Entry 59 #Envy

They call me mellow yellow…¹

Recently I wrote to an acquaintance of mine – that when it came to polyamorous multiple relationships – in almost all cases in which those affected complained about “jealousy” flaring up, I could almost always identify good old, tangible envy instead. And if I then took a Sherlock Holmes-like look at the circumstances of the accompanying scenarios, I would almost regularly find quite plausible reasons for this good old, tangible jealousy among those affected – as well as in the privileged behaviour of their “concerned” partners. And envy would therefore often be justified because of these privileges – and it would, in my opinion, often point to a discrepancy in the (empowerment)status of the participants or would indicate a blind spot in their emotional contract.
Why do I think this is so?

The “Biology of Envy” takes us back to the mid-1990s of the last century, when researchers Giacomo Rizzolatti, Vittorio Gallese and Leonardo Fogassi discovered what were later called mirror neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys: When another monkey in the side cage received a raisin, certain neurons in the brain of the neighbouring monkey observing this process “fired” as if it had received this raisin itself.
In the following decades, however, further research showed that these “mirror neurons”, which are closely linked to our brain’s own “reward centre”, had their pitfalls: Monkeys, which at first had comfortably been eating pieces of cucumber for weeks, consistently refused them as soon as they were once fed a (sweeter) grape. Thus their cage neighbours, who were watching, denied cucumbers henceforth accordingly, although they had never received a grape. Therefore, if we are envious, are we something like “foreign-determined monkeys”?
The Indian neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran, on the other hand, announced in 2000 that “thanks to these cells, the brain can easily translate an observed scene into something experienced by itself” and predicted that the roots of compassion and the neural basis of the ability to understand others could also be found there. But once again 10 years later scientists like Kai Vogeley in Cologne or Claus Lamm in Vienna determined that mirror neurons would only register an observed action as such and make the actions of others comprehensible. If, however, it is necessary to immerse oneself in a person’s actions or to empathize with their emotions, our brain would have to surrender the field to other mechanisms that depend to a large extent on our personal experience.
And brain researcher Richard Kinseher specified: “Our brain is designed to enable us to react immediately and quickly to a current situation in order to ensure our survival; in this respect, swiftness takes precedence over accuracy. If we would perceive an activity, our brain would immediately activate the best matching experiences from memory for this observed event. This process would be a “re-experiencing” (= “resentment”) of a stored experience. By re-experiencing a situation, we could understand it as quickly as possible – but at the same time, the reactivated experience would always activate the information that we had experienced when learning the original experience. This re-activation of experiences as “re-experiencing” would certainly be a “pre-judgement” – but as such it would be the beginning of a new decision-making-process, in the course of which readjustment and correction would be possible, if there were enough time for it.

The latter depiction – specifically the one involving “resentment”, which I also describe in my Jealousy-Entry 36 – puts “envy” in this sense much more into the context of our psychology than our biology. And there is a much higher probability of this, because as early as 430 BC the Greek philosopher Hippias of Elis wrote: »Envious people are doubly miserable: they are not only angry about their own misfortune, but also about the happiness of others.« By which Hippias demonstrated already more than 2000 years ago that envy necessarily needs a conscious kind of “downward comparison”. How necessary, only a medieval epigraph could express more clearly: »Against itself envy is a harsh judge, against others a tyrant.« – which illustrates that an envious person not only tortures its surroundings with “the suspicion of being disadvantaged”, but in the first line looks at her*himself that way.

Verena Kast, psychotherapist and professor emeritus of psychology, once summarized the previously mentioned “downward comparison” as follows:
»When we feel the sting of envy in us, or when we are completely overwhelmed by feelings of envy, then we do not feel good, and in any case we feel that we are in an”inferior position”, with the conviction that we are in a completely unjustified way worse off compared to others, without having any possibility to change this in any way.« and she adds »In situations that appeal to our envy, we are not objective: we tend to perceive the achievements, the character, the possessions of others with a magnifying glass, but our own with a reducing glass.«

But what exactly happens in us if we experience our partners in an “open” relationship – or in an already established multiple relationship – with a new lover, for example; especially if they spend time together, perhaps even enjoy short vacations, share sexuality?
In one of my comments on Entry 36 I compare jealousy with curry by calling it a “multi-component-emotion”. Verena Kast writes something quite similar about envy: »In the emotion that we call “envy”, various other emotions are at work, such as sadness, anger and hatred. Envy is thus a composite feeling; this means that some of the emotional components involved may be more prominent. […] As a rule, we can still deal with envy as long as it is an identifiable feeling. But envy can also take the form of a very strong suge of emotions, an affect, so that nothing else counts in our lives – at least for a certain time – except envy, the envied persons and the thoughts of how to free ourselves from this horrible affect, which then usually results in fantasies of retaliation.«
Here comes into play what Richard Kinseher called above “re-experiencing” and “re-activation” and what I called in Entry 36 the “highway in your mind”: An increasing manifestation of experienced disregard, of suffered debarment and endured indifference, caused by many similar and connected experiences during the course of our life. And yes, it is true that such episodes obviously arose subjectively at some point in the personality of the “envious” person. Verena Kast specifies:
»”Grudge” as envy is also called, is a mixture of anxiety, feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, of anger, hostility and feelings of inferiority, combined with feelings of – mostly suppressed – grief. […] It is the reaction to the fact that [in our minds] we still are not always the best child of the dearest mother.«
Verena Kast explains the consequences: »We feel violated in our self-esteem. Admittedly or not, our self-esteem is out of balance, and we need to re-regulate ourselves. […] For feelings of envy are – although mostly masked – tremendously aggressive feelings; they are attacks on our own self-esteem and on the self-esteem of other people. But if our self-esteem is constantly under attack, we are much less creative than we could be, we are much less competent in dealing with everyday life; we are much less satisfied than we could be, and we react more easily with hostility.«
So, while Richard Kinseher had described above that we could probably make readjustments and corrections in our decision-making-process if there were enough time – then it is easy to see here that we will most likely not be able to do so in a “resentment-rush” of envy. Obviously, just as with jealousy, a “continued attack on self-esteem” – e.g. by the environment showing no consideration for the jealous person and relying on a “hardening effect through habituation” (e.g. by maintaining the manner, frequency and duration of meetings with new/other partners) – is more likely to have the opposite effect of imminent escalation.

But why did I talk in my introduction especially about a discrepancy in the (empowerment)status of the participants or a blind spot in their emotional contract*?
A key position is taken here by the above mentioned “inner best child of the dearest (inner) mother”. For strictly speaking, this formulation puts its finger in a wound concerning our own self-care. For which we are all primarily responsible ourselves today, since our biological parents will usually no longer appear on the scene to make up for past shortcomings in terms of former rejection, exclusion and disregard towards our “inner child”. If we have now crammed our potential partners in that “need-fulfillment-manner” described in Entry 58 as a patch into such deficit gaps, then we must now realize again in the bitterest way that another human being can never be suitable for such an intentional purpose.

But what if we are the “patch” or the “need fulfilment” of the others – or if we have built most of our existing partnerships on such a premise over a long period of time? In this case, the phenomenon “envy” does 100% justice to its status as a valid emotion – since all emotions are fundamentally intended for us as warning and signalling mechanisms that are essential for survival – and which are therefore supposed to put us in a state of self-preservation and self-efficiency. Verena Kast illustrates this mechanism as follows and appeals to our self-efficacy: »The feeling of envy signals to us, in other words, that we no longer agree with ourselves. Either we have to make more out of our lives, or we have to change the idea of ourselves, adapt it to reality or change reality.«

How I comprehend this? On the surface, envy might seem as if, while drinking tap water and eating stale bread her*himself, the envious person would accuse the rest of the world of indulging in jelly beans in their absence. Thus, applied to a mutual emotional contract, one could perhaps accuse the jealous person of the already mentioned “grudge”, in a sense that – if the jealous person were to have its way – nobody would ever be allowed a “treat”: Any shortage would have to be perceptibly evenly distributed among all, because just then, and only then, it would it be okay.
In fact, I, Oligotropos, have spent several years in such a fallacy (not as the jealous person, but as the supposedly “restricted” one).
Actually, however, this gloomy way of thinking is a 180° reversal of the principle, to which I would like to invite by means of Oligoamory: Exactly the fullness, the “more than the sum”, must be evenly distributed in a perceptible way for all participants!
In practical terms, this therefore cannot mean sending one person to work for more than 40 hours a week, while another person uses those “day off” thus gained as an opportunity for various dates. This is even more true for vacations of any kind, which parts of a so-called multiple relationship want to spend 1:1 with each other without the rest, because quite apart from the resource “time” almost in every case also the resource “money” is affected – where it has to be checked properly to what extent that was contributed by whom and in what way according to existing liabilities from implied emotional contracts. And this includes even more the respect for existing partners, where it speaks for itself when somebody says around a potential date “What’s the thing? Why don’t you get somebody yourself…!” (Good old envy couldn’t have revealed a higher degree of interchangeability and/or arbitrariness more easily…).

A true multiple relationship worthy of the name requires for all parties involved the participation in theCelebration of Life (quoted in my Entry about Emotional Contracts) and thus in the jointly generated abundance instead of a”distribution of shortage(s)”. Only in this way can we succeed in moving from the downward comparison of the destructive nature of envy to its constructive side and its upward comparison: What can we, what can I change? Where am I (already) self-effective? What lies within my power?
Loving relationships (and the emotional contracts attached to them) should allow us room for both co-creation and self-realization.
Therefore, relationships are always problematic when we perceive them as places to which we are fatefully “bound”, because there are “always worse things in the world – and by which we believe that we at least do not deserve anything “better”. Which means that we are merely repeating the patterns of our past with all its subordination (And do we really want to experience a [multiple] relationship with former dynamics of powerlessness today?).
Active participation and access to the “joint cake” therefore includes beating one’s own drum loudly and pointing out one’s own competencies as well as the awareness of potential shifts in the distribution of resources. In this way envy is perfectly allowed to be a motivating force for us, especially in a relationship to “distinguish” ourselves.
And thus “envy” becomes a rather valuable (warning)signal in multiple-relationship contexts and as “bigger brother”, has also much more frequent cause and reason to appear than its sister “jealousy”, who in my eyes is distinctly more related to issues of trust and attachment.
I leave the final word to Mrs. Kast, who once more summarized how important it is to perceive and be perceived with noticeable, all-round appreciation in every loving relationship: »It is important for our self-esteem and a resilient sense of identity that we can express the joy of success, as well as that other people perceive what we accomplish, what we do. […] If we don’t allow ourselves this joy, we reduce our self-esteem and thus also our competence to actively shape life.«
((So eating jelly beans is actually more enjoyable if you a) jointly savour the yield and b) really get actual jelly beans instead of being allowed to enjoy merely the eating pleasure of the others…)

¹ Line from the song Mellow Yellow“, written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan in 1966.

² Verena Kast: “Surpassing oneself – envy and jealousy as opportunities for personal development”; Patmos Verlag; 2nd Edition (February 2015)

* “Emotional Contract” – I remind: “Implied acknowledgement and agreement – as a result of a mutually established emotional close-knit relationship – regarding the totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed and are potentially enjoyable by all parties involved.”

And thanks to muse Svenja, who once again got the wheels turning with her input.

Entry 58

Power Of Three ¹

While in the last three entries I have once again dealt with the philosophical and spiritual background of Oligoamory, this time I would like to concentrate a (little) bit more on its actual practice. Since I have been confronted in the past few weeks more often with the question “what” would characterise somebody as a “real Oligoamorist” – or “how” a relationship is distinguished as “oligoamorous” in a competent way, I have pondered which aspects should be considered from my point of view, whenever someone wants to get involved in an oligoamorous kind of relationship.
I have already addressed these aspects here on my bLog at various points – and I will refer to them accordingly; however, it was important to me to sketch a more specific three-step process, “how” the initial steps toward an oligoamorous multiple relationship on a personal level might look like.

Question 1: Why do I want to be part of an oligoamorous multiple relationship at all?

First and foremost – as I already counted “sincerity” and “honesty” in Entry 3 among the basic values of Oligoamory, it is imperative that we apply them to ourselves as consistently as to any potential partner(s). And it is not without reason that in Entry 46 I declare “self-knowledge” to be one of the most important ideals of this relationship philosophy. Moreover, it is almost an established fact that a strong focus of ours should always rest on a very important relationship: That one to ourselves.
Since the media and social networks are usually happy to promote at this point the advantages of the multifunctional fulfilment of needs by increasing the number of optional partners, it is again extremely important for me (since Entry 2) to emphasize that this kind of “resource exploitation” is never the intention of Oligoamory. Alas, many open relationship models and unfortunately also a lot of “multiple lovers” in Polyamory are rather short-sighted concerning this issue.
Becoming aware of one’s own needs, even that we have needs at all, how their “mixture” – or rather their level of “(ful)filment” – is currently composed in our life, is indeed a very essential part of thorough self-perception and self-knowledge. Unfortunately however many people then stop exactly at this point of their self-exploration journey with just this level of knowledge, thus elevating their identified need(s) to their top priority and thereby to the argumentative starting point of their aspiration for multiple relationships.
But if we visualize our happiness like a traditional, upright standing rain barrel, where the needs are – so to speak – the barrel staves (the planks that make up a barrel), then our well-being (which is the contents) in this happiness-barrel can only rise as high as the shortest stave allows. If, for example, our “staves” (= needs) such as safety, communication, creativity, efficacy, etc. are tall and strong, our happiness-barrel can still not hold more well-being than the only half-height stave “comfort” allows, if we have a deficit in exactly this need, just because this plank is shortened or reduced: Since exactly at this point, any “more” well-being that we would try to gather in our barrel will be drained precisely via this “shortened” need.
So if we have a need, which is “curtailed” in this sense, then we feel above all its “shortage” in a sense of neediness – since “only” this darned one stave would have to be mended or raised, so that we could experience “more” happiness and well-being (which the other staves would easily and surely provide!). If we would now give in to the above mentioned, medially praised, short-sighted need-management, we might now try to stuff a person into this “need-gap”, so that he*she*it both prevents a further outflow of our well-being at this point and also provides for an overall increase of our happiness-level…
Get it? Does it dawn on you why this can’t work – at least not as a basis for any relationship at eye level?
On the one hand, in this way we “use” a person like a requirement (and this is something people will notice sooner or later – and will react with resignation, flight or rebellion), on the other hand we try to solve our own problem with a completely useless manipulation: Another ordinary mortal-limited-fallible human being CAN never be able to fill this “gap” in ourselves. Even more: Due to his*her*its mortal-limited fallibility we will regularly a) experience disappointments with this person, if – in our view – it does not fulfil the function, which we have assigned, properly, and b) we have thereby also created a scapegoat to the outside world, to which we can constantly attribute guilt or blame, if the filling level in our own “happiness-barrel” decreases for any reason.

So when I speak of self-knowledge and consciousness-raising in regard to Oligoamory, I mean that we should become extremely honestly aware of our own internal weaknesses and strengths. For this is where the issues are to be found that are not immediately smoothed and levelled out in a multiple relationship, as with a soothing layer of warm chocolate, but rather exactly those that we will (have to) deal with and work through in the process with our potential loved ones, as they will usually come to light very quickly (and most likely with some intensity).

Question 2: Do I have enough space for another complete human being in my life?

Already from the section above a partial answer to this question automatically results. For if I cannot fragment or compartmentalize other people in order to employ them as “quickfix”, as patch or fill-in for one of my deficits – shabbily concealed under the polyamorous flag of “multiple love” – then to my understanding it is part of the content of the adjective “ethical” in “ethical multiple relationships” that I regard every “him”, “her” or “it” as a complete and legitimate person, and consequently grant him, her or it all the appreciation as personality and living being that I desire for myself as well. Precisely because of this unconditional “grant” I already ask in my Entry 30

  • Whether there is room for a WHOLE (additional) person in my already rich life (I recall the Anaïs Nin quote from Entry 6, “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”).
  • Whether I’ve tidied up my “inner space” sincerely enough to let a (additional) person in – or if I only provide a tight spot in front of my best-decorated showcase.
  • Whether I am currently a secure harbour where another person can be safe enough to get rid of their “everyday armour”.
  • Whether I have enough inner certainty that I do not have to cling to myself, in the panic of losing myself – but have both an arm for me and an arm for somebody else to welcome him*her*it, to encourage him*her*it – and to endure him*her*it.

Without the factual capacity (in terms of rather down-to-earth resources, including time) and the courage to get involved with a “whole person”, we too will otherwise not be able to find peace in a multiple relationship (strictly speaking: in no relationship!), because – as I wrote in Entry 55“»getting acquainted with each other« means seeking answers to the questions »Who are you – Who am I?«”. Precisely for this purpose, however, all parties involved need a certain degree of certainty that the others in this process are about as serious as oneself concerning the goal of intimacy, familiarity and closeness in matters of integrity and commitment.
Someone, who is available in such a case e.g. only for a few hours at the weekend and otherwise manages his remaining everyday life like a small private kingdom, appears in this regard more or less as coherent as a counterpart, which during a conversation is fixed all the time to the display of a mobile phone…
In one of my comments on Entry 55 some time ago I quoted the therapist and author Mike Hellwig², who once said “that – in order to establish a sustainable relationship with one another beyond the usual society-conforming role clichés – partners are required who are aware that they may be compensating and who are willing to consciously open their wounds, to virtually seek them out and show them to one another.” In this respect, one might criticize that I might be putting too much emphasis on “shortcomings” or at least on “curative potential” in my version of Oligoamory. But that is not how I want to be understood: I choose mainly the “tough”, “hard” or supposedly “problematic” examples, because in my experience it is very easy to handle and enjoy almost every relationship in reasonably cheerful weather. This usually also requires little active personal determination. But whether we are in the process of building a mature relationship with eye level on all sides, will always only be proven in a storm, when not everything is running smoothly or things fit harmoniously together. And exactly for this purpose it is important that we have clarified for ourselves beforehand whether we are prepared – because it could become difficult, unpleasant, and unsexy – to allow another person to touch us “completely” in our very being with difficulties, with unpleasant sides and unsexyness. And if we are prepared to accept uncertainty within us that we cannot always know what this in turn will trigger in ourselves. Which is why I emphasized in Entry 55: It’s oligoamorous, if we really want that.

Question 3: What about my existing emotional contracts?

One of the most important entries on this bLog is Entry 9, in which I refer to our invisible and mostly implicit “emotional contracts”, which we establish in each of our close relationships. If you want to celebrate yourself now because – to your knowledge – you have not yet entered any relationship in this sense and consider yourself to be supposedly “contract-free”, I would like to say that almost all our closer relationships with living beings are subject to emotional contracts, be it relatives in need of care, parents or children – but, of course, also pets, volunteer work or even jobs.
In my opinion, “ethical multiple relationships” differ from “unethical multiple relationships” by our attitude towards the question of how we generally relate to commitment and self-obligation: Are we the “moral chameleon” that I have already mentioned in some of my entries, which changes depending on surroundings and circumstances – or are we striving to maintain our once declared attitude with integrity, even if this means that we might not be able to hide away for once, maybe even have to prove the ability to take some blows?
The latter would in any case be a good quality to own as a representative of a non-conformist way of living and loving, e.g. if one gets into inevitable contact with the “normal world”.
By their very nature, emotional contracts are great things: because by them we prove to be predictable relationship-shareholders who care for their stuff – and own their sh*. At the same time, they are incredibly dynamic; they actually call for a high and transparent level of communication with the other beings involved in the contract, because it is so important that all parties really understand the same thing by what has been agreed upon. At the same time, this creates a leeway which must therefore always be collectively readjusted and also leaves room for renegotiation and expansion.
But since, precisely for this reason, “emotional contracts” are not watertight written treaties that forever gather dust in some locked up safe, but, as I wrote in entry 9, “highly subjective, »felt« arrangements of giving and taking (or more gently: contributing and enjoying) in human relationships”, their true quality is revealed a little more in our attitude toward them than in their virtual content.
This means: A person of integrity in a relationship signals respect for the other participants in a relationship by speaking and acting in such a way that the other participants can recognize that the person speaking or acting is part of a committed, larger “we”.
What seems to sound so complicated here, I have explained in Entry 53 and simply called it “considering the others”. It is the opposite of egocentricity and mere self-interest – and if we succeed in reflecting this kind of appreciation to the people with whom we already have some kind of relationship, then the rest, as they say, are (negotiable) details. Multiple relationships deal with human beings on all levels – therefore it is of enormous importance to give this “human factor” top priority on all levels, be it towards ourselves, be it towards a person in whom for whatever reason our interest has flared up – and especially towards those persons with whom we are already in a (close) relationship.
The mindset towards our existing relationships (and thus our “existing contracts”) shows how our self-imposed integrity (= acting in constant compliance with the personal value system) is linked to our overall attitude of appreciation and predictability.
I write “overall attitude” because a careless or trifling approach towards established commitments in existing relationships speaks a clear language, not only – how we will most likely treat the next desired person in the same way – but also how we will probably address ourselves inside us as well: Someone, who (for whatever reasons) isn’t worth all this…
We therefore prove to be self-efficient and responsible when we start to integrate our desire for multiple relationships especially within our existing emotional contracts. Because at this point at the latest, we have dealt with resistances of the “human factor” on various levels – individual, in partnership and super-personal.

So, if a motto of soccer is “keep the box clean”, I would recommend, with regard to Oligoamory, to start with the care for these three boxes:
1) Reason for own desire
2) Space in your own life
3) Existing emotional contracts

I wish you the very best!

¹ I borrowed the title for this entry from the fantasy-author Diane Wynne Jones, who – by the way – established with this book 1976 an impressive example for integration and cooperation.

² Mike Hellwig, born in 1964, after studying the German language and literature, turned to psychology and developed the method of Radical Allowing as a therapist.

Thanks to jacqueline macou on Pixabay for the photo.

Entry 57

Twosome? Threesome? Wholesome!

In the concluding statement of my previous Entry 56, I call for wholeness in our (loving) relationships, whereby I literally reveal my Oligoamory as being deeply imbued by holistic ideas.
Regular readers of my bLog will have noticed this anyway, since in almost every second article I invite them to experience each other as “more than the sum of their parts” when participating in multiple relationships and the adventure of such a kind of special togetherness.

After reading my last Entry, I noticed that I consider it important to “take a stand” one more time, concerning the background of oligoamorous thinking and acting in that regard.
And that’s why there will be a theoretical section at first, until I try to describe at the end why I have chosen that approach for myself (and thus also for the Oligoamory) – especially in terms of both “personal relationship capability” and pragmatic down-to-earth conduct of relationships.

Since the middle of the 20th century, two approaches to systems and forms of organization have developed; meanwhile, both are regularly applied to biological, technical, sociological and even psychological contexts:

On the one hand, there is holism, which is based on the proposition that systems and their characteristics have to be considered as a whole – and not just as a mere composition of their parts. Holism holds the view that a system cannot be fully understood from the interaction of all its individual elements, and that the meaning of the individual parts depends on their functional role in the whole.
A simple example is the famous “baby’s rattle”: If we were to take such a rattle apart, we might end up with two shells, a handle, and a few plastic beads, but we would not be able to reveal the actual “main function” of the object – the rattling sound.
The same would probably happen to us if we would try to reproduce 100% correctly a human organism: We could assemble all elements completely and absolutely precise, but we would not be able to evoke “life” or even “consciousness” this way.
And even if we were to observe a complex organization such as the “United Nations“, we would have as constituents people, buildings, logistics; we would identify committees and councils, financial flows, a charter, sub-organizations and much more – but these components alone would not be enough to explain the success of the UN in restoring peace and stability, for example in Liberia (UNMIL).

A completely different approach, however, is pursued by the conception reductionism. It assumes that a system as a whole is determined by its individual components. This includes the complete traceability of theories back to proper observations, of terms back to tangible entities, or of logical correlations back to causal events. Thus this theory assumes that a cause is followed by exactly one effect, which in turn is the cause for another effect, and so on.
Based on our examples above, reductionism would conclude that the impact of the plastic beads on the shells of the rattle – due to the movement of the object – could convert the kinetic energy of the particles into sound waves.
Reductionism would also probably argue in this way that “life” or “consciousness” are causal consequences of the 100% correct arrangement of all components in a living being, which eventually would functionally build up on each other in their processes.
Similarly, the success of the UN Liberian peacekeeping mission would be reductionistically comprehensible, since the path of the process from the application to the last soldier leaving the country could be traced in detail, step by step, consecutively through all parts of the organization.

As so often in philosophy and science, it seems to be once again only a dilemma of one’s own point of view and choice of method, in which way one tries to explain a certain result…
Therefore, in order to slowly approach our own domain of “relationships”, I would like to apply both approaches to the example of a piece of woodland that contains different habitats (light, shadow, water, different soils, etc.) and is home to different living beings (microorganisms, fungi, plants, animals).
A holistic approach to this issue would be what we usually call “ecological” today: Such a forest represents a complex, structured system of elements that interact with each other in a variety of ways and thus produce properties that can no longer be explained by an isolated view of the individual elements. Environment and biodiversity influence each other in such a way that in the end a state is reached in which the community of species becomes a unit together with the habitat it has created (Example: Fungi live in symbiosis with the roots of a tree, so that the tree grows more efficiently, by that the tree nourishes numerous other animals, whose leftovers in combination with the shade of the tree benefit again the fungi in the soil below etc.).

If, on the other hand, such a piece of woodland were to be examined in a reductionist way, all the components present in it would be considered separately and independently: There are spots in the soil with acid pH, several basalt rocks, there are puffball mushrooms, some pines, eight squirrels, a fox, etc. This approach is based on the individual: In that area all features and species coexist that have arrived there and have found suitable environmental conditions. They are not bound in their existence to fulfil functions for others or a more comprehensive context. And even evolutionary this argumentation would be plausible: Evidentially, nature holds on to all components, as long as they “do not disturb” a system (The “residual horns ” on the heads of giraffes are such an example. Among giraffe-progenitors, these horns must have played an important role once – as among most other herbivores. Regarding present day giraffes, these “remnants” are simply still there, because they “didn’t get in the way” during the further evolution of the modern giraffes).

And with this we have already stepped on oligoamorous soil.
You haven’t noticed how?
Well, because also in the world of multiple relations there are exactly those two different viewpoints, which I have presented here in such detail.
There are the reductionistic trailblazer of personal freedom, who postulate verbatim that “even in a loving relationship they are not bound in their existence to fulfill any kind of function for others” – and there are the idealistic holisticists like me, who want to emphasize that in our loving relationships we’re all together and that togetherness and corresponding interrelated actions are the pivotal point of every “common whole” and every “mutual we”.

I personally furthermore believe that we simply cannot afford a reductionist view, at least not in those relationships that contain that sublimely metaphysical component “love” as bonding characteristic. For reductionism would indeed mean that we would surround ourselves with circumstances and people, who would thus be part of our life, “because they do not disturb / don’t get in the way” [which means: no one has to put in any committed contributions!]. As I already wrote in Entry 2: “As a result the danger of seriality and substitutability increases in my opinion. For my part, that would display a rather unethical treatment of my loved ones – and I myself don’t want to be viewed or even treated accordingly by my beloved vice versa. […] And what might befall us if one day we ourselves become ill, senile or handicapped? How much loving and caring is left in such a strategy after that?“

In Entry 54 I quote Mahatma Gandhi with the holistic statement »We are one, you and I. I can not harm you, without harming myself.« Positively formulated, the wise Indian tried to describe in this way that a conscious togetherness arises from the realization that every effect we perceive in the outer world originally started as a cause of our own inner world. For beyond this, Gandhi also wants to express that every selfish thought (“I want it now/immediately…”) will always evoke merely selfish effects, which even in the best case results in mostly indifferent or insignificant “successes” for ourselves. At worst, any attempt to gain an advantage by exploiting the weakness, inexperience or neediness of others inevitably leads to our own disadvantage in a relationship medium term.
“Holistic” on the other hand is every request, every thought, every action, if the resulting process benefits as many (or even better: all!) participants as possible, who are involved in the process.
Let’s think briefly about our forest example above, in case the mushrooms at the foot of the tree would start to ignore or damage the tree. They would thus not only immediately end the maximization of the general benefit of their “activity” (far beyond the tree and themselves!), but in the end would also deprive themselves of their basis of existence.
In relationships – and entirely in our loving relationships – we are always part of a larger “whole” in a very similar way. And as no part of it can fight against (or ignore) another part in the medium term without damaging itself, so the well-being of all participants depends on the recognition of this interdependence in the interest of the whole (See also Entry 53: To “consider” the other participant).

You diligent readers* who have followed me so far: I have to admit that in this respect I myself often still feel like the buccaneers in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean” – asked to reach the legendary “Isla de Muerta” – for as Captain Jack Sparrow puts it: “An island which can only be found by those who already know where it is…”.

Even the American psychiatrist and psychotherapist Scott Peck, who has devoted much of his time to relationship and community building, once said in an interview that living in committed, love-based relationships is not a ” cure-all” – in the sense that once you have established such a connection in a holistic way, you will no longer have to overcome any difficulties and will only feel good all over. On the contrary, Peck explained – because reality would still continue to exist. Frankly, he would even admit that in his opinion (loving) relationships are always more dynamic, more emotional and therefore even more painful due to more participants than an existence as a solitary being. But therefore they would also provide e.g. more and deeper joy.
On the whole, for him the most characteristic thing about a living “in relationships” was not the fact that it was less painful, but that it felt more alive in every dimension.

The Franco-American psychologist Richard Beauvais (1938-2019) has summarized this in my view beautifully and poetically as follows:

»I am here because there is no refuge,
finally, from myself,
until I confront myself in the eyes
and hearts of others, I am running.
Until I suffer them to share my secrets,
I have no safety from them.
Afraid to be known, I can know neither myself
nor any others; I will be alone.
Where else but on this common ground,
can I find such a mirror?
Here, together, I can at last appear
clearly to myself,
not as the giant of my dreams,
not as the dwarf of my fears,
But as a person, part of a whole,
with my share in its purpose.
In this ground, I can take root and grow.
Not alone anymore, as in death,
but alive, to my self and to others.«

Thanks to Tomislav Jakupec on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 56

Where (only) pleasant feelings abide…

Once upon a time there lived a king who had set his mind on choosing only the most beautiful of all women as his bride. Merely to find this “most beautiful woman”, he spared no expenses and no efforts – and the selection process for a suitable choice was already the most elaborate and demanding thing the world had ever witnessed until then.
In the end, however, it was indeed possible to finally select the fairest one of them all who met the king’s expectations: nothing less than the most perfect woman on earth.
The wedding was of course also celebrated with appropriate splendour – but the king was not yet fully satisfied in his quest for perfection. After all, it had to be ensured that the woman at his side would remain the most beautiful of all beauties; yes, it seemed absolutely necessary to the king to increase the gracefullness of his wife even further.
For this purpose he summoned the best physicians, who, with countless feats of art and even daring operations increasingly enhanced the queen’s aesthetics to its highest bloom. As a result the queen’s physical grandeur became so indescribable that no other woman on earth was even remotely like her in perfection.
The king was satisfied and so he lived happily and contentedly for a while with this astonishing miracle at his side. But after a while, it seemed to him that there was still a kind of shadow, some barely tangible flaw, which nevertheless seemed to disturb the absolute harmony of his wife’s appearance. Therefore, he once again called together his most excellent scientists and doctors to eliminate this very last fault.
The scholars decided on one last risky procedure, which the queen would have to endure – as she had done so many times before. The treatment required hours –
and ultimately the most unique, perfect and flawless corpse the world had ever seen was stretched out on the operating table.
That strange shadow, that irritating “last flaw” had been life itself…

Dear readers, I have told you this somewhat gruesome fairy tale of ancient times yet once again, because I have been observing a phenomenon in our world of ethical multiple relationships (such as Polyamory) for some time now, which regularly and worryingly reminds me of the aforementioned story.
For in recent years, it seems that doctrines from the self-help- and self-optimization-scene have increasingly permeated our lifestyle, which for example claim that only “good” feelings set people free, make them peaceful and ensure (self-)evolvement – while “bad” feelings are always toxic, imprisoning and prevent development.
As a result, many people who struggle through the jungle of multi-relationships end up like the tragic king in the tale: The obviously “bad”, the disharmonious, this flaw anyway, has to be removed so it finally feels “right”. Sometimes at all costs.
This price is then paid – corresponding to the queen in the story – first and foremost by those people and loved ones who are close to us. Because it’s usually in our encounters with them that we are actually confronted with “bad feelings” from time to time: Basic emotions such as anger, sadness and fear – but also more complex feelings such as envy, jealousy, mistrust, disappointment, remorse or gloom. This in turn feels ” burdening ” for us, inhibiting and immature. Of course, “This” means “They” : our fellow humans with their unresolved, sticky emotions and feelings, which in contact with them and those drag us inevitably down…
But we ourselves – like the king – want to experience harmony in our evolved relationship without such imperfections. After all, we have already risen above the petty limitations and resentments of monogamy, so such narrow-minded restrictions by our potential partners should not worm their way through the back door into our new, better and happy world of multiple relationships. Consequently, all that is needed is a determined treatment – and such “irritating flaws ” are eradicated: We just have to surround ourselves constantly with people, with whom we experience invariably “pleasant feelings”, where everything is easy, everyone is free and evolved at all times. We let go of the bad feelings – and of the people who might spread them in our lives; that way we even gain more space for the good and beautiful…

Whoever has read the fairy tale with me at the beginning, however, knows what the ultimate result of such an approach will be: In the end, we’ll end up sharing our lives with a bunch of corpses. Masterful and admirable corpses. But corpses nevertheless.

First of all: By way of analogy, climate change e.g. is currently teaching us, when it comes to weather, that arbitrary classifications into categories such as “good” or “bad” are no longer necessarily meaningful. During the 1960s, “always sunshine” was still a promise for the Beach Boys or the Mamas & the Papas, but today even for an average farmer in Central Europe it already poses a threat to existence.
Concerning feelings it’s quite similar to that effect. Thus, “always sunshine” would mean to follow the path of the fairy tale king and forcefully prune away all other feelings. And since feelings cannot really be “removed”, we could at least – according to countless self-help and advice pages – “let them go”.
However, maybe these good advisors are merely misunderstood in our fast-moving age, because most people who seek advice simply turn “letting go” into “not admitting” – since that is something we humans are very well and routinely capable of doing. But from then on we have to get along with our eternal “sunshine”. And along this path we are threatened with one-sidedness, drought and finally a “beautiful corpse”.
The bLogger Elias Fischer has written a long article on the subject on his site, which describes in great detail the effects of what happens when we try to “not allow” certain feelings full article: Here – but only German version available). In my opinion, the most impressive consequences he points out are the inability to describe all of one’s own feelings (because some of them have been sorted out as “bad” and are no longer sufficiently dealt with) – and the concomitant loss of the full breadth and depth of feelings and emotions as a whole (Quote: “If we refuse to feel anger, shame, fear or sadness, then as a result at some point there is no real vital joy left as well. No joy that fills us intensely and ecstatically.” ). Or rather none that really feels alive and intense any more, I would like to add.

In my Entry 43 on the subject of commitment, I have already briefly sketched out why we contemporary humans are so quickly inclined, like the fairy-tale king, to pick up a scalpel and prefer to separate rather than preserve what actually belongs together as a whole.
Because otherwise we would have to be able to handle all our feelings.
Oh yes, I know: First of all these unresolved, sticky feelings of other people…
But especially with the allegedly “negative/bad” feelings it becomes clear very quickly each time that e.g. the sadness, anger or fear of other people (which we do not want to endure) are sadness, anger or fear for ourselves – which we cannot endure. And this is something that most of us have not learned properly, since entire generations ahead of us have already willingly taken up the scalpel, dissected our freedom – and created thereby a reality of separation (see Entry 26).

Interestingly, however, a certain group of people in the field of multiple relationships, who see themselves as particularly “liberal” – and who derive from this virtue that certain characteristics or behaviour must not be evaluated under any circumstances – seems very quickly prepared to assess feelings, especially those of their counterparts, according to whether they are “good (promotive)” or “bad (obstructing)”. And thereby sorting it out – saying what you want and getting the life you deserve¹ – that’s how free I am…!
But our closest people and loved ones aren’t jammed coffee can or a skirt that comes back from the cleaners with a stain. For deep and binding relationships this attitude is simply no applicable.

And anyway – that freedom in whose name lightness and easiness is repeatedly claimed – and one knows masterminds like Erich Fromm², Eckhart Tolle or even the whole of Buddhism on one’s own side where it is said: “Free yourself from suffering!”. Here in the western world we really want to get a grip on this “suffering” with the ultimate intention of an ideal performance at all times.
Yet the Buddhist “suffering” precisely wants to explain that we humans are not (or at least: quite rarely) in equilibrium. That we – like the overzealous king – fear our own flawedness and even our own mortality, only to conjure them up all the more by our extreme ambitions.
On the contrary, “equilibrium”as for example Buddhism teaches, contains all facets, has to contain all facets in order to be true and complete.

Accordingly, as the blogger Elias Fischer has already indicated in his essay, by dividing feelings into “good” or “bad”, “liberating” or “imprisoning”, “developed” or “immature”, we are denying ourselves an important part of our own full and sincere self-expression.
In Entry 45 I wrote about the “Wonderful Ordinariness of Being” in which we may experience ourselves as human, fallible and tolerant.
If we want to be immersed in our relationships intensively and deeply – rather than to believe ourselves to be superficially free of suffering – , then it is very important for us to realize what really allows us to be free in such relationships.
What is truly permissive in a committed environment?
It is the permission of the self-effective and empowering statement to be allowed to express and acknowledge all our feelings: “YES, right now I am [please enter the appropriate feeling here (choose from this list if in doubt)]!
If we allow ourselves and those close to us to do so, then the confrontation with the feelings of others doesn’t always have to be so threatening for us. Because, as a bonus, a permissive person is surprisingly almost always also an empathic one. He*She*It can show its counterpart credibly: Here’s an address for you. I’m listening to you. Without suggestions for improvement, without appeasement, without a story of my own to counter yours.
Such a “somebody” can allow itself to be energetically touched as well – whereby the afflicted person experiences the most important thing of all: You are not alone in this.

If “love” is the strongest form of mutual affection and the greatest possible expression of joy that the other living being exists in my world (I write “mutual” because otherwise it might remain “infatuation”), then it is right and important to strive for interconnectedness and commitment.
Thus, the degree of true freedom in those relationships that may possibly develop from there grows with the degree to which we give ourselves permission to be whole (rather than perfect) in there.

¹ Alexandra Reinwarth, “The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a D*ck: The Art of Saying What You Want and Getting the Life You Deserve”, Grand Central Publishing 2019 – Self-help book around the central decision-making questions “Does it annoy me?” and “Does it affect me personally?”

² Erich Fromm, “The Art of Loving”, 1956

Thanks to Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash for the picture!

Entry 55

Getting naked

What is the reason why many attempts towards more or less successful multiple relationships begin with an initial event of shared sexuality?
Is it because of the pre-emption of the certainty that dwells in our deepest depths that we are all ultimately the result of a sexual encounter between human beings anyway?
Do we therefore want to feel (once again) such connectedness in a tangible way and therefore long for a closeness that literally gets under the skin, for intimacy “in the flesh”?

In this case, (early shared) sexuality might turn out to be of little help, especially if our neediness in terms of connectedness, familiarity and intimacy is rather high (and concerning most people in western industrial nations at the beginning of the 21st century it is quite real – this neediness!). Once released, we therefore quickly behave like starving creatures who are introduced to an exquisitely prepared banquet: We hastily scoop the croutons out of the soup, toss the duchesse potatoes into our insatiable mouth and finally pillage the dessert buffet – because its food is the sweetest and easiest to consume…
Appreciation or even assessability, however, is unlikely to be achieved in this way, regardless of whether food or people are concerned. Something that for example a former acquaintance of mine had to experience painfully, when she was intentionally and surprisingly sprinkled with tealight wax on such a first date, where the participants, in the frenzy of passion, had not verbally exchanged anything about what “jointly shared sexuality” should include for all parties…¹
But even without “surprises” of this kind, the chance is rather small that quick sexuality, as a mutual “compatibility test” in terms of intimacy and closeness, can actually serve this noble purpose. Such (pre-)consummated sexuality will in all probability never really lose its “in-order-to-character” and thus turn into a rather serial “peak episode”, which the author couple Gerrard and French once described in their novel “Killing me softly” ² by quoting a mountaineer with the following statement: “New infatuation is like a mountain First you sacrifice everything and make every effort to climb it somehow. When you finally succeeded, you might try to climb it in a few different ways; then you move on…”.
That’s what I meant by “in-order-to”. Because that way, in the end there may remain some kind of shallow feeling. After all the courtship, after all the passion, after all the intense physical (but certainly also psychological and spiritual closeness and fusion): Was I after all ( just ) an accomplishment, an overcoming in someone else’s calculation? Or was he*she*it in mine?

Somehow we cannot get around Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s fox³ and his “becoming familiar with each other” [amply quoted by me in Entries 25, 27, 32, 42 and 52], if our oligoamorous wishes aim at “attachment”, “intimacy” and “predictability”. “Becoming familiar with each other”, that “forgotten” art…
Even the “Little Prince” tries to evade into seriality in the corresponding scene by replying: “But I don’t have much time. I have to make friends and learn many things…!” It is good that the book has become such a mysterious bestseller, though, because the prince nevertheless decides to embark on the experience of “becoming familiar with each other”.
But why, for example, did “The Little Prince” become such an edgy and not easily accessible book in this respect? Why is it almost cryptic in parts, its final twist almost tragic – at least sad, so that many readers often put it back on the shelf with mixed feelings and still return to it again and again in later life?
Probably because the author Saint-Exupéry recognized and expressed that the “becoming familiar with each other” includes a component that early initiated sexuality (I referred to at the beginning) can never accomplish.
Because mutual “familiarity” ( or trust – to which I have already devoted Entries 15, 26, 27 and 43) simply isn’t a “one-way street”. It is even much more than an obvious two-lane road, because a not always visible part of this connection leads directly into our own inner self. I can only really establish familiarity and trust towards “the others” or towards “the world” if I can extend it equally towards myself (Entry 15) or towards “my world” (Entry 26).
But haphazardly (“Oh, let’s just do it and not label in advance where this might lead to…!” ), uncertain (“I don’t really know if I actually want that…” ) or with a hidden agenda (keyword: “peak-episode” ) this won’t work.
In the best case we want to protect ourselves like the „Little Prince“ with an event of early shared sexuality from an alleged loss of elsewhere possibly more usefully invested life time. In the worst case, we thereby avoid possible – and very probable – pain, which we will most likely encounter on every exploratory journey into ourselves in order to build up trust, to “become familiar with ourselves”.

“Oligotropos, did you really just wrote »in the worst case «?”

Yes, I did, because in my view that is the very core of my Entry today. Just as I called the book “The Little Prince” »edgy« and »cryptic«, thus world literature since biblical times has been full of these stories about symbolic or literal quests into our own self. This “quest into ourselves” is thus a human topic towards which we cannot close ourselves off in oligoamorous contexts – and I wrote “in the worst case”, because everything else amounts in my opinion to an active looking away, to ignoring and (self)denial, which will do much more harm to us and our relationships than any unpleasant truth or any old pain we might encounter in ourselves during our introspection.
For it is highly probable that in the confrontation with ourselves we will not only encounter pleasant and harmonious aspects. But how else could we ever face ourselves – and consequently also our loved ones – and commit ourselves if we do not dare to explain who we are? Exactly that means »daring to be someone« which the educationalist Reinhard Kahl and the philosopher Hannah Arendt emphasized in my earlier Entry 39.
“Becoming familiar with each other” and “Becoming familiar with oneself” means to allow each other (and thus ourselves as well) the time to show each other courageous answers to the questions: Who are you? – Who am I?
The fact that these questions are neither to be asked carelessly nor to be answered thoughtlessly is shown by Lana and Lilly Wachowski very significantly in their series Sense 8 (Season 2, Episode 2), which was created between 2015 and 2018. When reporters try to trap the protagonists using the tactic of provoking a banal or impossible answer, they respond: “Who am I? Do you mean where I’m from? What I one day might become? What I do? What I’ve done? What I dream? Do you mean … what you see or what I’ve seen? What I fear or what I dream? Do you mean who I love? Do you mean what I’ve lost?”

»Easier«, »more quickly« or »less complex« than these questions (and the answers to them!), an »explanation of yourself« will hardly be possible, if genuine attachment, real intimacy and true predictability are to be the common goal. For all these questions are all aimed at our realness, commonly called “authenticity”. But “authenticity” is not a fashion label or just some pretty lifestyle phrase that a person can merely claim because it smells of sophistication and supposed maturity. “Authentic”, in other words “genuine”, means to impose, entrust, endure and respect what is alive right at this moment, here and now. This also includes human patchwork, unresolved and unsettled elements that aren’t always pleasant or appealing.

Personally, one of the great challenges of ethical multiple relationships in my opinion is to maintain different relationships without compartmentalizing the other parties involved (splitting them into separate features, see also Entries 2 and 44). To achieve this, all those involved need precisely the curiosity and the courage to become acquainted with their “inner diversity”, i.e. their contrasts, their heterogeneity, their irregularities, their bewilderment and their spheres of tension, and to accept that it is also from this diversity that the ingredients emerge which transform a multiple relationship into “more than the sum of its parts”.
Thus, a multiple relationship could, at some point, become a living image of this “choir of our multiple inner voices”, which eventually defines each and every one of us as “us”…

Why is this requirement so important concerning Oligoamory, why is it so essential for this particular form of “multiple relationship with (only) a few participants”?
In Entry 5 I quote my own birth family with the bold expression “Friendship is a wonderful »maybe«, family a wonderful »must-have«!”
Whereas in the series “Sense 8” (Season 1, Episode 8) the character “Wolfgang”, played by actor Max Riemelt, says about a member of his family of choice: “He’s my brother. And not by something as accidental as blood – by something much stronger.” And when asked “What’s that?”, he replies: “By choice!”
Hence, successful relationships with true attachment are much more than a convention (a »must-have«). They are also much more than an option that we can arbitrarily “add” (a »maybe«).
They are conscious choices of volition by which we commit ourselves to each other, precisely because we are aware of the special and unique nature of the connection between ourselves and the other person, in which each of us is allowed to be a whole ” someone “.
It is oligoamorous if we really want that.

¹ Absurd example? I am afraid that all absurd examples seem ridiculous – precisely because they (unfortunately) really happened. And whether this is the most bizarre example in my little box of reminiscences, I don’t even know exactly, because there is also the story of a peanut butter jar, which once was pulled out in the heat of a first date-night…

² Nicci French, “Killing me softly”, Standalone Novels 1998, New edition: Penguin 2008

³ In the 21st chapter of the novel “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupèry the protagonist strikes up a friendship with a fox. The story can be found online HERE.

Thanks to WSNNY on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 54

All together now*

Concerning my last Entry 53, another idea emerged in my mind, which regularly appears in almost all Polyamory discussion groups from time to time.
Discussions there e.g. might start like „Well, my sweetheart, Konrad, he is such a great polyamorous partner, but unfortunately his wife is strictly monogamous and therefore poor Konrad wouldn’t tell her about his other poly-advances, because she would never be able to understand that – but, good Konrad, alas, he also loves his wife and would like to keep her as well– in short: Anyway, that’s why he doesn’t talk at home about him being poly and all – and, of course, he never mentions any of his other relationships…“.
Or they say: “You know, my girlfriend has a metamour¹ in our network/polycule², who behaves totally polyamorous in her direction, but he would have to separate that for himself, because on the other hand he also conducts several sexual affairs on/off with two or three women, but that wouldn’t be polyamorous at all, and therefore they wouldn’t know anything about his lovers in the polycule – and of course not about each other as well…”.

In a nutshell: How do we want to react if someone in our network of loved ones – in the first, or even in the second or third line of acquaintanceship – practises “non-ethical non-monogamy” – in the Queen’s English: is dishonest in one or more directions or cheats straight away?

“Oh come on, Oligotropos…”, I can hear them already calling, “You’re uncompromising, strict and controlling…!”

Am I?
As early as in my second Entry I criticize tendencies in the polyamorous scene, which primarily postulate in the name of “free” or “universal” love, that our love – if it were to be “evolved” – would above all have to be unconditional and devoid of need. People who are attached to this way of thinking wish that “love-fulfilled” and “mature” beings should »let each other be as they are«.
“Ok”, I reply, “of course I can leave all those human beings out there »as they are«, comma – but.”
And “comma – but” refers in my view precisely to Entry 53 and likewise to Entry 33 quoted therein.
In that Entry 33 I describe the heartfelt sigh of the singer Alice, who fails to reconcile the AfD-membership of her potentially chosen mate with her own ethics, her own view of the world. So does that render Alice “unevolved” and “loveless”?
I don’t think so – but, evidently, in this case she puts her own ethics and her own well-being in that regard first. Of course, for the sake of her potential partner she could also choose a socially acceptable evasion and tell him “Oh, what each of us thinks and does politically, that can be left out of our loving relationship…”.
But Alice obviously knows that there are certain boundaries in human life and in human relationships that can never be completely “eliminated from the equation”. And that’s probably why she turns on her pillow sleeplessly in the music clip, while realizing that the same person with whom she is currently sharing familiarity and closeness may tomorrow spray synagogues with anti-Semitic slogans or even might manhandle Syrian migrants.
So if I would let a person in my relationship »be« in such a case, then this would already be my search of an excuse for myself why I would rather not include certain characteristics of him in my love…
Or expressed in a more consistent – and hence uncompromising – manner: Yes, of course I can let all human beings out there »be as they are« – BUT I could not be in a familiar, close and intimate loving relationship with all of them, because some of their qualities would contradict my personal view of integrity and responsibility.

“All right, Oligotropos. So by now you have now shown in two of your Entries why – despite an open attitude and some integrity – not every person would be a suitable romantic partner for us. But don’t your demands concerning the metamours (i.e. partnerpartners and their other optional partners) push far beyond any reasonable goal, since you are trying to manipulate hemispheres beyond your control there?“

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The smaller sibling of violence is called indifference”.
If he would be able to read this Entry, he would probably now pluck at my sleeve and say: “Remember the knotted carpets…!”
„Knotted carpets ???“
“Yes, what the oligoamorous natives said about the knotted carpets, in Entry 7! Do you remember their example concerning the dishonest and the honest carpet dealer?
Let me extend their example by one more dimension:
Suppose you have found an excellent dealer who serves you sincerely and to the best of his abilities. In that case, would you be able to live in peace with the fact that he treats only you in this way and continues to treat everyone else with inferior quality and minor dishonesties? For example, if you had just concluded a good bargain with him and – while already departing – you would notice him deceiving the next customer as you walked away – how would you feel? Would you be relieved not to be treated like this? Would you perhaps even be gloating over the fact that the next person was affected – and not you? Could you »leave them be« because it wouldn’t concern you personally, and go your way in complete composure?“ “Dearest Oligotropos,” the famous Indian would perhaps continue, “we humans possess this ‘composure’ or rather ‘indifference’ usually just as long as we ourselves aren’t the deceived ones… So – how can you be sure that you are always treated correctly by your supplier when you have long been aware that your trusted (business) partner behaves like a moral chameleon towards his other loyal customers?“

Oh, darn – the Oligoamorists and that Gandhi, they would be right. Because all the other things they also addressed in Entry 7 would fit perfectly into this “example extension”:
My “total freedom” and my »letting everyone be as they are«, is – if I want to enter into trusting and predictable relationships – brought into a balance that is beneficial to all sides through responsible integrity and consistent commitment. Which means that all parties involved should have a similar conception of “integrity” and “commitment”.
And only then a relationship in the oligoamorous sense would be sustainable ( = consistent/suitable/satisfactory – see final paragraph of Entry 3) – because in all other cases, as far as my (business) partners are concerned, there would always be something irritating scratching in the back of my head and in my heart: “Today they behaved like that – and I just can hope that they will repeat it tomorrow… They treat me like this – but I can see that they treat X like that; I don’t want to be treated like X…”.
Such “scratching” will lead to a permanent, subliminal anxiety after just a short period of time, as we can never really be constantly reassured. And permanent anxiety leads to the fact that our famous inner “alarm switch” gets stuck half activated – what scientifically is called “stress” – and that is exactly the opposite of any satisfaction or “being at peace”.
So with indifference or by actively looking away, I continue to sanction dis-peace in my network of relationships, which in the end will always return to me in one way or another. For it is precisely regarding loving relationships – no matter whether they are tied across corners or around three edges – that another Gandhi saying applies: “You and I are one: I cannot hurt you without hurting myself.”

Concerning Oligoamory, there is no way around complete goodwill and network-wide respect for one another. Because otherwise it would be a bit like in the joke about the tea-party where the wife comes home at midnight and is confronted by her husband: „Petunia, why do you return so late?“ “Oh Vernon, every time one of us left, the others talked about her so badly afterwards, I just didn’t dare to leave…!”
So in such a case, indifference can even be the smaller sibling of disrespect, when for example someone in your polycule says: “So, Olaf’s still with that vegan drama queen he was dating last weekend?” or “Yeah, Cathrin is sleeping over at Mona’s, that left-wing-bimbo, I don’t know what she likes about her, but thank god I won’t have to cope with her at all…”

In the end, if we were able to include all other participants in our favourite-people-networks into our relationship- equation, we are also talking about energetic hygiene. Or, as psychologists and psychotherapists would call it, the “emotional field”. Or to put it prosaically – if you’re more down-to-earth –, “the overall mood”.
In “The Tale of Anday and Tavitih” in Entry 6, I quote Anaïs Nin, who recognized 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.
In this sense, relationship-networks are like colourful solar systems into which new planets or suns are sometimes literally “born” – and of course it plays an enormous role in the dynamics of distance and proximity, of all-round magnetism and equilibrium, which energies such a new world adds to the unfolding “solar system”. Because energetically, in terms of the emotional field or the mood, it is very soon no longer possible in such an (overall) system to assign exactly where “mine” or “yours” begins – since all participants aim hopefully and intentionally towards a common “ours“. And thus the “moral” of the “Tale of Anday and Tavith” gains once again even more importance:
»Namely, what a strong force the others are in ourselves.
And how important it is for any oligoamorous relationship to recognise the unrefusable presence of the people involved in the other participants. That it is important to understand that one contains the others involved in oneself as soon as any loving relationship starts to emerge.
And that it would be a wonderful goal to respect these other persons in the hearts of all the parties involved and to love them passionately and dearly therefore.
But that it is at least important for mutual success to accept the other loved ones in each other, in order to perceive yourselves further as whole human beings and to value each other as such.«

Insincerity, even if it comes across as socially accepted whitewashing or as an accepted “blind spot”, can therefore have no place in oligoamorous relationships. For in the end we would not only be advancing towards a “reality of separation” (see Entry 26), in which we give up our responsibility for the fact that all people are equal – at least concerning their dignity. We would also deprive ourselves and our loved ones of the opportunity to make informed choices – and therefores deprive all of us of our freedom.

*Key line of the famous song by the group The Farm, (version 1990)

¹ Metamour – compound word made up of “meta” = with + “amour” = lover. Intentional meaning: The partners/lovers of one’s partner(s)/lover(s) with whom one does not necessarily have a direct sexual/intimate relationship.

² “Polycule” is a humorous portmanteau word made up of Polyamory and molecule and refers to a group or series of people who are in an ethically non-monogamous loving relationships with each other. Since the “structures” of such groups, when sketched for illustrative purposes, can look like hydrocarbon rings, complex molecules or other medium-chain compounds, the witty expression “polycule” was created.

Thanks to Steven Lelham on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 53

“If everyone provides for himself, everyone is provided for.” (Proverb)

It was only this month that in a conversation with a dear person – who for some time had largely disappeared from my life – we suddenly touched the subject: “When do I experience »value« in a relationship / When does a relationship (or the person*s with whom I am in that relationship) acquire a certain “value” in my perception?”

First and foremost, it is very important to note that “value” in this context is not to be understood in an evaluating sense of “good”, “moderate” or “bad”, but rather as “significance”, “relevance” or “validity”.

This issue is of considerable importance to me concerning Oligoamory – and in various entries therefore this topic already appeared time and again on numerous occasions. However, to underline my thoughts on this – and to show the ramifications regarding the different aspects of Oligoamory – I would like to contribute a specific entry in respect of this topic today:

When I thought about the matter again, I could basically establish two categories.

For simplicity’s sake, I’d dare to call the first category “extremes” – and I talk about it in great detail in Entry 33, where I address the topic of “Integrativity in our loving relationships” – or more precisely: The question of whether love really enables us to look beyond all the idiosyncratic nooks and crannies of a fellow human being we cherish.
And by this I don’t refer to those somewhat trivial peculiarities that each of us more or less unconsciously displays in everyday life, such as not recapping the jam jar, leaving worn socks on the sofa or breathing out noisily after drinking (and even these occurrences have the potential to develop into long-term relationship killers…), but I am referring to – precisely – “extreme” characteristics, which, if they are openly revealed, are most likely to destroy the core of any relationship and the underlying interpersonal compatibility. As (negative) examples I mention in Entry 33 features such as cruelty towards animals, misogyny¹ or even a right-wing extremist attitude. But it would certainly be possible to find seemingly less dramatic qualities; because presumably also the potential love between a quasipalaeolithic meat-fan and a convinced Vegan would put the mutual peace of mind soon to a tough test regarding “composure and inclusiveness”.
By this I intend to express the following: Considered from a “higher perspective” – e.g. from the point of view of an extraterrestrial who observes humanity through his binoculars – numerous philosophies, even radical or extraordinary ones, might have a comparable, immanent validity, which would always only be evaluated by human criteria as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, “abnormal” or “conform”. But regarding a specific relationship between two or more people, however, the contradictions and conflicts of conscience that would result from contrasting or directly antithetical sets of values would almost always be literally disintegrating.
Very important – and that is why I would like to emphasize it again quite clearly: In the sense of good inclusiveness and integration, I firmly believe that these “extremes” shouldn’t account for more than 1 to a maximum of 5% of counterarguments as to why – in Scott Peck‘s own words² – someone is not suitable as a partner in a relationship. And that regarding the remaining 95 percentage we would always be able to work jointly on our capability for goodwill, consideration, forbearance and inclusion.
Nevertheless, this first category of “extremes” already contains rather important characteristics that may have a considerable impact on the “significance”, “relevance” and “validity” of a (loving) relationship and for the respective parties involved – which therefore, in my opinion, always have to be addressed immediately, directly and honestly “whenever a relationship is being initiated.

Anyway, the second category, which I would like to call “Togetherness”, has a much more relevant dimension for our relationship reality.
For this purpose I would like to refer again to Entry 25, in which I quoted the nice sentence “There are always relationships…” and I added: Also with people, with whom one regularly interacts in everyday life, e.g. with cashiers, mailwalkers and car mechanics.
In that entry, I already mention that even such “everyday relationships” can be deepened through small gestures: The cashier recognizes me as a regular customer, the mailwalker hands over my favourite magazine to me without any folds and ceases to me personally and the mechanic* takes a lot of time caring for my oldtimer. In all those cases I start to stand out from the crowd of otherwise rather uniform customers “thanks to” a few distinctive features, I obtain a personal profile. Even more: My counterparts begin to “consider” my “characteristics” into their own actions and decisions: The cashier is considerate of me, because s*he knows that I am not so fast when I’m stuffing away my shopping; the mailwalker rings the doorbell instead of stuffing my magazine into the mailbox; the mechanic keeps special parts in stock, because s*he knows that I will always prefer her workshop.
How much more may this “considering” will have a sway regarding loving relationships? Or rather: From an oligoamorous point of view, the extent of this “consideration” is an excellent indicator for the very question mentioned at the beginning regarding the “significance”, the “relevance”, the “validity” of a relationship (and the persons in it).
I concluded Entry 14 with the wonderful science quote “Thus, intimacy is a cardinal process, defined as feeling understood, validated and cared for by partners who are aware of facts and feelings central to one’s self-conception.”
If in this quote we emphasize the part where we are “validated” because of “facts and feelings” about which our counterpart know that they are “central to our self-conception” – then this means nothing less than the fact that in an (ideal) loving relationship the participants should “take each other into consideration” as often as possible in their own actions.
I’m trying to clarify:
What the scientists Cohen, Gottlieb and Underwood were trying to express with this sentence is that a quality which turns mere people into genuine “lovers” means to care for each other and to have meaning for each other. And that applies to participation and meaning in terms of one’s own speaking and acting, as well as in terms of potential decisions one has to make. This means “to include” your own loved ones into your own inner consultation process, e.g. when making (important) decisions, because these loved ones are dear to you – and therefore the effects that (may) result from your actions concerning these loved ones are no longer treated solely egocentrically.
Accordingly, a truly intimate, trusting, loving relationship would manifest in our minds by thought processes like these: “Does this action affect my relationship with X (and Y and Z…)? What would my decision mean for these people? Would my decision [e.g. for option a or b] affect our situation or the dynamics of our relationship in any way?”

As the examples concerning cashier, mailwalker and car mechanic already show, this is by no means theory – and in all our human relationships the degree in which we “consider/include the others into our decisions”, attach importance and and allow participation always plays a considerable role. This degree is actually quite well researched in another scientific model, which has become known as “Dunbar’s Number” (or “Dunbar’s circles”) as described by me in Entry 12.
Nevertheless, as for the somewhat theoretical Dunbar’s Number, the authors of the Polyamory bestseller More than Two, F. Veaux and E. Rickert, were concerned that the model itself might only provide a rather technical testimony concerning one’s own circle of acquaintances. Therefore, they propose to carry out a thought experiment with regard to one’s own loved ones and friends by asking what kind of answer one would receive if one were to give the information “I’m moving next month!”. I consider this question to be a practice-based masterpiece, since each of us could estimate rather well from his or her life experience what will happen:
Persons of the 1st Dunbar circle (i.e. loved ones who are a close part of our lives with real intimacy and familiarity) would accordingly either say: “That’s something you can’t decide all on your own…!” or they would say “Ok, I’ll start packing!”. Persons of the 2nd circle (who fit into the category “strong attachment and friendship”) would most likely be desperate because we would leave their immediate vicinity; they would (nevertheless) possibly offer us support with the move and they would closely accompany the whole process in any case, whereby it would also be important to them whether and how we would arrive in our new surroundings. Persons of the 3rd circle (who according to Dunbar are considered “acquaintances”) would probably respond something like “Cool, drop a card when you get there!” – and that’s it.
Of course, this thought experiment is also well suited if you swap positions in order to think about your own reaction considering the moving announcement of people which are supposedly dear to yourself.
Whatever the outcome of this experiment, its result will in any event provide an answer to the questions I have already addressed in Entry 37 on the subject of transparency: How much have we accepted the “other people” as part of our lives? Or rather: Do we consider them as a relevant part of our lives (at all)?

From an oligoamorous point of view, and especially for the reasons shown above, long-distance or weekend arrangements – or any form of purely situational organized relationships on the rugged continent of (ethical) non-monogamy – pose a challenge since in such cases I consider the danger of “compartmentalizing” (splitting a person into individual aspects), which I have so often criticized, to be quite manifest.
In Entry 45 I argue precisely in favour of “conducting our relationship(s) in everyday life”, because it is precisely there that we have the best opportunity to experience each other as truly constantly truthful, authentic and of integrity (I recall: that an individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles).
Because on the other hand: Whether I go out only in my sweatpants six days a week, beat up my dog with a riding crop behind the house and greet my migrant neighbour regularly with “Well, Saddam, how’s Jihad?” – how should this affect my loved ones who only visit on Saturdays, where I wear a suit and vest, play 24-hours Prince Charming, where the champagne flows and we only indulge in culture and sophisticated entertainment all day long? And what they are doing on the other six days – what do I care?
In any case, such an attitude would not be oligoamorous and it is hardly ethical at all. At best, it is comfortably self-serving, because the minimalistic points of contact with each other arranged in this manner allow so little common context that I would be most likely tempted to come up with the terrible neologism “Non-relationship” to describe such a configuration.

[A similar suggestion towards the “good old world” of monogamy by the way, I have already provided in Entry 5: Even in “normative” families, I consider it highly questionable if members show a fake smile to each other for the time being and display artificial obedience at the coffee table, just because grandpa otherwise wouldn’t provide additional 500 $ for his son-in-law’s carport…]

“Considering/including” our loved ones into our decisions is therefore an important indicator of the extent of our commitment towards the lives of the other people involved.
When we realize that we care about the belief, the mindset and the values of our partners, we can recognize that they have obviously gained “significance”, “relevance” and “validity” in our lives.
A fascinating bonus effect of such an attitude is that it is an proactive approach on our part and not merely a passive consideration (which, precisely because of its passivity, often has an oppressive or even sticky effect on many of us).
This is why we feel particularly “accepted” and “harmonious” especially in those relationships in which a very similar degree of “inclusiveness and proactive considering” is practised by all participants. For it is precisely there that we experience that only when everyone provides constantly for the others, everyone is really and truly provided for.

¹ “Misogyny: “Hatred of women” – see Wikipedia.

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

Thanks to Carola for her inspiration and to Jess Watters on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 52

Taking responsibility #Responsibility/#Accountability

A vigorous debate with one’s own nesting partners¹ can fortunately more often become a source of new insights in ethically conducted multiple relationships than develop into a stress test. If, right: If one is willing to expand one’s point of view.
Anyway, this is what happened to your seasoned expedition leader Oligotropos recently, when I tried to distinguish between “responsibility” and “accountability” in a conversation.
Both concepts are very important to me – and therefore (I just looked it up myself!) they appear in my articles explicitly mentioned already at a very early stage, immediately in the first paragraph of Entry 3, which deals with the “Basic Values” of Oligoamory.
Back then, as now, I am also still amazed at how little accentuation is given to both “responsibility” and “accountability” in the preconception of Oligoamory – that is, in “classical Polyamory“: In the index of one of Polyamories’ basic publications “More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical Polyamory” by F. Veaux and E. Rickert, for example, both terms actually do not appear at all (!!!). And neither of them is mentioned on either the German or the English Wikipedia article about Polyamory.
As an avid reader, which I am myself, I know of course that these two values are nevertheless tacitly contained both in guidebook literature as well as on Wikipedia. For it is difficult to write about commitment and honesty (values that are explicitly mentioned) without implicitly including responsibility and accountability in terms of personal integrity.
However, the immediate absence at first glance is something that continues to give me headaches regarding the “Archipelago of Polyamory”: Because in this way it still seems to me too easily possible that especially these two values might slip too quickly into the “blind spot” (or rather that they have already arrived there). And that’ s the moment when I, as the author of this bLogs, start to put a bold question mark behind the additional predicate “ethical”, if any lifestyle of multiple relationships wants to excel with it (nevertheless).

Here at home we talk a lot about responsibility and accountability – sometimes passionately – as you can tell from the first sentences of this Entry.
I myself, as a relatively liberal-minded person, therefore usually emphasize very strongly accountability – especially in the meaning of self-responsibility: Whoever regularly reads this bLog knows that I consider self-realization and self-knowledge to be among the most important goals of unfolding one’s personality – and if such a path is not to be lost in egomania or even narcissism, then it is of course important that it has to be accompanied by conscious and healthy self-responsibility. Self-responsibility, which also exposes the limits of one’s own behaviour and enables self-criticism: That one does not always succeed in everything perfectly and flawlessly, that one is a quite fallible human being – and that it sometimes takes more than one attempt (or a completely new approach) to progress further on the “path of the greatest courage”.
In this way, by giving a very high priority to the “unfolding of the Self”, I occasionally run the risk of putting this “responsible Self” at the very top, from where everything else emerges. Hence also the “extent of accountability”, which I myself assume to bear…
Well – and this is where it is sometimes beneficial to be “calibrated” a little bit by the contact with different points of view of other people.

In response to my position, e.g., my nesting partner argued that “responsibility” was an absolutely independent value that certainly did not have to “emerge from anything else”.
By the way – the reason for our talk was a scene in a TV series in which a depressed father attempted suicide after the death of his son – with the consequence that he would have left his financially dependent wife and two other children behind. And although the television scene seemed to be “predesigned” in a rather polarizing way, it directly referred with its “moral dilemma” to highly topical questions of the modern ethics debate, e.g. on issues such as euthanasia or legal custody – and thus precisely to the always associated questions of “responsibility” and “accountability”.

In the course of the following conversation, I realized that I should have read my own bLog more thoroughly myself…
…because in Entry 42 I am quoting the famous sentence of the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by which the fox in his story reveals an important truth to the little prince: “You are responsible for that what was entrusted to you and for those whose trust you gained.” ²
Magnificently, Saint-Exupéry succeeds with this “truth” in pointing out, strictly speaking, that responsibility arises from accountability, and again accountability from responsibility as well. Thus, none of these values precedes or underlies the other, but they are always mutually interconnected.
Therefore, in oligoamorous relationships, which should be ethical, we always need both.

According to Wikipedia, responsibility is “in general the (voluntary) assumption of obligation(s)”. What Wikipedia calls »obligation« is essentially what I call »commitment« in terms of human relationships: This valuable blend of reliability and integrity. And since I have been defining integrity since Entry 3 as a condition in which “an individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles“, a value system, hence some kind of ethics, is indispensable for this.

At this point, some very subtle contemporaries might point out that a dilemma would arise exactly in this situation: In particular, my reference to the “personal value system” would be particularly delicate. What would happen if someone took the personal values of his*her megalomania or an exaggerated ego as a basis? For even then such a person could still act reliably selfishly for its environment and its actions would always be coherent (consistent) with the own egocentric thinking.

At first glance, this seems possible.
However, at the end of Entry 7, I am quoting Ezra Taft Benson, who said “You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.” Mr. Benson points out with this interesting sentence, that – especially concerning our participation in human relationships – there are always factors which are greater than “just” ourselves. And so we need a wider focus.

Which brings us back to the roots of conducting ethical multiple relationships: Because the idea of “Polyamory” was originally designed to give a philosophical/conceptual home to (multiple) relationships, which emphasized love as a binding feature (in contrast to primarily or exclusively sexual interest!).
Since in the case of mainly or exclusively sexual interest of more or less promiscuous nature, the aspect of sustained relationship conduct in the medium or longer term can be bypassed relatively easily: “One-night-stands” come to mind, casual dating or swinger arrangements [And when in these contexts there is talk of “responsibility”, one usually appeals to a responsible exercise of sexuality with regard to STDs or contraception].
At the moment when “love” (“a powerful sensation of deep and intimate connectedness”) enters the picture, this is no longer possible, because from that point on there exists not only “myself” – but also “someone else”.
According to Ezra Taft Beson, up to this very moment I have freely made my own decisions, my choice, according to my personal standards – but the execution of my free choice has now led me into a territory where exactly what I have chosen will have consequences that will elude my personal “sovereignty” from this point on…!
By the way, this is the magic moment, which I describe in my Oligoamory again and again as the “experience of more than the sum of its parts”, because especially the establishment of relationships with other living beings (pets, children, companions, significant others) usually has this effect.
And that is a good thing, a very good thing indeed, because this magical moment automatically assigns to “the other beings” an inherent and inalienable (life) value of their own, which exists beyond our own means of control and disposal.
And merely personal accountability is thus transformed into collective responsibility.

I consider it unbelievably exciting that an “ethical system” and an emotional contract are always established in this way whenever living beings enter into a relationship based on mutual love.³ Because the “more than the sum of its parts” is a beneficial bonus effect that appears every time without further ado in any case.
I write “beneficial” since we need this “more” right because of our own fallibility and the limits of our own perception, which would otherwise leave us at the very risk of becoming egomaniacs or narcissists at worst: In Entry 11, for example, in which I portray us as “heroes in our own (life’s) movie”, it becomes clear that despite “very good personal reasons” we may very well have the ability to cause unintentional suffering to others because we tend to favour our own needs. And in Entry 26 I quote Jesper Juul, who also mentions “responsibility” as one of the most important basic values of every relationship – but I concede there that this would require the courage for a profound kind of self-awareness (on which most of us would have to work hard).

But because we humans – as I last emphasized in the previous entry – are deeply social beings, we will most likely nevertheless regularly ” engage in relationships”. Which means that we will always take on long-term obligations, responsibility and commitment, where it is desired that we will reliably and predictably provide for them.
And yes: If we agree because of our love that the other living beings involved in our relationships have “an inherent and inalienable (life)value of their own”, then it is simply no longer possible to “chuck it all in” merely at our own discretion, if we no longer want to bear this responsibility.
According to Ezra Taft Benson, at such a moment we must rather face the “consequences of our choice” ( meaning our voluntarily surrendered personal total freedom!) and work together with all those concerned to find consensual solutions. Which would mean, for example, amending, renegotiating or even dissolving the existing emotional contract by universal consensus.

Do you think this is too hard? Would I be giving now too much priority to responsibility – once I have assumed it – over personal accountability?
I don’t think so, because personal accountability in my reading means precisely that we are able to recognize when and why we are responsible for “that what was entrusted to us and for those whose trust we gained” – and how all that has become a part of ourselves as a result.
I am also glad that I have already laid down in the last paragraph of Entry 5 the purpose for which responsibility and accountability may never be misused: As an opportunity to establish self-sacrifice and subordination for the sake of a community as an unassailable good and hence to prevent the possibility of change and freedom of decision from the outset.

From now on, in my world responsibility and accountability walk hand in hand; they have the same relationship to each other as we have to our loved ones: To temper extremes, to complement each other, and to potentiate each other when they are combined.

¹ “Nesting-Partner”: In multiple relationships a term for the people with whom one shares “a nest” – i.e. lives closely together and spends a lot of everyday time as well, e.g. in a shared home.

² “The Little Prince” ; Chapter XXI; “Friendship with the fox”.

³ Since, for example, as far as pets and children (or other dependent living beings) are concerned, the question of reciprocity – and above all of eye level or voluntariness – cannot always be answered unambiguously, in these cases it must always be examined particularly carefully how “love” is involved in these relationships – and whether an equal expression in a jointly constituted value system is actually possible!

Thanks to Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 51

Follow-up Five

[The fifth follow-up of a four-part series?
Really, Oligotropos, this is getting a bit peculiar…

The first birthday of the Oligoamory Project has passed as quietly as it appeared. An active first year and a busy one, especially with regard to the respectable pace: A whole year with four entries per month, more than 50 entries in total. Each entry is at least three A4 sheets long (usually more…), that accounts for a total of 2300 words per posting and thus the dizzying number of well over 115,000 words that I have already written on the subject of “Oligoamory”. And since my website is bilingual, there are in fact probably more than 230,000 words on it, because every entry is faithfully and personally translated by myself (and as well as I can do) into English, which is normally done within three days after the German original text has been released. All in all, a passionate commitment which…
…is not sustainable at this point any more.
Apart from the marginality, that my bLog is of course completely non-profit and therefore strictly an ad-free medium, it is mainly the enormous amount of time needed to create a useful entry in one week – and that simply pushes me to my limits, because “mass” is not supposed to replace “class”, and accordingly only those articles go online, about which I am (reasonably) satisfied with myself in terms of quality management.
But since I am in this capacity of course quite exclusively “my own motivator”, I consequently entered into negotiations with myself, with the result that I would now like to announce the outcome of this internal meeting:
“Until further notice” from today on the Oligoamory-bLog will be a monthly magazine.

Well. In the spirit of radical honesty, however, it seems appropriate to me to admit that, in addition to the essential factor of time, another circumstance has led me to the self-imposed literary diet in the matter of Oligoamory – and with this I finally turn to “Follow-up Five”, since this reason arises directly from the findings of one year of work on the basic theme of my bLog – “committed-sustainable multiple relationships” – and in this, once again, especially concerning the quintessence of the preceding four-part series on the (historical) roots of Oligoamory [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ].

For very correct readers might object that though in this sequel I would have been able to present the history of Polyamory in a somewhat acceptable way, in the end I would have tarried in revealing the link to my own creation, “Oligoamory”. Which in a certain sense is actually true, as well as being a reduction of the whole: For just as in Michael Ende’s Neverending Story the history of Fantastica unfolds only as it is written down by the “Elder of the Wandering Mountain” ¹, so too the “History of Oligoamory” is always developing by the words that I add to it here. Or rather, it already exists in so far as I have already added to it.
By which point – also an analogy to the “Neverending Story” – the snake starts to bite its own tail a little bit, because especially in Entry 1 and Entry 2 I described my very personal steps and reasons, why I headed for the remote island of Oligoamory – and why I undertook this very journey to get away from the shores of Polyamory.
These reasons are as important to me today as they were when I wrote them down; however, my own one-year involvement with Oligoamory has made it even clearer to me what dimension my exploration of the possibilities and viability of ethical multiple relationships would actually reveal.
Especially my “History of Oligoamory” with its parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 has once again confronted myself like a kind of “super-concentrate” with the essential “core ingredients” of ethical non-monogamy, which I identified in Entry 50 as alternative spirituality, humanistic psychology and integrative feminism.

However, those “core ingredients” are exactly what leave me sceptical to some degree about the extent to which liveable and successful Oligoamory currently lies within our reach at present – especially in our actually existing everyday lives.

Well, who would have thought that I would write this someday on a bLog concerning multiple relationships – that I consider it favourable if the participants were able to find a basic form of spirituality within themselves.
As you can see, I have already omitted the word “alternative”, because from my point of view it is quite possible that also a “traditional faith” can have the same function – if this faith is not so inflexible that its traditional structures only legitimize purely heteronormative thinking (and treat any deviation from this norm, such as multiple relationships, promiscuity, sex positivity, same-sex love, individual disposition regarding sex or gender, etc. as “sin”).
Why do I think that spirituality is an important “core ingredient” for ethical multiple relationships? Because I believe that strong multiple relationships benefit from people who acknowledge and appreciate that – concerning their existence – they are part of something bigger than themselves. This kind of thinking contains a virtue that is not always in vogue at the moment, namely, temperance. And temperance, according to Wikipedia, “is synonymous with “modesty”, “frugality”, “simplicity” and “restraint”. The psychologist and specialist in German studies Siegbert A. Warwitz once called temperance the “Key to Happiness”, as it would protect against an exaggerated attitude of need, which otherwise could quickly turn into an “attitude of demand”. Which, from my point of view, – in terms of Oligoamory – is the reference to my subtitle keyword “sustainable” : Whoever is modest and sustainable, won’t claim all resources, all speaking time, all the space and all the attention for him*herself. Concerning the creation of small communities, as I would like to imagine in Oligoamory, this would be an important prerequisite for interacting with each other.
Even more than that, however, a well-founded and established spirituality still appears to me to serve something that is of particular importance to me: A respect and a sense for the “enchantment of the world”. The economist and sociologist Max Weber once described its opposite – “disenchantment” – as a rationalistic, secularized, bureaucratic belief that “all things – in general – can be mastered and controlled by assessment”. Such a philosophy of “disenchantment” is the essence of all market-economical and utilitarian thinking, which ascribes to all things a “purpose” or “usefulness” as the (only) reason for existence. Spirituality, on the other hand, with its “enchantment”, leaves room for “purpose-free” existence – and for phenomena such as idealism, romanticism, creativity and fantasy, for ideas and structures in other words, which tend to elude considerations of usefulness or the allocation of a (market) value. Thus, people who feel, think and act “spiritually” will not only perceive a tree as a piece of wood, a pig as a potential roast and a human being merely as workforce, but will acknowledge those entities as living beings and companions as themselves. The accomplishment of harmony, respect and peace – as promised in all religions in their visions of the Kingdom of God, Shangri-La“, Jannah or Nirvana – could thus possibly actually present itself if we all in this way would be able to recognize “divinity” in all things – and consequently also discover it in ourselves.

Humanistic psychology:
Without presenting here a too deep introduction into the world of thought of humanistic philosophy, I can tell all my readers that the basic views of this school of thought are woven like a golden thread through my conception of Oligoamory everywhere. Excitingly enough, it was only while exploring Oligoamory that I myself discovered that “this child already had a name” – actually that of “Humanistic psychology” – which obviously influenced me decisively while writing. The following principles were formulated by the humanistic psychologists James Bugental and Tom Greening in 1965, I will briefly comment on them in relevance to Oligoamory:

  1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.
    Comment: What else can I say? This insight contains what I have probably expressed most on this bLog since the very first hour and therefore represents my most important goal, to the experience of which the Oligoamory should contribute. I have just as often spoken out against the “compartmentalization” of loved ones as “need fulfilment assistants”, since I particularly reject this type of interpretation of current Polyamory (Entry 2).
  2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
    Comment: Here the humanistic philosophy applies directly to what I have already expressed under “Spirituality” above. By building close, intimate and loving communities, I hope for a more comprehensible realization that we have to deal with the whole creation (of which we ourselves are a part) in a responsible and respectful way – and that our resources are finite and we have to strive for added value thus.
  3. Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware—i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
    Comment: Oh happy day – if only it was always like this! Of course, “awareness” at all times would be a great asset, especially for good decision-making. But we are also human – and therefore we should allow ourselves a little fallibility… However, what is much more important to me at this point is the direct reference to our interpersonal relationships. Jürgen Margraf, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy and Dean of the Faculty of Pyschology at the Ruhr University Bochum, said just last week in a Newsreel interview »We are social beings. As humans, we have historically evolved in small communities with a few dozen individuals. This environment has been relevant for our survival, evolutionarily we are no loners. We need these contacts.« Exactly that is what I wanted to express with my bLog from the very first hour as well. And that’s exactly why I reject all that “propaganda of aloneness“ (see Entry 8), with its platitudes like “The measure of how developed we can interact with others depends on how developed we can be alone with ourselves.” ² S*he who really believes that s*he can become a developed human being by practising “Aloneness” is completely wrong from my point of view. Because an integral aspect of human existence, which is the pervading awareness and the imprinting of being a social being, would have to be deliberately ignored, even split off. Which would lead us back to 1.
  4. Human beings have the ability to make choices and therefore have responsibility.
    Comment: In Entry 3 and Entry 4 I have written down the essential values of Oligoamory. In doing so, I have also listed responsibility, which I have specified as “accountability”. “Accountability” is our chance to finally get away from any “concept of guilt and blame”, because that way we are allowed to admit self-responsibly our causality. And this self-responsibility is in turn the most important component of any interpersonal interaction and communication, if it is meant to be “honest”. Genuine “honesty”, however, requires great courage as well as substantial self-knowledge, in order to dare under certain circumstances a leap of faith into the dark spots of one’s own soul and thus possibly to experience not always pleasant feelings (and more: to entrust oneself to other people despite of it).
  5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.
    Comment: “Meaning, value and creativity” are exactly those elusive and “non-prizeable” components which, however, are the ones that can give a human life its true significance. When we talk today about models of living and working that are no longer merely owed to an economic “higher-faster-further”, our “quest for meaning” in particular returns to the center of attention. And thus the unfolding of an overall “human potential”, which we have probably only tapped to a small extent until today.

Being political
Instead of just listing the socio-political movement of feminism again, I prefer to write “being political” here, as a representative of “being involved”. For just as the main concern of the 4th wave of feminism at present is the fight against “intersectionality” – i.e. the countering of overlapping forms of discrimination – the guidelines of humanist philosophy also show that such goals can hardly be realized if we continue to consume our world saturated while sitting on the couch.
In this sense, until that ideal world, which I briefly described in the section “Spirituality”, arrives, we would first have to courageously become “Homines politici” – political people – for quite some time.
We live in a world which today is predominantly oriented towards aspects of market economy – and so far we have subordinated almost everything to these aspects of market economy and to the omnipresent realization of profits. This concerns our model of society – and thus the choice of social coexistence down to the smallest units of human communities, it concerns our educational policy – which is supposed to turn us into hard-working drones and eager consumers, and it dominates our thinking in such a way that it is difficult for us to imagine a “meaning of life” beyond “demonstrable success”, “winning at any price” and “exercising power over…”. And that’s why all those of us are soon depressed or ultimately even deprived of their dignity if we don’t recognize ourselves in these prescribed stereotypes.
To become a “Homo politicus” therefore means for me to understand that “becoming aware” – which is desired in humanistic philosophy – implies socio-politically “Consciousness raising” – for which it is inevitably necessary to get up from one’s own couch and to look beyond the rim of one’s own teacup. If we don’t just want to ” complain about the great darkness”, then we have to find the courage within us to light our candle for our concerns or for the concerns of minorities, animals, social circumstances or the environment as a whole and LET IT SHINE. From Rudyard Kipling to Tristan Taormino and Greta Thunberg: Change has always begun with one courageous individual who recognized the need for change and implemented it persistently and steadfastly.

Why am I, Oligotropos, so sceptical about the aforementioned three aspects?
All in all, the main problem for me remains that all too often we humans tend to strive for convenient results only by means of a “technique”, a “method”, a mere “in-order-to”. We practice yoga, not to connect with the roots of our spiritual existence, but to fit into our summer wardrobe. We attend psychological workshops and group therapy seminars, not so much to get to know ourselves in the end, but to analyse and diagnose our neighbours in everyday life. We prefer not to take to the streets to stand up for renewable energies and our long-term survival, because we don’t want a Wind turbine near our house and are afraid that a meat-free “Veggie Day” will be introduced in the cafeteria…

Now in my fifth decade of life, I fear that not so many people will find the courage and initiative to embark on a journey of self-knowledge, which confronts them with their spiritual roots, the state of their self-realization and individuation, and their social and political integrity.
Moreover, I think it is even less likely that there are enough of such remarkable like-minded people out there, to yield enough possibilities concerning the creation of such trusting and intimate communities as I propose.

I will continue to dream that it is (still) possible after all.

It’s cold in the scriptorium³, my thumb hurts. I go and leave this writing, I don’t know for whom, I don’t know about what anymore:
All that remains of the rose is its name, we are left with bare names only…

¹ Michael Ende, The Neverending Story, Chapter XII “The Elder from the Wandering Mountain”, Thienemann Verlag 1979

² e.g. Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving, New York 1956, but also Osho in “Love, Freedom and Aloneness”, Griffin 2002

³ Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, Epilogue, Carl Hanser Verlag 1982

Thanks to Skyla Design on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 50 #political

The shoulders we stand upon – Part 4

The treasure trove of the Oligoamorists is teeming with heroes and monsters, idols, mythical figures and chimeras.

But the best stories are written by reality itself – or rather: it is reality that finds its expression in stories, absorbs impulses from them and finally weaves them into an incredibly colourful carpet.
I would like to dedicate this four-part series of articles to the history of Oligoamory, especially its fascinating roots and its most important value, self-awareness.

Being Political – Political Being

Anyone who has read the previous three entries in this series [ 123 ] might be tempted so far to dismiss Poly- and Oligoamory as a result of the exuberant imagination of two crude writers and the colourful visions of some obscure eccentrics.
However, I would like to counter the possibility of such a dubious mental retreat with this article, because the entire development that has led to the realization of Poly- and Oligoamory up to the present day was by no means a coincidence from the outset – and it was, also from the outset, always political.

I have already introduced Part 1 (Entry 47) with reference to the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, which, with its increasing religious freedom of conscience, increasingly offered people the possibility of a spiritual as well as psychological emergence from hitherto strictly traditional structures.
The first persons to benefit in this way from a “broader intellectual horizon” were, as already mentioned, at that time initially members of an educated bourgeois middle class – and from this middle class should also arise the first courageous persons who applied the newly won “freedom of thought” in many ways.
As the author of these lines, I would say that literally “the time was ripe”, because after the almost feverish second wave of industrialization of the 19th century, the realization began to mature in some circles of more educated classes that the hectic technical and structural upheavals in the lives of hundreds of thousands of contemporaries had begun to generate problematic mental and social issues: Many people felt deeply uprooted by the rural exodus and urbanization and often experienced themselves as mere “assistants” of inscrutable mechanized processes, which added to a general feeling of alienation and loss of self. Frequently observed consequences were symptoms of (urban) impoverishment and increased potential for conflict, e.g. due to alcoholism, outbreaks of (domestic) violence, various “mental illnesses” and radicalisation resulting in “gang/group formation”.
The intellectual response at the turn of the century to these phenomena was correspondingly manifold: In parliaments the first laws regarding industrial and social security were discussed; political movements began to offer nationalistic ideas of identification; the newly blossoming sciences of psychology and psychoanalysis tried to tackle the new mental manifestations (e.g. “neuroses”, “hysteria”, “manias”, “psychoses”); esoteric groups, offering alternative orientation, emerged (as described in Entry 48 – but also, for example, spiritism and theosophy); and from the awareness that the accumulated problems would probably affect the weakest members of a society in the first place (the poor, children, women), the nucleus of the welfare-, care- and reform-movement was born. However, all persons and organisations that tried to contribute in this area had to recognise that the female sphere of responsibility for “home/hearth/childcare” had hardly been affected at all by the structural upheavals of the dawning 20th century, but that the women afflicted were still burdened by the traditional nimbus of “renunciative self-sacrifice for the sake of the family”, which resulted above all in an increased workload and complete economic dependence.

This realization became the starting point for the first wave of feminism, when affluent women in welfare organizations realized that a change in the situation of less privileged fellow females could only be achieved through general social entitlement and comprehensive participation – with respect to all women.
It was the watershed-event for the so-called “Suffragettes Movement”, which from 1903 onwards fought for the importance and the awareness of women’s concerns and needs in public for over a quarter of a century – in quite a determined and persistent manner. Therefore, the resulting increased presence of women in universities and governmental institutions, their enhanced appreciation as scientists, politicians and artists and a resulting heightened female identity, which began to manifest itself in politics, spirituality, literature and research, was, as I said at the beginning, no coincidence. It was the beginning of the long overdue “Twilight of the Goddess” (Part 2 – Entry 48).
The first wave of feminism ended with two world wars, which in turn, in a twisted way and caused by necessity, contributed to a significantly increased leeway for women worldwide in terms of occupational entitlement and freedom of social mobility.
But the restorative masculinist backlash of the ensuing 1950s (USA: Truman/Eisenhower era; Germany: Adenauer era), however, subsequently revoked much of this newly won freedom again – “home/hearth/children” were once again proclaimed as the “true sphere of womanly devotion”.

This regression decisively triggered the second wave of feminism, which this time, though, was able to rely on a broad spectrum of sufficiently educated female campaigners in many different domains of society. As a result, the starting point for the second wave was an approach that was primarily aimed at establishing awareness in society as a whole, an approach that became apparent as consciousness-raising. This “consciousness-raising” in turn triggered a growing perception of numerous grievances regarding entitlement and autonomy in several contexts, so that in addition to feminist concerns, questions of civil rights, racial differences, the nuclear arms race and international proxy wars (e.g. Vietnam, Palestine, Afghanistan), and also increasing environmental pollution shifted into focus. This “raising of consciousness” also touched the individual level, since in this way a whole generation began to define itself in terms of an all-encompassing “awakening” in both intellectual and spiritual manner.
In combination with improved communication possibilities, this facilitated a swift solidary networking between various protest movements and alternative cultural initiatives: Black musicians like Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson demanded respect and (world)peace, artists like Yoko Ono or Joan Baez denounced social defienciess, “New Witches” and neo-pagan priestesses like Starhawk and Shekhinah Mountainwater blockaded nuclear facilities.
In addition to these super-personal concerns, the market approval of effective medicinal contraceptives (first admission “birth control pill” USA 1960) turned another female main issue into one of the core topics of the “Second Wave”, which concerned the question of sexual autonomy. Although the focus here was initially on reproductive self-determination, this topic very quickly expanded into a question of general sexual liberty and self-expression.

Encouraged by the above-mentioned cross-cutting solidarity and the networking characteristics of second-wave feminism, this issues soon (end of 1960s) spread to the Queer and LGBT community, which until then had been largely pushed into a societal blind spot. Therefore, in my understanding, an important (additional) effect of Second Wave Feminism was the effective emergence of the LGBT movement, which was able to initiate its overdue process of consciousness-raising, awareness, entitlement, participation and acceptance by society as a whole (which, as with feminism itself, has not yet been fully accomplished).
From today’s perspective, it seems bizarrely fascinating that of all things the advocacy for all-encompassing sexual autonomy terminated the political second-wave feminism during the “Sex Wars” of the 1980s in the struggle regarding the movement’s attitude to issues such as sex-positivity, pornography, BDSM and the status of transsexual women.
From 1990 onwards, the “Third Wave” thus arose from the conviction that it would henceforth consistently oppose sexism of any kind.

In the meantime, many people with non-heteronormative and non-monogamous needs and backgrounds had already begun to look for their own viable and liveable ways of dealing with the demands of their everyday reality.
If you have read my Part 3 – Entry 49 carefully, you can easily see that “Polyamory” in this way was a direct result of such a need-oriented approach – referring to requirements as they existed in neopagan circles at that time.
These requirements, to enjoy beyond purely sexual autonomy additional independence and freedom of thought regarding the design of individual relationships (and their conception), however, did’nt only exist in alternative spiritual neo-paganism. The queer and sexpositive community (the latter increasingly including the BDSM scene) likewise needed new and progressive relationship patterns that took a more liberal and even promiscuous view of sexuality into account.
According to my interpretation, the relationship philosophy of Polyamory with its eclectic (i.e. “composed of elements of different systems”) origin – consisting of alternative spirituality, humanistic psychology and integrative feminism – particularly suited to offer a basis for relationship-patterns with essentially different (and differing) needs.
For example, a classic “ménage à trois” probably has different requirements than a BDSM-relationship with five participants or even an egalitarian network of asexual lovers.
Nevertheless, each of these cases today still revolves around the same principles to which feminism was committed in all its phases: raising consciousness that there is a demand for change; perceiving the needs of those affected; their all-round entitlement with regard to self-determined participation and, finally, the unlimited acceptance of the way they are.

And exactly in this respect I perceive the philosophy of “Polyamory” (and thus of course also my own conception of “Oligoamory“) as political – because, as I have stressed often enough, “Oligoamory is not something you do, but something you ARE”.
The German political scientist and historian Christian Graf von Krockow once said that “politics is the constant struggle between changing or preserving existing conditions”; accordingly the ideas and lives of Kipling, Heinlein, Maslow, the Zell-Ravenhearts, the Suffragettes, the Hippies, and those of the people at the Stonewall uprising proved to me that change is constantly necessary – and adaptation to this change is always possible.

Huge PS:
From the witches’ coven of Wicca to the committed organisations of feminism to queer activists of the LGBT movement and down into the depths of polyamorous lifestyle: All these communities, groups and initiatives seem to breathe more freely in the US, are more liberal, more often based on cooperation – and generally they seem much more inclusive in their attitude than in my country (Germany), with an approach that among themselves is more like “live and let live”, as well as a mentality of “Your xyz is not exactly my xyz – but your xyz is ok and my xyz is ok and when push comes to shove we are all in the same boat anyway”.
Why is this often so very different in Germany, in the land of allotment plots, house rules and garden fences, where differences and what separates is always emphasized combative and relentless, even when groups and initiatives belong by name to the same philosophy?
I, Oligotropos, believe that this difference in conduct unfortunately arises from the very different basic constellation of the overall social and political origin of the USA – in contrast to Central Europe (and especially to the Federal Republic of Germany).
In the US, the struggle of underprivileged groups has always been focused on “entitlement and participation”, whether it concerned People of Color, religious beliefs, orientation of sex and gender, or regarding the configuration of individual relationships. Thanks to the Declaration of Independence of 1776 with its assurance of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, the promotion of basic freedom for individuals and communities in the US was from the very beginning on the agenda and an established principle (although for a long time initially only for white men).
This situation was completely different in “old Europe”, especially concerning those highly authoritarian sovereign systems, which were the predecessors of the Federal Republic today. When, from the beginning of the 1960s onwards, the first wide-ranging campaigns for social liberalization were launched in many different areas, the groups involved not only had to stand up for their entitlement and participation, but at the same time they also had to struggle for the accompanying civil rights and liberties in a country that had been managed over the centuries (and up to the present moment) in a predominantly imperious and patriarchal way. This climate of a freedom process pursued aggressively in parts by all sides involved (e.g. APO / RAF) has resulted in elbow-thinking and a mentality of categorical enforcement, a legacy which still accompanies us today in all socio-political discussions in my country, accompanied by its sometimes frighteningly cold-hearted and often uncompromising style, right up to the social networks.

However, as I have now shown in the four parts of my series, ethical multiple relationships – such as Poly- and Oligoamory – are the result of a path of development spanning almost one hundred and fifty years of emerging multiculturalism and social pluralism.
I would like to experience this path to be a lasting inspiration for my country – and thus for all of us – and as an incentive to act with greater confidence, solidarity, social inclusion and peace.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the provision of the artwork „We can do it“ von J. Howard Miller (Creative Commons 4.0 Lizenz)