Entry 98

You are welcome!

…not only on Valentine’s Day

Throughout our lives – and especially in the moments when we establish relationships – we humans move between different polarities: On the one hand, we naturally want to preserve our individualism, our self, with our own set of thoughts and values. On the other hand, we also usually want to contribute to the well-being of others – on whose support we ourselves are often dependent – and therefore practise altruism. Altruism – according to Wikipedia, a “principle and practice of concern for the well-being and/or happiness of other humans or animals above oneself” – is therefore an important quality in our interpersonal relationships, but – like the proverbial medal – it has another side. And this second side expresses itself in our fear that by becoming too involved with our fellow human beings and due to our longing for participation and inclusion, we will ” disappear”, so to speak as a person, and lose ourselves in conformism by adapting and fitting in (giving up our own individuality to the norms and opinions of the reference group). As a result we head back towards individualism, but sometimes overdo it with our striving and end up with its “medal backside”, egocentrism (self-centeredness, self-indulgence)…

This could be just a nice theory if we weren’t all constantly oscillating through this 4-factor matrix in our multiple relationships. “Us and the others” is THE dynamic basic motif, according to which we orbit like in a dance – sometimes closer and sometimes more distant.
The challenge: to remain true to one’s own values and goals – and at the same time not to succumb to ego-tripping, narcissism or bossiness; to willingly contribute to the overall well-being of a group to which one belongs (also because it can benefit oneself) – and not to do so out of fear to assume responsibility, self-underestimation or the neediness for belonging.
This is why Polyamory so often calls for the cultivation of a balanced self before establishing a multiple relationship, and why I emphasize here on my bLog concerning Oligoamory the creation of the famous “mutual we“, which is supposed to constitute the center of a relationship – in order to enable the perception of being integrated and simultaneously individually appreciated for all participants.
In this way, connectedness, to which I dedicated my last Entry among others, could benefit from the extent of our ability to commit ourselves as individuals and our ability to bond as social beings.
Accordingly, the trauma therapist Maria Sanchez, for example, points out that the amount of ability we have at our disposal to get in contact with ourselves we also possess in an equal amount to get in contact with the outside world…

Ms. Sanchez assumes, however, that most of us in our Western society have already sustained an attachment trauma in early childhood, which resulted from the discrepancy between how we were originally laid out and how the outside (especially our closest caregivers) wanted us to be.¹
Since then, a mostly unconscious part of us would regularly experience ourselves as “disconnected“, especially in situations that would affect that first violation of our innermost core for the sake of approval by attachment figures (or later: loved ones and significant others!).

The social scientist Stefan Ossmann said three years ago in an interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “The scarce commodity [in polyamorous relationships] is not love or sex, but attention.” ²
I would say that this is a fairly accurate observation, considering the many videos, reports and forum discussions on our topic that I have been following ever since – and above all the challenges and difficulties that are regularly presented therein.

A perceived lack of attention today can thus trigger a kind of re-traumatization, so to speak, in which the above-mentioned injured part of us once again registers that there are probably (recently / currently / once more) facets of our being that are still not welcome.
However, what is also not obvious to those affected and the other people involved in the relationship – and what becomes problematic for the relationship as a whole – is that we almost always derive convictions from such an experience that we henceforth impose on ourselves (or we negatively confirm those that were already ingrained anyway).
I say “problematic for the relationship as a whole” because injuries at this level are always rooted in a “we-field”, since the (re)traumatized person acts from an attitude in which they are already over-sensitively focused on external events or already anticipate some menacing occurrence (foreshadowing) – and are no longer well grounded in themselves [By that “The way you are, you’re not ok!” becomes “The way I am, I’m not ok…”].

At this point it can also be seen how a mere feeling (“…something irritated me…”), which would subside after the irritation if it were free of bias, develops into an emotion (= feeling + [biased] evaluation), which continues to remain “triggered” from then on. Thus, a process kicks in that permanently ties up vital energy that could be used much more beneficially elsewhere.

Trauma therapist Sanchez concludes that such processes should contribute – and in any case have contributed – to the fact that we were not allowed or supposed to become mature individuals within certain areas of our personality – and accordingly we never did.
She further concludes that as a result, many of us have developed “chronic symptoms” that correspond to an “inner dictator” who continues to dictate doctrines to us with instructions on how we should behave instead, an “inner critic” who devalues us when we supposedly fail – and above all includes our environment in this downward comparison, as well as an “inner seducer” who tries to temporarily remove us from this field of tension by means of external distractions (addictive structures such as media, drugs, sex, food, cash/consumption, etc…).
In turn, according to Ms. Sanchez, addictive structures are dangerous because, as she puts it, they “swap the stages”: A supposedly “controllable” substitute would be offered instead of a path towards a genuine joy of existence.

Anyone who has followed my bLog up to this Entry knows that this harbours critical potential, especially in multiple relationships, as “situations of insecurity” present a rather different set of challenges than in monogamy – and if only because there is no retreat into the “usual”, because, on the one hand, more “new beginnings” may have to be dealt with – but also because simply the (not even so large) number of individuals involved will produce an ever-changing diversity of nuances, facets and shades of togetherness [in comparison to (only) two long-term partners].
For this reason, especially conflicts in multiple relationships offer the ambivalent potential of having to be overcome – because in the medium term, the parties involved are not likely to be dismissed into a false peace of retreat into their snail shells of silence (which would still be an option with just two people – as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations proved…).

I mentioned it for the first time in Entry 62: ambiguity tolerance is therefore required – which Ms. Sanchez, by the way, calls more specifically and appropriate to the topic of relationships “encounter competence”.
So here we are again invited as individuals (as I indicated from the Latin in-dividuus : “indivisible”) to develop this competence; and because we were unfortunately not allowed to become fully individual (and multi-layered) – as I wrote above – this has also ensured that we are acutely more helpless in the face of every dilemma than would otherwise probably have been the case.

Our beliefs and symptoms consisting of inner dictators, critics and seducers benefit when we remain in such a continuous (dissatisfactory) fight with ourselves and the external circumstances.
Consequently, this would mean for us to get out of this fight. But please not by means of the next seduction in disguise (which could also come in the shape of an ambitious sports program or the strict practice of a spiritual practice…)!

The path to the aforementioned joy of being, to an “I am”, means above all getting in touch with this strangely perceived disconnectedness within us. Even including the sides of us that do not want to feel this disconnectedness at any price and therefore want to dictate that a strong person is strongest when alone*, criticize us as dependent and needy – or who want to distract us from feeling, acknowledging and self-awareness with somewhat inappropriately customized distractions.
In this way we create the opportunity for ourselves to realize that we have very good reasons for everything we feel: We begin to unravel strongly internalized traumas and convictions, because we see through them to the fact that WE HAVE NEVER BEEN WRONG!
And since I already referred in Entry 26 to the consequences of unfavourably acquired thinking when it comes to conflict resolution strategies (key words “win / lose”), this takes us full circle to Ms. Sanchez’s opening remark about how much our ability to make contact “inwardly” has to do with our ability to get into contact “outwardly” – meaning above all with our loved ones.

So our past is indeed always involved when we want to connect with our partners. This is why encounter competence is so important, because this can only succeed in a life where we are in touch with ourselves.
Genuine touch means that this love we all long for does not want to “get rid of” or “change” anything. This love even embraces all our subjunctives of “if” and “might have”: True love gives all aspects a right to exist.
And if – as Stefan Ostmann said above – attention is the scarce commodity that we all covet, then we often realize that we are already taking too little time for ourselves.
This is where encounter competence begins: encountering oneself ever more deeply – in a loving relationship with oneself.
So “I” should be more present; “I” should be happening to a far greater extent…

As far as I’m concerned, the way something like this could potentially take shape was expressed quite appropriately by the British author Matt Haig in his book “The Midnight Library” ³:


¹ from: YouTube: Transgenerational trauma, Maria Sanchez in an interview with Simon Rilling (25.10.2022, German language only)
Additional thanks to Ms. Sanchez for her therapeutic online offer, from which I quote excerpts in my current Entry (my household has duly paid for access to the content concerned).

² Online service Süddeutsche Zeitung from July 02, 2021, interview by Thomas Bärnthaler with Stefan Ossmann [Polyamory-researcher University Vienna] (SZPLus subscription required; German language only)

³ Matt Haig: “The Midnight Library”, ‎ Canongate Books; Main Edition (18. Februar 2021)

* “The strong man is strongest when alone”Friedrich Schiller: “William Tell”, Act I, Scene 3

Thanks to Valiant Made on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 97

Safely connected? #Connectedness

A new year – a new annual review: My Entries in the past year 2023 were mainly dedicated to our most favourite people and loved ones:
Therefore, last January’s Entry started with the question of why we would want to have other people as romantic partners in our lives in the first place.
In February, I focused on the question that is so often heard in relationships: “Do you (still) love me?” – and how much the answer would be related to the appreciative nature of the connection that arises from it.
Accordingly, in the March-Entry I described our deep longing for attachment on the one hand and our desire for autonomy on the other; a dichotomy that sometimes makes it difficult for us to prove ourselves commited and reliable in our relationships.
Expanding on this, in April I shed light on the topic of “exclusivity”, which is controversial discussed time and again, especially with regard to multiple relationships – but which is certainly justified as long as the underlying principle of communality isn’t ignored.
That’s why, in the May-Entry, I recommended that we don’t venture out into the world as “irresistible dating gods”, but continue to pay attention to the much more important, groundbreaking inner signals when real love and infatuation enter our lives.
Otherwise there might be a risk of what I satirized in the June-Entry: a lack of communication and overconfidence that would soon lead to misunderstandings – and to always assuming that everyone else involved has the worst possible motivation for their actions.
In July, I supplemented this with an appeal to research your own needs carefully so as not to engage into multiple relationships with too fixed an idea in your head as a rescue plan for yourself.
The August-Entry therefore emphasized once again how important it is for the maintenance of multiple relationships to constantly cultivate and expand our “team player traits” with skills such as a change of perspective, tolerance and forbearance.
Something I specified in September by explaining that relationship work is always a “joint project”, which must not be performed by the same people over and over because of the pressure to perform, fear of loss or even business thinking.
In October, I used a personal example to explain how important our own transparency and honesty are in these matters for our loved ones, even if it is not always pleasant for ourselves.
The November-Entry once again dealt with the topic of “coming out” in multiple relationships – and how the decision to do so would also affect our self-image.
2023 finally ended with the December article, which invited us to show kindness, empathy and generosity towards our loved ones – beyond evaluative reason and critical judgment.

I would also wish for kindness, empathy and generosity in 2024, if it were possible, especially as a remedy for the numerous conflicts that our world is obviously currently facing.
As the bLogger Oligotropos, I will therefore continue to campaign for human beings to come together in small, loving communities and thus create a vision of a more harmonious and consensual coexistence.

To achieve this, multiple relationships (which are after all the subject of this bLog) nonetheless require a high degree of connectedness.
Connectedness is certainly a value that develops a certain “momentum of its own” at a certain point in a relationship – especially if the parties involved feel a deep sense of belonging to each other. But it will never be “self-sustaining” or even “self-generating”.
To achieve this, relationships also need the deep investment and dedication of their participants.

In this aspect, multiple relationships always have to deal with a kind of shadow, in terms of how much we actually dare to fully immerse ourselves in them.
After all, the catchphrase “multiple” in “multiple relationships” can lead us to believe that the mere choice of such a relationship-model will provide us with a “multiplicity” of love, attachment, security, closeness, respect, appreciation, intimacy, sexuality, friendship, companionship, acceptance or joy.
As a consequence, we may – if we find the potential for it in ourselves – begin to intentionally strive for several relationships.
Sometimes, however, this is the beginning of us starting to – in a manner of speaking – “spread our butter increasingly thinner”.
In this respect, I think of the play Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, for example, in which the first scene of the second act mentions:

Don Pedro: “Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.”

To which the rather emancipated Beatrice replies:
“Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one.”

Whereby “double” here, in subtle irony, does not stand for “multiple”, but actually for “inauthentic / fake” (thus being even less than “single”…).
However, I don’t believe that – in contrast to Shakespeare’s play – for us who are affected the issue here is one of deliberate (pre)deception.
But at the same time, when it comes to this interpretation of “multiple-love” (which is also one of the direct translations of “Poly”-“Amory”), I regularly fear that the best that this relationship philosophy actually has to offer is in danger of falling by the wayside due to this kind of approach.

Above I used the terms “investment” and “dedication”. Both are quite similar in meaning, and both were introduced into our current language by the Romans. “Investment” comes from the Latin word “investitio” = equipped with clothing (just as the word “vest” still refers to a singlet/chemise in British English and a waistcoat in American English). The word “dedication” in turn once meant “endowment with a gift”.
So when we “invest” or “dedicate” ourselves, we are in a sense putting on a new dress and are bestowing ourselves on someone or something.
What a beautiful metaphor!
However, this metaphor implies above all that I a) prepare myself and b) let go of control. And so these are two processes that first and foremost have to do entirely with myself.
In my desire for a relationship – and also later IN a relationship – I therefore don’t look so much at what the others could contribute to my completion and the elevation of my state, but rather commit myself – and let go.

In a way, that’s quite a feat to be honest, pretty easy to write it down – but truly challenging to implement. That is because our world is largely based on control – while at the same time emphasizing the greatest possible individual autonomy to maintain it.
At the same time, however, this tends to make us feel even more powerless and insecure in the face of all kinds of events – precisely because we have to realize time and again how little we can actually influence after all.
Buddhism, among others – but also many similar philosophical schools of thought – have long since exposed “control” as an illusion.
For example, the relationship therapists Christine and Hendrik Weiß write in the foreword to the German translation of the book “The Two of Us” ¹ by Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgerald, that secure bonds are formed precisely when those involved succeed in turning to each other, are able to show their own vulnerabilities and want to be emotionally present for each other. Only in this way would those involved in the relationship feel safe enough to share feelings, hopes and disappointments with each other in order to have new emotional experiences in which they would no longer experience themselves as alone, isolated or “not right” – but as being seen and valued.

The main character in the dramedy series Undone, Alma Winograd-Diaz [played by actress Rosa Salazar] (Season 2, Episode 8 “We all love each other”) exemplifies it even more impressively for me:

»Maybe that’s what we’re ultimately meant to do here: Face ourselves, for the sake of our relationships. For the people we love. Maybe that’s all that matters: These invisible threads running between us and through us, throughout time. These invisible lines that bind us and set us free.«
And to further illustrate the nature and intensity of this bond, she even adds the following about her deceased father:
»I can still feel the tug of that tie. Someone very cool told me that part of life is accepting that bad things are gonna happen. And finding ways to move through them together.«

In order to enjoy this kind of connectedness, we have to literally “recover ourselves” in our relationships. And increasingly, also science has worked out more and more how significantly our (previous) bonding experiences play an important role in this². Once again the therapist couple Weiß:
“At most half of all people have grown up ‘innately’ securely attached. […] We take these experiences with us into our bonded relationships in adult life – until we become aware of them and change them.”

Already in my Entry 7 on this bLog I explain that connectedness and freedom are not contradictory in the world of multiple relationships.
We should therefore not fear the “loss of our personal freedom” in this everyday world, which by contrast so loudly proclaims the hymn of autonomy.
But in order to truly feel ” both connected and free”, it is important to initially find our way back to our own basic trust.

A year ago, I wrote that personal needs are often like looking in the pantry when you feel an unresolved inner desire or longing – usually with the realization when looking over the shelves: “What I actually need isn’t in here at all…” So instead of choosing the shopping tour as a solution “…then surely what I need will be out there somewhere…”, I wish that we would pause and first of all reflect on ourselves so that we can afterwards clothe ourselves anew and give ourselves away – then positively trusting that good things will indeed happen to us.



¹ Veronica Kallos-Lilly und Jennifer Fitzgerald: “An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us”, Routledge; Workbook Edition December 2021

² The author Jessica Fern, for example, recently wrote about the influence of biographically learned attachment behaviour in polyamorous relationships in her book “Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-monogamy”, Scribe UK, September 2022

Thanks to Anne Nygård on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 96

Caretaker

#catwithahat, 🌐 Location: Stackeln at the Kruke – Prune Alley 17

The practice of ethical multiple relationships with a small number of participants, as I use the term to characterise my vision of Oligoamory, has a lot to do with community-building processes – which is something I point out in several of my Entries.

And in my example today, it is a truly amazing community that has been brought together.
I would like to briefly introduce them to you – starting with the adults:
There is, of course, the ever-active Cat, who is always bursting with ideas and does everything in her power to improve the group’s quality of life. A hard-working housekeeping hen called Marianne, who is often up for a little chat, is happy to help and advise her. They are also supported by a somewhat elderly dog, Captain Knaak, who once sailed at sea and acquired all kinds of practical skills there. The group also includes a light-shy arthropod known as “The Centipede” (an avid collector of burnt-out light bulbs) and the twin brothers Erbsenstein, two tinkerers and inventors who are so similar that not even their first names matter. The eldest member of the household is a stork-like animal that is affectionately known as “The Stumbling Bird”, since its long legs have become a bit tired by now and sometimes fail to perform.
This community also involves young people: There is a daydreaming female Llama teenager who spends a lot of her time napping and a talented wild boar kid, “Baby Hübner”, who vigorously pursues his ambition of a career as a composer and singer at the opera.
Of course, there are also smaller children: a lizard-like creature called “Zappergeck”, whose impulsiveness and audacity may possibly be an expression of a hyperactivity disorder. And – last but not least – a gentle bumblebee toddler, the “Puddingbrummsel”, who for her part still struggles a little with the world of language, but is nevertheless able to express herself.

Incidentally, this community was assembled by the two writers Desi and Simon Ruge in their book “Katze mit Hut” (→‘Cat with a Hat’, first: Beltz & Gelberg 1980¹) and the follow-up volume “Neues von der Katze mit Hut” (→‘News from the Cat with the Hat’, Beltz & Gelberg 1984).
The two books offer a wonderful, child-oriented overview of a community-building process, as it was set down seven years later by the “father of community-building”, Scott Peck, for an adult audience in his book “The Different Drum – Community Making and Peace” (Simon & Schuster, New York 1987).

Likewise in “Cat with a Hat”, the community members regularly have to pass through all the phases of shared life, which Scott Peck identified in his observations as “pseudo-community” (an initial, still rather superficial get-together), “chaos” (arguments, mutual lecturing and self-justification), “emptiness” (a phase of contemplation, reorganization and relaxation) and “true community” (genuine coming together and standing up for each other).
With such diverse characters involved, no one should be surprised!

I have already written a little about Scott Peck’s community-building process in Entry 8, so I won’t go into it too deeply here.
Today I would like to reflect on an aspect of cohabitation that appears in a minor marginal scene in “The Cat with the Hat”, but which seems to me to be of great importance (and I think it is no coincidence that Desi and Simon Ruge have included this detail in their work):

On the day the Cat discovers the new housemate “Centipede”, she, the dog Captain Knaak and Marianne the hen hear strange nocturnal noises from above the top floor. Together with the dog, the Cat climbs up to the attic (Marianne stays behind watching over the kitchen), where they are addressed by a hidden creature as soon as they switch on the light. The Cat asks the dog to switch off the light again, whereupon they both meet the arthropod “Centipede”, who is in the process of shelving his collection of burnt-out light bulbs – and who urges them never to turn on the light because it would cause pain to his sensitive eyes (which is why he would prefer the night for his activities anyway). A friendly dialogue ensues, at the end of which the Cat welcomes the Centipede into the domestic community and confirms his place in the attic – and assures him that he should not be disturbed by the rest of the group during daytime.
Cat and dog go back downstairs, but because Captain Knaak is also something like the janitor (the caretaker!) for the entire community, the Cat asks him on the stairs: “And take care that the shutters on the top floor stay closed during the day from now on.” Whereupon Captain Knaak replies committed and sincerely: “I don’t understand – but I care.” [Afterwards, the two return to Marianne and everyone goes to bed]

It was not until a couple of decades later, after I had encountered the “Cat with a Hat” in my own life as a literary figure and on the puppet stage, that I gradually realized that the simple words »I don’t understand – but I care.« were one of the most profound expressions of true affinity and loyalty I had ever encountered.

After all, meeting the centipede was almost too instantaneous for Captain Knaak, and his intellect doesn’t work as swiftly as the quick-witted Cat: A new, somewhat peculiar housemate, the dark attic, the odd collection of light bulbs…, a lot of information all at once.
Apart from a reasonably robust trust – both in the situation and with regard to the judgment of his companion Cat – Captain Knaak uses another important resource that goes beyond pure comprehension. “Comprehension” already contains the word “to comprehend” – and thus normally means that we have assessed a situation with our thinking, our reasoning and our intelligence. But when we do this, we also switch on our ability to judge and therefore always involve a certain degree of evaluation, which – depending on our previous experiences or our individual state of mind – it may not always be favourable.

By admitting “I don’t understand – but I care.”, Captain Knaak is expressing on a much more instinctive level a realization of the situation, his unconditional consideration, his respect – and above all his empathy (→ there is a living being with a need that I myself may not yet fully understand – but because I myself have needs where I am happy when they are respected, I can care even without exact intellectual insight into the situation).
Without much thought or additional contextual knowledge, Captain Knaak even manages the famed change of perspective in this short scene, according to the Indian proverb “Walk a mile in his*her moccasins.”

In a December Entry shortly before the Christian festival of Christmas, this is a touching message – without any spiritual monopoly, by the way – because the vast majority of other religions and faiths as well as numerous philosophical schools of thought in the world would also like to invite people everywhere to this form of kind-heartedness, tolerance and generosity – beyond evaluative reason and critical judgment.

Also the graduate psychologist and couple therapist Ulrich Wilken², who among other things has developed the relationship-counselling app “myndpaar”, lists as the five most important pillars of every stable and strong relationship: 1. having trust in the relationship (by which he means above all the basic trust in the consistency of the love shared within it), 2. identifying and overcoming old patterns (especially the self-sabotage caused by internalized beliefs such as “I am inadequate” or “I am unlovable”), 3. accepting your partner’s differentness (above all, maintaining respect and curiosity for your partner’s approach and view of the world), 4. communicating mindfully (golden rule: stay with yourself, speak in the first person, don’t hand out “diagnoses”) and 5. appreciating what is (keep consciously recognizing and honouring the many small treasure-moments of a relationship without demanding perfection).

Close human communities, whether at home or like in the animal commune of the Cat from Prune Alley, are always loving relationships in this best sense.
And these loving relationships are true as such when Mr. Wilken’s first two pillars are mutually dependent, if you like: I have “trust in the constancy of love within a relationship” when I feel safe and accepted there; when I feel – even unconsciously at best – that I am being seen, because I experience in many small ways that I am considered and respected.
If this experience is given, my place of love is also a place of trust – a place where I can rely on this trust without having to intellectually check every day whether I (still) belong there.
For multiple relationships – as in the case of the “relationship expansion” by the addition of the Centipede in the example above – this means that it enables me to engage more calmly with the dynamics of several partners (including new ones) because I have a resilient confidence in myself, my position and towards my other partners.

Oh, by the way – Captain Knaak also lovingly reminds us of the pillars 3 and 4:
Although it all happened very quickly for him, he is probably also curious about his new housemate – just like the Cat. As a dog, he can’t quite understand the Centipede’s passion for darkness and burnt-out light bulbs – but since he already lives with a cat and a hen in the same household, he has long since begun to accept that there are as many different ways of looking at the world as there are people – beg your pardon – housemates. Therefore, for him, this means that the Centipede with its individual characteristics will certainly contribute to further enrichment.
At this moment, Captain Knaak also manages to communicate a residual uncertainty while keeping things in a personal perspective: “I don’t understand.” In this way, he does not shift the responsibility to the Centipede (“Now that guy is creepy…”) or to the Cat (“It’s always you and your impulsive invitations…!”) – but because of his trust in the already existing overall relationship, he manages to remain optimistic, which allows him to contribute his own great asset of commitment and reliability (“I care.”).

Pillar 5 (appreciating what is) is very often a somewhat tricky part in all relationships that already have a certain lifespan (…we can see that the ” Cat with a Hat” is doing well by the fact that there are even two whole books about her house-sharing relationship…):
Spotting the “little relationship-treasures” is a bit like mixing Christmas and Easter together (or hiding the contents of an Advent calendar all over the home). We can encounter “appreciation” in many different forms, in the form of words or deeds, even items or services.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s our favourite chocolate in the cupboard or the extra detour in the pouring rain: Above all, it is important that we ourselves sharpen our focus to welcome these little “treasures” for what they are – and not let them fall prey to a gray registry of obviousness and routine.
To prevent the latter, it is also important to pause, to reflect and actively ask yourself (and the others) how you have experienced the relationship recently (even a conversation like this can be a sign of appreciation in itself!) – and, for example, to consider jointly how the relationship could be strengthened for future challenges.

Anyone who encounters or experiences one of these little “treasures” in their everyday life – sometimes especially in an unlikely place or in an unforeseen situation – will usually immediately feel confirmed and strengthened in pillar 1 (trust in the flow of love).
Which is the best autoimmune cure for our relationships at any time of year…

My end of year wish today is therefore a very simple one. As we embark on such a journey with ourselves and with our loved ones, I hope that just like the Cat – and whatever the next year will bring – we will all exclaim together from the bottom of our hearts:

“But I like it here. Oh, I like it very much!”



¹ Currently: Simon and Desi Ruge – “Katze mit Hut”, Atrium Verlag 2019 and “Neues von der Katze mit Hut”, Beltz & Gelberg 1996 (no new edition available yet)
▪ Also note the very touching screen adaptation by the Augsburger Puppenkiste from 1982 (director: Sepp Strubel) on DVD or on YouTube. [content only available in German language]

² Dipl.-Psych. Ulrich Wilken is a psychological psychotherapist and founded the Institute for Systemic Studies in Hamburg over 30 years ago. Since then, he has worked as a lecturer and couples therapist. In 2021, he founded myndpaar – an AI-based psychotherapy app – with his daughter Leonie.
[The app can be used by anyone in “single person mode”, in “relationship mode” there is unfortunately only one version for a maximum of two participants – German language only].

Thanks to Moi Lolita on Pixabay for his AI-generated image that didn’t require a real cat to wear a hat!

Entry 95

Where things end

“You have successfully logged off.”

Sometimes it can be tough to decide on a lifestyle of ethical multiple relationships. Especially when we have largely internalized this way of life for ourselves at some point – and then start to consistently clean up the rest of our lives accordingly:
No more shamefully hiding additional loved ones from the family at auntie’s coffee table, no more keeping quiet when friends make a joke at the expense of non-normative ways of life, no more compromising on dating offers that promise heaven on earth right in the second sentence if…, yes, if you would simply commit to just one lifetime companion.

No.
At some point, we’ll be past all that. We’ve been ashamed of ourselves long enough for our double standards and our lukewarm compromises “for the sake of peace”. We have repeatedly turned our philosophy of life over and over in our minds and hearts and finally freed ourselves, at the latest when we realized how much our way of comprehending intimate relationships has to do with our innermost self.

At some point, we begin to accept that we probably belong to a minority (so far) and start to come to terms with the fact. However, we no longer allow ourselves to be driven back into the broom closet and hold our heads up nonetheless.
Instead, we now sometimes interrupt some of our colleagues at work when they gossip about who is allowed to live with whom these days and whether someone should be allowed to choose their gender depending on their mood – and so we are now sometimes considered “weird”, “difficult” or even “annoying”.
We no longer travel to some members of our birth family because we no longer submit to their recurring dictate that our deviation from a “proper middle-class relationship” would surely damage our reputation and a future career.
And our number of friends is decreasing, because for some of them we now seem downright indecent with our commitment to multiple relationships – or at least appear like a ticking hormone bomb that will probably soon burst with concrete sexual desire where there were previously just amicable ties…

So sometimes an almost peculiar effect sets in. Our coming out into a world of ethical multiple relationships such as Oligo- or Polyamory means that instead of having more relationships in our lives – as we might have assumed – we actually end up with less: The phone stays increasingly silent, the email inbox is becoming increasingly sparse, the messaging service and the dating app on the mobile are chirping less and less – and some invitations to the usual social get-togethers are noticeably dwindling.
A somewhat strange feeling of emptiness instead of fulfilment and acceptance begins to emerge…
“You have successfully logged off.” it says – and you think: “Obviously more complete than I had suspected…”

This is my Entry for November, a month that often carries a distinct note of farewell with its ghostly Halloween figures, All Saints’ Day candles on graves, thick fog and bare trees.
That is why I would like to dedicate this entry to farewells and parting (and some of the grief that goes with it), especially to parting from relationships – which, strictly speaking, is a parting from familiar ideas and cherished projections, as I will try to outline in a minute.

At the beginning of this Entry, I wrote that choosing a lifestyle and philosophy of ethical multiple relationships can be tough. Because if we have not been raised and socialized with its values from an early age, we are indeed embarking on a path of many small farewells. And for our inner sensitivities, it makes no difference whether we part from specific people – or from other familiar terrain.
In a way, there is no difference for our mind, as it is initially confronted with an experience of frustration every time.
As already mentioned in my “Steep Ground”-Entry 22, frustration is “an experience of (actual or perceived) disadvantage or refusal that is perceived as an emotional response to an unfulfilled or unfulfillable expectation (disappointment), e.g. due to the failure of a personal plan or to the complete or partial lack of satisfaction of primary and secondary needs. On the one hand, frustration can lead to a constructive change in behaviour, but often triggers regressive, aggressive or depressive patterns of behaviour.

The US-American psychologist Pauline Boss has also intensively researched farewell and loss. In the specialist publication “Family Relations” ¹ she writes that partings and separations, whether in friendly or romantic relationships, often seem like an “ambiguous loss”. This means that sometimes, in our frustration and pain, we are not quite sure what it is exactly that we have lost.
Psychologist Eva Siem, who is one of the co-designers of the German meditation app “7Mind”², explains on the corresponding website:

»It is often not just the loss of a person, but also the loss of dreams, emotional support and an identity that is closely linked to that person.
Interpersonal relationships can be closely linked to our own self-image. For example, someone in a friendship can take on the role of the empathetic adviser. When the friendship ends, the loss of this role can lead to a conflict of identity and raise the question: “Who am I without this role?” Shared dreams and plans, such as travelling or raising a family, can also be shattered. Whether we leave or are left, when we break up, it can feel like a part of ourselves is lost.«


The extent to which we experience or are able to process such losses is related to a topic that I have already discussed in Entry 14 – and which is emphasized once again in the most recent book publication on the subject of Polyamory, which is titled “Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-Monogamy” by Jessica Fern (Thornapple Press 2020): The attachment styles we experienced and cultivated while growing up³.
I quote again from the 7Mind article because of the concise explanation concerning the most common kinds of “anxious-preoccupied” and ” dismissive-avoidant” style:
»For example, people with an anxious attachment style often rely heavily on the reassurance and closeness of their partner [or their surrounding environment] and are afraid of losing the relationship(s), which makes it difficult to let go. They may prefer to stay in an unhappy relationship for fear of being alone.
Similarly, avoidant people often find it difficult to let go because they have learned to maintain emotional distance and avoid intimacy. For them, an unfulfilling relationship may seem better than the vulnerability and fear of closeness in a potentially deeper connection.«


Thus, when we actually step out of certain circumstances or relationships at some point, it is not at all unlikely that we may initially feel a guilty conscience, remorse or even loneliness and fear.

Which is why even the 7Mind app recommends taking the time to reflect on what has actually been lost – but also possibly gained:
After all, in many cases, letting go not only means saying goodbye to a part of our past, but also to an imagined future (which could at least perhaps have been realized if we had left everything as it was).

In their thesis paper “Who am ‘I’ without ‘you’? – The Influence of Romantic Breakup on the Self-Concept”, researchers Slotter, E. B., Gardner, W. L., and Finkel, E. J. (2010) explain that such a transition passes through three phases, namely the departure from a previous self-concept (“This is who I think I am”) – a mourning phase, which is accompanied by an unravelling of this self-concept and therefore disintegrating certainty, which leads to emotional stress (“So who am I now anyway?”) – and finally an adaptation with the integration of a new self-concept (“This is who I am now”).

So for us, who accordingly have to let go of cherished/familiar attachments or even certain people from our past on our journey into ethical multiple relationships, it is important to consciously release a part of our previous identity – an outdated identity that we frankly no longer want to realize.

What’s more, a loss of relationship always means first and foremost a loss of emotional or perhaps even economic support.
This habitual “support” is likely to be lost if, for example, we confess to being part of a minority in our relationship life – because we no longer join in the unanimous round of collegial gossip, we no longer appear at the coffee table with just one selected favourite person and play “perfect family” – and because we have re-evaluated the concept of “friendship” (and what can be part of it?).

Above, the 7Mind app termed the resulting question “Who am I without this role?” – and in my opinion, that seems to point in the right direction:
Because if we transform our (love-) life with regard to our feelings and actions into an approach of ethical multiple relationships, then we will hopefully leave a role that we have merely “assumed”, but about which we were probably unquestioningly convinced for a very long time that it was the only one that seemed feasible.
In the English language, the word “role” is wonderfully connected to the word “evolve”. We may therefore find ourselves in a traditional “role” – but we can and may e-volve out of it.
On many pages of my bLog here I have tried to explain that I consider it a conscious and courageous decision to evolve towards one’s own true core self when we realize that we have uncovered our capacity for committing to “more than two” (or strictly speaking “more than one”) love(s).
The experts cited in this Entry emphasize that our interpersonal relationships are closely linked to our own self-image. Thus, if our developing self-image takes us closer and closer to the core of our being, this will always have a constructive influence on the type of relationship we enter into – and how we want to pursue them.

Opting for ethical multiple relationships will therefore most likely also mean going through a personal “consolidation phase” first. But consolidation also means reinforcing, strengthening or stabilizing something in order to create something that is more meaningful, committed and sustainable.
For my Oligoamory, I have always emphasized that, as far as I am concerned, quality should always take precedence over quantity. It is not the quantity of our potential (romantic) connections that counts, but their quality – no matter how few they may be.
Engaging in committed, sustainable (multiple) relationships can therefore actually mean successfully disconnecting from certain outdated aspects of our lives in order to become more true to ourselves.

Or as psychologist Eva Siem from the 7Mind team puts it – and in order to avoid getting too November-like (especially when there doesn’t seem to be another exciting relationship opportunity on the cloudy and overcast horizon yet…):
»You are not alone in the challenge of letting go. Grief and change are an essential part of life that all people have to face sooner or later.
Whatever the process looks like for you personally, consider it with kindness and remember that letting go can also be an opportunity to get to know yourself and your needs better.«



¹ Boss, P. (2007). Ambiguous Loss Theory: Challenges for Scholars and Practitioners. Family Relations, 56(2), 105-110.

² The main page of 7Mind HERE
The article on loss and farewell by Eva Siem HERE

³ The attachment theory was influenced in particular by the British psychoanalyst and child psychiatrist John Bowlby; e.g.
Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bowlby, J. (1991), An ethological approach to personality development. American Psychologist, 46, 331-341.

Entry 94

“Oh…, it was nothing…”

My favourite people and I share numerous relationship values that have emerged from Polyamory – and which, of course, apply to Oligoamory as well.
I even wrote a separate Entry on this in the beginning of this bLog: For example, we agreed on accountability for our actions, responsibility for our overall relationship, commitment with regard to the recognition of our values, integrity, reliability, consensus, equality, transparency, honesty, loyalty to – and identification with our relationship model.
Especially for my nesting¹ partnership these core elements are important, all our agreements – but especially our common view of how we envision life in multiple relationships – are based on them.

Those values listed above, which seem to appear quite grave in my Entry “The Oligoamorist’s Stone”, however, do not play a constantly dominating role in our everyday life. Rather, they form the invisible framework of our shared emotional contract – that is, our „acknowledgement – 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.”
And also this “contract” is not something that is filed away in some file folder in multiple copies – it is rather the commitment towards our shares lives, gained by many aligning conversations and experiences – and also a little bit our blueprint and vision for our approach to and acting in multiple relationships.

An agreement on certain values and also an “emotional contract” resulting from that are something like a railing, which hopefully provides support when people hold on to it – which is especially important in situations that are not everyday, accustomed or familiar.
And these situations in multiple relationships include, for example, those in which a new person is about to join.
Because those relationship shareholders who are just falling in love often have their heads in the clouds at the beginning – whereas the “established partners ” who are witnessing these events from the second row would like to know, for quite understandable reasons, what the status of this first “flirtation” is at the moment: Is it merely a flirt – or the prelude to the fact that a whole new beloved person will soon be added to the relationship network? And are there just shooting stars in the hearts and minds – or is a move in towards table and bed already being discussed?

To some readers, the range described here may sound exaggerated – but at the same time, it quite accurately reflects the possible spectrum of developments when romantic relationships are open to more than just one partnership.
Consequently, the above-mentioned mutual agreements and values do carry a certain graveness.

Enough with all the theory – and let’s have a very personal example:

I dated Annika, who was quite a whirlwind, perhaps a bit of a minor cyclone in terms of neediness.
When it comes to sexuality, for example, I prefer that things proceed slowly. All of my successful, long-term relationships had begun with a rather gradual engagement on this topic, from extended face-to-face getting to know each other, to cautious approaches to permitting exchanged caresses, to eventually shared, real sexuality weeks later.

Uh, wait a minute.
“Real sexuality”…, what is “real sexuality”?
Is that important?
Yes, I think it is important – especially with regard to our other existing loved ones. For shared sexuality is certainly a somewhat relevant familiarity marker in several aspects, and its importance in multiple relationships points predominantly in two directions:

On the one hand, of course, for the two persons who share sexuality – in whatever way – specifically with each other. Obviously, both persons have decided that they want to have – and experience – this area of intimate interpersonal exchange in their relationship.
On the other hand for all other favourite people and partners in the Polycule; in particular with the signal that besides the necessary familiarity here now a specific, physically intimate connection has emerged, which besides an unambiguous deepening of the level – as far as the kind of loving connection is concerned – can also in case of doubt have health and even legal consequences for all pending participants.
[Ok, I know, there are people out there who don’t attach so much importance to shared sexuality – but you may turn it this way and that – with regard to extended sexuality in a relationship consisting of more than just two people, an expansion of the field of sexual activity is in any case relatively substantial in its consequences.]

All right, then, so what is “real sexuality”?
In their Polyamory guidebook, “More Than Two” ² authors Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux suggest working with a very broad definition in multiple relationship contexts because of the enormous potential for discord or hurt when definitions of “sexuality” do not match between people. So, in case of doubt, “sexuality” would actually be anything that ranges from kissing, making out, clothed or unclothed fondling, sharing sexual fantasies, text or cybersex, phone sex, erotic massage, same-room masturbation, mutual masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, all the way to an explicit contact of sexual organs.

“Oligotropos, that’s quite a rigid approach – and now what does that have to do with Annika and your personal example?”

Oh yeah – so Annika, well… when she met me, she had not had sex for quite some time (but that was something I found out later).
On the first date we kissed, realized there was potential for more; and I was really looking forward to this journey (which I assumed would follow my usual script…) and so I reported my progress transparently to my nesting partner after that initial meeting.
My nesting partner knew me well and said ok to that, she only wanted to be informed about further steps on this “sexual journey” so that she would know how far that new relationship had progressed.

So far so good…
Already at the second meeting, however, Annika’s hands dug deep into my pants, which took me quite by surprise (and was not at all according to script…) and soon I found myself more or less in horizontal position under her thighs on the sofa, next to which I had just served the tea, – while Annika assiduously continued her explorations and also provided ample physical contact.
I considered it all a bit abrupt, a bit too fast – but part of me enjoyed it nonetheless – but after the encounter I was a bit embarrassed by all of it, not least in front of myself.
My mind thought that all this was “not right” – but also didn’t quite manage to activate my mouth for talking about it – and anyway, especially because I didn’t experienced it really as nice and relaxed, as I would have wished regarding a cosy get-to-know-you session there was nothing to fuzz about – accordingly “nothing had really happened”.

On the third date with Annika, she was well prepared from her point of view, because she was only wearing a one-piece dress and shoes. After not so long a time most of that was sufficiently arranged away and Annika’s unwrapping talents also had proficiently proceeded in my territory, as she already squatted expectantly on the edge of the sofa between my legs…
At this point, I’m fading out of the scene to ensure this bLog stays G-rated. But I admit that I carried a part of voluntary-involuntary complicity in me, which contributed to the eager-lustful striving of Annika simply because it gave me such pleasure to witness her pleasure-gaining.
But meanwhile my mind was again standing somewhere on a windy bridge in the drizzle with the collar turned up and only thought: “…but that’s not how I wanted it – that’s not right at all, that’s just harum-scarum and meaningless…”.

And since it was again somehow embarrassing for me – if only because I was in a sense being run over for the second time thereby overstepping my own personal (feel-good) boundaries – and sexuality in this sofa-edge style was uncomfortable, inadequate and as a matter of fact – specifically as well as figuratively – ineffective for me, I felt afterwards like a certain U.S. president in 1998, when he said in front of the world public: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.“
And that’s how I kept it in front of myself and, unfortunately, – while clinging to this awkward self-assessment – in my further external communication.

But when my favourite and nesting person found out not so much later, nevertheless, what had really happened in our cosy parlour, she was of course – and rightly – extremely embarrassed, disappointed and hurt.
And it came to a quarrel, in which I myself, however, had to realize after a very short time that I had virtually nothing at hand for my justification.
On the contrary. I realized with dismay that I had quite completely ignored our relationship values and agreements mentioned at the beginning, on the one hand, due to an easily perceptible cognitive bias and, on the other hand, due to the nature of my own interpretation of the situation, which I had tried to stipulate as the generally valid standard.

The cognitive bias is quickly explained: It is a phenomenon known in the English-speaking world as shifting baselines. It is best illustrated by the example of a child and a candy jar:
A child loves candy – and in the kitchen cupboard there is a jar filled with candy on Monday. Now the child takes out a few candies every day and does so, as it thinks itself, very skilfully – each time only a few, so that the fill level in the candy jar almost does not change. The child does this every day – and to it’s eyes the level in the glass has hardly changed after every 24 hours. On Saturday, the surprised mother asks the child why it had secretly emptied half the jar of sweets…!
The mother, of course, recorded the actual total level decrease from Monday to Saturday – the jar is, no doubt possible, visibly reduced to only half full.
“Shifting baselines” are unfortunately a very present and human phenomenon of our everyday self-deception (and currently playing a significant role in the field of climate change, for example): Only because a position changes only gradually (minor annual whaling in Japan and Iceland, for example) and it seems for a long time as if almost nothing happens, things change objective measurably nevertheless – and the effects are considerable and undeniable after a certain time (e.g. no more whales because they no longer find mating partners in the oceans due to spatial distances that have become too large to cover).
In relationships, “shifting baselines” are therefore the proverbial “silent poison”. In my case with Annika, I gave in more and more and thus deviated increasingly from my own wishes, values and agreements. Kissing became petting, petting became genital contact – and “sexual” was, strictly speaking, all of the above. Because that’s exactly how I would have judged it myself if I had been the mother in the example above confronted with the half-empty candy jar. So if a video had been played to me with a guy engaged in my activities on the sofa, I would have objectively said from the outside without hesitation, “Yes, what’s happening is sex.” But instead, I cheated myself by getting involved in an occurrence in which I was gradually selling out my own limits.

Those “shifting baselines” are what I and my battered self-worth in particular have to deal with – for my nesting partner, the U.S. presidential preference for my own perceptual evaluation definitely weighed heavier.
To get back to the camera recording and the plain statement: What has happened there was shared sexuality. This should have been the sole – and therefore also my sole – criterion with regard to what happened. Because this was the only piece of information my favourite person had asked me for: to communicate transparently and sincerely to what extent sexuality would already be involved in the deepening of my relationship with Annika.
This was the information that was essential for my favourite person, so that she, in turn, could have adjusted to it, could have made informed choices, could have expressed sensitivities, concerns, sympathy, could have sought a conversation – whatever. I, however, put my own perceived notion of “That wasn’t the way it should have been / That somehow wasn’t right…” above everything else – and thus deprived her of all of those options.
And by doing so, I also jettisoned at the same time the relationship values of “equality” and “participation. Exactly the same values that are usually so important to me as well.

In my case, it was indeed sexuality – but it could also have concerned (multiple) relationship topics like “telling each other personal stuff”, “spending time together”, “visits (yes, also overnight stays or vacations)”, “spending time with the kids”, “introducing someone (or being introduced) to friends or families”, etc.
Regarding any of these things, we probably all have personal ideas about how and when we wish they would occur. And presumably we all have “shifting baselines” when, for example, we pick someone up from the parking lot one time, ring the front doorbell next time, and are invited in for coffee the third time…
But each time there is only one actual, definite chain of events, as an observer – who has nothing to do with the situation – would have been able to perceive and describe it without embellishment.
This version is the reality and with respect to second or third parties – especially for the preservation of their full agency – it is the only relevant thing that counts – and therefore should be the only version to be told.

The mayhem in our minds may throw us into turmoil in many a situation and lead us astray in numerous ways. On some of these ways we may come to terms more favourably with what has happened, and we may cope better with our role in it in front of ourselves.
Our favourite people, however, need our undivided integrity for their well-being – and thus our courage to face reality – even if it is unpleasant for us.
Or, to put it a little more lightheartedly with US author Ernest Cline in his bestseller Ready Player One: »I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.«



¹ “Nesting partner”: In multiple relationships, a term for the people with whom one shares a “nest” – i.e. who live closely together and also spend a lot of everyday time, e.g. in a shared home.

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

Thanks to 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 93

Sex and Laundry

Cardrona Bra Fence, Cardrona, New Zealand

As early as in Entry 9 on this bLog, which addresses the “mysterious emotional contract” hidden behind the vast majority of interpersonal relationships, I quoted from the Polyamory guidebook “More Than Two¹ by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. There, the two authors joke that the most frequently asked questions regarding polyamory are “Who does the laundry?” followed by “Who sleeps with whom?”. In their book, they actually devote an entire chapter (the 19th) to the topic with exactly the same headline that I’m using for my Entry today – and admit right in the first lines that people in polyamorous relationships probably don’t have as much sex as people might think.
Laundry, however, is likely to be more prevalent in poly- and oligoamorous arrangements anyway, since we are dealing here with bonds between people that quite literally consist of “more than two”.
Thus, the more persistent question is indeed: Who actually does the laundry?
And why is this question and its answer of importance for (multiple) relationships?

Both on my home page and in several Entries that are authoritative for my oligoamory (e.g., No. 5 and No. 8), I describe that, from my point of view, the conduct of multiple relationships contains quite essential elements of “community building” as formulated, for example, by the U.S. psychiatrist Scott Peck². In other words, the very same process that underlies the emergence of shared housing, communes, ecovillages and other kinds of collective (living) arrangements. In fact, all of these multi-person relationships face similar challenges – which include the aforementioned “laundry issue”.
And anyone who has ever lived in a shared flat, for example, knows that such “clean-up work” is often done by the people who – as I always like to say – have the lowest “Filth Level” (i.e. the specific sensitivity to take action once the surroundings have reached a certain level of soiling…).

This is already unfavourable in shared flats and, as is well known, often enough leads to disputes about the distribution of tasks and the amount of contribution provided – in loving relationships with several people, such a setting is problematic for even more, quite personal, reasons.
Because what I call the “Filth Level” is not just about the growing pile of laundry. In intimate human relationships, the laundry pile is merely a proxy for various problems, where at some point the “Filth Level” is exceeded for one of the people involved and they start to feel significantly uncomfortable. But just as with the pile of laundry or the crumbs on the kitchen floor, in these matters usually the same people are the first to suffer from the gradually accumulating circumstances.
And yes, ok: dirty laundry; crumbs, dust bunnies – these are perhaps tangible visible phenomena, but besides them there probably exist another number of hidden “deposits” in the gears of every relationship, for example stress, tension, dissatisfaction, frustration, suppressed conflicts, etc. – regarding which, as a result, it is always the same person who feels most affected by the accumulated load and therefore – depending on his*her constitution and resilience – either explodes or collapses, rushes into inane action or falls into resignation and/or finally tries to fix things on his*her own.

Since in Entry 9 I have put into words the content of the “mysterious emotional contract” behind every relationship virtually as a concentrate as follows: “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.” – two essential aspects concerning the topic “Who does the laundry?” came to my attention during my own research on the worldwide web:

► On the one hand, of course, on the relationship level, which is even more important in multiple partnerships – especially depending on how many people are involved.

The Canadian-raised existential psychotherapist, counsellor, author and columnist for USA Today, Sara Kuburic, wrote on the subject a short time ago:
»Relationships are not passive. Relationships don’t ‘happen’ to us. Relationships are co-creations that require intention, patience, learning, unlearning, relearning, adjustment, apologizing, forgiving, communication and navigation.«
An excellent specifying of all the things that I also deal with here on my bLog time and again. Especially concerning the awareness I emphasize so often with regard to our decisions. But in this short summary maybe not comprehensible enough for everyone.

That’s probably what mindfulness coach and author Jan Lenarz thought, too, who picked up these words on the appearance of his website EinGuterPlan.de in the social networks and illustrated them as follows:
»Of course, the basis for a fulfilling relationship is first and foremost a lot of luck. Luck, to have been in the right place at the right time and to have found a match – for a friendship, for a romantic relationship. And the family into which we were born is also just a matter of chance and therefore also a matter of luck.
But if we meet a person by a happy coincidence, with whom we might match somehow, then this is first of all only an encounter, a snapshot. Quasi the key to a gate that opens the possibility of a relationship.
Relationships, on the other hand, are dynamic and must be actively shaped and nurtured in order to stay that way: by listening and asking, compromising, reflecting, adapting and communicating. At best, this relationship work should not be a back-breaking job in which one side toils away, but teamwork. Because that’s the only way to create something together in which the people who are part of it also feel at home.
So an interpersonal relationship is a bit like a potted plant. None is like the other and each has very individual needs: Too much water can be harmful, but so can too little. Sometimes everything runs easy for years and suddenly: Alarm – fungus gnat infestation! Realization: Almost invisible tiny parasites that nestle in the soil can cause the greatest damage to the roots. And then, seemingly without reason, all the leaves fall off overnight, where just a moment ago everything appeared splendid.
And the general conditions are the be-all and end-all anyway. No matter how easy it may seem to care for such a plant, even the most robust bow hemp will die sooner or later without attention. That’s why, at the latest when something seems awkward, a passive wait-and-see approach à la “It’ll work itself out!” is not a good preservation measure, neither in interpersonal relationships nor with potted plants.«


Sara Kuburic as well as Jan Lenarz and his collaborators thus both subscribe to the famous adage “relationships aren’t a one-way street”, emphasizing the processuality that must be experienced again and again – which Scott Peck also identified as early as 1987 – as well as the essential quality of the “shared co-creation”. “Shared co-creation” is the keyword par excellence here, because unlike the pile of laundry, where it may be just fine to leave its handling to one person alone, it is precisely this “co-creation” in an ethical multiple relationship that must be the concern and privilege of all involved.
The “plant example” from Jan Lenarz’ site illustrates it otherwise only too well: If one lets the relationship work slip, it becomes one day the problem of the threshold value of one of the other involved persons. The chaos, which regularly breaks out afterwards in a (multiple) relationship, strikes in such a way quite similar as with the poor plant mentioned above: After all, for the rest of the participants everything looked quite wonderful and harmonious until a moment ago – and then, all of a sudden – discord erupts, seemingly starting from just one person, who, for their part, on top of his*her accumulated suffering, must now also endure the displeasure of the whole group as an outright troublemaker.
Often only the shambles reveal that collectively the miracle of multiple relationships was taken for granted for too long, or that needs, desires or even fears of individuals were not expressed, heard and considered well enough when the relationship was established.

Heard?
Expressed?!
Exactly – “expressed” – which brings me to the second point.

► For on the other hand, there is also an individual level which, if not sufficiently resolved, can endanger the most magnificent shared co-creation.
In my view, the American author and co-dependency recovery coach Hailey Magee describes this dilemma most impressively: We must at least be able to express our needs, desires, or fears regarding an emerging (overall) relationship so that the others involved are able to hear us and take us to their hearts.
Unfortunately, however, our self-expression is occasionally deficient. Or at least biographically impaired, depending, for example, on how we grew up, how we experienced parental attachment styles – or what experiences we brought with us from previous relationships.
So in an advance excerpt from her 2024 book³, Hailey Magee attempts to shed light on our motivations for how and why we get involved in relationships ( – and with our starting example of the laundry pile in mind³, understanding her approach works excellently…).
If we are subject to unfavorable thought patterns we may have acquired in our biographical past, then, as Mrs. Magee names it, we may be subject to a motivation she calls literally “people-pleasing” (a kind of “accommodating” or “adapting”).
However, conformity and the desire to please are rooted in motivations that are rather critical for successful, egalitarian relationships at eye level in which we can feel accepted and secure. These are primarily:

Obligation: “I have do to this or else I feel guilty.”
Transaction: “I’m giving you X so that you give me Y.”
Loss Aversion: “I’m doing this because I’m afraidto loose you.”

I admit that it is probably difficult to start admitting to oneself that such thought constructs exist within oneself regarding our conduct of relationships. Probably it is even more difficult to do this facing one’s favourite people. For a shared “common whole” to be established, which is eventually to become a (multiple) relationship, however, such an awareness is of enormous importance. And once we succeed in doing this within ourselves, there is also a much better chance of identifying such patterns as they try to force their way into our relationships again – and eventually becoming more proficient at getting out of them. And since pleasing and adapting has a lot to do with our self-worth, strengthening and healing at this point is also a significant part of our self-care, which in this regard is primarily for our benefit and thus something we should be worthy of.

After all, if we no longer act out of conformity and the desire to please, then it will more and more often be our very best genuine affection and kindness towards our favourite people, which, according to Mrs. Magee, will manifest itself with the following motivations:

Desire: “I intrinsically want to do this (for you).”
Choice: “I could say yes or no to this, and I choose to say yes.”
Goodwill: “I’m doing this because I’m eager to increase your quality of life.”

Successful multiple relationships thus continue to remain interpersonal greenhouses and workshops in which both the ” mutual we ” as well as the individual standing of the contributors are repeatedly inspected, nurtured, and promoted (at least they should be 😉).
After all, this means that everyone involved always has a share in the result and benefits from it – regardless of whether this concerns the laundry or intense feelings.
In this regard, it seems important to me not to be too hard on ourselves and the others in the process, because almost none of us, according to Mrs. Magee, enters the race as an already fully developed, selfless, blank slate.
And sometimes love itself will help us, with its constancy and patience. Because as it says in the U.S. drama series “The Finder” in Season 1 Episode 5 [“The Great Escape”].
»There are some things you can’t learn. Some things only come through time and experience.«



¹ Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert “More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical polyamory”, Thorntree-Press 2014.

² Scott Peck, “The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace” (Simon & Schuster, 1987)

³ Hailey Magee, “Stop People-Pleasing and Find Your Power” (Simon & Schuster 2024).

Thanks to Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash for the photo and to my this-time muse Wolfram, whose informative news feed provided me with much of the impetus for this Entry.

Entry 92

Long live diversity!

In the US cult science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation, in season 6 episode 9 (The Quality of Life) a scientist invents a group of work robots for delicate tasks in challenging environments, which have the ability – depending on the analysed problem – to create by themselves (for the nerds among us: to replicate) the best possible tool for the respective further procedure. During the episode, however, the viewers can also experience how the robots share certain approaches for all-round optimization (which is seen as a sign of networking ability, flexibility, communication and intelligence), refuse to expose each other to unnecessary danger (which speaks for healthy self-assessment and self-preservation) – and, as it comes to the worst in an extremely risky situation, one of the little machines sacrifices itself, so to speak, for the rest of its group, which in this way survives the danger of destruction in an emergency situation.

A well-known saying, which originates, among others, from one of my favourite psychologists – Abraham Maslow, whom I often quote here on this bLog – states that “whoever owns more tools than just a hammer, would not consider everything else as a nail”.

To me, Mr. Maslow is an enormously important source of impetus regarding the universe of multiple relationships, since as a representative of the so-called “Humanistic Psychology” he made significant contributions to the exploration and awareness of human needs (first mentioning Entry 11), as well as having directly influenced, via his concept of ethical-questioning Self-actualization, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, the woman who shaped the idea of Polyamory in print-ready format for the first time in 1990 (see especially Entry 49).

Concerning multiple relationships, Maslow’s “Hammer metaphor” contains several fundamental messages:
On the one hand – and most obvious – that a hammer, although practical, is nevertheless rather a coarse instrument, which is certainly hardly suitable for precision work. Which is at the same time a symbol for the fact that it is not always wise to approach every venture one encounters with rather blunt force, thereby attempting to level it into the ground as much as possible (which – if you apply it to interpersonal relationships – sounds somewhat alarming in itself…).
On the other hand, that the potential of having a richness of options (i.e. tools) gives us flexibility in dealing with problems – even when they come along unexpectedly.
And Maslow’s picture tells us something else: That just the mere knowledge of our (potential) flexibility changes our perspective – our basic attitude – both in terms of confidence in our ability to come up with solutions, and to the effect that we gradually no longer regard any difficulties that may come our way as so severe that we would have to meet them with a “maximum mobilization” of all our resources and forces.

In multiple relationships, which, like Oligo- or Polyamory, distinguish themselves with the characterizing addition “ethical”, especially the latter mentioned mindset and approach is of great importance.
For it contains the mandate for all of us who want to move through worlds of multiple relationships to persistently engage in the maintenance and expansion of our very own “assortment of tools.”
Which is not easy, because if we are used to think so far predominantly in monogamous ways, it is rather familiar to us to act predominantly out of the “hammer-aspect”:
Jealousy? Bang! – there simply must not be any other loved ones besides the core couple! Fear of loss? Bang! – the other one immediately has to stop his or her fear-inducing behaviour! Communication problems or friction issues due to misunderstandings? Bang! – best solution: one-way communication (also known as “clear announcement”…) bottom up or top down with a defined internal hierarchy – then such things won’t happen! By which I do not mean to say that this is a good approach in a monogamous model – but the past of our parents and grandparents has tragically proven how far people can get with just a hammer…

Abraham Maslow accordingly gave “self-realization,” which Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart admired so much, such an essential status precisely because there we can immediately start with our “tool care and expansion” in the most basic and elementary relationship of all: the one with ourselves.
Abraham Maslow, would not have been THE Abraham Maslow of the meanwhile much-invoked “Maslow’s pyramid of needs” (which by now is scientifically no longer regarded as being quite as fixed as it was in its early days), if it had not already been clear to him from his knowledge of human psychology that our (problem-)responsiveness (i.e. the diversity of our tools) is strongly related to the knowledge concerning the composition of our need situation.
In the last five bLoge entries of this year, I have repeatedly dealt – also self-critically – with precisely this knowledge or ignorance of one’s own need situation. And the ensuing neediness… Especially because being needy means that the first thing you always reach for when you look into your toolbox is the ol’ hammer: Problem? Eliminate it – BANG!
For the mere, predominantly unconscious, knowledge that the hammer is able to eliminate problems makes it unfortunately seductive simply out of sheer habit. And this is also somewhat alarming for our interpersonal relationships…

Whereby self-realization requires just such a significant degree of becoming conscious, in accordance with the goals of humanistic psychology, as I presented them in Entry 51 – and outline them briefly here once again:

  1. Human beings are more than the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to single attributes.
  2. Humans exist both in unique human contexts as well as in a world-wide ecology.
  3. Humans are conscious beings and they are conscious of being conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other human beings.
  4. Human beings have the ability to make decisions and therefore assume responsibility.
  5. Human beings are intentional, they strive for goals, they are aware that they cause future events, and they seek for meaning, a sense of value, and expression of creativity.

Psychobabble, too complicated?
The pitfalls usually become apparent when we discard awareness, consciousness and cognition (which is, after all, are essential pieces of self-acknowledgement).
Because nature has unfortunately arranged it somewhat awkwardly that we can fall in love with others faster than we are able to trust them.
In Entry 15, however, I do point to the human capacity for speedy (pre-)trust (Swift Trust Theory), but at the same time I explain that this will not carry through, especially in precisely those cases where our own deficient foundation of needs comes under presumed assault. And so, seemingly threatening or even fear-inducing behaviour on the outside will immediately shrink an already scarce contents of our toolbox back to hammer size – and with it, as mentioned above, the perspective of our coping strategies: “Oh no, it’s a NAIL!!!”

The Star Trek episode mentioned at the beginning uses the parable surrounding the cute work robots to confront viewers with the question regarding what life is.
Star Trek is acknowledged science fiction – and thus the little machines are already a little ahead of us. Because they show us why they are very much alive – and humanistic psychology is an important part of the answer:

  1. By possessing, so to speak, an “infinitely diverse inner toolbox”, they are clearly “more than the sum of their parts”. They are manifested plurality, not reducible to one characteristic – and that, applied to our present age, in which we talk about e.g. fluidity of sex, gender and types of relationships, is just as diverse as it is non-normative.
  2. By communicating with each other, the devices create a network of experience that constitutes a new, unique combination. At the same time, this network can only maintain exactly this quality through all contributors, which creates both an individual and an overall context. To me, this is an essential competence of committed-sustainable “multiple” relationships.
  3. The robots show consciousness specifically at the moment when they are supposed to work in a danger zone where they might be destroyed. In doing so, they demonstrate healthy self-care, which of course primarily benefits each individual (because it survives) – but at the same time takes into account and protects by this action the “greater whole” (the “mutual we” of Oligoamory, you might say) to which they all contribute.
  4. By taking decisions, the robots also prove beyond the purely practical level that they “own more than just a hammer”. Because in this way, they assume personal responsibility to solve problems individually, assume overall responsibility to protect their group – and in case of doubt, they join forces to benefit from the experience of others.
  5. The scene in which a robot finally sacrifices itself for the others in an initially hopeless situation touches what I call the core essence of romanticism in Entry 34: the unrequested self-sacrifice. Because quite obviously the robots have developed an acknowledgment of their own significance and their own value. which means that their intentions and goals are no longer robotic at all, because they have realized something deeply human by assuming plurality, consciousness and responsibility: Their finiteness – and thus their valuable nature. the “self-sacrifice” (even without giving up life) is for me therefore a proof of “pure love” (and only real living beings are capable of it): Our contribution, our gift to our group, our network of relationships (and it is not at all self-less in this way, if it is reciprocated to us next time…).

For me, of course, in the Star Trek series, it’s a neat premise that there are several robots right from the start. A single specimen alone, despite its advanced tool capability, would otherwise never have realized its full inherent potential (and then presumably would have developed neither consciousness nor life).
Because multiple relationships therefore probably always impact the degree of our self-realization. They “pluck”, so to speak, at our consciousness and confront us with our measure of existing inner liveliness.
Successful multiple relationships therfore require precisely the increasing ability to change perspective, which we can certainly improve in interaction with others, but for which we must seek – and uncover – the foundations within ourselves.
The same is thus true for the inalienable individual value residing in us and our lifelong search for meaning, which (hopefully) completes us more and more and brings about who we truly are as a human being. Contacts with a wide variety of people and environments will give us knowledge about the sheer amount of tools that are available for a wide variety of challenges.
However, only our practice with them in truly trustful, intimate relationships, which will constitute our predictable (social) group (precisely because there we are aware of our mutual limitations and our valuable nature!), will make us champions in gradually transforming our toolboxes into genuine treasure chests.



Thanks to Adam Sherez on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 91

Moving Chairs

Recently, in Entry 88, I expressed the hope that Oligoamory should, as much as possible, be something we do – not something that happens to us.
At the same time, I have admitted that in practice romantic connections between more than two people are most often rather unforeseen life events that – as John Lennon once put it – happen to us while we’re busy making other plans.
And that’s ok – and also proves itself to be the case in the historical context of Oligoamory, if we look at the ancestry of its “bigger sister”, Polyamory – as I have described it e.g. in Entry 49.
In that Entry I quoted the neopagan priestess and author Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart who, out of personal life experience and because it happened to herself, seized the initiative to create a love and life model for ethical multiple relationships.
For her, too, the starting point of her vision consisted of facts that already had come to pass: Several people, who were not necessarily in a legal relationship according to existing (marital) law, had feelings for each other and wanted to reliably acknowledge their togetherness – both publicly and in front of each other.
Based on her neopagan values – such as responsibility for one’s own actions, a high degree of sincerity, and the equal worth of all creatures – she conceived a substantiated justification for conducting a committed loving relationship at eye level, even with more than two people, in which all parties could interact within a safe and predictable setting.

Why am I writing this?
Because, also historically, love, the feeling of togetherness, the bond and the “feeling of belonging to one another” emerged first – and from this arose the desire for a livable, realisable framework.
Morning Glory Raven-Zell was a practitioner, not a social scientist, who sat down in front of a drawing board one day because she wanted to give the world the philosophical blueprint for another type of relationship.
And as a practitioner, moreover, she allowed herself to be guided by actual life – and not so much by her needs when they had not yet taken tangible shape.

I emphasize this because in the wide world of multiple relationships there are nevertheless many people who would like to have such a kind of relationship for themselves – to be precise: who would like to have more loved ones for such a kind of relationship – but who do not have any yet/at the moment in their lives.
I don’t like to problematize here whether these people – in the absence of a definite relationship – are to be considered polyamorous or not. I think this is absurd, since we would then also have to ask a single monoamorous person whether he or she could legitimately call himself or herself “single”, because this would primarily signal “temporary solitude” in a world predisposed to categorical partnering.
So I say: Sure, there are “poly-singles”, simply people who can envision a life in multiple relationships, but for whom this form of relationship is not yet manifest in their everyday lives. Whether in addition one can also still be “polysingle” in a two-person relationship, that may be debatable. If the other part of that relationship is monogamous, then I would possibly agree here as well. However, if both current “relationship occupants” consider themselves as polyamorous, but currently lack other lovers to become “more than two”… That’s where the discussion quickly becomes hair-splitting – but it certainly approaches my topic today.

Because what do we need to feel “complete”?
The Swiss poet Hans Manz once wrote the following text in 1994, which he released with the title “The Chair”:

A chair,
alone.
What does he need?
A table!

On the table is bread, cheese pears,
there is a filled glass.

Table and chair,
what do they need?
A room,
in the corner a bed,
a closet by the wall,
opposite the closet a window,
in the window a tree.

Table, chair, room…
What do they need?
A human being.

The human sits on the chair at the table,
looks out of the window
and is sad.
What does s*he need?

It is quite interesting what perspectives this seemingly austere poem may provide. When I read it for the first time, my partner at that time and I had just become dog owners. So our spontaneous answer was: a dog! And we joked that the dog might topple the chair, then sit under the table, beg for bread, cheese and pears (thereby knocking over the glass by wagging its tail), frolicking through the room, sleeping in the bed at night, it would scratch itself on the closet, hop with its front paws on the window sill in order to look out, lift his leg at the tree – and the human, the human in the poem as soon as one would have added only this dog to the picture, would have in the truest sense of the word “life in the joint” and suddenly a quantity at things, to which he could attend. And thus hardly any time left for sadness.

As a “polysingle” it is sometimes us who sit sadly on the chair. And we would then like to add another human being to our picture. And if we’re still sad then…, hmm, maybe another one… Because then we would have “life in the joint”, suddenly chair, table, bread, cheese, pears, glass, room, bed, closet, window and tree would rather make sense, we could share all this and thus would hardly have time left for sadness. Sadness like in the poem, for example. Deeply buried, negative basic emotions such as sadness, anger, fear or disgust, for which we would accordingly trade an entire world in order not to have to feel them.
A dog, pardon, a life with several loved ones is apparently sometimes supposed to save us from ourselves. And if we are completely honest with ourselves, we know deep inside that they can’t really save us – well, then at least they should distract us.
Distract us from the fact that we need to feel our own feelings completely.
In Entry 6, I quoted for the first time the American author Anaïs Nin, who wrote “that each new person represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ¹
Right, that could be an opportunity as well. But much more we embrace instead rapturously – or even more almost intoxicated – this(these) new world(s), because they provide us with so many new cares that from now on we want and can devote ourselves completely only to them. And furthermore, multiple relationships also allow the collision of several worlds, so that perhaps on top of that a calling as a facilitator, tightrope walker or even manager is arising for us. So there will be no time left to feel one’s own feelings completely, to be compelled to feel them…

From my own experience I can say that this distraction, which can even maintain the illusion of “salvation” (from one’s own suffering) over a long period of time, certainly works for quite a while. Whereby the word “work”, which since the 20th century has been used predominantly for objects and devices, is almost emblematic.
Because good – and by “good” I always mean succeeding – Oligo- or Polyamory will never occur this way.

The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung, who intensively studied our inner world of symbols and archetypes, wrote already in 1934²:
»To love someone else is easy, but to love what you are, the thing that is yourself, is just as if you were embracing a glowing, red-hot iron; it burns into you and that is very painful.
Therefore, to love somebody else in the first place is always an escape which we all hope for, and we all enjoy it when we are capable of it.
But in the long run, it comes back on us. You cannot stay away from yourself forever. You have to return, have to come to that experiment, to know whether you really can love. That is the question – whether you can love yourself. And that will be the test.«


By which C. G. Jung expresses that we can thus “add” nothing at all to the picture of chair, table, bread, cheese, pears, glass, room, bed, closet, window and tree, so that the human being next to it is no longer sad. Even if s*he would fill the room with more people, none of them could ensure that at the same time and as if by magic “love” would also appear in this room.
Rather, the individual in that picture would have to “put something into it” or, even better, rediscover it – in its self.

And what that is is quite analogous to the root of succeeding Polyamory: There it is love; concerning ourselves, it is self-love accordingly. There it is the feeling of togetherness, concerning us it is the feeling of being at one with oneself, of owning oneself. There it is connectedness, concerning us it is the certainty that we can exist out of ourselves due to our inalienable self-worth. There it is the “feeling of belonging to each other” – with us it is a feeling of identity and significance.

However, if we approach Poly- or Oligoamory like the sad human in the room, there is considerable danger that we will let our desires, which arise from unmet needs, design the plan on the draft board for our own version how a multiple relationship should look like.
And unfulfilled needs unfortunately quickly express themselves in the shape of neediness, which manifest in such a way that potential loved ones are unceremoniously stuffed into (all) those need gaps through which our unfelt basic feelings continually want to surface – and due to this unpleasant sensation of a diffuse loss of energy we constantly reduce our satisfaction with life (see also my metaphor of the “need barrel” in Entry 58).
Consequently, no “patch” of this kind will ever be able to adequately address the actual void beneath it.

Today, therefore, I wish us to once again take the path of the greatest possible courage, this time to take the very first fundamental step towards a life in healthy (multiple) relationships:
To accept and love this thing that we are ourselves.
To allow ourselves to feel our feelings fully.
To hold our own hand, and choose neither Poly- nor Oligoamory as a way out when things in us are still on fire.



¹ Quote from: Anaïs Nin, Diaries 1929-1931 “Can I Love Two Men?”

² Zarathustra Seminary page 1473 – C.G. Jung on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (1934)

The text to Morning Glory Raven-Zell’s article with the first outline on Polyamory (as it appeared in the magazine “Green Egg” at that time in 1990) HERE.

Thanks to Renè Müller on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 90

Relationship-Anatomy

The US-American medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy certainly deserves the title “epic” thanks to its almost 20 seasons. With minor interruptions since 2005, there has been healing and hoping, loving and loosing, sharing and separating – whatever it takes.
As with most medical series, the purely medical aspects of this format actually merely set the framework for the plot. In detail – and quite predominantly – it is about the interpersonal relationships of the hospital staff, their weal and woe in the search for…
Yes, what actually?
On the relevant streaming services, the long-term broadcast is even tagged (and recommended) as an “LGBTQ series” – reason enough to appear here on my bLog purely because of that?
Well… The series does feature lesbian and gay people, and the topic of gender identity – and also the changing of it – is dealt with in several episodes.
However, from a polyamorous point of view, the series could be seen rather as a somewhat gory long-term disaster caused by a surprisingly traditional and conservative social morality.
Because on the one hand, there’s a lot of flirting and screwing going on between interns and senior residents. There’s plenty of infatuated sex, consolation sex and even retaliatory sex…
But on the other hand: Strictly speaking, this colourful series, in which misunderstandings are kept in the room with nice regularity, in which opponents are misinterpreted as unfavourably as possible, and in which the most negative motives are assumed in case of doubt, is merely one long chase for the ultimately “right one“.
And so the label “LGBTQ” is also unfortunately only limited to a delicate nudging against heteronormativity¹. Whether lesbian or gay: As a matter of principle, these participants of the rainbow are also only looking for their one soulmate to be happy with for the rest of their lives. Likewise the transgender person who, as expected, also hopes for an existence at the side of yet one more person who accepts him or her as he or she is… – …but alas, the emphasis remains solely on “one”.
So, because the series comes across as so ravishingly mononormative² in this capacity, it thus already seems to promise at first glance the above-mentioned battleground of relationship chaos flaring up everywhere.

Now, for one thing, the lively ring-around-the-rosie game with varying genital contacts is, to a certain extent, a tacitly legitimized exploratory space of the monoamorous society designed for single people trying to figure out their market-value… To achieve this purpose, even collateral damage is considered acceptable – after all, this all occurs as part of the generally accepted endeavour to find the best/most suitable counterpart for oneself.
In this way, hearts are regularly broken, hot vows of commitment are sworn, strangers suddenly become “items”, living space is taken up together, and even hasty marriages take place, only to safeguard the best match on the contested terrain.
And so it happens as it has to happen: With similar regularity, the relationships configured in this way finally break up again; often because suddenly some aspects of the other person emerged that had been completely overlooked in the frenzy of the battle – or because one’s own belief that there could possibly still be a more precisely fitting partner out there finally gains the upper hand – nourished by accumulating doubts concerning the current state.

For another thing, the dynamic just described is reinforced by the somewhat peculiar assertion of the monomormative ideal that this “game” has to stop at the very moment when the “one” has been found / resp. obtained. While people were just romping through various beds with the hope of gaining experience and selecting compatibility, this hormonal pilgrimage is supposed to end at the exact moment when the “holy grail” of the best possible fit has been found in the form of the future life partner. Also this abundantly utopian maxim, which is human as well as above all perfectly individual character traits in no way appropriate, contributes in the series (as well as in reality) to the intensification of drama, of suffering, and finally to various separations – which impose themselves as inevitable.

All the viewers of the series, who already harboured certain doubts about the “one eternal relationship for life”, start rubbing their hands with delight at this point time and again:
Grey’s Anatomy confirms again and again in the mirror of a TV series the obvious reasons for still high divorce rates³ – and thus, strictly speaking, also the structural dysfunctionality of what is dubbed by its critics (especially in Relationship Anarchy) as the bigoted cheat package “RDR”, the “Romantic Dyadic Relationship”.

Most readers of this bLog – and I as a writer – can probably understand this point of view. After all, living in multiple relationships confronts us with these very phenomena that occasionally make you want to shout out to the show’s characters, “Hey, have you ever thought what would happen if you didn’t have to choose between these two people right now!?”
The dynamic of Grey’s Anatomy, which lives from the fact that it is always a matter of having to make a decision, even to the greatest pain for all those involved, would of course immediately evaporate. No matter whether in the premarital “race” always only one goal has to be pursued and courted in serial manner – or whether after the “finish” untouchable twosomeness has to prevail at once, for otherwise immediate breakup has to be the indispensable consequence.

However, we (I allow myself to write this in collective terms), the “multiple relationship folks”, know that we can be in more than one romantic-intimate loving relationship with different people at the same time. And we know that our feelings for additional other people can arise even if we are already in “established” companionships – and these connections are allowed to exist simultaneously and do not have to inevitably replace each other.
Thinking in terms of multiple relationships effectively welcomes the “and” – and perceives an “or” as a pre-reducing convention.

But then why don’t we do so much better in multiple relationships?
If Grey’s Anatomy took its “LGBTQ label” more seriously, if the series included not only gender identity and sexual orientation, but also alternative kinds of relationships and ways of loving, would it automatically be less dramatic?
Unfortunately, I don’t think so, because at second glance, the conclusions that the TV series suggests regarding our general interpersonal relationship- and especially relationship-initiation behaviour are nevertheless mostly applicable to multiple relationships as well.

After some time, I’ve been reading more intensively through various forums concerning our topic in the past few weeks – and would now have to admit that things are often not all that different in the realms of multiple relationships than they are in pre-prime time series.
Two focal points in particular, which the creators of the series Grey’s Anatomy regularly use for constant excitement – and which I have already briefly referred to above – quickly turn every (love)life into a full-scale melodrama, even when it comes to relationships with more than just two participants.

Too much – too fast
In the hospital, getting to know each other takes place at work, followed by a fast-paced flirtation in which friends and acquaintances are yet welcome to contribute tips and speculations – but it is not long before the core participants find themselves in a physical rendezvous (usually) in one of the facility’s on-call rooms. The immediate initiation of a sexual encounter seems to be an indisputable part of the process of getting to know each other – and afterwards it is either “great love” or at least a purgatory of inflamed passions, because some subtleties have not been clarified – which however in any case urges repetition and continuation. And because the close environment has noticed the dizzying progress accordingly and now with the briskly initiated sexuality “facts” in the sense of socially accepted pair bonding were created to a certain extent, further steps of a fully comprehensive relationship must be quickly established. At least for the appearance – and at least so far that one convinces oneself (and the potential partner being) of the tide of events (see also previous Entry 89).
At the beginning of this Entry today, I described the underlying morality in Grey’s Anatomy as “surprisingly traditional-consevative”.
But perhaps the series is also more profound because it contrasts the hasty behaviour of the participants – with which they sometimes bring about the demise of a relationship even faster than they realize – with an inner longing: The desire to get to know each other thoroughly – in order to become clear about the perspective for true familiarity and closeness.
Monogamy may strike us as a kind of somewhat strange (and, at its core, probably unnecessary) self-restraint. Nevertheless, what is valid in monogamy just perhaps for “only one” partner, that is valid for us in Poly- or Oligoamory just as well. For the “love-race” described above, so suitable for TV series, is merely the remaining distorted image of a hope that dwells in all of us: to have people around us who accept us as we are. And in return to gather people around us whom we trust despite all their peculiarities.
In Poly- and Oligamory, too, however, we often get carried away too quickly by trying to shorten this process – or, if possible, to pre-empt the result of the development in advance. In this way, we also create hasty “facts” in which, after a short time, several people may have to deal with a lack of certain fundamentals that are precisely necessary for communal trust, an appropriate appreciation of values, and a certainty that derives only from accumulated experience. As a result, insecurity about oneself and others begins to spread, mundane characteristics become quirks that are difficult to bear, and the very peace in the relationship that everyone involved is actually looking for fails to materialize.
Which leads straight to the next point.

Always assume the worst
In Grey’s Anatomy it’s already a mannerism, to some extent: the characters, even when they are close friends, constantly manage to misunderstand each other in the most drastic way. For this, it helps enormously never to ask questions, but to be sure what the other person wants, needs or intends – and of course: to interpret the actions of the other persons as if they had the malice to cause the greatest possible mischief. If it were not a TV series, one could wonder as a viewer how this is even possible among people who on the one hand belong to a regular circle of friends (where each other’s biographical backgrounds is known) – and on the other hand have to work hand in hand on a daily basis to save lives…
But not every one of us has to save lives every day – ok, apart from our own – right?
However, our human-evolutionary embedded negative expectation (see also Entry 43) occasionally clouds our vision even under normally-established everyday conditions. Often another typical human characteristic is added to this, which is the tendency to regard the standards of one’s own actions as generally valid for all others (by the way, this is also a Cognitive Bias from Entry 89: Egocentric Bias) – and thus to weight deviations from them as unwise or even as deliberately wicked.
If, in addition, another seed of insecurity awakens our dogs, which are snoozing at best (for “sleeping” would be a euphemism…), then most affairs – especially in relationship matters – take a truly unpleasant turn.
Especially in combination with the upper section “Too much – too fast”, all persons involved may find out that – to use a tennis metaphor – they rushed to the net too hastily – and that they have not yet contributed sufficiently to a basis of commitment which makes the behaviour of the other persons involved appear predictable or (sufficiently) reliable. Of course, this is especially true at such a moment for potential newcomers who are still in the process of becoming acquainted. But it can also suddenly apply to existing partners with whom we thought we had already enjoyed established relationship patterns for a long time.

Polyamory – and Oligoamory – are ways of living and loving that, from their conception, want to meet these human characteristics with shared values.
Because fictions such as Grey’s Anatomy but also, for example, the Harry Potter series” profit in their dramaturgy from the fact that even closely connected people who are on the same side simply do not speak to each other, the above-mentioned types of multiple relationship want to emphasize that equality and participation are elementary in a network of relationships; that there every voice, every idea, also every concern should be expressed and perceived with equal dignity and at eye level.
This forms the groundwork for all those involved to have the courage to be genuinely sincere and transparent, which is what provides the basis for mutual trust and true getting-to-know-you, which is worthy of its name. When everyone gradually becomes aware that the other people also recognize their contribution to the “whole”, reliability begins to develop – and from this, at some point, actual trust can grow.

In a somewhat unlikely place, I found an astonishingly appropriate quote on this subject. Robert Pölzer, editor-in-chief of the magazine Bunte, wrote on the coronation of the British monarch King Charles III (issue 20/23):
»Values make us defensible. Values are the foundation of love. For love without sincere values is not love, but only a game. Only those who give with their hearts can experience true love.«

When Mr. Pölzer says “defensible”, he means “resilient”. And resilience is what we need – in all our close human relationships – because our needs are precisely designed to carry us away, especially in those moments when we unconsciously or obliviously, like the proverbial donkey with the carrot, follow only our immediate affections.
We all possess resilience to varying degrees from the time we grow up. But according to the current state of science, it is also something that we are allowed to build on throughout our lives.
I therefore firmly believe that we can act like good physicians for us in this respect: Establish a solid vantage point, be true to your (multiple relationship) values, slow down when in doubt and act carefully rather than rashly – and confidently never assume the worst.
Because it is usually not so alarming in love life that it requires surgical intervention for almost all the cases I have ever experienced.
It’s a beautiful day to save lives.



¹ Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality is the preferred or normal mode of sexual orientation. It assumes the gender binary (i.e., that there are only two distinct, opposite genders) and that sexual and marital relations are most fitting between people of opposite sex.
Heteronormativity creates and upholds a social hierarchy based on sexual orientation with the practice and belief that heterosexuality is deemed as the societal norm.
A heteronormative view, therefore, involves alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity and gender roles. Heteronormativity is often linked to heterosexism and homophobia. The effects of societal heteronormativity on lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals can be examined as heterosexual or “straight” privilege.

² Mononormativity refers to the assumption that romantic and sexual relationships can only exist or are normal between two monogamous partners, thus referring to practices and institutions that privilege or value monosexual and monogamous relationships as fundamental and “natural” in society (Source: Wiktionary)

³ …but – contrary to media rumours – they are no longer rising; see HERE. (Source: divorce.com)

The last sentence of today’s entry originates, of course, from the popular series character Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey).
Ok – and in Season 15 Episode 13 there is some guessing about Polyamory between three elderly people. But again it stops right there and remains mere speculation.

Thanks to the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 89

Cognitive Bias¹

Two thousand seventeen was the year I undauntedly began to mingle with the polyamorous folks.
At that point, I previously had three years of experience in solid kitchen-table DIY Polyamory, a year and a half of which I had also lived in a close-knit, family-like three-way relationship complete with house and kids – and now, accordingly, I thought I was ready for more prospective loved ones.
Those days, before the Corona plague, were benevolent to such intentions. I already was a member of the largest German Polyamory forum on Facebook at that time – and there it was not unusual, simply for networking purposes, to write to interesting people with whom one had already once found unanimous agreement in contributions on various topics and – if the kilometre radius of the mutual places of residence also still indicated an economically useful proximity – to simply meet live and in person.
So, in this way, my significant other and I had a few first meetings of “date-like” character at that time.
The situation was indeed somewhat “gold feverish”, because the “other side” was usually just as anxious to see who and what one would meet as one’s own self.
And “gold feverish” was definitely a good description as far as I was concerned.
First of all, this was due to the fact that two or three opportunities for meetings quickly arose in this manner, which suggested a certain abundance and variety of choice.
In addition, it was the case that almost all persons who were courageously willing to date in this way, like myself, had just “stepped out of the polyamorous broom closet” recently – and now wanted to give their idea of ethical multiple relationships a more substantial comparison with green life (in any case, more than in the somewhat bleak format of a mere forum discussion…).

In this way, I met with Kristina several times. Kristina was outgoing and witty ( I had already noticed her that way on social media) – but she was much younger than me and a more detailed comparison of our further interests (apart from polyamory) soon proved that there weren’t too many similarities. In addition, Kristina’s appearance reminded me a bit of a former, rather pushy neighbour (who in turn had been older than me) – and a very cranky part of me feared that Kristina might resemble her in a few years, which I found hard to bear as an unpleasant reminiscence.
If some of you readers are rolling your eyes now, then I can only agree with you from my point of view today: I was on the go with a “checklist in my head” – and believed that “the perfect date” would surely come up soon. Quite in accordance with the silly saying “…therefore he who is about to commit himself longer, should check whether something better might be found…”. And due to this complacent approach, I quickly lost the ability to recognize these shortcomings in my own field of supposed expertise.
The second time we met, Kristina and I were sitting on the sofa at my house and Kristina was talking…, ah, about whatever. We must have been curious enough about each other, otherwise there probably would not have been a second meeting – but due to the above-mentioned suggested abundance, I considered that too for naturally granted.
So I watched Kristina talking more than I actually listened, thereby realizing almost physically that I meanwhile reached a point where all of a sudden the option opened up for me to fall in love with her.
“Oh,” I thought, “that’s fabulous how Polyamory works!” Being “polyamorous” seemed to put me in a position to fall in love with (another) person willingly, despite my ” mental checklist” which stated practical, theoretical, and even aesthetic reasons against it. And I was quite obviously enabled to consciously choose or avoid the switch “Falling in love – yes or no?” because of my acquired ability to navigate habitually through the various spaces of multiple relationships. Ingenious!
Back then I decided for ² the switch and chose “Fall in love!” – and enjoyed the following minutes in which Kristina talked on unsuspectingly of my inner considerations, but for me an increasingly wonderful aureole of attraction and loveliness condensed around her and I became more and more enamoured with her from one moment to the next.
That same afternoon, it also became clear to Kristina that something had significantly changed the atmosphere on my side. Kristina was – as she later admitted – already quite taken with me, but, since she was sufficiently shy, was at first somewhat unsettled by my previous attitude. So when I finally gave my butterflies permission to take flight, hers immediately fluttered up to me – and the rest, well, the rest could be history.
No, the rest IS in fact unfortunately history, because my relationship with Kristina lasted only about a quarter of a year and then things went against the wall – for reasons that I maybe will explain in some other Entry – but today it’s supposed to be about something else.

Six years into the universe of multiple relationships later, I regularly think about that afternoon with Kristina.
Because for quite a while there, several amorous fallacies entrenched themselves into my brain, unnecessarily twisting my perceptions over the next half decade concerning “Poly- and Oligoamory”.
Fallacy 1: There are many exciting people out there who are open to multiple relationships. With some research ability and perseverance you will always find someone interesting and you can always consolidate (maintain or reinforce) the circle of your loved ones.
Fallacy 2: You have the ability to fall in love purposefully – or you can choose not to. This way, you will assemble just the right group of people for your network. You will neither fall for the wrong fellas, nor will there be any “head-over-heels” actions.
Fallacy 3: You are a great guy and have a lot of potential to offer. If you make an offer, it’s already so good at this point that it’s almost impossible to turn down. The benefits of being in a relationship with you are obvious.

In 2017 I did not yet know that these were false conclusions. On the contrary – I thought these ideas were (self-)explainable and therefore plausible.
Issue 1, however, led to an ever-increasing effort in my dating behaviour, so that at the peak of my “sorting mania” I was a member of almost a dozen dating sites – firmly convinced that “more choice” would inevitably lead to “greater accuracy of match and compatibility” in the long run.
Issue 2 made me believe for a long time that with the gift of “falling in love consciously” I would posess some kind of inner protection against wrong decisions in love matters – unfortunately, however, exactly the opposite was the case.
And Issue 3 was simply pure overconfidence – approving things that were or could not be taken for granted in any way – and thus a kind of consumer attitude that was not in the least sustainable and therefore did not fit in at all with the philosophy of Oligoamory (see its subtitle).

Just recently, in April 2023, I read a fascinating interview with the well-known German actor and narrator Bjarne Mädel³ in the newspaper “Einbecker Kompakt” (physical edition 19.04.). To the question of journalist Kristian Teetz “At what point am I myself?” Mr. Mädel answers:
»This is an exciting philosophical question: Who are you really when no one is watching? Who am I when I’m not watching myself? That’s almost impossible to say. That’s why I never started writing a diary, for example: Because when I read it later, I want it to be grammatically correct and well written. And in a moment like that, when I think about how and what I’m writing, I’m right into performing and no longer into honestly recording what I really feel at that moment.«
And Bjarne Mädel adds in the same interview:
»But nevertheless, it has also happened to me that I have pretended to be someone else in private or have tried to put myself in a good light. I remember, for example, my time with a good friend in a shared flat: one day I tidied up my room, put out a pot of tea with a mug and a few cookies, and then sat down on the sofa with a book. It all looked very comfy, but afterwards I realized that I had actually only done this in order for the “picture” to be coherent in case someone peeked into my room. My state of mind was completely different. I was trying to live up to a sophisticated image that I would have liked to have of myself in that situation.«

With these descriptions Bjarne Mädel has also unmasked me: In the world of multiple relationships I also was far too long on the move with an “image” of myself, which I would have liked to have had of myself – and of which I also wished that I could at least have presented it of to other people around me. But in doing so, I compromised the much more important factor of “authenticity” – because I wanted to appear more “dignified” and less nervous, inexperienced, and self-conscious than I realistically was.
What was worse, however, was that in my direction at least this self-deception worked a little too well: for so I ended up thinking that even my infatuation was an integrative, self-induced part of that “image”.

Fallacy 1 – the one about the abundance of potentially available loved ones – is quite easy to disprove when looking at it more closely. In Entry 78 I mention about 10,000 truly active polyamorous people in Germany, elsewhere the figure of 0.2% of the total population is referred to, who can imagine a life in multiple-partner-configurations at all (which puts us at 84 million inhabitants somewhere just above 160,000 potentially polyamorous people nationwide…). So even excellent research skills – which I actually do posses – will in any case sooner rather than later simply face very some real resource limits here.
Fallacy 2, on the other hand, led to a kind of self-sabotage that was very persistent. And foolishly, by the self-attribution of an “ability of falling in love”, I exchanged the exception – so to speak the miracle (!) – with the expected. After all, falling in love is something that doesn’t happen to me very often, just like it is for the vast majority of people. Therefore, it was also in my case with Kristina something quite extra-ordinary.
Which meant that exactly Kristina was something special as far as I was concerned (Fallacy 3). And that should have better affected my feeling and thinking from there on – and not the somewhat self-righteous belief in sufficient choice and causability.
Because if I had correctly assessed the distinctiveness of the situation of falling in love, I probably would have fought for this relationship much more dedicatedly and determinedly, especially in the bumpier times that inevitably followed. So I’ll write it down for you once again: infatuation, folks, that’s you; there you will be most likely truly yourselves, completely and genuinely from your deepest inner core! Trust yourselves in this respect – and do not assign falling in love to the mere liberty of feeling and acting in possibilities of multiple relationships!
Four years of Oligoamory later, I now know about myself that falling in love is (still) the big exception for me – no matter what relationship model I’m in. Today I know: When I am in love, it is “right”. But there I am at the same time also genuinely challenged to contribute all the good sides of commitment, sincerity and responsibility, precisely because it is so un-self-evident.

In the aforementioned interview, actor Bjarne Mädel creates a very fitting metaphor. A protagonist in his new audio book is »…envious that others have this feeling of belonging. He describes a longing for consistency, for true connection. That is a topic that interests me as well: What does it mean to be “at home in oneself”?«
Bjarne Mädel adds two questions later:
»And so I coined the phrase “others inhabit their lives”: there are people who clearly know where they belong, and they “inhabit their lives. With myself, it’s rather draughty and a door is open. […] But actually, these people are often much happier, because they don’t think there’s more going on at the next party, and they don’t think they always have to be on the lookout. Such people are more likely to say: We’ll stay at this party until we’re tired. Others rush from one party to the next all evening and in the end they haven’t really partied anywhere, haven’t really met anyone, haven’t really talked to anyone seriously, haven’t experienced anything.«

Absolutely wise words. In recent years I have also found out about myself – and this bLog has contributed an important share – that “belonging” and “clearly knowing where I have a place” are central issues in my life. This is by no means to be understood only geographically (but it is too) – but above all it concerns “being at home in oneself”.
If I would be surer of that with greater habitual certainty, then I would probably not have succumbed to my self-staging for such a long time. I would more trustfully “dwell within myself” – and thus also trust the impulses of myself to a greater extent.

So after more than four years of Oligoamory, I wish us all today consequently with the words of Bjarne Mädel that we therefore also “inhabit our relationships”.
Which seems to me to be a completely appropriate metaphor: to really get to know a person like a (new) environment, to dedicate ourselves to this person like a home – unimpressed by whether there might be more going on elsewhere – and to stay until you get wrinkly together.

By which things are again consistent with the Oligoamory: I am convinced that we can be at home in more than one place – but not in an arbitrary number of places.
And we can reliably recognize “home” by the fact that we are allowed there to be completely “us”: committed, authentic, beloved and free of fear.
For home is – as the proverb say – where the heart is.



¹ Cognitive bias: is a collective term in cognitive psychology for systematic erroneous deviations from normality or proportionality in judgments. People create their own “subjective reality” from their perception of information. The individual construction of reality (and not the objective information content) can thus determine the behavior of individuals. Therefore, cognitive biases can sometimes lead to perceptual distortions, inaccurate judgments, illogical interpretations, and irrationality.

² Those readers who now grin and think “Haha, Oligotropos, I would have also decided FOR love…” need to know for the sake of completeness that in the following years I had numerous dates where I decided AGAINST it. At least, it’s what I thought – that I decided that…. The uncorrupted truth, on the other hand, was most likely that in those cases I simply didn’t feel any spark of infatuation for the other person. So much for the topic of consciousness…

³ Bjarne Mädel is known in Germany, among other things, for his performance as Crime Scene Cleaner“. Journalist Kristian Teetz (Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland) interviewed him on the current release of a new audio book with texts by Ingrid Lausund “Bin nebenan – Monologe für zuhause” (SpeakLow 2023, length approx. 4 hours), which B. Mädel directed.

Thanks to Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay for the photo!