of the one unforgiving track – to see the many other paths that exist outside of it, and to be attentive afresh at every crossroads to discover whether something is really going to happen as we would expect.


* Quote by Mehmet Murat İldan, Turkish author and P.E.N. Member

¹ Polyfidelity is a form of polyamorous non-monogamy in which all members are considered equal partners and agree to extend sexual or romantic activity only to other members of the group. Polyfidelic relationships are ‘closed’ in the sense that those involved can agree not to have sexual or romantic intimacy with anyone who is not part of the relationship. For example, new members may be accepted into the group with the unanimous consent of the existing members, or the group may not be interested in further expansion at all.

² Couple privilege: When an existing couple first explores the idea of polyamory, it can be very tempting to try to retain as many elements of monogamy as possible. The solution, which seems obvious and immediately comes to mind for many, is to find a bisexual woman who has sex with both members of the couple in a faithful threesome relationship. If both have sex with the same person, no one will be jealous, right? If you are faithful and no one is having sex with anyone else, you don’t have to worry about your partner having sex with the whole world, do you? And of course it’s a woman – bisexuality in women is hot, but bisexuality in men is kind of gross, right?
Such legendary bi-women are called “unicorns” and the 1,872,453014 couples looking for them are called “unicorn hunters”. The idea of looking for a unicorn seems perfectly reasonable – but it’s based on a lot of expectations that privilege the existing relationship, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Why? Because almost no thought was ever given to the needs of the ‘unicorn’. She was not part of the conversation – and how could she be? After all, most of the time you haven’t even met her. Deciding in advance what the rules of a relationship are is disempowering. Most importantly, there was usually no thought given to the fact that by demanding this, the original couple relationship becomes hierarchic superior to the relationship with the “unicorn”. The couple determines how much space the “unicorn” is allowed to occupy in the overall relationship.
Privilege is an insidious thing; it is very difficult to think about giving your own existing relationships a bunch of unearned advantages when you are not even aware of what those advantages are. (Text after Franklin Veaux “So What Is Couple Privilege, Anyway?“)

³ Faun: Sieben” from their album “Totem”, 2007; link to lyrics

Thanks again to Scott Peck and his great book “A Different Drum: Community Making and Peace” (Simon & Schuster, 1987) ISBN 978-0-684-84858-7
and thanks to Thanh Công Tử on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 74

Indivisible – or: Amidst it all

There’s that old joke about the Zen master at the snack bar who, when asked how many sandwiches he’d like and what their toppings should be, replies, “One with all!”

Which is a beautiful and very oligoamorous answer, as I would like to confirm in this Entry due to recent events – and thereby dedicate my article at the same time to the Buddhist monk, writer and non-violent communicator Thích Nhất Hạnh, who passed away on January 22nd this year.

Because also in January of this year I was once again entangled in one of my explain-brain conversations about Oligo- and Polyamory, which – alas!– was met with only limited appreciation by my counterpart. My interlocutor had listened to my approach to ethical multiple relationships for a while, but finally spoke: “Personally, in a lonely hour, I could perhaps imagine having two men for myself at once, dancing to my tune. But to share even with one (or even more) other women would be unthinkable for me.”

As I do not usually act as a missionary in such matters and grant every human being the right to his*her own opinion in these matters, some time later I smilingly dealt again with this statement on my own – which after all contains some grave indicators of how we still often enough think about our own value, the significance of other people, the specific purpose of relationships and our standing in the world at large. And frighteningly, for the most part, this is still rather violent, as the communication expert Marshall Rosenberg would probably have analysed.
So at this point I could be prompted to remark that it would belong to the very core of ethical multiple relationships never to regard other people as a resource which one needed to seize in order to have them completely “for oneself”. Or that you should never assign the task of “Siri” or “Alexa” to your loved ones in order to have them “dance to your tune”.
In the same way I could also say amusedly that already since the 5th century before Christ in ancient Greece considerations developed that there certainly had to be things in the universe which are “atomic”, which means indivisible. Among which I would count healthy human personalities on the whole. And here on this bLog I have already mentioned that we humans indeed should share several things with each other (e.g. according to Gerald Hüther in Entry 4: our food, our habitat, our attention, our strength, our knowledge, our ability, our experience). Our very “self” on the other hand, there I have always taken a very clear position within my Oligoamory: That should always be as “whole” as possible – and each of our loved ones should be able to depend on experiencing ourselves as “complete”, 100% present and fully invested.

In the upper statement of my former dialogue partner, therefore, also the fear can be heard which so often accompanies thoughts about multiple person constellations in matters of love: to vanish as a valued individual in such a relationship-mingle, to get lost out of beloved eyes, to fall victim to interchangeability and arbitrariness. And with it also the apprehension to become a kind of “resource” oneself, which may contribute to all-round well-being and sunshine if required – but is thrown back alone and into darkness in case of own woe.

And this fear is not absurd or far-fetched. In Entry26, I quote the Swiss relationship researcher and coach Daniel Hess as well as the anthropologist Jean Liedloff, who call this contemporary phenomenon our everyday “reality of separation”. Because in our “normal lives” we all still very predominantly experience that matters are supposed to exist distinctly separated from each other. Yes, “have to” exist like this in order to avoid an elusive, somehow irregular vagueness. This applies to concepts, to property, hierarchies, and thus also relationships. “This” or “that,” “mine” or “yours” – the importance of these categories determines our existence in Western industrial nations from childhood on.
Clever minds like Daniel Hess or Jean Liedloff, however, would like to remind us that these categories are thoroughly artificial, man-made divisions – and that they do not contribute to our well-being in the long run. On the contrary, this artificially constructed “reality of separation” keeps us from our authenticity, from fearlessness, from genuinely assuming responsibility for our lives, indeed, from our full dignity as human beings.
“Division” and “separation” are thus the crutches by which we drag ourselves through our daily lives – eventually through a self-created maze of grey cul-de-sacs.

“Wholeness” would therefore be the much healthier goal – that is, becoming whole et least – or “being” whole at last. The point is to achieve a state of greatest possible contentedness, which I also wish to bring about with my oligoamorous relationships.
Yet we are often afraid of it because we are quick to believe that the price of wholeness might be this very dreaded “getting lost.”
In this respect, the Lebanese-US philosopher and poet Khalil Gibran once wrote the following text¹:

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.


Stirring words, to which I would like to say, applied to ethical multiple relationships: It is not a matter of drowning in a tangled thicket of relationships, but rather – once we have decided to do so – to wear our relationship philosophy inside out, to access it for ourselves and to inhabit it like a second skin, to embrace it every day with our whole being.

So we are supposed – in a way – to “be” our relationships? How would such a thing be even remotely possible?
To accomplish this, we have to think our way out of our self-constructed reality of separation – and in my view, no one has expressed this better so far than the Buddhist wisdom teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh mentioned at the beginning of this article.

For the corresponding mindset, he coined the term “inter-being”, which I would rather translate as “being in the midst of” or “being in the midst of” instead of “being in between”.
The term is an approximation of the Vietnamese words tiep hien. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book “Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism” (Parallax Press, 1987) that tiep means “to be in contact with” and “to proceed”. Hien means “to realize” and “to do it here and now”.
Indeed, a fundamental Buddhist teaching called Pratityasamutpada, or “dependent arising,” states that all phenomena are interdependent.
The essence of this view is that nothing has an independent existence ( in agreement with which I already contradict Osho in Entry 8). Whatever exists comes into being because of factors and conditions created by other phenomena.
Thích Nhất Hạnh devoted his whole life to Mahayana Buddhism, in particular to a school of thought that is called Madhyamika – in a sense the “middle way” – and which is mainly concerned with the nature of existence.
The Madhyamika states that nothing has an intrinsic, permanent self-nature. Instead, all phenomena – including beings (and, of course all people) – are temporary confluences of conditions that take identity as individual things from their relationship to other things.

Complicated? In Entry 57, I choose a baby rattle as a symbol for this synergy – Barbara O’Brien, an expert on Zen Buddhism, chooses a plain wooden table to illustrate this:
»It is an assembly of parts. If we take it apart piece by piece, at what point does it stop being a table? If you think about it, this is a completely subjective perception. For example, one person might assume that there is no longer a table as soon as it can no longer be used as a table; another person, on the other hand, might look at the pile of wooden parts and still recognize the table in it: “That’s just a disassembled table…”
The point is that the mere arrangement of the parts doesn’t actually have an independent table-nature; it’s a table because we think it is one. “Table” is in our minds. A species other than us might recognize in the collection of parts food or a hiding place or merely something to mark territory.«
²

In his book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness” (Beacon Press, 1975), Thích Nhất Hạnh wrote that “people intentionally cut reality into different compartments and are therefore unable to recognize the interdependence of all phenomena. In other words, because we think of ‘reality’ as a lot of discrete objects, we don’t consider how they actually interconnect.
But when we perceive interbeing, we see that not only is everything interconnected; we see that all is one and one is all. We are ourselves, but at the same time we are all each other.”


Thích Nhất Hạnh’s wisdom – or rather his clever Buddhist interpretation of these over 800-year-old ideas – is thus in excellent company, by the way:
Not only in that of my favourite early modern philosopher Anthony Ashley Cooper in Entry 64, who for his part stated during the 17th century in an almost ecological manner that “a single being as a ‘private system’ is always likewise integrated into ‘more comprehensive systems’, whereby the systems support one another and thus stand to each other and likewise to the totality in a relationship of all-round beneficial interaction.”
But also in that of Mahatma Gandhi‘s famous reverse conclusion: “You and I are one: I cannot hurt you without hurting myself” (first quoted here in Entry 54).
However, equally in quite modern contexts such as that of Holism (Entry 57), which states that “natural systems or even non-natural, e.g. social systems and their properties are to be considered as a whole and not merely as a composition of their parts, and therefore could not be fully understood from the interaction of all their individual parts, and that the determination of the individual parts depends on their functional role in the whole” (definition Wikipedia Germany).
Or likewise – to arrive completely in our cutting-edge present time – in accordance with the theory of complex-adaptive systems, which are indispensable for computer and AI research. Which exactly are considered complex because they consist of several interrelated elements and that they are adaptive by showing a particular capacity to adjust to their environment – thereby demonstrating the ability to learn from experience.
A cybernetics scientist would probably also include emergence (the possibility of the formation of new properties or structures of a system as a result of the interaction of its elements) and self-organization in this context, which brings us unexpectedly back…
…to the dance floor of multiple relationships, on which, in turn, social scientists attest the greatest sustainability to precisely THOSE communities and relationships that prove to be heterogeneous (= diverse), adaptive, willing to learn, cooperative and mutually supportive.

“Wholeness” or becoming whole are thus absolutely no detached esoteric or merely spiritual concepts. Becoming whole means the greatest possible integration ( involvement) in the sense of the community researcher Scott Peck, who already wrote in 1984:
“Integration does not mean equalizing; it does not result in an overcooked stew. Rather, it can be compared to a salad dish whose individual ingredients retain their identity, only to be highlighted when combined.” ³

So our favourite people, our loved ones and we, we never exist separately, we intentionally form a common whole; their needs are also our needs, from their well-being ours emerges. Or to say it again similar to David Mitchell in his Cloud Atlas : “By every kindness we create our common future with each other.” One with all – and in the midst of it.



¹ Khalil Gibran: “Sand and Foam, Selected Poems”, 1926

² Thanks to Barbara O’Brien; expert on Zen Buddhism and her “Rethinking Religion”-Project, by which she contributed much to my understanding of a complex philosophy.

³ Scott Peck: The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace (Simon & Schuster, 1987) ISBN 978-0-684-84858-7

Thanks to Alex Alvarez on Unsplash for the picture!

Entry 73

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!

Entry 72

Fresh out of the pan…*

Our journey through 2021 is coming to an end, so I would like to dedicate my last entry this year to two oligoamorous impulses that I have gained through both my mono-amorous and poly-amorous relationship experiences.

Already in Entry 29 I say what I would almost like to write on every page of my bLog instead of my long Entries, if this could be enough as an essence: “Lead good relationships!”.

And I am convinced that, strictly speaking, this simple imperative is decisive for every form of trusting, heartfelt personal interaction – no matter how many people are sitting together in the respective relationship-boat in the end.

Always careful whom you share your men with…

Most of my readers, like me, probably hail from the “old world of Mono-amory” – and that’s probably where they, too, picked up their first relationship skills.
Thus, at this point, I therefore would like to take up the cudgels for this customary convention.
Because as far as the level of intensity is concerned, there is probably no more pervasive arrangement than that of two people in a 1:1 situation.
Yes, all right – I have heard your thoughts: “…but for better or worse…” – and I also agree with that. But today, perhaps, let us also look upon “better”.

After all, the “romantic dyadic relationship” (= between only two people) is still such a marketable glamour-model because it does not advertise an agreement (which it is in essence!), but an ideal (which it is as well !).
But when it comes to ideals – which I also appreciate very much in my Oligoamory – that’s one of those things… We love the heroic and radiant moments that such a narrative promises – but we are good at ignoring (or at least downplaying…) the necessities that come with it and even more the inevitability of routine that sets in medium term.

However, when agreement and ideal meet, then a relationship between two people can, in a sense, represent the epitome of the emotional contract I so often cite on my bLog: A shared savouring of the totality of the voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed.
This – let it melt on your tongue! – is already a lot, tremendously much, and a promise of mutual happiness, well-being and security (including predictability) for those involved.
Potentiated with the romantic motive of the “voluntarily performed self-sacrifice for the sake of the community (here: the relationship – for more details see Entry 34)”, the enormous radiance of such a promise is, so to speak, unsurpassable.

Romantic cover-up, wishful dream glued together with pink cotton candy, reality-defying soap(opera)-bubble?
I want to tell you that I have experienced (and experience every day!) all that I have written in the above paragraph exactly like this in my dyadic relationships.

The investment and commitment of my partners in and towards me was and is gigantic at all times. And completely non-self-evident.
The degree of cooperation, consideration, dedication, devotion, affection, attentiveness, inclusion, yes, involvement (Entry 53), which I have received especially in my long-term relationships, definitely exceeds any scope of common everyday business – and certainly any acclaimed performance level of every otherwise earthly transaction experience.

“Huh, Oligotropos is now comparing his loved ones to mere service providers…?”
Yes, correct, I am doing that to some degree in this way – precisely to show that there must be some sublime metaphysical component involved here that is not present in any other form of interpersonal agreement – which is love.
“Love” which tangibly proves to me in every little everyday gesture of accommodation by my favourite person: I am seen, I am obviously significant concerning the self-image of my counterpart, I thereby experience appreciation for my own self due to my inalienable intrinsic value [which is recognized and appreciated by the other person, oh bliss!], therefore I can dedicate myself here with trust and may further build upon it.

What I have just formulated is indeed SO much need¹ coverage to a human mind that some dangers can arise from this abundance itself.
One is the now well-documented phenomenon known as the “law of diminishing marginal returns,” which the behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman analysed extensively back in 2000² . We all know the phenomenon better as a variation of the “force of habit”, when we no longer consider something positive as special because we experience it on a regular basis. Surveys proved, that even an increase of positivity quickly soon led to a diminishing effect of recurring habituation – and, as we all know, this is not only an economic dilemma, but a real emotional challenge for any close relationship.
Indeed, on the proverbial ” ill days” of our relationships, this makes it too easy to accept the “totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed” in our relationship either as an implicitness, an end in itself, or just as profane barter (quid pro quo). And even an (one-sided) effort at positive improvement will all too quickly lead to renewed habituation to whatever is offered.
It is exactly this dilemma that makes many couple therapists rich, since particularly in this critical situation, a mere two-person relationship is often too constricted for its participants to step back far enough on their own to be able to independently recover the inner richness of their companionship. Here, in fact, polyamorous multiple partnerships often have an advantage, because precisely the dynamics of a multi-person constellation with its – simply due to the diversity of those involved – differently pronounced view of the “common core” will not so easily take the “overall well-being” for granted, as can happen with just two people who, already wedged nose-to-nose, abruptly suspect their invested self-interest is on sale.

And this very same “dark side” regarding the “property preservation of the comfort zone” also leads to all the extreme upsurges of e.g. jealousy or envy, if the attempt of opening up a two-person relationship is dared.
All advice literature is full of admonitions about opening up monogamous relationships only when internal conditions are completely stabilized and there is a high degree of mutual agreement – but never to let in the famous “breath of fresh air” when some discontent is already lurking at the edges of the board.
Because: The internal “emotional contract” of a relationship between just two people is almost always a somewhat delicate matter, in that this is usually a subtly balanced and entwined interrelatedness of not always consciously contributed and “enjoyed” elements.
Being a former monoamorist myself, I don’t find that all too objectionable, by the way. Yes, true, unconsciousness is certainly never a helpful quality – and Mono-amory would also benefit from more consciously and fully transparently established relationships. However, since Mono-amory is anyway tailored to only two possible participants, the “all-or-nothing” nature of its conception at this point allows for a possible degree of, um…, lightheartedness, entrusting any unconsciously submitted risk potentials to the resilience of the emerging relationship (which was admittedly awkward – but at the same time also tremendously attractive to the mono-model for centuries…). The result is in any case that well-known dyadic tandem, where two worlds are merged in such a way with each other, that course, speed and stability will inevitably go to the weal as well as to the woe of both riders, whereby on the one hand the intensity of the spent internal synchronization – but on the other hand also the mutual dependency – can become very high.
If now such an arrangement is opened up to new participants, it will inevitably lead to an experience of displacement and asymmetry.
The higher the unconscious parts of compensatory nature (e.g. because of suffered deficiencies during childhood or socialization) are, the higher these displacements are experienced as painful shearing forces regarding one’s own need coverage. In fact, from my point of view, envy (Entry 59) and jealousy (Entry 36) always bring up the perturbing question concerning one’s own “inalienable intrinsic value” (see above).
So if an upcoming (multiple) relationship constellation is experienced primarily as a drain on resources and not as a “community of gain” with a re-established emotional centre of “a totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which are reciprocally contributed” – then the initially perhaps only “felt” shear forces will soon gain the upper hand in a very real way and cause suffering to all involved up to the point relationship-breakup.

So, as I wrote in the last entry, Poly-amory (and of course Oligoamory) need all of the above at any rate : an agreement by (self)commitment, common ideals AND love – and the latter by all and for all involved, if the whole thing is to sustain a future perspective.

Which, in fact, already brings me to my experiences via Polyamory.
When I think about these in more detail, I believe I am struck most impressively by how much I have learned that one should never try to model relationships after one another according to a certain personal “feel-good” pattern.
For some this may sound like a truism – or others might think that this lesson can be experienced very well in serial monogamy either.
In a sense, I agree with that – at the same time, it’s exactly the actual multi-person constellation again that is the best insurance against routinised self-sabotage.
“Every relationship is unique”, sure, another truism, ha, – how should it be possible to make them alike…?
And yet this danger exists when “we” are exactly one of the reference points of our close relationships on each occasion – and strive every time to incorporate our own “need recognition” into them as well. This is because our “need recognition” drags along on a kind of virtual tow-line our above-mentioned “comfort zone”, where convenience and pleasant habit can instigate us to try whether we couldn’t set up another similarly constituted familiarity-refuge for ourselves… Even our brains, about which we know since Entry 25 that they would like to experience nothing better than as much as possible comparable coherence (consistency / sense of connection), can become almost overzealous accomplices to our weaker self here.
Well, but there would still be the respective loved ones in their diversity, which, as far as “cooperation, consideration, dedication, devotion, affection, attentiveness, inclusion, and involvement” are concerned, would be – individual by individual – entirely differently positioned.
By which, however, we would make things a little bit too easy for ourselves, especially if we were to shift the responsibility entirely to the hemisphere of our loved ones, to lure us out of our harmony-seeking comfort-zone uniformity. Because at the same time they would regularly experience the (right!) impression to work against some invisible pushback on our side – while we are actually striving in the enterprise to add them for their part as a pretty keystone into our very own comfort closet.
No, multiple relationships never allow such neat manipulations for very long, until they are soon brought up to the table.
Which to me is one of the most wonderful features of ethical non-monogamy.
Because no matter how I want to twist and turn it, the insularity and being-encapsulated-in-each-other of a two-person configuration is no longer possible here. So in a way, I’m definitely more exposed – does that inevitably mean I have to live with some loss of safety and familiarity in Poly-/Oligoamory?

I don’t think so. Because if love is involved, it means that I am seen, I am obviously of importance for the self-image of my counterpart, I thereby experience appreciation for my own self due to my inalienable intrinsic value [which is recognized and appreciated by several other people, oh bliss!], therefore I can dedicate myself here with trust and may further build upon it.
Ethical and sustainable, as well as love-based multiple relationships unfold their grandest potential at this point:
I am important to several people and therefore I am seen by them – but it is highly unlikely that they all refer to the same aspect of mine.
Several people express that I have meaning for their self-image and that I am a part of their lives – but very different lives and biographies, of which I may now be a valuable, contributing element.
My “inalienable intrinsic value” is valued at the highest by several people – and that means the greatest of all in the matter: That my intrinsic value must be extremely versatile and multifaceted, perhaps even greater than I am capable of perceiving myself at the moment.
In this way, the gift of ethical multiple partnerships comes to me once again in a very festive way: to be more than the sum of the parts.
The danger of succumbing to a lullaby comfort zone, which I therefore might at some point consider as the appropriate standard that I am entitled to every day, is thus also significantly reduced. In the book of my life, every day new pages can be surprisingly revealed by my loved ones, pages that I would perhaps rather not have touched myself. Thus, sometimes it will cost me courage to see myself as the main character on these pages…
But as the legendary Chinese philosopher Laozi knew already in the sixth century B.C.: “Great love makes a person brave.”
And so I myself very likely will also feel the desire to explore this versatile and multifaceted person, which I obviously am in the eyes of my loved ones, and to appreciate and unfold it more and more thoroughly on my part.
Which is probably what the French writer Marcel Proust already felt in equal measure when he noted in his epic novel In Search of Lost Time :

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy. They are kind gardeners who make our souls bloom.”



*Refers to a line in the 1970 song Sweet Gingerbread Man with music by Michel Legrand and lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. Prominent performers were Sammy Davis Jr., Sarah Vaughan and the Muppets 😉

¹ When I speak of need on this bLog (my regular readers know), I always refer to its use as a personality trait according to humanistic psychology, e.g. as defined by A. Maslow, C. Alderfer and M. Rosenberg.

² Kahnemann, D., Experienced utility and objective happiness: A moment-based approach. In: Kahnemann, D. and Tversky, A. – „Choices, Values and Frames“, New York 2000

Thanks to Oriol Portell on Unsplash for the ginger crowd!

Entry 71

Concerning Polyamory

In this Entry I would like to talk once again about Polyamory – which is, after all, in a way the godmother of my “Oligo”-amory”.
Why does Polyamory exist and why do we want to be polyamorous?

When I read through the flurry in the media on- and offline, as well while browsing through all the different discussion forums on the subject from Instagram via Facebook (or here) to BmorePoly, it seems to me that the term Polyamory primarily continues to serve the purpose of describing any promiscuous ring-around-the-rosy with more than two participants. And to draw, on the one hand, almost all its fascination from this – but also, on the other hand, all the resulting interpersonal drama.

That makes me sad. And angry. Because Polyamory is actually so much more. Even this little “actually” is not an appeasingly restrictive phrase, but very deliberately chosen by me, because the word “actually” means “as a matter of fact, really, in truth” – in other words: “belonging to the essence of its genuineness” (says Etymonline…).

So what is it that is “genuine” to Polyamory, that belongs to its innermost essence?
These seem to me to be three aspects in particular, all of which are usually thrown out like the proverbial baby with the bathwater – and which are almost immediately forgotten as soon as people plunge themselves into a multi-person romp under the fig leaf of “Polyamory”.

As a bLogger who is dedicated to the topic of committed-sustainable, and above all ethical multiple relationships, it is my concern to once again underline those three essential cores of Polyamory that I have identified, since , in my view, by their presence or absence, the whole construct will inevitably stand or fall.

As far as I am concerned, the three ingredients that are absolutely inseparable and interact together in a polyamorous relationship are: idealism, pragmatism and love. Or – for those who consider this too educational or too abstract – unselfishness, suitability for everyday life and appreciative attachment.
The immanence of these three core components of polyamory are not, in my opinion, a “steep thesis” – in fact, I say that no person can seriously use the label “Polyamory” for themselves who tries to establish any multiple relationship arrangement outside their context.

Why am I so seemingly strict in this regard and how do I come to my presumption of such supposed interpretive sovereignty?
Precisely by reminding myself once again toward what goals polyamory once primarily aimed at, what impulses motivated the people who conceived and implemented it in the first place, what vision of the world and of our life in this world shaped its original “DNA“, so to speak.

In my Entry 49 on the “History of Oligoamory” I honour the circle of people around the visionaries, authors, and neo-pagans Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, the former of whom initially coined the word “polyamorous“.
At its time this act was not done on a whim or out of fancifulness, but astonishingly, first and foremost out of clamant pragmatism.
“Necessity”, they say, “is the mother of invention” – and it is very often the case that certain questions – even of an ideological nature – usually only really impose themselves to be solved when there is an acute need for action. This was also the case with the people around the Zell-Ravenhearts, who – after intensive periods of deeply trusting, highly self-honest and self-revealing psychological as well as spiritual group work – were eventually confronted with the fact that loving relationships had begun to form within the group between participants who were not necessarily already devoted to each other in a social(ly sanctioned) connection – or who were rather either even in a relationship with other people inside the community OR in fact with completely different people outside the group.
To “cope” with such circumstances, even in the 1990s the well-established options of serial monogamy, secrecy/betrayal or “open relationship” would have been available – but the Zell-Ravenhearts chose of all things (the new-found) Polyamory…

I would therefore like to dwell for a moment precisely on the pragmatism that actually set the ball rolling in the first place: practicality, feasibility and suitability for everyday life are never small nuts to crack. No outcome of coalition-talks or any climate debate would be purposeful without this kind of being dragged out into the “hard light of reality” – indeed, even more so: wouldn’t be viable in the long run. In other words, feasibility in the form of viability for everyday life as well as a resilient long-term perspective were among the most important parameters of “Polyamory” from the very beginning.
Which, in my interpretation, never aimed at the facilitation of short-term playmate interactions, mere weekend affairs or workshop liaisons, but rather toward the desire as well as the self-commitment to be able (and allowed!) to establish the gift of multiple love into fully-fledged, entitled and functional relationships in the midst of the lives of those involved [see also Entry 45 on the “Wonderful Ordinariness of Being”]. “Fully-fledged”, “entitled” and “functional” thus immediately mean, of course, openness (yes, also publicness) and honesty, as well as eye level and participation of all involved. And it means commitment and liability to contribute to the overall functioning – meaning to the sustainability – of the relationship as a whole, with the full programme of agreements, the establishment of mutual understanding and also the occasional self-sacrifice.
By which “pragmatism” seems to be the “stale bread share” of Polyamory…. But without the reality check based on the “stale bread share”, there also won’t be a “cake share” of a truly mutual relationship that is regarded by all parties as a trusting, secure and predictable venture in which all can experience themselves as valued contributors on account of their inherent value.

About “idealism” in Polyamory, I have probably written the most on this bLog – being an idealist myself. An idealism that I have translated above as “unselfishness”….
So if you want to call yourself “polyamorous”, what kind of “mindset” would I wish you to have?
The aforementioned Zell-Ravenhearts had filled themselves to the brim, so to speak, with idealistic content by the time “polyamory” was formulated as a way of life by them.
These people were concerned with nothing less than a new world – a new approach and a renewed way of interacting with everything that is contained in the cosmos.
As pragmatists – which they were at the same time as capable philosophers – they applied such idealism as a priority and virtually from the beginning to themselves: Concepts such as “non-violence”, “awareness-raising”, “integration”, “engagement”, “taking responsibility” and “commitment” should not remain mere theoretical ideas gathering dust in some cloud cuckoo land. By using the approach of Maslow‘s “self-actualisation” mentioned in Entry 49, these courageous people strove to become “a little bit more the best version of themselves” every day. Dishonesty, intransparency, egoism, ruthlessness, unawareness and declaring oneself as not responsible were no longer options that they wanted to take with them into that new world of equal dignity, empowerment and acceptance.
So when suddenly the fact of extended loving relationships created out of trust and togetherness became a reality, the only option was to anchor their feasibility and livability within the same high ethical ambition that was meant to be the guiding principle for thinking, speaking and acting in all other aspects.
Since the Zell-Ravenhearts, through their own group work approach, had thereby pursued both individual (i.e. focused on the self) and collective (i.e. focused on the group, the common) goals, another component merged almost unnoticed into Polyamory: The multiplication of resources and all-round welfare, which I regularly refer to on this bLog as the emergence of “more than the sum of the parts”.
In my own experience, it is precisely this supra-individual overall benefit that is one of the most meaningful effects of successful Polyamory, which is why I also synonymise idealism with ” unselfishness” in the introduction: If we succeed in no longer taking ourselves as individuals quite so seriously by following an ideal as a guiding star, then we embark – regardless of whether we will ever achieve it completely or not – on the famous “path of the greatest possible courage”, on which we can grow beyond ourselves. In particular, because in doing so we bow at the same time to the realisation that nothing in the universe truly exists “separately” from one another and that we therefore, as consciousness-possessing human beings – and even more so as lovers – have a special responsibility for everything around us.

Which brings me to the third core component, which has even made it into the word “Polyamory”: Love.
Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux (the authors of what is still to me the greatest Polyamory guidebook “More Than Two” ¹ – who have meanwhile unfortunately fallen out with each other, precisely because they did not adhere to the most important rule they themselves had formulated for Polyamory “Don’t be an asshole!”…) called love in their book “the great clarifier of values” [see also Entry 64 on “Meaningful relationships”].
And, oh yes, it is, because without it all that which I have so beautifully compiled above about pragmatism and idealism would only be pretty – but ultimately lifeless – piecemeal.
By love, however, I don’t mean “making love” which is always too easily read into it – this stuffy, Anglicised euphemism for sexual activity from the late 1940s ² [I mean, really!!! Who seriously says “Come on, let’s make love…” anymore???]. That is why I do not primarily refer it to eroticism, lust, desire and passion (although I consider the presence of these aspects in love matters to be a possibly profitable contribution…).
No, above I equate “love” rather with “appreciative attachment”. This “super-concentrate” of such a complex topic as “love” has accompanied me since I first received the very plausible indicators for it from the psychologists Cohen, Underwood and Gottlieb in Entry 14, that we are a) being understood, validated and cared for because b) we matter to the self-concption of our loving partners, thereby c) being able to have resilient confidence in our acceptance while d) perceiving esteem for our own core-selves because of our inalienable intrinsic worth.
Appreciative attachment, ok, I can certainly experience that during the course of a hot night of passion too. For our lives, for our daily present – and thus for the far greater part of our (seemingly) mundane hours – it is, in my view, even more significant if we are able to recognise this appreciative attachment in the supposedly “small things” and to realize it’s meant for us: Who fetches me the nasal spray from the pharmacy in November without being asked, who lovingly and relentlessly sees the children off to school, who stays with me – even when I’m in a bad mood and not very entertaining, for whom do I wash the favourite shirt one load faster, who drives to work every day and earns money for our community, who visits my querulous mother with me, whose dog have I deflead – even though I never wanted a dog, who calls me “super sweetheart”, who do I pick up at 2 a.m. in some godforsaken place, who tells me about the feelings of abandonment as a teenager when the beloved grandpa died?
Love is thus for me the great bond that ultimately connects and holds together any overall package of pragmatism and idealism. Entry by Entry (most recently Entry 69), I keep bringing up the “Emotional Contract” behind every (loving) relationship, which is about the “implied acknowledgement and agreement – as a result of a mutually established emotional close-knit relationship – regarding the totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed and are potentially enjoyable by all parties involved”. At first glance, this sounds very sober, very much like the “stale bread share” I mentioned when I spoke about pragmatism. But it also contains all the promises of shared togetherness, familiarity and intimacy. However, it is precisely because of “love” as the bond and wrapping of such an arrangement that it becomes obvious that we are not invested in it because we are obliged to for better or worse, but because we WANT it again and again from the bottom of our hearts and with the deepest conviction.

Those who are not yet convinced may apply a “negative checklist” – and define one of the mentioned components out of a supposedly polyamorous situation:
A relationship that is sustained by love and also idealistically unselfish – but without a pragmatic component? Will be a spatio-temporal flame that never gets a real “seat in the life” of the participants. May last for quite a while through that certain exclusive sparkle, but never lose that tarnished veil of deniability and non-commitment.
So rather pragmatic, practical, full of love, but without ideals? Even such self-denial can be maintained for a while…. However, such a connection will most likely run out of love one day. Either because all those involved have finally become as similar to each other as the proverbial dog owners are to their dogs – or because, due to a lack of impulses for further development, a paralysing boredom has at some point taken hold of all the occupants who are still clinging on. Or it blows up very quickly – on the day when most of the participants realise that all are actually striving by inward urge for completely different things.
And a union – both pragmatic and idealistic – but without love? Our grandparents probably called it a “laundry-and- potato-agreement”. Or a “relationship of reason”. In any case, our hearts will remain cold in it, standing longingly in the rain with collars turned up on a draughty bridge. Which is a guarantee of premature ageing and withering – unless you were possibly a narcissist benefiting from such an arrangement, drawing your energy from exploiting others in such a system without contributing a shred of true affection yourself….

All three negative tests, unfortunately, I have encountered far more frequently on the “polyamorous” continent than the fascinating, mutually beneficial way of life the concept was once composed to be: A blueprint to ensure consensual, fully transparent, consistently sincere, committed-reliable multi-person loving relationships designed for everyday suitability, whose inner space is given the potential for self-development both for the individuals involved and for the collectivity or the relationship as a whole through resource networking and all-round participation.

And therefore I, Oligotropos, reject the use of the term “polyamorous” as a (self-)designation for all those persons and states of desire, which thereby above all want to describe that with more than one further person some predominantly erotic context is shared. Especially because I believe that in this way the potential as well as the origin and application backgrounds of the thus presented relationship philosophy are ignored, disregarded or, at worst, deliberately obscured.³




¹ Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert: More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical polyamory; Thorntree Press; 1. Edition (1. September 2014)

² By the way, the term “make love” has been around for quite some time, it just meant something different for most of its existence. When, for example, in Jane Austen‘s novel Pride and Prejudicethe phrase “he made love to all of us” was used in the original text in 1813, it did not imply a mass orgy, but simply amicable behaviour in a social setting.

³ Why I, as the author of this bLog, relocated my ambitions from Poly- to Oligoamory I explain among other things in detail in Entry 2.

Thanks to congerdesign on pixabay.com for the photo!

Entry 70

Undetected leitmotif*…

“Polyamory isn’t for me. If I want to disappoint two people at the same time, I’ll visit my parents.”
This sentence I read last month in a forum about different types of relationships – and I have probably never seen a more terrible confession regarding the attitude towards multiple relationships.

Whereby “terrible” is of course again a highly subjective choice of words on my part. I could also have written “enlightening” or “interesting” – because according to the “Four-sides model” of the German communication psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, every message contains a self-revelation, which first and foremost unveils something about the person speaking.

And thus the above statement is also immediately contextually far less hair-raising than it might appear at first glance. Rather, it speaks volumes once again of how much we – confronted with multiple relationship patterns (or even thoughts thereof!) – very quickly see ourselves in emotional spheres of family constellations. Above all, however, probably if we have experienced asymmetries there in our biography with regard to claims, entitlement, trust or belonging.

For a mammal like Homo sapiens, its own small human bunch is the most primordial and first learning space in terms of family relationships (as “familiar” still means “well-known/trusted”). And this is not only about the positioning of one’s own “self ” in such a structure or the development of individuality. Because inseparably connected with this, a developing being also perceives all dynamics of internal relationships IN such a (family) structure, which gradually will form a repertoire of own (possible) roles and role reaction patterns.

Unfortunately (especially when it came to negative experiences) we were not mere spectators of such happenings. The supposed spectacle was often literally too close to us. And not only when we ourselves were directly affected, e.g. by a fearful, dismissive or preoccupied attachment style of our parents (e.g. Entry 14). Just as often, we certainly had a possibly unavoidably uncomfortable front row seat to dramas that played out between our parents, between any siblings – and our parents – or we were again directly affected when it came to resonances between existing siblings and us.
Especially in nuclear families, as we have mostly formed them since the beginning of modern times, conflicts arising from this often presented themselves – despite several parties possibly involved – as merely two-sided affairs, in which the focus was not infrequently on “being right” or ultimately only about “winning” (the latter also readily secured by an allocation of “blame”).

Such “two-sided affairs” have, moreover, most probably also accompanied later all those readers into their monogamous relationships (i.e. me as well) who have not from the beginning entered into a multiple relationship consisting of several equally positioned partners [and to this group I would like to apologize a bit here, because I can indeed not contribute so much about their basic relationship patterns from my own non-experience].

In my opinion, the seduction of carelessly agreed and unconsciously executed monogamy (and from my point of view this concerns more than 90% of all monogamous arrangements) even consists precisely in the fact that it favours “win-lose” situations¹ in case of conflict – by the only permitted concession of only two participants – and thereby nonetheless ensures continued operability. In other words, one of them gets its way – and the other one backs down for the sake of peace (meaning: in order not to jeopardize the overall performance).

Accordingly, when I read a sentence today in which someone equates a multiple relationship with the relationship to one’s own family, I immediately and involuntarily think of the image of a family table with a tablecloth on it that is too small, which it is pulled by two ends in such a way that it is a matter of one party trying to cover its side of the table nicely – at the expense of another party (which is also tugging at the cloth), which in the end should not and cannot succeed – and which in the last consequence will thus also look stupid and literally “exposed”, so to speak.

Especially all those experiences in which we have ever perceived ourselves of being “on the losing side” in such a way have thus contributed to a kind of “inner registry” that the psychologist Dr. Verena Kast calls “resentment” in my Jealousy-Entry 36. To repeat: “resentment” (from French re-sentir) – a repeated re-experiencing of an internalized, generalized conflictual experience that is emotionally emphasized and linked to a particular relationship theme
The ugly thing about “resentments” here is that they create in us, so to speak, a sort of ever-present “emotional preserve”: I disappointed my parents once when I was 17 (maybe I chose a different education than they wanted and wasn’t supported), I disappointed them when I was 25 (raised eyebrows when I chose where to live, there were hardly any visits…) – and if I will meet them tomorrow, I’m sure to disappoint them all over again by some means (even if I’m 48 now and they’re almost 80…).
The idea of being in an intimate relationship with two (or more) people can then quickly be perceived as similarly stressful: Then I would have (e.g.) two favourite people in my life…, …certainly I could never satisfy both of them…, ….both would make me feel that in their own way (negatively) for sure…, …that is something I don’t want to experience any more.
Objectively, the two situations are not related in time or occasion: But our resentments do not care, because our brain can involuntarily switch the setting with them due to their “generalized” (see above) – i.e. simplified/schema-like – nature.

Resentments, therefore, make use of our fears in the sense that they evoke “re-experiencing moments” when we have “already once” suffered an (approximately similar) defeat or exposure.

While talking about exposure…. A few days ago I had a fascinating dream that seems to me to fit well with today’s topic.
In the dream I was naked with several equally naked people of different sexes in a kind of oversized, waterless shower tub (and no, I never attend either Tantra or Bodywork seminars 😉 ). The other “occupants” of the shower tub seemed to be engaged with each other in some sort of activity – that much was clear – but whether this was merely an intense conversation or even sexual activity apparently didn’t matter to the dream, it remained insignificantly blurred. I, meanwhile, had at my side a likewise unclothed (and quite clearly recognizable) quite pleasant female companion (a dream character who bore no resemblance to any human being I know). We exchanged a few merry words while watching the people across from us in the shower tub. Thereby, we quickly developed a confidential relationship (yay, dreams are something great…) and we moved closer to each other – eventually skin to skin. Finally, I put my head on her arm, which she had rested on the edge of the tub and cuddled more and more to her side. Ultimately, my companion bowed her pretty face to me and began to kiss me extensively, which I gladly returned. A really good, very intimate kiss, by the way, of the “brain reward” type.
Just in this absorbed moment I suddenly had to think of my real favorite person K. in the real world (and also in the dream the existence of K. was consistent) and what she would say about it – and how I would have to explain it to her – and within a fraction of time various scenarios about it piled up in another part of my head. My brain used the opportunity to end the dream with this last impression – and while waking up endowed me with the self-doubt of whether (and how?) I would be able to deal with being desired by more than one person.
For the dream, my brain and my mind, neither nudity nor the intimate situation were in any way shameful. Also, the fact that I had been together with another lover, who was also part of a multiple relationship context, was – if at all – only a trigger. But the question about the ability to cope with the double desire by two people and my (obviously insufficient!) self-efficacy in this context, THAT on the other hand…. …created the actual stress.

“Luxury problems…”, one or the other may now think. For me, however, this is not a luxury problem but a real one, because I struggle within myself with the fact that I am “not enough” (a very exemplary and quite genuine family resentment on my part). And in a multiple relationship context, for example, this can cost me dearly in a moment in which I merely begin to believe that I have to justify myself or my dedication towards an additional partner.
Most people who have already lived with me in intimate relationships could probably predict that I would most likely try to evade such a situation by staying under the radar or by evading/distracting (= flight).
If, however, I should be seriously pushed to an unavoidable statement, there would be the danger – to be honest – that I would become pretty quickly rebellious despite all my oligoamorous wisdom (= fight).

Stress narrows our perspective, takes away equanimity and erases options that we might have had access to if we had a calm mind. Coach and couple therapist Reinhardt Krätzig writes about this phenomenon in his book “With the Key of the Psyche” (published in 2020):
»Our brain experiences stress as evidence of an existing danger. Danger now implies real, perhaps life-threatening danger. In order to be able to face it appropriately, a shift occurs in body and the mind. The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated, we become restless, feel uncomfortable and insecure.
In this state, our heart rate accelerates and our breath is short and shallow. We scan our surroundings, go into fight or flight mode. Now you experience the world more as a dangerous place where you have to protect yourself from harm. In order to survive, all senses must be directed outward, the energy-consuming and much too slow consciousness gets less oxygen, so it is cut back and used only for sense processing. You don’t think about what you’re doing any more, you just do it. The only reference point for action now available is experience. Under stress, these are the experiences from other difficult, demanding circumstances. Since this has been going on all one’s life, one suddenly finds oneself with one foot back in childhood and has as a reference point for present action only the behavioural patterns developed at that time in response to difficult situations.
Caution. This happens not only in the case of major, conspicuous stress that is visible to everyone. Something similar also happens in the case of very subtle stress, especially that which arises when one’s own
life issue is being touched. Everyone at some point has experienced a partner suddenly falling into a strange mood. In most cases, something had touched a sensitive spot in the psyche of the other person. This immediately triggers this stress mode, combined with recourse to childhood coping patterns. To an observer, something like this seems irritating and out of place, but it happens to everyone at some point, including yourself.
When dealing with such a burdened person – for example, a relationship partner who is currently arguing with you – it makes no sense at this moment to appeal to their consciousness or reason and perhaps ask them to pull themselves together. Since the control panel of conscious guidance is currently unoccupied – as long as the subjective suffering continues – nothing can implement the appeals and requests anyway. The most important and strongest resource for self-regulation (consciousness) is not available. This also has nothing to do with a lack of will, slackness or laziness. The question of intelligence does not arise here either. The same thing happens with extremely intelligent people, who are just as limited under stress as less intelligent people.«


Incidentally, the “life issues” characterized by Krätzig could, in his opinion, be identified particularly well in the case of a reaction that was extremely inappropriate to the triggering occasion: So what kind of experience “makes us jump out of our skin”, “drives us mad” or “pulls the rug out from under our feet” ?

In Entry 26, I add that, strictly speaking, our fear of fear makes things seem even more threatening. “Caught by ourselves”, I write there, “an awkward feeling.”
My dream or rather my subconsciousness has uncovered this fact for me once again. Difficulties in dealing with desire? Fear of not being able to satisfy (demands)? When asked about this while awake, I would probably deny it forthrightly, because I don’t really perceive myself that way. But my subconscious has shown me that there is still a (probably not so small) part of me that thinks like that about myself.

In our self-chosen relationships today, our favourite people and lovers are not our parents or siblings of the past. And thus it is beneficial if we are able to realize in a quiet moment that also the former two-dimensionality of conflicts long ago will (hopefully) no longer present itself today in their former pettiness and inexorability of “won” and “lost”.
With goodwill and a portion of self-humour towards ourselves, we can figure out our “life issues”, e.g. by looking at ourselves, when sometimes our “control panel was unoccupied”, when it was hard to talk to us, because a resentment had pulled us into an old world of “who is not in favour of me is surely against me” (or when we tried to smooth the inner churning ocean with the third bar of XXL whole milk chocolate…).
Once we have unmasked a life issue, the chances become better and better over time to deprive it of its exuberant status as the all-dominating (but unconscious) “leitmotif” of our emotional reaction and to gradually diminish it to a clown’s hooter that will only occasionally resound in between.

By the way, Coach Krätzig also has a “positive test” up his sleeve for exploring our life issues: He says that what we ourselves lack (or have lacked) most in life, we often bestow upon others as compensation. Is that care? Comfort or security? Practical help? Loyalty? Community? A sympathetic ear at all times? Or…?
I am curious what you will discover!



* Leitmotif: A melodic theme now often used in film scores or game soundtracks, which almost unnoticed in countless alterattions and variations as an underlying element resonates through the entire music of the corresponding work.

¹ The negative consequences of a “win/lose situation” (winner-loser strategy: lack of willingness on the part of the conflicting parties to find an appropriate, rational solution to conflicts. Provocations, punitive behavior and threats [power] are used in the hope of emerging from the conflict as winners themselves) I already briefly address in Entry 26.

² This wording, as a matter of fact, is derived from the Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung.

Thanks to Jonathan Sautter on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 69

One for all – all for one!¹

As the author of a bLog, one is necessarily critical regarding one’s own texts. Again and again, I therefore regularly look again at entries written by me months – or meanwhile even years – later, and even in my eyes there are rather powerful but also sometimes less profound articles.
There is, for example, my Entry 16, about which I kept thinking whether I should consider it the weakest in terms of content – even a partner of mine said at the time that I had been too hard on myself when writing it, because successful communication would always depend on the contributions of all participants.
However, when I revisit Entry 16 today, I find its conclusion highly topical and universally applicable – even if I had chosen the contextual approach in a somewhat roundabout way back then.

In order to clarify what I mean, I would like to pick up the thread again today, because in my own relationships and also in those of close acquaintances, I have regularly noticed how quickly in “default mode” we are disposed to regard the perception of our part of the world all too readily as the presumable entirety.

Why is it so important to me – concerning Oligoamory – to once again very thoroughly examine exactly this complex ( which, strictly speaking, has a well-known and quite comprehensible mechanism)?
Because I would like to close a potential loophole in the oligoamorous “firewall”, which could present itself to a possibly well-meaning, but in the heat of the moment perhaps a little too self-convinced mind – specifically in relation to what I have established in my last entries as oligoamorous basic philosophy:

Already on my starting page I invite my readers to build (multiple) relationship networks in which all participants could hopefully experience themselves as “more than the sum of their parts” by interconnecting and combining skills as well as resources. In Entry 64, which was the last article of a three-part series on “Meaningful Relationships,” I reinforce this key point in Oligoamory with the holistic thoughts of the early modern philosopher Shaftesbury, which could be summarized as follows: What is good for you is beneficial for a greater whole – and if something is beneficial for the greater whole, this in turn benefits you.
The latter, by the way, even the primatologist Frans de Waal (mentioned by me already in Entries 11 and 59) had derived from our biologically closest cousins: In evolutionary terms, cooperation could develop because through proven favours in a group by an individual showing solidarity, the probability increased that this individual would probably one day be among those “favoured” by the solidarity of others.
So far, so good.

However, we humans – especially in loving relationships – are not merely a holistically functioning ecosystem, nor are we a mere bunch of monkeys. Because “what is good (for us)”, that which is “beneficial (for us)”, is something we must – and want to! – decide for ourselves. I would even say: We must and should decide on this ourselves.
To remain with the example of the primate group: For us, on the one hand, it would be a bit too arbitrary to be at the mercy of whether or not some bananas would be left over for us during the distribution today. And on the other hand, only we ourselves can really know whether we would prefer to have a banana today at all – or a coconut or anything else – and we also want to decide autonomously about that for ourselves.

Why do I say this? Because I am convinced that a huge potential for conflict in close human relationships lies in the paternalism: “I already know what is good for you…!”

And this can sprout the strangest blossoms in loving relationships, to which I would not want to provide any support by the pretext of a superior oligoamorous group benefit for the sake of “the sum of the parts”.
If we look at monoamory (e.g. classical marriage…), this is already a problem for historical reasons alone: Because there – over several centuries – the role of the husband evolved into that of a provider of livelihood, and the role of the wife evolved into that of a dependent recipient. This distribution of roles already contributed to the fact that until today a certain “master attitude ” still characterizes our thinking, for example, when it comes to questions of occupation and earning (the most) money in general. In this way, even a parent-child relationship is reproduced in the constellation of a subsequent loving relationship: the one who provides (most) is allowed to decide, has the (supreme/ultimate) “power of disposal”.
This gets really complicated, unfortunately, because the mentioned “provider mentality” can meet in us humans a more or less established “wellfare mentality” – a comfortable attitude, which yields only too gladly, and is content with the fact that there is already someone else, who “cares”.
And this does not at all refer only to physical or material well-being. The title line of the languishing jazz song Someone to watch over me by George and Ira Gershwin from 1926 is the perfect example for me in this respect, as this sentence wants to be pronounced with four childlike kissing mouths (try it yourself in front of the mirror…), thereby longingly proclaiming the desire for the quasi omnipotent all-round caretaker².

Even we, who believe ourselves to be emancipated from such a world of paternal “shoe-boxes” (or at least their moralizing superstructure), are far from being completely free of such thinking.
For me, this is evidenced by the fact that multiple relationship contexts (from polyamorous dating sites and forums to actual relationships) among other things regularly struggle with the imminence of genuine narcissism.
And that’s unfortunately not so surprising, because narcissism is either attracted by the possibility to become the undetected commander, decision-maker and object of adoration for a very long time – which is simply easier to disguise by a higher number of people involved (because from the point of view of a narcissist “someone else” is always to blame)… Or narcissism is virtually invited by people who want to hand over responsibility to “the community” so that a narcissistic personality quickly feels: Here I can lead and/or excel.
It is not that narcissism does not also exist in usual relationships of two – but an insecurely acting multiple relationship model is clearly more susceptible to tolerate such patterns.

But it doesn’t have to be narcissism that lies behind the urge to impose what one considers good for oneself on all others as supposedly beneficial.
In the vast majority of cases, it is simply our conviction about ” our own movie” that is at work, as I have already described in Entry 11. This conviction can even go so far that we see ourselves in the role of the romantic self-sacrificer who gives it all, really everything, for the community – and for the sake of a higher overall performance.


At the end of the day, though, I still haven’t had to engage in any real communication for this, and it’s just like I said in Entry 16, that I’m merely “imposing my personal reasons that I associate with a topic on any opportunity for communication – and thereby on my entire social group.“

Many “heroines and heroes in their own movie” (Entry 11) are often outraged by such an attribution, since – on the contrary – they are quite convinced that they communicate all the time and even very MUCH. Only, unfortunately, they would talk their mouths off, could even speak with the tongues of angels, however, the unwilling objects of such an expended amount of communication would simply and unfortunately not be able to receive the guiding message. Or perhaps they would simply be stubborn.

Already in Entry 4 I do not refer to “communication” as an absolute value in relationships, but call it a “flexible variable” (like a volume regulator on a mixing console, for example). The fact that this “regulator” is generally present does not say anything about the quality produced. Because especially in today’s world we often adopt – as far as our attitude to the “regulator” is concerned – an unhelpful attitude, which in linguistic terms is called “metacommunication”.
“Metacommunication,” however, is a mode of conversation that is one level behind – or rather above – real communication. In the truest sense: for we talk “about” something or someone – but not “with” them. Our modern means of communication make this even easier (and more habitual) in a way that is not very helpful, e.g., by allowing us to conjure up additional (meta)interlocutors out of thin air by means of our always-accessible communication devices and applications. In doing so, however, we are most likely only opening another echo chamber that will confirm us in our own opinion – or we will experience frustration in the experience of what appears to be yet another incomprehensible entity (in addition, “meta-partners” of that kind often miss and lack situational gestures, facial expressions or voice colouring). However, the actual purpose is still not helped – it would be as if we had only talked about the ” regulator” or the mixer all the time – but failed to put it into operation.

We can only counter the occasionally unpleasant course of (contentious) conversations with genuine communication, in talking with one another, if we make an effort to disclose that different sides may start from completely different premises, that misinterpretations may exist – and that misunderstandings want to be cleared up. Ambiguity, irony and sarcasm are not funny in this context – they are a hindrance. Rather, we have to ask how our interlocutors use certain terms, we have to agree on how the parties involved assess the current situation – and it is very important that everyone really (wants to) talk(s) about the same topic. Only in this way can we discover commonalities and identify more precisely which points are seen differently and why.

So it’s better to keep your options open? Or as an acquaintance once said to me, “Let some differences between friends simply exist and don’t really address them in detail…”?
In the Oligoamory from my point of view absolutely impossible.
Because the emotional contract behind every relationship (Entry 9) is not a tool, a mere label or an option – but a fact that manifests itself immediately with the establishment of a relationship. The emotional contract is always there, is ” performed in the background” – whether we want it or not.

Sure, sometimes you may take a bit of personal freedom of thought from it a way. I’ll give you an example of my own:
In Entry 31 I mentioned that one of my partners owns a horse. “Owns a horse” is, strictly speaking, already too superficial as a description – sometimes I say: “You can take K. from the horse but not the horse out of K.”. By that I want to express that this partner is connected with the whole being to this horse theme.
I, on the other hand, don’t particularly care for horses. Well, over the years with that partner I now know a little more than where only front and back are on a horse – but I would probably not keep such an animal on my own, for many reasons (horse manure, for example). Since the partner has now a time-consuming profession, it results that I take care of the animal occasionally, stable care, feeding, yes and also the little loved disposal of horse droppings.
As a motivational aid in my head, I sometimes stand on the paddock and tell myself that my action is an anytime terminable bonus, which I would not have to perform compulsorily. And that is often a reassuring thought and whistling I empty the wheelbarrow.
But would I seriously play this card?
It is actually the case that I was not asked for this service by the partner in question. Ok, a little bit it was simply the purely practical necessity, which arose to take care of a pet as a living being, which belonged to our household anyway. But the result of this was and is to a large extent a self-commitment that I initiated myself completely on my own (!).
A self-commitment, however, emerges from the personal “desire to assume responsibility” that I have already cited in several entries (otherwise I would have been better off leaving it out altogether). And in this sense regarding a circumstance in which I have taken (unasked) a contribution option to our overall housekeeping. And as an adult I surely have to confess: Not because I had nothing better to do, but because I consciously wanted it that way.
This self-commitment has thus at the same time immediately become part of the emotional contract as a “enjoyable voluntary obligation” (see definition).
This “enjoyment” for my partner in turn emerged from my investment in commitment and integrity. An investment in an entity, therefore, in which I obviously felt secure and involved enough when I made the investment.
But this is precisely where my investment has entered into our shared “more than the sum of the parts”, where individual “enjoyable voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care” can no longer be easily separated.
It is precisely in this capacity that Oligoamory is “holistic,” which is why I used the example of the baby rattle in Entry 57. Of course, it would theoretically be possible to remove individual contributions from the emotional contract once again: I stop mucking out – You don’t go shopping anymore – I don’t keep our budget book anymore – You don’t call when it’s getting late at work anymore… etc. In the end, however, it would be just like the rattle: You would take the structure apart component by component and in the end… nothing would remain! It is probably because of this effect that breakups are so sobering: after stripping away all the bits and pieces that have been brought in, all that remains is a somehow uneasy emptiness, but what – as in the case of the rattle – was actually the operating sound – that is, what had filled the whole thing with life – that also escaped in the process, and no one would have been able to lay hands on it…

So as a “hero in my own movie” I can take care of my personal need satisfaction and try to find out what is good for myself.
If, with this goal of a succeeding life, I want to contribute to my group/community as a free individual, then I can possibly contribute to its overall good and the well-being for all in it.
But what I can never know or even decide is what is good for YOU or any other specific person.
This is the limit, the firewall, which we as individuals cannot realistically cross and therefore should not cross out of hubris.
What a nifty paradox of Oligoamory. It only performs smoothly if our intentions are aimed at the shared centre:


One for all and all for one!



¹ Wonderful phrase that gained eternal valor with Alexandre Dumasnovel as “Un pour tous, tous pour un!”.

² Featured prominently even in Star Trek Voyager Season 5 Episode 22

Thanks to FOTORC on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 68

Grandissimo!

Just last month, the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, which regularly reports in detail and with an open mind on numerous topics concerning all kinds of varieties of non-monogamy, once again published an online article in which a number of different relationship models in this context were portrayed.
Apart from many aspects I was familiar with, this time, however, the following passage made me sit up and take notice:
»Psychotherapeutic experiencee shows that most people can imagine having relationships of whatever kind with different people simultaneously. They usually just would not be willing to accept this behaviour on behalf of the person they are in a relationship with. If “my” relationship companion also desires other lovers, this constitutes a narcissistic injury. Dealing with this requires the will to pay attention and a lot of self-reflection. Therefore, choosing mono-relationships is often easier, because we know how that works.«

“Narcissistic injury”? Does this have anything to do with genuine narcissism and, accordingly, is there perhaps even a kind of pathological self-sabotage in most of us, so that truly functioning polyamorous relationships are actually already doomed to failure by our “basic psychological mindset”?
I wanted to clarify this question also for myself and in doing so I came across some interesting correlations that I do not want to withhold from you as my readers.

First of all, the German Wikipedia simply and directly explains: »Narcissistic injury refers to both a specific behaviour by which such an injury is inflicted and an experience by which it is felt. […] In this respect, the narcissistic injury has a communicative function. Specifically, this means that narcissistic injuries are attacks on the narcissism and identity of other persons. They are intended to attack their feelings of self, to shake their self-assurance and self-confidence, and to question and thus weaken their self-esteem and self-worth. Humiliation, exposure, belittlement, devaluation, degradation and ridicule are used as means of offence; fear, pain and shame are experienced, but also frustration, anger and possibly the desire for revenge.«

“Ouch!”, a part of me wants to exclaim. That doesn’t sound at all like the kind of loving (multiple) relationships I want to promote by Oligoamory:
So if additional loved ones are possibly added to an existing relationship, the already existing partners may experience an attack on their identity, a questioning of their self-worth and feel the new situation as degradation, whereby they feel fear, pain, shame, frustration, anger and possibly the desire for revenge…?

As much as one or the other of us may consider the above formulations drastic or even exaggerated, they are sadly close to reality. Because it only takes a quick visit to any multi-relationship/polyamory/non-monogamy online forum to turn up numerous posts and cries for help from desperate existing partners – and the content is very similar in all of them:
“My husband has opened up our relationship and now there is a new partner with whom I can’t get along at all…” or “Our polycule has been joined by another guy in whom my partner is now very interested and I don’t know where to turn in my jealousy, which I never thought I would ever experience to such an extreme…”

What’s going on there? Just a resurgence of old encrustations of mononormativity? Outdated possessiveness, resentment and petty-minded jealousy?

The psychologist Bärbel Wardetzki¹ explained the actual process behind this in a most exciting way in a contribution for Deutschlandfunk in 2020:
“Actually, the basic reaction is first of all a good sign: A slight like a ‘narcissistic injury’ is a completely normal human reaction. Thank God. Because it shows that we are sensitive, that we are vulnerable to certain things. Especially in loving relationships. That’s where almost everyone is confronted with slights at some point, that’s where we usually locate slights like narcissistic injuries first. That’s where they hit the hardest, wounds us the most.”

But what is it exactly that is actually “injured” – and do the other acting persons “cause” it?
On this point, Mrs Wardetzki clarifies: “When we are injured in such a manner, it concerns very often our narcissistic needs. And these are usually needs that, when fulfilled, strengthen our self-esteem. Because ‘narcissistic’ first of all means nothing more than ‘relating to the self-worth’.”

So, in contrast to my Entry 32, which is actually referring to pathological narcissism, Mrs Wardetzki explains that each of us basically possesses a natural “healthy narcissism” that is closely linked to our self and our sense of identity.
And therefore this “healthy narcissism” can be injured.
Neurobiologist Joachim Bauer² elaborates on this in the above-mentioned Deutschlandfunk contribution:
“For example, if I let a test person hear that someone else has spoken badly about her/him/it, the self-systems reacts. If I slight someone by treating her/him/it unfairly when distributing resources, then the disgust systems in the brain react. Or if someone is offended by a group excluding him or her and the impression is created: ‘You don’t belong to us any more’, then the pain systems react. The pain systems of the human brain respond not only to inflicted physical pain, but also to social exclusion and humiliation.”

In order to understand even better why such events have the power to shake us to such an extent, it is useful to know another psychological ego concept at this point, which is our so-called “grandiose self” ³.
Our “grandiose self” is formed in its healthy form in the best case during our growing up, starting with the moment of our birth. As a human child who is increasingly discovering the world, our environment will make us (hopefully) competent and so we increasingly gain the expectation that most things in life will run reasonably smoothly and – even if not – that we have gained skills to cope with nearly all life situations that come our way.
Quite soon, however (e.g. when we are part of a larger family – or at the latest from kindergarten onwards), we have to start making corrections to this self-concept: For we will meet other people who, again in terms of their grandiose selves, can advertise themselves louder, more aggressively, or merely more strategically skilful than we can to the world around us – our first “slights/injuries” will occur accordingly.
The neuroscientist Bauer adds: “We can only survive as human beings if we have a certain resilience to minor slights. And we acquire this resilience, this ability to deal with it, by having a strong inner self within us. And people acquire this strong inner self as children, especially during the time when they are growing up. When there are people around them who make the child feel: You are welcome in this world, if you make a mistake, the world won’t end, we like you the way you are”.

But is that why slights are the issue of the injured party alone? Do we simply have to realise that the expectations we have about life can be exaggerated? Do we simply have to learn to bear it when they are not met?
Psychologist Bärbel Wardetzki answers rather cautiously here: “In itself, we cannot offend another person because we do not know where his or her sore spots are. Every slight targets a sore spot, a injury of the self-worth that may have occurred a very long time ago. As a rule, people are slighted by us, although we don’t even notice it.” And she adds: “Injuries are also difficult to avoid because each side assumes that it is acting in good faith. Only in rare cases there is deliberate offending, usually there is no intention.”
The latter statement, by the way, agrees perfectly with my Entry 11, which tells about the “Black Flittermouse Man” who always wants to perform heroic deeds in everyday life – but is regularly not entirely successful in doing so.

Of course, psychology and neurobiology point out an important aspect: The more incomplete our competence strengthening has evolved in our adolescence and in our personality development, the more insecure we are likely to react in situations of distress (and thus we also experience our partners in a similar way).
A person with a poorly built self-esteem, for example, will be more likely to confuse the attributions of external and self in the case of an unilateral breach of an agreement, such a person might be quicker to think in terms of blame or self-condemnation such as: “Yeah, you can get away with it with me…” and will act more helplessly in general when it comes to actually pointing out what exactly went wrong.

At the same time, even those human relationships we enter into in our adult lives continue to be places of learning and (self-)experiencing concerning our self-awareness. And this especially with regard to such important areas as reliability and responsibility on the one hand – but also appreciation and acknowledgement of maturity on the other.

I will try to illustrate this by means of an extreme: In 2013, the psychoanalysts Richard B. Ulman and Doris Brothers demonstrated in a study* on rape victims why their horrific experience ultimately led to a quasi complete erasure of the personal “grandiose self” – which resulted in the subsequent traumatisation: For it was not only the assaultive event and the complete loss of control that contributed to this massive psychological damage, but precisely the accompanying destruction of one’s own self-construct of a safe and self-determined individual.

“Damage” in our relationships thus arises above all when participants get into situations in which they see themselves curtailed in their efficacy (influence on an event) and if they are compromised in the reflection of their inalienable intrinsic value (appreciation/acceptance).

This happens in such a way very often when the emotional contract underlying the relationship (I remind: “Implied acknowledgement and agreement – as a result of a mutually established emotional close-knit relationship – regarding the totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed and are potentially enjoyable by all parties involved.”) is changed, especially unilaterally and/or very quickly.

For out of healthy self-interest alone, we humans usually do not react very well when something is to apply differently today than it was agreed yesterday – especially when we neither know nor can well assess the motives behind the potential change.

Consequently, a monogamous person does indeed not normally have to expect that another lover will be brought home tomorrow; and even a participant in an established multiple relationship should be able to count on the fact that the addition of another favourite person will not lead to a unilateral or arbitrary shift of previously negotiated commitments.
Nevertheless, these things can happen – or they can definitely manifest themselves in such a way from the point of view of the injured person. And the acting person, in turn, still does not need to have acted in any culpable, deliberate or even consciously hurtful way.

Is this then the (multiple) relationship death sentence, because we would have to fear that a large part of us has emerged from our individual upbringing with a somehow incomplete self-worth? A damaged self-worth, which can therefore never really be sure of itself – and thus holds an ever-ticking, highly sensitive mortification bomb ready for those close to us?

In my 63rd Entry on »Meaningful Relationships«, I wrote that “in human relationships, freedom and security form a pair of opposites in which one cannot be obtained for the sake of the other.” And I quote a fellow bLogger there who expressed: “Let go of trying to control other people’s actions; let go of fear and attachment. By doing so you may lose some people along the way, but it will most likely be the weakest contestants. You know, the ones that made you feel like you didn’t have real, meaningful relationships in the first place?”

Such “weak contestants” will hardly have ever really conceded nor confirmed our very own grandiosity.
Nor will they ever have entered into resilient emotional contracts with us, thereby signalling a willingness to regularly account for their own contributions therein – for the sake of our informed choice!

“Meaningful relationships” (as I described them in my Oligoamory-Entries 62, 63 and 64) contain the awareness of the inevitable human risk of possible slights and injuries, precisely because of the precious price of sensitivity and vulnerability among each other, by which I quoted the psychologist Wardetzki at the beginning of this Entry.
Relationships that do not contain the amount of trust and kindness to be able to explain oneself in front of each other, to show oneself as fallible and also capable of revising one’s own point of view and one’s own actions, can therefore never be truly “meaningful relationships”.

To be “grandiose” therefore also means in our loving relationships to venture out again and again like a fool in a fairy tale; not so much in the belief concerning our own invulnerability – but rather in the confidence that there we can never meet a completely bad fate.
We will probably be slighted, yes, and for our part we will most likely hurt our loved ones more than once.
But since we all know about our foolishness and therefore do not have to hide it from each other, loyalty, honesty and perseverance will always lead us back to each other.
So, to paraphrase the quote from “Der Standard”, I would say as a conclusion:
Oligo may not be easier – but it is hopefully more predictable, because now we know how that works.



¹ Publications by Bärbel Wardetzki on the topic (only German literature):
Mich kränkt so schnell keiner! Wie wir lernen, nicht alles persönlich zu nehmen. dtv, München 2005
Weiblicher Narzissmus. Der Hunger nach Anerkennung. Kösel Verlag 1991; 19. überarbeitete Auflage 2007
Nimm´s bitte nicht persönlich. Der gelassene Umgang mit Kränkungen. Kösel Verlag, München 2012
Und das soll Liebe sein? Wie es gelingt, sich aus einer narzisstischen Beziehung zu befreien. dtv premium, 2018

² Publications by Joachim Bauer on the topic (only German literature):
Selbststeuerung – Die Wiederentdeckung des freien Willens. Blessing, München 2015
Wie wir werden, wer wir sind: Die Entstehung des menschlichen Selbst durch Resonanz. Blessing, München 2019
Fühlen, was die Welt fühlt – Die Bedeutung der Empathie für das Überleben von Menschheit und Natur. Blessing, München 2020

³ In a clinical psychological context, the “Grandiose Self” is also occasionally referred to as the ” Great Self” or the “Grandiose Self-Object.”

* Ulman, Richard B.; Brothers, Doris (2013). The Shattered Self: A Psychoanalytic Study of Trauma. Taylor & Francis. p. 114.

Thanks to Austin Neill on Unsplash for the grandiose picture!