Entry 83 #Coming-out

Out…, in…, out…, in…

© Kurt Löwenstein Education CenterCertain rights reserved

Last month, the young Swiss PoC columnist Noa Dibbasey wrote about her Generation Z and their attitude towards polyamorous ambitions: »”We’re open now,” they say, and dabble in multiple relationships driving. They go through a roller coaster of emotions. Discuss it with their partners. Quite often. “This almost amounts to a 40 percent workload.” And then, “As of today, we’re closed again!” Not everyone, but many. Most return to the status quo after giving it a try.«¹

Humorous and aptly observed, I would say – but at the same time I would add that, strictly speaking, this procedure can be perceived in all age groups of candidates concerning potential multiple relationships. To some people who describe themselves as polyamorous, this may even happen a few times in their lives. And as compassionately as Noa Dibbasey judges her fellow sufferers at the end of her column, that regardless of this, in any case, communication practice has been gained, an attitude of openness and transparency has been demonstrated…. – …I truly wonder why our way of life is subject to such a regular on/off factor.

Genuinely “queer” is such an “out of the broom closet!” and then a “…back into the broom closet…” not at all. In my Entry 65, I assign the poly- and oligoamorous ways of life to the queer spectrum. Characteristic for the vast majority of people in the queer LGBTQ+ spectrum, however, is that almost all of them have experienced this irreversible moment of “coming out” at some point in their lives, a situation that on the one hand represents the first public confession of one’s own queer identity – which on the other hand also constitutes a kind of “point of no return” in one’s own biography and in being perceived by the outside world.

We however, who have discovered our potential for the conduct of Polyamory (by which I mean all those who have manifested in themselves a feeling and striving towards a [love]life in ethical multiple relationships), obviously seem to keep it a little different in this respect at times, a little opportunistic perhaps – and therefore possibly not always as unselfish or true to ourselves as we might be…
First of all, there is, for example, perhaps exactly the initial relationship-experimentation-phase of our youth referred to above by Ms. Dibbasey. And suddenly “we Poly-/Oligoamorists” find ourselves there for the first time in a surprising constellation of three or four participants, because there is some part of us that does not want to conform to the guidelines of an environment that is still predominantly monogamous: That when an additional person is introduced to a relationship arrangement, another must leave so as not to exceed the still predominantly socially approved basic number of “2”.

In Noa Dibbassy’s words, the “return from the experimental to the status quo”, though, usually happens very often afterwards, when it’s time to move on from “wild youth” into the “start-up- years” in terms of jobs, careers and family planning. Like a somewhat embarrassing manga poster featuring hitherto revered superheroes, thoughts of truly viable multiple relationships disappear back into the closet for the time being – at a point in life when we are very much confronted with the mononormative “glass ceiling.”: Institutions and realities of our average society, all of which are tailored to the “two-person box,” from the application for a social housing apartment to the entitlement to child benefits all the way to the protective status of marriage – each with pending procedures and documents that legitimize only two people.
It is not only this de facto state of affairs that makes alternative life planning with several partners difficult – and which could possibly be tackled differently in organizational terms with a little skill and daring. It is rather the pressure, which is exerted in such a way on possible multiple relationships – and which inevitably will turn into internal dynamite there – who would have to limit her*himself before the law now with the third or fourth fiddle – and whose connection should be ennobled as the “main partnership”…
For the aforementioned “third” or “fourth parties” such an authority-imposed “non-inclusion” is hardly attractive – and therefore this is a critical moment, which many early multiple relationships also do not survive. The parts of a former polycule that have been shattered into individual atoms now mostly struggle along alone or, at best, in pairs – and this, of all things, in this previously stated “start-up-period,” when further helping hands, additional income or a surplus of imaginative minds would be of the greatest value to one’s own social group. Not to mention the legendary “whole village” that it would take to raise children – and so even our descendants usually experience and learn once more that love and partnership is probably something that is supposed to exist (only) between two people…

Once the career path is halfway booked, once the children have been produced, which today are all too often considered proof of a happy relationship, the door to the polyamorous broom closet will eventually open once again with a vengeance: Gone are the shaky start-up-days, and now there are finally hard-earned resources gathered under toil and sweat, which also allow the freedom to finally get one’s own thinking and feeling a bit out of the daily routine rut. There surely has be more than house, car, children, dog and the marriage-sex-provider with whom you have established all this…
Maybe we plan it, often it “happens” to us – and in fact one day we find ourselves having romantic feelings for more than one other person (again).
From then on, until the midlife crisis, we often try to get through with the door “half-open,” so to speak. Because in many cases, we still have parents who associate multiple relationship arrangements with Greenwich Village or the Mormons at best, gym buddies and shopping-BFFs who tell us that when a new person joins the relationship, it’s certainly just a bridgehead for breaking up in the near future – and work colleagues and neighbours who probably consider the occasionally changing cars parked in front of our door either as proof of our lively activity in swinging communities and/or as an epitome of our crumbling marriage.
Therefore, too much candid “coming-out” is out of the question, our name, our social position our career, indeed our whole reputation is at stake.

However, “not completely candid” about our relationships also means that we are generally not completely candid with our partners too – and therefore, strictly speaking, not with ourselves as well. So who is surprised if this period, as we change our coming-out status with the mutability of a chameleon depending on the social context, puts us in a drift ice field of emergent sensitivities such as petty narcissisms and situational shenanigans on the one hand, as well as deferentiality, envy, jealousy, fear of abandonment, and other unresolved anxieties on the other. Rarely before or ever after do we experience ourselves again treading on such a treacherous spider’s web in a nervous balancing act between the struggle for our identity and the expectations of others.

The German specialist for internal medicine and psychotherapist Dr. Dietmar Hanisch writes about these issues: »Relationships with our fellow human beings are indeed ambivalent: They can be our most important sources of protection, but they can also be extreme stressors. For us humans, being socially integrated is absolutely necessary for survival. Our urge for social recognition is therefore extraordinarily intense. And this unfolds in our brains, which have a strong tendency to reflect anyway. […]
In addition, our thinking has a bias towards idealization, exaggeration, and absolutization: We want to be loved by everyone, want everyone to fulfil our expectations. If this is not so, it inevitably causes stress.«

If only, as Noa Dibbasey concludes in her article mentioned at the beginning of this entry, we could have at least taken constructive multiple relationship experiences from our first attempts at walking !But this is usually not the case and so during the “second lap” we still have to sort out for ourselves many issues that have remained as yet unsolved.
A recurring question here is very often how we can find a healthy relationship between autonomy and perceived heteronomy, where, as I wrote in Entry 70, we are predominantly accustomed from our conventions to classify here in “winning” and “losing”: Who has the right to call the shots in a relationship? After all, I’m not a child anymore!
Developing autonomy and self-efficacy is good – but these must not develop into a self-imposed antithesis to commitment.
Therefore I, Oligotropos, often dread those who “love openly” (Entry 67) in the sense of “free love“, which they understand in such a way that they assign this love in each case only after personally assessed availability, just as it suits or seems favourable.
Though I’m reluctant to say it – the important polyamorous core value of “commitment” and self-dedication always proves itself in the infamous “bad times” when it really matters to walk that proverbial “extra yard” beyond your comfort zone on behalf of the favourite people in your life.

In her article for the Brigitte-magazine earlier this month, editor Janina Oehlbrecht identifies self-confidence, attention for those involved, communication (who would have guessed?) and the emergence of familiar routines as fundamental for successful, long-term relationships. She adds respect, maturity, and an advanced understanding of each other.³
It is precisely these latter three that I personally consider to be crucial factors, precisely because they cannot be obtained quickly or via shortcuts.

Successful, long-term (multiple) relationships are in this sense of course also a gift (namely from our favourite people to us) – but our contribution in this is considerable and we can certainly “work” towards them in a substantial way.
For many free spirits from the world of free love this “relationship work” is a red flag, because this phrasing sounds so uneasy, like making an effort and demanding.
Those who have followed me through 83 Entries on the subject of Oligoamory so far, know that in my view this “work” consists above all in a voyage of discovery towards our very own self, which is always worth experiencing.

Above, I mention the widely discussed midlife crisis as a milestone of our “second coming out”. The founder of the term, the Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, identified its trigger as the realization of one’s own mortality. I would perhaps put it more gently with a sports metaphor: The realization that life is distinctly turning to the “second half”.
Children (more or less) out of the house? Career goals reasonably established? Financially somewhat settled?
And what about our relationship life? Undergone three, four romantic entanglements and yet alone? Or persevered at all costs in a mediocre partnership with mid-range cars in order not to jeopardize the median value of the joint assets?
And polyamorous? Of the “befriended couples” no one has remained, the attempts to integrate additional partners into life all without success? Indulged yourself on neotantric weekends and sex-positive parties – and yet, one by one, even the last need fulfillers disappeared, because they recently had to attend to some care-dependent parent or their own oncological diagnosis…?
Sometimes our closet-door has already closed again – seemingly of its own accord: We have tried, struggled, quarrelled, reconciled, doing the best we could, and yet nothing lasting has come of it (Entry 78).

Eventually, starting in our 50s, we may begin to feel closer to the idea of a multi-generational home than a libertarian hippie commune – and the idea of “alone in old age” reaches out to us quite vividly and with a cold hand. Possibly time to open that polyamorous broom closet again…
…or isn’t it rather the “whole village” mentioned at the beginning that we are now trying to reach after all? The one with the helping hands and imaginative minds?
But then, perhaps one in which we wanted to feel loved, appreciated and accepted for our own sake at last.

Do we really have to wait so long for this, always a hand by the closet door?

At the end of my Entry today, I therefore quickly would like to offer some queer encouragement.
In the book by queer author Sah D’Simone that I reviewed in my last Entry, he compares his coming out to discovering his “spiritual superpower” with which he not only contributes to a livable and diverse world, but because of which he is also needed by that very world and therefore inalienably connected to it.
The affirmation he used to implement his move is “Because I’m worth it!”.

He writes about this experience:
»I left my hiding place, and the way I celebrate my individuality was not everyone’s cup of tea. I had to learn that that was okay. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. The risk was more than worth it. I found myself, my people and my purpose in life. Maybe when you leave your metaphorical hiding place, you too will not be everyone’s cup of tea. But you must trust that you will find your belonging, your purpose, your abundance and healing.«

As far as we in Oligo- and Polyamory are concerned, in my eyes the US-American theologian and writer Thomas Feverel Merton expressed this belonging, destiny, abundance and healing best in his book “No man is an island” in 1959 with the following words:

»Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.«

¹ “My Generation” column on open relationships Der Dreier und s’Weggli from 20.10.2022 on blick.ch (online) [Link available only in German language]

² Interview in GEO Wissen Gesundheit No. 17: (June 2022) “What makes the soul strong” [Publication available only in German language]

³ 4 habits of people in happy long-term relationships on brigitte.de (online) [Link available only in German language]

Thanks to the Kurt Löwenstein Education Center on flickr.com for the photo!

Entry 82

The rainbow within
(almost a recension)

Sometimes it happens that the universe gives birth to extraordinary impulses, which are of such a nature that in them, in a wonderful and amazing way, ideas and inspiration come together to form a meaningful whole, which until a short time before – although clever in themselves and nevertheless fascinating – existed rather separately from each other in different places.
One such gem I found when I was reading the book “Spiritually Sassy” (Sounds True, USA, 2020) by the queer PoC/Buddhist author Sah D’Simone, who through his multi-faceted life – similar to the personalities Rudyard Kipling, Robert A. Heinlein, and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart that I exemplify in my “History of Polyamory” [Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4] – has also become a “human bridge” between different realms of experience.
Especially regarding my Oligoamory, I have therefore rediscovered some exciting “old acquaintances” in Sah D’Simone’s thoughts and suggestions, which for me were put into a comprehensible context from the author’s spiritual perspective in a way that was as refreshing as it was once again thought-provoking.
Especially the keyword “spiritual” I myself just emphasized once again in Entry 79, but also Buddhism (e.g. Entry 74), wholeness (Entry 57), our queerness (Entry 65), time and again the balancing between commitment and freedom (Entries 7+8 among others), the obstacles within ourselves (e.g. Entries 21, 26 or 35), therefore also failure and retrying (Entries 22 / 77 / 78), as well as the importance of our striving for self-awareness (Entry 46).

I like the approach and the “thematic fusion” by Sah D’Simone so much because he succeeds in a good way to invite us to understand and accept our human weaknesses, he thereby celebrates in an extraordinarily comforting manner the journey of our many small (not always goal-oriented) steps as nevertheless meaningful – and at the same time he spreads initiative and “get-out-of-the-broom-closet”-mentality with incredible joy of life.

Regarding polyamorous (clearly: and oligoamorous) multiple relationship management, I noticed this most strongly when I held the age-old recurring question, “Why am I not succeeding?” in the rainbow glow of his book. [Once again for clarification: “Spiritually Sassy” is NOT a Polyamory book at all but rather spiritual self-help literature; however, anyone who is concerned with ethical multiple relationships and has no reservations about wisdom from a queer-spiritual perspective in this regard will nevertheless discover a treasure trove].

In the narrowest sense, I would summarize Sah D’Simones’ statement as follows:
You can lead a successful life if you manage to live at peace with yourself.
If I raise this to the relationship level, the statement might be:
You can experience yourself in successful relationships if you manage to live at peace with yourself.
So simple, huh?
Or so complicated.
In his book Sah D’Simone explains in a very touching way that we are mostly rather seldom at peace with ourselves – and consequently we re-experience this discontent in everything we do out of it and thus of course also in our environment.
Fortunately, he clears up in almost the same breath with many of the well-known “healing recipes” – such as the well-known call to work on one’s own “oneness”. About himself he describes in addition:
»As beautiful as this truth is, it doesn’t translate very well to the modern world. In fact, there are a lot of differences among us. I believe that everyone is “one”. Despite all the lip service paid to ‘oneness’, society does not treat many of its members as if we are all one. To many it says every day: you are different, you are bad, you are wrong, you are unworthy. Living in such an unjust world and blindly believing in oneness is at best a lie, and at worst denying the everyday reality of our world. Yeah okay, one love. But I was depressed as hell, bitch! Will your oneness get me out of bed? Oneness is not on my side when I walk into a room as the only non-white, queer body, when, before I even open my mouth, non-verbal ideas and prejudices about me – which have a genuine effect on my reality – come my way.«

In Entry 65, I, Oligotropos, characterize our lifestyle of ethical non-monogamy as queer. So when we “multiple relationship handlers” interact in any context, the experience described above is not so far fetched. Especially not when we are trying to establish or maintain our relationships.
Because what are we trying to do there? We are trying to join others in community – but easily forget that our counterparts are similarly manifold 20-, 30-, 40- or 50-year-olds as we are ourselves – already filled with their own life experiences, a specific complex history (which we also claim for ourselves), full and independent living beings, that is, who hope for the same degree of respectful or at least attentive approach to themselves as we also wish for ourselves.

According to Sah D’Simone, however, we meet each other rather rarely in a completely attentive and peaceful way (within ourselves, mind you!). Therefore, providing attention and respect, as well as receiving it ourselves, is far more a matter of luck than something we naturally care about. This is where the author wants to start and encourage readers to find freedom of thought, feeling and action. Not to a freedom proclaimed on the outside: “Look how free I am, I do (only) what is good for me…”, but to a real liberation within ourselves:
»The key to freedom? Awareness. Especially today, when we hardly switch off, we live without any awareness of our actual self. This leads us to react to life in a completely disproportionate manner, to get out of balance in many different ways. Caught in a non-stop cycle of feeling-thinking-reacting, we have no room at all to deal with life (our feelings, relationships, ourselves) in any appropriate way.«
When I read these sentences and think about my relationships, but especially about past failed attempts to initiate a relationship, I get the impression that someone there comprehends me quite well…

Looking at his own fate, Sah’ D’Simone has come to the conclusion that when we are in such a state, we are in most cases no longer really “ourselves”.
“Self-awareness” therefore must be obtained, as I also regularly promote on this bLog. In Sah D’Simone’s words:
»If your life doesn’t exactly match with what you know as your self and what you know deep down is your potential, you are not alone in this. Life is hard! Being human is hard! Being with other humans is hard! Sometimes it’s one long obstacle course. And an emotional disaster – all this heartache and desperate attempts to come to terms with our inner world while we expose ourselves to the outside world. No wonder we lose ourselves or go astray. No wonder we teach ourselves to hide. No wonder we avoid real contact. The world out there can be pretty scary!«

Sah D’Simone then describes what we perceive as scary in terms of an image of our “inner garden,” where seeds of insecurity, doubt, shame, and guilt – constantly introduced from the outside – try to germinate and grow up. While our heart recognizes our garden as it is meant to be, our mind only looks at what grows in it and this is – as long as we have not yet become good “inner gardeners” – predominantly worrying and leads to more and more “weeds”, which we thus even multiply ourselves.
To clarify what our “heart” recognizes but the mind merely “sees”, the author explains that there is a difference between “desire” and “need” that we usually blur completely unconsciously in everyday life:
»The mind is controlled by desire. It constantly wants to have something, constantly wants to consume in order to feel better. It cannot accept the changeability of things. It is insecure and longs for confirmation, attention and distraction. […] The heart, on the other hand, has needs that oppose desire. While desire gives us short-term pleasures or satisfactions, needs are things we cannot live without, especially because with each need that is met, the way is paved to a happier inner garden.«

From his own queerness, the author has thus derived an active approach to this:
»’Spiritual Sassyness’ is all about honoring your uniqueness, your authentic self. Spiritual teachers will tell you that we are all one. But if you enter a room and you visibly differ from everyone else there, and the world outside feels unsafe and dismissive of your otherness, then Oneness can feel truly very wrong. Anyway, that was absolutely my experience. Usually by ‘to differ we mean ‘being different’, even if we express it positively. You can only ‘be different’ if you are viewed from the mainstream point of view (white, cis, heteronormative). So even if Oneness may be a nice idea, the world we live in today is not ready for it. If you feel like you have to break down walls before you can feel a minimal sense of security or belonging, then the idea of ONE-ness feels just wrong. […] Instead, I call for a celebration of otherness: celebrate your unique magic, because you came into the world to share it with us. Your magic will set you free.«

For this literal “coming out“, Sah D’Simone encourages us to once again explicitly deal with our own self-history, to look closely at what belongs “to our own garden” in terms of its essence – and what has gradually found its way into it from the outside, what has meanwhile perhaps overgrown what we are actually meant to be.
Similar to the neuroscientist Gerald Hüther, whom I occasionally quote on this bLog, he points to the persisting plasticity of our minds as a starting point for always being able to bring about change in beliefs and habits.
However, since he also knows the power of our inner critic (who often comes in the disguise of our “weaker self”), he recommends entering into a kind of regular internal dialogue with this part of our personality.

Of course, as a Buddhist, Sah D’Simone also has no qualms regarding the principle of forgiveness – but I know that for me, Oligotropos, this is regularly a hurdle when I turn to my past and former self-history. In my opinion, D’Simone succeeds very well in elaborating at this point that he is not concerned here with a gesture towards former perpetrators, but rather with an attitude that is entirely in the spirit of our own authentic self and serves to restore our original “garden”:
»We all know the effects of trauma and forgiveness is the antidote. I know that sounds simple. In fact, we can realize a deep connection to our heart and essence when we learn to forgive those who have hurt us and those we have hurt, and forgive ourselves for how we have handled ourselves in moments of confusion. We are biologically designed to seek close continuing relationships. So how can we pursue this basic need if we are stuck in our traumatic memories that replay as an infinite loop in our minds?«
Spoiler: “Trigger” D’Simone considers quite similar, by the way – which I think is a pretty thought, because what triggers me has actually a root in me somewhere, too…

In my opinion, the book has its greatest hour when it comes to creating and uncovering the respective “true” self-story that really belongs to us – in fact, in combination with the discovery of our respective spiritual “superpower”.
As already indicated above, when the author speaks of “one’s own magic,” he enters an area that the nonviolent communicator Marshall Rosenberg had already addressed a quarter of a century ago. D’Simone’s point, however, is that we are not just “heroes in our own movie“, but in fact – because of our uniqueness – we all possess inherent talents or “superpowers” with which we can contribute to a better world. Here he indirectly emphasizes that in this way a preoccupation with one’s own self is by no means a mere “end in itself,” but is in fact in harmony with a beneficial influence on a larger whole [quite similar to the reflections of the British philosopher Anthony Ashley Cooper, whom I quote in “Meaningful Relationships – Part 3”Entry 64].

Leaving one’s own comfort zone, leaving one’s own broom closet, and going in search of one’s own multicoloured magnificence are thus not mere queer premises for the author Sah D’Simone, but rather the key to successful (relationship) life in general.
By making an effort to gradually expose our fears and deficiencies, to understand how much we have made them our own in our thinking (thus, as it were, cultivating and nurturing them in our personal heart garden with our mind), there is a good chance to gradually withdraw the dominance of these “weeds”. In this way, peace can also spread again in our heart’s garden.
At the end of his book, D’Simone therefore addresses his readers:
»No matter where you are, my dear: you belong. If the place you are in is not where you would like to be, ask yourself what is to learn there and make a plan for the future without getting lost in the self-doubt of your mind. Turn to your heart and listen to the voice that believes in you. […]
When you realize that your heart is the place where you have always belonged, and that you find a true home there, everything changes. When you understand that there are no dangers lurking here and you begin to feel at home in your body, you also realize that you belong here on earth; we belong and are deeply connected in this human experience.«

“Belonging” is also what Oligoamory has been about since Entry 5. At the end of Entry 55, I wrote in addition:
»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). 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”…«

Sah D’Simone: Thank you for showing me once again why this is so important.

Thanks to Jason Leung on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 81

A hinge has (only) one degree of freedom (Quote: Wikipedia)
[Hinges and wings – Part 2]

..if one were the hinge in a relationship with four…

In my entry last month, I wrote about the shifting dynamics of the supposed “centre position” in a multiple relationship.
It is therefore fascinating for me as a bLogger to notice how some ideas on topics concerning our way of life often surprisingly appear at different places at almost the same time.
Meanwhile, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised either, because some questions push into similar areas when people are trying to find a solution to them – when the time for that has arisen.
So recently, the term “hinge-blindness” started circulating among the ranks of progressive participants in multiple-relationship. Thus, “hinge-blindness” describes a phenomenon that is supposed to affect the person who is on the hinge position in a multiple relationship (see last Entry: often thus e.g. the “centre” of a V-constellation consisting of three persons).

Considering my last entry, there are of course a few things I have to say about this exciting new symptom.
First of all, for example, that such a term is actually the specification of a new “symptom”. And symptoms are usually attributed to identify causative agents. And since in our culture “causer” is more or less often synonymized with “origin”/ trigger”, the step from there to use such a term to attribute guilt is rather tiny.
For people who have to suffer from the supposed effects of “hinge-blindness” this is an understandable as well as obvious reflex: I suffer – and as a consequence they want to designate responsibility for this suffering (AND THIS responsibility surely ISN’T MINE! ).
Which brings me to my second point of criticism: The Teflon reflex “It’s someone else’s fault!” usually seldom leads to a solution of the problem, but mostly deeper into a conflict – especially in groups where the number of people who are concerned is limited and all participants know each other (like in a relationship…).

Let’s take a short look at the so-called “hinge blindness” and the effects it is said to have:
So there is a person who is on the “hinge” (middle) position” between two or more other partners. The main criterion of the “hinge-blindness” is supposed to be that the hinge-person, due to its own intensive feelings towards the respective wing-partners, does not realize that these wing-partners, in turn, don’t feel for or aren’t connected among each other with the same intensity as their corresponding attachment to the “hinge-person”. As a result, this “blind spot” would become a source of misunderstanding, conflictual friction, shaming, and even abusive behavior by the hinge-person…

That still sounds to me somehow like “When two quarrel, point to a third”… Or along the lines of: “The middle is causing trouble – therefore the centre has to fix it”. And both have for me rather a gloomy taste of “the middle” being either an eternally ungrateful “hotseat”, where the one would have to be pitied, who has to hold position there – or of an almost subservient-passive empowerment of that “centre-position”, because by its leadership talent (or lack thereof) every weal and woe of the overall relationship would be predetermined.

On the whole, I personally perceive this interpretation of stress in a multiple relationship as a failure of the middle due to it’s attributed subjective bias as extremely Oligoamory-alienating mindset. Indeed, I also think of it largely as quite outside the realm of Polyamory.
Why do we just keep letting monogamous influences slip in through the back door into our multiple relationships?
Now what? Hinge-blindness is a polyamorous core-phenomenon, which can only occur in multiple relationships – how can it be a “monogamous influence”?
Simply because – if we indulge in such a way of thinking – it is still about a purely dualistic separating reality¹ of “correct” or “mistaken”, “being right” or “being wrong”. Instead of understanding a multiple relationship as a multifaceted entity – and the great opportunity that comes with it – we continue to play the old game of two-sidedness, where in the end there can only be one winning position and one losing side.
I can’t really be reproachful at this point. We all still exist in a world that is largely shaped by monogamy – and almost everything that has been and continues to be is shaped by this philosophy. Already in Entry 8 (“Check, dear mate!”) I point out that it needs quite a lot of effort to change from the “single player mode” to a “group status” – and that not least our mentality, inner attitude and way of thinking would have to take quite a turn in order to change from the “lone wolf” to a team player.

However, what seems particularly disturbing to me about the basic principle behind the symptom of “hinge blindness” is that it still conceives multiple relationships as a kind of collage of parallel individual relationships of the purported “middle”/”hinge”. And as long as we look at our intimate relationships with this kind of energy, there will never be a merging of that which we actually would like to experience it united.
Oops! Was I thinking as unreflectively as the poor blind hinge there?
No, I don’t think so – nor do I think that most or at least many hinges are “blind”.
Rather, I believe that what is labeled “hinge blindness” merely characterizes a certain amount of very human, blue-eyed wishful thinking on the part of the “hinges”. And in an almost old-fashioned nostalgic form à la “I would like my friends to be good friends with each other as well…”. A wish for harmony that many of us already know from our childhood and school days – a wish for unanimity, like-mindedness and widespread consistency – and thus, of course, also for belonging and inclusion.
But that didn’t really work “back then” – and we can’t “make it work” today either – no matter how much we may be an empowered hinge, infatuated with our wings and adored by them.
In fact, nothing has changed: If Alex and Ulli didn’t get along with each other back then, then you had to forget about inviting them together to your 13th birthday, just as you can forget about inviting Robin and Toni to your 38th birthday today, if they don’t like each other.
In those days, even promises and bribes would not have achieved anything, and today…
…oh dear: Today Robin and Toni would be both our wing partners, joined with us in a multiple relationship!
And if we were there now, blind in the middle, may I be allowed to ask the delicate question of how it would have been possible to be partnered in love and passion with these two people who clearly dislike each other so much that they cannot even endure a few hours together at a celebration…?
Have we perhaps been playing Pokémon-Poly² after all, and aiming more for a diversified portfolio of loved ones to satisfy our individual needs – thereby establishing more of a parallel relationship construct rather than a holistic joined relationship?
Then it will be difficult now, because for the fact that Robin and Toni may still start to like each other despite all their parallelism, we can do nothing at all. Strictly speaking: The blind hinge can’t do anything, because their mutual sympathy or antipathy is first and foremost a matter between Robin and Toni.

“Blind” by the way, is not what I, Oligotropos, would call the hinge in that case because of its purpose-optimistic expectations of harmony.
But very well “blind” with regard to the choice of the basic relationship model, which now reveals itself at best as an “open-relationship network” rather than as Polyamory.
For even Polyamory – so says the first sentence on the German Wikipedia in the corresponding article – “…denotes a form of love life in which a person loves several partners and maintains a loving relationship with each of them, this fact being known to all involved and lived by consensual agreement.”.
Oho: consensual! “Consensual” – here again Wiktionary helps us out – means “with permission, with consensus, without coercion; allowed without objecting or resisting; existing, or made, by the mutual consent of two or more parties“. So, in our case, this refers to the shared relationship, in which all participants would be aware of this fact ( that is, to have a share in that multiple relationship).

Based on this, the question of who or what is “blind” arises for me in a new light. Since in my opinion, it now would be rather necessary to ask what the status of this “consensuality” would be.
Is it possibly actually due to the “hinge” which, however, has blinded its “wing(wo)men” with a high degree of non-transparency on its part by acting in its own interests in an inscrutable manner? So that these wing people were not even able to give informed consent with full knowledge regarding the overall relationship? Unfortunately, it’s not at all uncommon that other existing or budding relationships are declared as “pretty best friends”, “very good acquaintances”, or “…oh, it’s such an on/off thing…”; vain smokescreens that all too easily convey that there are “actually” no other, full-fledged wing partnerships (except the one where you’re spending time right now) […and again, welcome to mononormative thinking!].
Or was the centre truly blind after all – but quite differently than the “hinge-blindness” wants to classify it. Precisely by not paying careful attention to the all-important “consent” in Polyamory. Because the most famous (non-)agreement phrase in the world is, as is well known, “Do whatever you want…!” (Variant: “It’s your decision…”). An already blue-eyed purpose-optimistic hinge could probabely turn this somewhat vaguely stated go-sit-on-a-tack-expression with a bit of exaggerated self-conviction into actually granted agreement. And from then on be reassured in its own mind: “Sorted things out? Yep! Been there, done that!”.
By the way, in both variants, both “hinge/centre” and “wing/side” do not come off particularly well. And this is unfortunately due to our human weakness to interpret statements of other persons in our own sense in such a way that (hopefully) further inquiries are unnecessary and we therefore consider the “state of affairs” to be satisfactorily settled.
What always blows up in our faces in those situations where suddenly the ground is pulled out from under our feet with sentences like “I have never said that…”? Yeah, well. But how it was REALLY MEANT in the actual situation, THAT has unfortunately never been expressed either, it was always just insinuated with a lot of vagueness, a minimal touch of bad conscience and a lot of “break-a-leg”-mentality.
By which in my opinion also the last splendour of the symptom “hinge-blindness” has peeled off, in that it is no longer a multiple-relationship buzzword, but in essence only a somewhat stale, well-known everyday phenomenon, in which we humans, when it comes to commitment, very often only too gladly want to avoid the pending concreteness.

There is no such thing as characteristic “hinge blindness” as far as I am concerned. There is only that widespread human blindness by which, when certain consequences of one’s own actions seem too difficult to bear, one switches to an apparently easier-to-bear variant of reality, which one first tries to persuade oneself of, and a short time later all those who might be affected by it.
This does not require multiple relationships or even polyamory as a setting – it is entirely a phenomenon of one’s own self-conception.
In my previous entry, I also explained why the assignment of the positions of “centre” (“hinge”) and “side” (“wing”) are by no means as clear as they may superficially appear. From this, too, it is evident to me that in case of suspicion of “blindness” in a multiple-relationship network, it would have to be fathomed very precisely a) what this blind spot would consist of and b) who or how many persons would actually be affected by it.
For the purpose of “blame shifting” I consider the whole symptom as inappropriate since, as is well known, when you point your finger at someone, four fingers immediately point back at you…

Regardless, in this entry today I have mentioned three of the most fundamental values of Polyamory as well as Oligoamory. These are: Consensuality, Transparency and Commitment.
My Entry 44, in which I talk about why it is truly important for the success of multiple relationships to love one’s friends or partners as whole people and personalities, is based on these three values, as they are the indispensable ingredients for the most important good in all our intimate relationships: Trust.
We can immediately see why if we turn the three terms into their antonyms (= opposite meanings): Ambiguity, obfuscation and incoherence. Once these three apocalyptic horsemen have begun to roam around in our relationships, no one will feel really comfortable in there anymore. Even more: In this way, a “mutual we” will never be established, which is exactly the difference between the above-mentioned “parallel relationship construct” and a real holistic, joined relationship.
It will always become Poly- and Oligoamory (only) when all parties involved are really completely integrated, with all their knowledge, full will and whole heart.
This is not an unfailing insurance against the kind of blindness that can befall us all from time to time. But it is one of the best safeguards for such an eventuality, that it does not immediately drag all those involved into the abyss, and that there are enough friendly eyes and hands to master a difficult stretch of the journey together.

¹ The description “reality of separation” for the predominantly everyday-unconscious way in which we lead our lives originates from the author Daniel Hess, whose thoughts (and counter-concepts) on this subject can be found in detail in Entry 26.

² “Pokémon-Poly” – and what it means – is described by me in Entry 2.

Thanks to Kiraan p on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 80

If you are at the centre of things… – …you might get in anybody’s way
[Hinges and wings – Part 1]

I could perhaps even rhyme a little pointedly:
“No matter how small the polycule, one must be the centre as a rule…”.
And what or who is “anybody” then?

© Tikva Wolf auf TikvaWolf.com (Kimchi Cuddles)

The word “polycule” first appeared in polyamorous usage in 2007, when someone noticed that many multiple relationship structures – especially when drawn to illustrate these network-like connections, for example – shared a certain resemblance to molecules. The metaphor is exceedingly apt in that both molecules and polyamorous relationships with multiple participants can produce small, large, long-chained, compact, or even rather cyclic compounds.
In this sense, some of these connections also have no real “centre” (…who or what would be the “centre” of, say, four people…?) – and yet… I’ll get to that in a moment.

The wonderful and fascinating thing about Poly– and likewise Oligoamory is that there actually doesn’t exist a “master blueprint” for a relationship configuration. Each participating person would be – to stay with the picture – quasi an atom with any number of free slots for potential further connections.
All right, in Entry 12 I already described for my Oligoamory in a somewhat limiting way why I personally believe that this wouldn’t be an “infinite” or “arbitrary” number of free positions.

Polycules can thus emerge in different ways. The simplest (and in my life experience most frequent) way is, if there exists somewhere a person, who one day feels love for two other persons at the same time – and already a first mini-polycule with “central atom” and V-shaped connection to two other “atoms” is created. Those two “other atoms” do not necessarily have to enter into a relationship with each other, so that a kind of “triangle” would be created. But for successful Polyamory it would be favourable in the medium term if there were nevertheless some kind of “interaction” between these two “V-atoms”, which I usually like to describe as “general goodwill” or “acceptance”.
Sometimes, however, group constellations are formed surprisingly by the fact that several people suddenly like each other at the same time – so threesomes, foursomes or even larger core groups can develop in which virtually all participants have some form of bond with everyone – but this is more and more improbable with increasing size of a group.
Not at all improbable, however, is the possibility that at some point people who are already part of their own multiple partnership will become involved with another person who in turn is part of a different multiple partnership. Should the fascination for the other participants in the already existing groups of origin now leap over to each other through this connection, it could be that the polycules will connect more closely via further interpersonal connections – the path to some first “cyclic” structures would have been initiated…

As pretty and confusing (that’s why it’s really better to draw something like this in detail on the paper napkin of an overly curious cousin…) all this is and can be – I just wanted to point this out today as an introduction.
Because to simplify, one now might argue that in the world of multiple relationships there are actually only two states for an “atom” – either a person is currently part of several relationships and thus somewhere “in the middle” – or s*he currently has only one relationship with just one other person and is thus, so to speak, “at a side”.
This is equally recognized among poly- and oligoamorically involved people – in the Anglo-American languages there are already distinct terms for these positions: People who are currently connected to only one person who him*herself has several relationships are called “wing”; those who are currently connected to several other people are called “hinge” or “pivot”[because their position resembles a furniture- or a door-hinge that allows at least two other parts to move around it].
To make it more complicated, “hinge partners” can of course also be “wing partners” at the same time, if their partners are in turn in relationships with other persons; relationships in which they themselves accordingly would only be a “wing”…

And with this additional complication, we would finally arrive at my topic for today.
For even if we were to draw up our multiple relationships – as extensive or as small as they may be – a clear assignment of who would be “wing” or “pivot” would only exist on paper.
Besides, one might reproach me immediately, why this should be an “oligoamorous” topic at all, since I would write here incessantly about intimate connections with literally “few” participants – surely there wouldn’t be so many “sides” or “centres” anyway?

Real life, however, is manifold…
From the outside – especially from people who do not live polyamorous – the “central position” seems to be perceived predominantly as a manifested dream: In the middle, appreciated, desired and pampered from several sides, the centre of attention and already thereby enjoying numerous benefits…
In contrast, the majority of polyamorous guidebooks often dedicate at least one whole chapter to this notable “centre position” – usually with many recommendations and hints on how to manage the challenges encountered there reasonably well.

Indeed, multiple relationships often reflect the clash of many different needs. Where will this tension be greatest in the event of conflict? Probably at the centre… And immediately it is the ” pivot ” – around which everything seemed to revolve benevolently just a moment ago – at which the greatest centrifugal forces now occur, because various desires and/or requirements pull in different directions.
In my opinion, however, this very common example already shows that in a multi-person configuration the “centre” which has been classified in such detail above is not specified at all. Because the impression, as far as the needs of others involved in the relationship are concerned, of “feeling the weight of the world (only) on your own shoulders”, may catch you in any position – at the side or at the centre.
Just when, for example, exactly this phenomenon of the “negative centre” arises – virtually as if you yourself were the lowest point of some event in the relationship, on which now the full load is coming down from all sides – it is favourable to pause and ask yourself whether you are actually really “the centre” in this capacity.
For one does not need to be poly- or oligoamorous in order to “feel the weight of the world on one’s shoulders”. Because in many cases this impression already arises when we declare ourselves responsible for things that are not ours at all when viewed from a different angle.
Or in a relationship: which are not ours alone.
Especially in ethical multiple relationships, I see here a certain danger of “over-fulfillment” by which one does a disservice to oneself and to others. I’ve written about commitment and accountability in numerous entries here, so it could quickly seem as if the overall weal and woe of a relationship is hanging like a millstone around the neck of each and every person involved. And that in this sense the “weak link” (or atom…) of a multiple relationship in the case of failure would have to answer for the collapse of the whole with the own insufficiency, of having not tried hard enough.
But this is not how Oligoamory is meant. A mutual relationship and a mutual well-being need a mutual responsibility. And this has always to be supported by all involved – no matter if currently “centre” or “wing”.

How vague the assignment of a “defined centre” of a relationship is, is very often also shown by the popular example of the so often practised “triangular communication”. It doesn’t take just three people (it can easily be more) – and in the vernacular it is simply referred to as “talking about…”. The lure of such a failed conversation culture has become even greater since the age of social networks and messenger services.
Of course, it is probably most human to talk “about each other” even within a relationship. And since hopefully our relationship partners are also our closest confidants, to whom we literally want to “entrust” ourselves with all our daily needs, it is also understandable if we see them as our “allies” and to a certain extent also as our counsellors. Through indirect triangular communication, however, we very quickly play off one of our allies against another within close relationship networks – and that can’t work out well.
The Polyamory-bLog Mehrfachzucker ¹ (Original source only in German) adds:
»Taking the conflict to another person will most likely, on top of everything else, damage the relationship between the third person and the person who is actually the issue. The actual conflict is not solved, but outsourced and often even intensified. In addition, the partners of our partners also have a right to their own privacy. So agree beforehand what is allowed to be passed on and what is not.
Triangular communication is treacherous and leads to numerous problems. Shifting responsibilities, creating new conflicts and violated trust are just a few examples. Triangular communication happens quickly and insidiously at the same time.«

The latter means: How quickly is something typed emotionally into the mobile phone and shared with a third party out of a situation, which is still being discussed controversially at the table. In this way, we turn our other favourite people into “captives”, with whom our only concern is to get them as quickly as possible into our “own camp” as supporters…

A similarly unpleasant side-centre-side variant of triangular communication is, by the way, also the playing off of one’s own partners or partners of partners against each other: “XYZ has caused me to act in such and such a way…”. In this way, people like to avoid responsibility for their own decisions by shifting the causality to someone else in the wider relationship. One “wasn’t no longer able” to act in any other way, so to speak. Unfortunately, I have already caught myself arguing in such an unbearable way, especially in order to justify to myself the imprudence of some actions. For our favourite people such a shift of responsibility must be even more insufferable to endure.

To one of the most delicate phenomena in my eyes, the authors Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert have dedicated the following text in their basic book “More Than Two” ² – it describes what happens when “wings” and “hinges” begin unyieldingly to offset against own claims:
»”That’s not fair!” Below a certain age, we hear people say this all the time. Past that age our vision gets longer, an d we learn that fairness operates best on a global, not a local scale. If you did the dishes last night and it’s your sister’s turn tonight, but she isn’t doing the dishes because she just got back from dental surgery, it may seem unfair to you from a purely selfish perspective… but really, would you want to trade places with her? And if you were the one who’d just been through the root canal, wouldn’t you appreciate a pass on the dishes tonight? Sometimes compassion dictates that a rigid schedule should change.
By the time we’re adults, we’ve pretty much figured this out. That, or we’ve just given in to exhaustion and stopped worrying so much about what’s “fair” on such a granular level. Yet in relationships, especially in polyamorous relationships, the little whisperings of our five-year-old selves poke through and say, “That’s not fair!” when things don’t get the way we expect. Even when we don’t talk about our expectations. Even when we know our expectations are silly. When you’re balancing more than one partner, you will surely hear this sentiment. The words may change, but the meaning is predictably constant: “That’s not fair!”
In dealing with human beings, issues of “fairness” sometimes need to go right out of the window. People change and needs change, but often our notions about what is “fair” remain static, so deeply buried that we’re not even aware of them
[“Inner Highways” in Jealousy-Entry 36]. The fairness that is important in relationships isn’t the tit-for-tat. In fact, sometimes a tit-for-tat approach to fairness creates a situation that’s decidedly unfair […]: Symmetry is not he same thing as fairness.
The kind of fairness that really counts is the kind that begins with compassion. Fairness means saying things like “I realize that my insecurity belongs to me, so I will not use it as a blunt instrument on you, nor expect you to plot your life around it. I may, however, ask you to talk to me while I’m dealing with it”.
This isn’t the kind of fairness our inner five-year-old understands; he’s far more likely to be worried about someone else getting something that he doesn’t have, or getting something for a lower “price” than he paid for it
[Envy-Entry 59]. At the end of the day, though, our mental five-year-old isn’t likely to make our lives better, no matter how much of a fuss he puts up.«

Since our (multiple) relations are therefore just no static structures (see Scott Peck in Entry 8 and in Entry 79), we will recognize ourselves on all “positions” there regularly (also with a small number of participants!): In the middle as “hinge” or “pivot” – or at the side as “wing”. Our human ambivalence furthermore will push us into the middle from time to time of our own accord – and also move us again back to a wing position.
More or less at the same time, we will therefore also often be “pulling” and “pulled”, ” pushing” and ” pushed” in parallel. Just as we are at all times both “enjoyers” and “contributors”, “supported” and “supporters”, “lovers” and “beloved”.
What is important – and in this I agree with F.Veaux and E. Rickert above – that we are therefore continuously prepared at all positions to give our compassion an important, perhaps even the most important voice.
If we succeed in this, we get in each other’s way much less, rather our relationships then become – to say it with the Persian Sufi mystic Rumi“gardens beyond right and wrong”.
That is where we will meet.

¹ Mehrfachzuckerblog: Dreieckskommunikation – Sich über Ecken im Kreis drehen (only German language available, sorry!)

² Franklin Veaux und Eve Rickert „More Than Two – A practical guide to ethical polyamory“, Thorntree-Press 2014

Thanks to Tikva Wolf (author of the popular Kimchi Cuddles Polyamory comics) and the most personal permission to use the polycule-artwork on my bLog (all rights © by the cartoonist!)
and thanks to Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash for the molecule-photo.

Entry 79

…though the blessing comes from higher.

If Oligoamory were a tree, it would have different “roots”.
The main root is definitely Polyamory, of which my “Oligo-Amory” is effectively an offshoot.
Polyamory, as a manifestation of Non-monogamy, offers a concept in which non-exclusive loving relationships with more than just one other person are feasible in a committed way.

Thus, “Non-monogamy” is virtually also one of the roots of Oligoamory, if only because it allows the freedom of thought to indulge in a quest for more than one intimate relationship in life.
Polyamory, on its part, which distinguishes itself in the large group of non-monogamous relationships with the addition of the phrase “ethical multiple relationships,” wants to work toward ensuring that such multiple relationships are established responsibly, consensually, and transparently – that is, with the greatest possible (equal) entitlement – and, above all, with the knowledge and consent of all involved.
So all the values that apply in this respect to Polyamory are in any case also applicable to Oligoamory.

Another important “root” of Oligoamory is the community-building process as described primarily by the U.S. psychiatrist and author Scott Peck¹ – and which has become fundamental to many forms of communal living, such as ecovillages, housing projects, and shared-living communities. At the core of community building lies a very inclusive and integrative way of thinking, which significantly aims at a “common wholeness” with a “we-feeling” at its centre. Describing it as a “process” is here the intended reminder that there will never be a “final” or “finished” state in this form of togetherness, but rather that it is an approach that will be continually revisited by those involved to be further adapted and configured according to current developments.

However, the oligoamory would not be the “Oligo”-Amory (with the prefix “oligo-“, which comes from the ancient Greek word ὀλίγος olígos “few”), if it would not suggest a way of living and loving, which would rather aim at a manageable number of participants. And in this quality there are roots in Oligoamory, which, among other things, arise from requirements connected to the phenomenon of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), as it has been defined by the U.S. psychologist Elaine Aron.
Since I, as the author of this bLog, consider myself as being affected by SPS, I have realized for myself that a high level of care with regard to the quality (before quantity!) of my social relationships is extremely beneficial to the nature and relevance of these relationships, especially in terms of coherence, predictability and intimacy.

Since I am therefore personally very strongly confronted via SPS with the manifold shades, facets and nuances of the surrounding world and my entire existence – which for their part rarely submit to pure classification of “either…or” – I was, apart from Polyamory, also fascinated by the approach of Relationship Anarchy, which has thus also become a root of Oligoamory.
This philosophy of relationships, first proposed by the Swedish journalist Andie Nordgren, rejects artificial or socially exclusive categories for describing interpersonal relationships.
Whether another human person is my best friend, my beloved, my companion, my acquaintance, my favourite person, my partner or whatever – according to the approach of Relationship Anarchy, this is solely a matter of agreement between the parties involved in the respective relationship. Likewise, it is merely a matter of agreement between those involved “what” – so to speak “which content” – constitutes the actual substance of this individual relationship. Be it platonic friendship, the dedication to a connecting hobby or some other commitment, spiritual kinship, sharing a common daily routine, a weekend relationship, sexuality, all of these together, or whatever mixture of completely other characteristics – all of this represents a range of possibilities that is difficult to grasp with a concrete term, but would rather have to be described by the participants themselves if they were asked what kind of nature their relationship to each other would be.
Thus, it is also part of relationship anarchy (keyword “loving free of domination”) that due to the open negotiability, which exclusively concerns the participants of the relationship, no external rules or boundaries may be applied, which e.g. would predetermine what might be possible and/or socially acceptable “only” between friends, “solely” between lovers, or “exclusively” between intimate mates.
Exactly this categorylessness and freedom of agreement are also part of Oligoamory, which in this aspect connects well with the nonconformist and queer heritage of Polyamory (see Entry 50).

When I describe my Oligoamory, two other essential roots usually come to my mind:
On the one hand, this is romanticism. I have already outlined in Entry 34 that I consider the so-called (and as a topos of fictional narration almost archetypal) “self-sacrifice” to be a core motif of Romanticism. However, what sometimes comes across so dramatically in myths, novels and narratives, has in my view a very tangible, everyday manifestation in Oligoamory: The willingness to go the famous “extra yard” beyond one’s own “sphere of ambition” for the other parties involved in a relationship. Surely, at this point we also recognize in it Scott Peck’s community-building process, wherein without such altruistic thinking, a “mutual we” would never be achievable.
At the same time, to my opinion, there also lies a share of what the humanistic psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow called self-actualization. I sometimes somewhat humorously call this aspect “comfort-zone-stretching”.
Especially in our closest interpersonal relationships – those of a familial nature, but also those of a “self-chosen” nature – we are most regularly confronted with what the Canadian psychologist (and father of social-cognitive learning theory) Albert Bandura called self-efficacy expectation. And by that I mean all those situations where we are confronted with circumstances, motivations, feelings and actions where we involuntarily ask ourselves “Can I do this?” – and where we have to face what ensues. The natural reflex of our weaker self would usually be to turn our backs on such challenges, to turn a “No, (maybe) I can’t do that…” into a “No, I don’t want to do that!” and in this way to stay safely within our comfort zone. But with that we would have taken away the chance for further ” self-actualization” ourselves.
However, every time our closest fellow human beings, friends, loved ones, companions, acquaintances, favourite people and partners were worth it to us to leave our comfort zone under the conviction “I can do that (after all)!”, we ourselves have become a bit more self-effective – and thus at the same time a little bit more “an even better version of ourselves”.
So when the romantic narrative says that there is a hero*ine treading the “path of the greatest possible courage”, that is above all what is meant by it: for the sake of others, we grow in ourselves. It almost can’ t get any more romantic than that in Oligoamory…

On the other hand, it remains for me to list idealism, and idealism – okay, that was to be expected – certainly also goes hand in hand with romanticism. Even the German Wikipedia says that “in everyday language idealism denotes, for example, an altruistic, selfless attitude”. But the same Wikipedia also suggests that idealism “emphasizes that reality is radically determined by cognition and thought” (and who would I be to disagree as a relationship philosopher…!).
When I speak of idealism with regard to oligoamory, I mean here mainly the aspect unsurpassably expressed by the Czech playwright, essayist, human rights activist, and politician Václav Havel in his words »Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something has meaning, no matter how it turns out.« [first quoted in Entry 61]
For if the psychiatrist Scott Peck is right (and in all likelihood he is) that our human relationships are never finished entities but open, organically evolving processes to be revisited throughout the duration of their existence, then by their very nature they defy any performance evaluation of “good” or “bad”. And should we as participants try to submit to such a dictate of performance criteria in our relationship design, then we would hardly get anywhere in our good Maslowian self-realization and self-efficacy.
Idealism, however, poses (as Wikipedia states) the question of possible meaning and cognition. And Václav Havel assures us that this is also very well possible within processes, even if they do not have an “end” in a classical sense of performance. Rather, with Albert Bandura, he encourages us to continually align our motivations, feelings, and actions with our values and beliefs in such a way that they serve us as a kind of guiding star to draw us out of our comfort zone: “I can do this!”.
Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory thus promises us – especially with regard to those of us who aspire multiple relationships – that our self-esteem will grow the more social roles we trust ourselves to assume. Yes, even more: since “self-esteem” means “being valuable ourselves”, we regularly “feel valuable” through those social roles in our relationships.

So today I have once again outlined the main roots of Oligoamory. And in the run-up to this article, I thought about them and realized that for me, yet another component is still missing.
Since now, I would be able to imagine the perfect oligoamorous relationship: It would be polyamorous at its core, in a continuous community-building process, it would feature quality- and self-care in the sense of SPS, it would be category-free and both romantic-altruistic as well as self-actualizing-idealistic.
If all this were given, I too would say that this would definitely describe a good (multiple) relationship – and yet…

As I sit here today, I wish you to have one more ingredient to those described above, which I would like to call today simply and unspecifically spirituality.
“Spirituality”, says the German Wikipedia, “is the search for, the turning toward, the immediate contemplation or subjective experience of a transcendent reality that cannot be sensually grasped or rationally explained and which is beyond the material world.”. Wikipedia further names as components of spirituality “questions of meaning and values”, “experiences of the wholeness of the world” as well as “connectedness with one’s own existence”.
And I think without these last three impulses we still could have a quite perfect relationship by oligoamorous standards – but our hearts might remain a bit clammy in it.

Perhaps in my case this is because I do not consider purely reason-based ethics to be sufficient as a sole basis for me.
Perhaps it is because I state for myself that at present I still exist in a world in which science has by no means found a conclusive answer to all questions, but in which even the cleverest minds confirm with awe in their eyes that every context that has just been satisfactorily answered instantly carries a merry bunch of further and deeper questions in its wake…
Probably, however, I feel the same way as Friedrich Schiller did regarding his “Lied von der Glocke” (Song of the Bell²), of which one line provided me with my title for this Entry. And in this respect, it will probably come as no surprise that the most essential components of Oligoamory stem from, of all people, a neopagan author (Entry 49) and a Christian community coach (Entry 8, among others):
Every day, we fearlessly tread the “path of the greatest possible courage” once again, undauntedly stretching the measure of our self-efficacy; we regularly exceed the limits of our own comfort for the people who are important to us; we don’t ask, when it matters and someone is crying at our front door at night, whether somebody is a loved one, a friend or “just” a neighbour; sensitively, and regardless of this, we try to improve the quality of our relationships; we prove ourselves to be part of a community and we sincerely strive for genuine loving relationships and in this we do not want to be limited to just one person…

But the “blessing”, the “meaning” – and indeed “no matter how it turns out” – in all these things will be something that is “greater than us”, something that “exceeds us”.
And this is where multiple relationships, in fact, successful human relationships as a whole, become something truly wonderful for me.
For that which is “greater than us”, that which “exceeds us” is called in spirituality precisely transcendent (from Latin transcendere “to overcome/exceed”). It is that which I have described from the first hour of Oligoamory as the element that produces “more than the sum of the parts” – which is the result of the interaction of all those involved, and which produces the added value from which (hopefully) everyone benefits.
But in order for this meaning, this added value to emerge, we call up something in each of us that makes each of us unique, precisely that inalienable self-worth that makes each of us “us” and without which the unique composition of ingredients in a relationship would not work. And exactly this something which is contained in things and living beings, which results from their individual and objective existence, is called immanent (from Latin immanere, ‘to remain in’, ‘to adhere to’) in spirituality.

How does it say again in Schiller’s “Song of the Bell”: »…That the work may praise the Master, Though the blessing comes from higher.«? As far as I am concerned, the great poet and thinker could also have written »…from within«. Because we consequently need both, immanence for transcendence and transcendence in immanence; both emerge from each other – and neither of the two phenomena can exist without the other (at least in Oligoamory).
This is as close as we can get to what many religions call divinity in our yearning, striving and acting – for ourselves and in our relationships.
That kind of divinity that already dwells in all of us and is only waiting to be allowed to emerge more and more, layer by layer.
And that certainly has meaning in any case.
No matter how it turns out.

¹ Primarily set down in: Scott Peck “A Different Drum”, 1984

² Links to possible translations:

Thanks to Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 78


There is more for you
than what never showed up.
More than what never came to be.
More than what couldn’t transpire
or find a way to work out,
and it looks like healing
and has the shape of possibility.
Let down by family or parents,
past dreams and expectations.
Put off by relationships,
romances, careers and ideations.
There’s another path to explore
and alternate routes to travel.
There’s a tribe meant to welcome,
with encouragements to fuel you.
There are hearts that want to hold you,
and kindnesses that long to see you through.
There are other ways to meet with love,
as kinships waiting in the wings.
There are fresh fields to run in
and warm pools to swim
Hold on bright child,
there is more than
what never appeared.

These lines were written by the Canadian poet Susan Frybort¹ and I was very touched by them.
Because in all those years in which I have already dealt with ethical multiple relationships, it often seemed to me, too, that “what never showed up” regularly made up the far greater part compared to what came to be, could transpire – or what even worked out in the long run.
Most people who feel a predisposition, an attitude, a feeling or a striving towards non-monogamous arrangements probably recognize this as well. The question of “HOW?” seems – no matter where you are on your “Expedition Multiple Partnerships” – to always remain bigger than the actual “That!”.
Often this already starts at a very early stage, since many of us who are committed to a lifestyle of ethical non-monogamy often do not currently have any such relationship(s) in our lives.
Considering Germany for example, different numbers are quoted, regarding how many people would be open for such a way of life; low estimates speak e.g. of about 10,000 truly avowed polyamorous people, elsewhere the rate of 0.2% of the total population is mentioned, who would consider a lifestyle involving multiple relationships (which means that with 84 million inhabitants we end up somewhere slightly above 160,000 people nationwide…). Statistically frustrating on its own. Sometimes almost discouraging…

Then there are the people who have supposedly “made it” and who have truly ventured into the challenge of “multiple relationships.” People who have taken their hearts in their hands and feel love for more than one person. Love that they also want to infuse – and manifest – with green life in their daily reality.
The first romantically enamoured glitter has hardly settled, the first taste of having actually realized the almost improbable… – when all of a sudden obstacles and difficulties burst up everywhere and on top of that appear to be legion…
Can I show myself in public with more than one partner? And why is that uncomfortable for me, despite my attachment? How can I reasonably and plausibly express in front of my children or parents that I desire, love and legitimately would like to have more than one favourite person in my life from now on? Will those around me perceive and treat me differently now – the neighbors, the buddies in the soccer club, my friends? And now that I maintain different relationships…– how do I manage to express my needs therein in a good way – and at the same time respect those of others? How do I manage not to be crushed between all the requirements, those that my normal environment already places on me, the additional needs of several partners – AND my own demands concerning myself? How is it possible to give all participants their appropriate rights in a multi-person network – and can this be achieved at all on an ad hoc basis between people who, in terms of time availability, geographical proximity and their own resources (and their own commitments and life plans), add to the equation quite different prerequisites?
And what is all that inside me: Is it my good intuition that guides me in my decisions, my speech and my actions – or are those old traumas of my past that want to lead me astray? What suddenly conjures up these fears in me, where do sensations of envy, neglect, jealousy, abandonment, misunderstanding, being excluded and – despite all the abundance and busyness – occasional emptiness and burn-out come from?

Those who choose ethical non-monogamy – that is, multiple partnerships with mutual consent, approval, informed consensus, eye level, and a high degree of sincerity – will almost always carry such questions within them. Their answers, however, do not appear automatically – regardless of whether we already have several partners yet, or not. And it is likewise all too human that we – much like the unwilling prophet Jonah² in the whale – at first will try to run from them for a while, or at least to take cover initially: We are simply not as sincere as we would like to be; we try to exert control over the other people involved with misguided benevolence; we are terribly needy and thus allow ourselves to be driven to exposing actions, thereby steam-rolling over our own good reason and over that of others…
Regardless of whether we are already in a relationship or not – such a state feels mighty unpleasant, and simply “somehow not right”.
Instead of heaven on earth, we experience frustration. Frustration, which – as I already described in my Depression-Entry 22 is “an experience of (actual or perceived) disadvantage or refusal that is perceived as an emotional response to an unfulfilled or unfulfillable expectation (disappointment), e.g. due to the failure of a personal plan or to the complete or partial lack of satisfaction of primary and secondary needs.“ And the definition continues: “On the one hand, frustration can lead to a constructive change in behaviour, but often triggers regressive, aggressive or depressive patterns of behaviour.“
So instead of the much-praised “constructive behavioural change”, we are usually far more likely to withdraw from others and/or right into ourselves (regression), to react irritably, annoyed, or angrily to others or to ourselves (aggression) – or even to become paralysed by dejection, hopelessness, exhaustion, or burnout (depression).

This is how it finally appears to us, as Susan Frybort describes it in her poem above: Nothing comes about as we had hoped, it simply cannot be realized – and there is probably no way for such a thing to work anyway.
Maybe it’s not meant to be. Most likely, we probably are not ready yet or badly prepared.

Once, when I myself was stuck in such a “gray space”, someone on a social network surprisingly wrote me the following about it, which helped me a bit to look at my frustration regarding multiple relationships – especially the ones that I have with myself in this regard – a bit more peacefully:

»In your journey there will be „in between times“ of transition. You may feel lost, confused, angry, unseen or empty. Don’t confuse these times of transition as a forever state of being, or of being broken. You are breaking away from what was, creating space to welcome what will be.«

I think that is a very good way of looking at things (and it reminds me additionally in its choice of words of Scott Peck‘s “Phase of Void” in his “Work of Depression”, which I also mention in Entry 22). Because for the relationships we want to have with other people, we first of all can only offer ourselves as we are here and now. That is where we currently are in our very own progress.

And – concerning that – what obstacles we have already overcome! Among the above-mentioned 84 million inhabitants of the Federal Republic of Germany, even many married couples still have inhibitions about kissing in public, many bystanders have inhibitions about witnessing such an expression of attachment (and all these people are by no means all of retirement age…). In many countries of the world a free and independent choice of a partner/lover/mate is still highly unusual – and in some regions the establishment of moral principles is still so rigid that neither male nor female are able to summon up enough courage to explore their own sexuality – and consequently have no idea at all about the sexuality and the emotional life of other genders…
And we? Are standing 10.000 or 0.2% strong on the shoulders of courageous people in our sphere of culture and the freedom offered there, so that we can concern ourselves with thoughts of multiple relationships, Oligo- and Polyamory. What an incredible privilege – and what a great personal achievement: After all, how far we have come for ourselves in our lives, that we were allowed to do this, to discover this aspect of ourselves and that we have discovered it!

And at the same time, of course, there will be critical voices outside and therefore also inside of us, for whom this is nevertheless still rather“insufficient”. That which “hasn’t shown up”, what “never came to be”, perhaps therefore “will never appear”, thus still too often fancies us as predominant.
If only we were more free… We should be more sincere. We should be more authentic. We should have already become much more ourselves. Then we would have been en route already, long since truly “actualized”. If so, we would have already established a fully comprehensive multiple relationship paradise for ourselves years ago. We would have finally…

The Canadian author and movie-maker Jeff Brown writes about this in his book “Soulshaping”³:

»I find any judgments about where individuals should be at by a certain stage of their life without merit. Its like trying to turn this magnificent and complicated journey of self-creation into something simplistic. In real terms, only soul knows the path its here to walk, what its had to overcome, what achievements to measure its progress by. People judge as though they have it all figured out, but their judgments often just smokescreen their own confusion. Are we late bloomers, or on-time growers? This is a private decision. The important thing is that we keep on walking towards a place that feels like home.«

Accordingly, the fact that we are “already” “here” at all is for each one of us a completely outstanding development. Despite very different starting points, we all have approached this extraordinary universe of multiple relationships. A universe by which we confront ourselves time and again with the most fundamental questions about who we are. With questions about how we relate – both to ourselves and at the same time to those who also have, had – or should obtain – a special place in our hearts and in our very existence.
To me, that looks like healing.
And it has the shape of possibility.

Hold on bright child,
there is more than
what never appeared…

¹ “Look to the Clearing: Poems to Encourage”, Enrealment Press 2021

² The Bible, Book of Jonah, esp. chapter 2:1-11.

³ North Atlantic Books; Original Edition 2009

Thanks to Frauke Riether on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 77

Love. Separate. Repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is it about “Doing the Ingo”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Alex Voulgaris on Unsplash for the photo!

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

Entry 76


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to 4317940 on pixabay.com for the photo!

Entry 75 #Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entry 74

Indivisible – or: Amidst it all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Alex Alvarez on Unsplash for the picture!