Entry 73

Simple is not easy – or: All beginnings are difficult

I had opened the year 2021 with the call to take care in one’s own interest to perceive carefully whenever possible what really IS at the moment – by which I meant that we should not let ourselves prejudge the reality by an immediately executed unconscious step through our very own glasses of fears and resentments.
This reminder has lost none of its meaning with the beginning of this year.

In 2021 (yes, this is the traditional review of the previous year 🙂 ), I started with a three-part series on the topic of what kind of tools would be necessary to lead our close personal relationships as “meaningful” in an oligoamorous sense (Parts 1 | 2 | 3 ): Self-awareness, to consider the other participants (empathy) and tolerance in the face of impulses and perceptions that were not always immediately clearly attributable revealed themselves to be helpful, as did the awareness that in the end we were all – inevitably linked to one another anyway – in the proverbial “same boat”.
Therefore, however, oligoamorous “meaningful relationships” also require a high level of personal quality management, as well as the courage to allow these relationships a scope for development and evolvement, even beyond the traditional limits of common conceptions (“just pals“; “mere friends“, “lovers“…).
Because the resulting liberties and possibilities for experience are thus based on responsibility, commitment and self-dedication, a quasi-organic (relationship-)structure can be created in this way, in which all parts (i.e. the participants!) have an essential personal interest in the success through their interrelatedness and love for each other – and precisely for this reason will contribute within an all-round sustainable framework [sustainability criteria: view last paragraph of Entry 3].
With the following discrimination-Entry 65 I showed last year in this regard, nevertheless, that such a nonconformist, indeed to a certain extent queer philosophy in relationship matters can still regularly encounter rejection and even disparagement caused by fear and incomprehension in the “normal world”.
Also, in order to counter one of the most frequently voiced stereotypes of mono- and hetero-normativity, that multiple relationship constellations would lack the crucial component of “fidelity”, I dedicated an entire Entry to the topic of loyalty, faithfulness and attachment.
And because nonetheless many people still are still concerned about the supposed “openness” of such relationships – certainly implying the participants in them might not be completely sound… – I explained in Entry 67 that openness in Oligoamory consists above all in a systemic freedom of thought – and not at all in the arbitrariness or impulsiveness that some people project into it out of their own suppressed wishful thinking.
Exactly such bashful projections, however, reveal how strongly most of us are (still) wounded in our individual intrinsic value – be it through our upbringing, socialization or tradition. And that is why we all too often react precisely out of these injuries when we are confronted with something new or unusual (Entry 68).
Unfortunately, our best-practiced (self-)protective behaviour in such a case is still often the tendency to crave more control; a control that we are only too easily willing to extend on everyone else around us because “we know what’s good for them” (Entry 69).
Mostly, this protective reflex is triggered when old “life issues” are exposed (Entry 70) – overshooting negative energies that want to poison our loving relationships in the here & now because of suffered shortcomings long ago.
Therefore, I have dedicated Entry 71 once again to Polyamory itself, that form of ethical non-monogamy, which currently, due to the inflationary use of the mere term, gets exactly all the gloating about “system-inherent dysfunctionality”, which, unfortunately, is usually brought in only by those people who try to engage in it thoughtlessly and as they see fit…
However, any “good relationship” thrives on dedication, devotion and a uniqueness that reflects the appreciation of all those involved in it (Entry 72).

And so off we go into 2022 !

Once again (?) we have arrived at a time when many of us long for a simpler life in the face of an often confusing outside world. And legions of coaches seem to be ready to support us in this, covering everything from material minimalism to the development of our higher selves.
Therefore, “alternatives” to our current way of life are called for – and these “alternatives” concern the objects and the living space that surrounds us, our spiritual potential – and just as much: our relationships.
Some of us are really serious about these changes and the transition towards a “simpler life”: So maybe life is rearranged thoroughly, the household is reduced to 100 (or 50? or 30?) items, one moves into a tiny house, if possible solitary (but not lonely!), weekend workshops are attended conducted by energy healers, and… – yes, now our approach to relationships must follow where the rest wants to lead: that, too, should be as simple as possible and also adequately alternative at the same time.

The “simplest” form of relationship in the above consequence would probably be to stay alone. But as a human being we are social beings – and therefore we also have some social needs that have to be fulfilled from time to time, that deserve to be fulfilled – “One cannot kiss alone” – that’s what Max Raabe sang already…¹
So “Polyamory” then, that is, as the advertising knows, three things at once: love, variety and chocolate, uh, nope…, and personal well-being (which as an effect, at least, is roughly equivalent to chocolate…).

If this appears to be too woodcut-like and simplistic to you (and you think: “Ok, I’m polyamorous but I don’t live in a tiny house and my garage is so full of stuff that I can’t even put my car in it anymore…” ), I would like to ask you to consider a phenomenon that I call “lifestyle crossover”. This might represent a lifestyle crossover like for example “Ren-fair- visitor / biker / metalhead / leather-culture” – but it might also be a lifestyle crossover like “Oshofan / peace movement / vegan / permaculture”.
By the way – fun fact – : Nearly all of the “subcultures” just listed also have an increased factor of people in “open relationship models” compared to the statistical “normal population”…
Why is that?
Basically, there is something good hidden here: People who have already “alternatively”, “non-conformably” or even border-crossingly looked over the edge of normativity (the average customary-common) in one area of their lives tend to extend this to other areas of their lives as well. Very often, it’s not so much the urge for “alternativeity” that’s behind it, but simply human curiosity and the desire to explore: For example, I meet someone at the medieval fair whose garb I’m enthralled by – two weeks later, I’m sitting there on the floor of my utility room, surrounded by leather cutouts, designing bold belt pouches and a pair of really hot chaps…. In doing so, I suddenly feel a rush of self-efficacy and think that I am getting more and more in touch with what is really important to me, what I care for and what makes me unique.
What is additionally ingenious is that with these topics, which are suddenly so close to our hearts, we free ourselves almost spontaneously from old beliefs, such as: “Mother always said that riding a motorcycle is for the suicidal…” or “Vegans are freaks…” or “Only destitute people sew their own clothes” or “Allotments and gardening are just for pensioners…”.
Suddenly, we open up spaces and opportunities to ourselves that we might even have walked past formerly with a sniffle – simply because our environment may have once set an example for us in this way.

So what does this have to do with our desire for a “simpler life”?
I believe a lot because we always perceive our lives as “easy” whenever we act out of conviction and self-determination.
If, for example, I no longer consume the medieval fair as an event, but possibly participate properly, then I feel connected out of an inner motivation; perhaps the historical epoch is important to me, the imparting of knowledge – or maybe there is something about it that reminds me that now and then it is good to do many ordinary things again entirely by hand.
Or there is a committed politician who does not let himself be picked up secretly by limousine from the club at night, but openly admits his BDSM inclination during the election campaign – precisely because he wants to highlight the urgent inclusion and entitlement of queer life in his city by personal example.²

Those who have read this far should now understand what I meant by the title of this Entry. Because these determined people really don’t try to make it “easy” for themselves – neither while laboriously practising Viking-Age tablet weaving, nor in facing the consequences that a courageous public outing can have for one’s career.
But if we could ask the acting individuals, then again they would probably tell us that what they are doing or have done “simply” and naturally flows from them. And it is “simple” because it is something that is deeply connected to themselves as a concern – accordingly it “comes easily” to them because they act authentically and without pretence in the process.

In order to be able to live “simply” in this way, one essential component is needed, which is often not at all easy to achieve: awareness.
Consciousness requires a willful and present decision FOR something – which we humans normally like to cheat our way around with somewhat lukewarm approximations.

And our attitude in Ethical Multiple Relationships like Poly- or Oligoamory I consider as quite appropriate examples.
Because, for this, it is not enough to merely decide against monogamy. It is not enough for the assertion of participation to reject another tradition as outdated. The danger with such kind of thinking is that we spend most of our energy on what we do NOT want – and, hand on heart, we humans are usually quite experienced and skilled at that. Rejection – sometimes called “destructive criticism” in educational language – is precisely not “constructive” by nature: It merely expresses that the old, the traditional should be gone, should not be. But what is it that we want for ourselves? What should a mode of relationship that suits us actually look like?

Whoever has nevertheless successfully avoided this process of realization will immediately stumble into the next dilemma in Poly- or Oligoamory – and that is why spectacular accidents occur just as often. Since, multiple relationships seem to us occasionally as promising, because there – in contrast to bad, bad monogamy! – we do not have to decide against one (possibly already existing) love when another love comes along.
But this is almost always just the lukewarm manoeuvring mentioned above again, because it allows us to hold on to our comfort zone without too much mental effort. Because this is where our “weaker self”, which I quoted in Entries 44 and 72, cleverly manipulates us: The “familiar” appears to us all too easily as “the right thing to do”, which allows us to leave many thought patterns and structures in place – but unfortunately this means that we are still much more strongly attached to a majority-led normativity than we would like to admit – and are thus forced to emulate its ideas and concepts far more unreflectively than we suspect. So, actually, we have not changed anything at all, but, strictly speaking, we have merely chosen a non-decision, by which we are almost forced to continue repeating old mistakes and negligences.

But Polyamory, Oligoamory means that we choose our loved ones by a pro-active choice. And that we choose them tomorrow and the next day and time and again. That in this kind of multiple relationship all involved choose each other time and again.
In order to be able to do this consciously, “comfort-zone stretching” will be required in any case, simply because we have to deal with variables such as acceptance and imposition, appreciation and significance, freedom and boundaries (and much more) on a regular basis.
This will probably never be “easy” – and that’s good, because awareness requires the presence of our whole being – sometimes even controversy.
At the same time, it may well be the hallmark of a “simple” – i.e. straightforward and truthful – life to devote oneself to these challenges with loving commitment and attention on all sides of a relationship, precisely because a conscious decision has been made and this part of life is now being embraced with conviction, wholeheartedly and willingly.

And this is also what I would like to bring about with my Oligoamory, especially in times like now, when inner restlessness and New Year’s momentum may drive us to tidying-up actions, where the confirming clatter of the dustbin lid easily drowns out what is actually important: In what is to come “instead”, to set the course with the heart, to follow no fashion, no trend and no supposed “easiness / lightness”; promoted “easiness / lightness”, which today too often conceptually whitewashes superficiality, low sustainability, non-commitment or excursiveness.

Simple is therefore not always light and easy – as well as difficulties do not necessarily imply hardship, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships – or as the Swiss aphorist and politician Ernst Reinhard once put it when asked for a recipe for more peaceful coexistence:
“Serenity accepts life as serious – but not as hard”.

¹ Max Raabe (und Annette Humpe): One cannot kiss alone, Decca Records 2011

² As happened, for example, in the 2021 municipal election campaign for the position as Lord Mayor of Göttingen.

Thanks to comfreak on pixabay for the photo!

Entry 72

Fresh out of the pan…*

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

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

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

Always careful whom you share your men with…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Oriol Portell on Unsplash for the ginger crowd!

Entry 71

Concerning Polyamory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to congerdesign on pixabay.com for the photo!

Entry 70

Undetected leitmotif*…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jonathan Sautter on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 69

One for all – all for one!¹

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One for all and all for one!

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

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

Thanks to FOTORC on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 68


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Austin Neill on Unsplash for the grandiose picture!

Entry 67

Yes, we’re open

Three weeks ago I received most remarkable fan mail, in which among other things the following sentence was written: “I really like your bLog – and as far as open love is concerned you seem pretty much advanced in that department.”
As soon as I read it, there was a part of me that thought rather grimly “I think if you had a proper conversation with me, you’d have to realise very quickly how little ‘open’ I actually am…”.
»Open«»Closed«…, in fact one encounters these two classifications rather often on the continent of non-monogamous relationships. In essence, I regard both descriptions quite useless in communicating with each other, just like, for example, the widespread scene word »sexpositivity«. Especially in a environment that claims pluralism, tolerance and heterogeneity for itself, I consider such purely dualistic phrases to be profoundly problematic.
Dualistic? Profoundly problematic? What do I mean by that?
That the wording in itself contains merely an either/or-alternative – and therefore immediately assumes an exclusionary quality. For you can either love »open/openly« or…, yes, OR – and this implies the alternative thus inevitable in purely binary phrasing – you love »closed«. Either you are »sex-positive« or…, yes, OR you are »sex-negative«.
Open and positive instantly comes along with a nice nimbus of diversity, cheerfulness, life-affirmation and alternativeism; closed and negative, on the other hand, is pooh-pooh, carries the stigma of narrow-mindedness, possessiveness, dependency and establishment.
Gee, dualistic expressions are something great, they nicely simplify the world, because you can only be one OR the other – and if you are NOT the one thing, well, friend, then unfortunately, according to the rules of logic, you are obviously the other…
In other words: breeding ground for new categories and exclusiveness instead of integration and wholeness – and by denying scope for hues, nuances and shades of grey already in the wording itself, all that somehow isn’t really queer – and oligoamorous…?

As the author of this bLog, I believe first of all that the »open/closed« debate out there is causing more confusion than helpful self-inspiring clarity for most lovers. I am relatively sure, for example, that this fan I mentioned above was actually addressing my “open relationship”, to which I refer here sporadically. Yet I have never ever written an Entry on the subject of “open love / loving openly” – for good reason, since I personally have a problem concerning the explicit combination of these two words.
Because »love« means to me, in terms of quality, a kind of “energy” between living beings. In this way, love for me also just “is” – as some Buddhist-inspired, esoteric or hippie circles like to put it – as many other proponents of “free love”: It certainly represents a value in itself, possibly existing out of itself, perhaps it is also fed from a spiritual or cosmic source. In that sense, I would even agree that love can be seen as a kind of all-enveloping (or even all-pervading) matrix that circulates between all things and in which everything else is contained. But!
Certainly in this way I can possibly get in touch with this all-embracing love, I could also perceive myself as part of it and feel embedded in it….
However, if »love« has this particular quality, which other natural sources and stores of energy also share (such as air and water masses, but also atomic particles, photons and quanta), then in my view a correlation of some kind only arises when such energies begin to flow, align themselves with a destination, when a field of tension develops.
Accordingly, if I were to say about myself that I “love openly”, then I would perceive that as if I were to say “I have water/electricity/music etc.”. So at best I would have made a statement about myself, that I obviously had access to the corresponding energy, perhaps I had ample supply of it myself – but yet I would neither have watered a garden nor refreshed a thirsty throat, I would not have illuminated any darkness, nor charged a battery, struck a chord or made anyone dance.
As far as I’m concerned, »love« – at least between human beings (or more precisely: between living beings as a whole) – usually has an “alignment”, a directionality – and thus almost always also includes some kind of aspect: E.g. a colouring, an incentive, a reference, a meaning, an information – and thereby, of course, immediately establishes some reciprocity and a dimension of its own.
For between the “energy” and my (achieved) effect there is still me – and I decide – to stay with the analogies above – whether I pass on the energy through a wide nozzle, a shower head, a lens, fine wire, a keyboard or by means of a gong.
Ideally, love therefore receives its coherence (its context of meaning) precisely through our respective individuality – and wonderfully enough, this coherence, which I emphasise so often in my Oligoamory, can thereby present itself in completely different ways.
Anyway, in my opinion, exactly this is not “open” at all – and in this respect, “loving openly” would make about as much sense to me as setting fire to a barrel of paraffin or bursting a water tank: also a form of energy release – but in essence aimless, connectionless and far from any sustainability.
So when we are not basking in that blissful feeling of being omnipresently surrounded by universal love (and that tends to be something we each experience in our core selves largely individually), we are always, in a way, “loving closed” in one way or another – “closed” in a positive sense of “congruent” (inner agreement) and perhaps even “continuity” (aware of the intention). And that is something very good because we can experience two things with this kind of “directed energy”: On the one hand, responsible self-care as well as the care for others, because thereby we are operating within the sustainability triangle of permanence, suitability and appropriateness (Entry 3, last paragraph). On the other hand – and because the previous may sound a bit too boring – we can achieve that highly valued state that is generally referred to as “flow“: The sensation of being whole; the blissful feeling of a state of complete immersion. Well, that sounds more like love – doesn’t it?

But perhaps this current “horror angustatis” (Latin: abhorrence of closedness) only exists since the advent of modern computer networks, where “openness” stands for flexibility, accessibility and universality, while “closedness” has the charm of protectionism, secrecy and vintage IBM flange plugs.
Although everyone knows, at least since the first Tron movie in 1982, that energy always thrives on momentum, dynamics AND directionality 😉

However, I believe that our western thinking about relationships and their openness/closedness is still surprisingly strongly influenced by a certain ancient heritage. And in detail, I am referring to the almost two and a half thousand year old story by the Greek philosopher Plato about the so-called “spherical creatures“.
In my view, the basic idea behind it is simply fascinating: angry gods tear happily and completely living spherical beings in half as punishment, thereby creating us humans both in our sexuality as well as in our longing and our henceforth perpetual neediness.
Mr. Plato was even downright enlightened at his time: thus he had the gods tear apart female, male and bisexual spherical creatures – generating lesbian, gay and heterosexual “halves”, which from then on would be desperately searching for each other and recompletion in the eons to come…

A load of antique old tosh, mothballed, outdated?
Hardly: just search the internet for the keywords “dual soul”, “soul mate” or “twin flame”. For there you are: the “better half”, the “missing other”, which will make you “whole” again.
Deeply ingrained in our Western civilisation, older even than Christianity, there was and still is the belief that “out there” somewhere our complement must exist, the missing piece to our life’s puzzle, thus the answer to our questions about existence, satisfaction of our sublimely felt – but unfulfilled – longings and needs as well as regarding our desire for completeness and wholeness.
Apart from the fact that this parable also laid the fatal foundation for our mononormative “only-ONE-lid-for-only-ONE-pot” paradigm, it has, of course, also caused a lot of damage in terms of entitlement concerning our potential partners: Because any person who would not complete us to 100% – that is, “heal” us – couldn’t possibly be our actual “missing half”. Thus we would have been mistaken and would have to set out again, parallel or serially (depending on disposition or chosen strategy), in our quest for the perfect match. Forever, again and again, cursed by gods and fate….

I have only used the word “anti-oligoamorous” twice on this bLog – but the above narrative fulfils this offence in any case.
Because the bad thing is that this old tale has also influenced the way we often think about ourselves: as somehow incomplete, just half-something. Whereby wholeness and salvation would not only be extremely difficult to obtain, but completely unattainable on our own – and if it were at all, then only through external contribution, lying beyond our own possibilities.
Still worse: according to the legend, in this way we all are born “in the minus”, so to speak, both in terms of our social gender and biological sex – and also in terms of our desires and needs. And even if we were to achieve the highly improbable luck of finding our “other half”, then we would only just be able to reach our “original state”, in a sense as completion and maximum at best “Level 0”.

And that is surely not the image of humanity I am advocating with Oligoamory.
Those who have read bravely through many entries of my bLog know that I am a strong supporter of our personal wholeness and of our individual realization of becoming whole. We are by no means “imperfect beings” – on the contrary, we are already complete and it is precisely because of this that we can achieve this fantastic mode of existence in our loving relationships of experiencing ourselves as “more than the sum of our parts”.
Which immediately reminds me again of the “spherical creatures”, who in this way – even if they were to reunite – could (or would?) never grow beyond themselves because they would literally have always “concluded” their striving by finding their twin nature.
Is this perhaps the origin of a somewhat rebellious and resistant element in some parts of the non-monogamous scene against all kinds of relational “close(d)ness”, e.g. against the often reviled “RCR” (“Romantic Couple Relationship” as a fighting term of relationship anarchy) or polyfidelity¹ arrangements that are sometimes eyed with suspicion? Not infrequently, those concerned are described as “naive”, “unvisionary” or even as “regressed” – without the accusers noticing that this is precisely how they themselves get entangled in the “either/or trap” mentioned at the beginning…

It is possible, however, that good old Plato was aiming at something quite different. Modern psychological and philosophical reflections² on his story suggest that the wise Greek was already trying to point to what he perceived even in his time as an increasing fragmentation of the human mind. This would make Plato’s story the first illustrious testimony to the fact that most people since antiquity would have been suffering from a “reality of separation/splitting”, and privately wished for a way back into their personal “continuum” (see Entry 26). So Plato would have written his somewhat strange parable as an urgent appeal to our self-love – and I consider that an exciting idea when I think about it: For Plato “wrapped up” his story in a literary dialogue that dealt specifically with “Eros” (yes, Eros as in “eroticism”). However, Plato’s contemporaries did not understandEros” as a mere form of sexual desire, as we do today, but in a sense as an underlying force that flows through the cosmos and holds all things together³.

Thus we have come full circle. When I was an apprentice, the 50kg Portland cement sacks always had the nice saying written on top “It depends on what you make of it”.
This is exactly what is true for me in terms of my understanding of love: Open, i.e. “unbound”, love is certainly abundant – but in this condition it is largely insubstantial and still without shape. However, we humans as creators of our daily reality can access its enormous potential, give it direction and intention through our efforts, set things in motion.
But in this process we are not just like a member of the fire brigade who has merely chosen the right hose and nozzle for the resulting jet size, but we ourselves are the conduit and we ourselves are also the valve for this great manifestation called »love«.
So presumably Plato meant to say: first make sure that you become whole yourself, so that you are not a broken vessel that cannot hold the power you are accessing; make sure that your valve is not clogged or cracked, so that you can achieve the effect exactly as you intended.

And in this way it is again coherent for me concerning Oligoamory that we lovers always act externally responsible when we first and foremost apply good self-responsibility. Whether we subsequently choose our relationship models to be “open” or “closed” is then merely a question of personal preference.
But to love openly or closed? Both sounds somehow contradictory to me – and that is why I prefer to leave the closing words to the Austrian writer Ernst Ferstl, who succeeded in making these opposites stand side by side in a beautiful proverb:
“Taking people close to your heart means always being open to them.”

¹ Polyfidelity: Form of [polyamorous] non-monogamy in which all members are considered equal partners and agree to restrict sexual or romantic activity only to other members of their own group.
Definition for example: https://lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Polyfidelity

² E.g. the philosopher Simone Weil addressed the myth of the spherical creatures in her book Intuitions pré-chrétiennes, published in 1951. She believed that the misfortune of humanity lies “in the state of duality”, the separation of subject and object, and interprets the splitting of the spherical beings as a “visible image of this state of duality, which is our essential deficiency”.

³ The philosopher Empedocles († ca. 435 BC), for example, dealt with the question of the circumstances of the creation of the world. He assumed an eternal cycle driven by two opposing moving forces, one attracting and uniting and one repelling and separating. They ceaselessly strive to suppress each other. All processes in the universe, including human destinies, result from their endless alternating struggle. Empedocles called the unifying force “love”, the separating force “strife”.
In this sense, Plato, too, with his famous “Platonic Love“, wanted to achieve that a “true lover” (who would, of course, also be a philosopher!) would strive for higher and higher forms of affection beyond initial erotic desire all the way up to “cosmic love” in the end.

Thanks to Tim Mossholder on Unsplash for the picture!

Enry 66

Faithful, loyal, trusty and true

When I finished the German part of my bLog article, I realized during the translation that there is no consistent Anglo-American equivalent at all for what the Germans call “Treue”.
It was probably just a little surprise, however, that my people, especially, would use just one word for such a complex matter, whereas a glance across the borders shows that there are completely different approaches to this in other countries.
As a lover of words, of course, I found this perspective rather captivating. An Anglo-American speaker would thus be able to express certain nuances while accessing a matter of… – yes, there are several possibilities:
If s*he would be referring to circumstances concerning belief and a feeling of belonging, s*he could choose “faithfulness“ and “faithful“. If matters of attachment and support were concerned, s*he would possibly choose “loyalty” and “loyal”. Talking about dependability and reliability, s*he might use the words “trust” and “trusty”. And in matters of verity and honesty the expressions “trueness” and “true” would possibly be appropriate (and by the way, the English word “True” is etymological the closest distant descendant of the once shared Saxon word “treowe” ¹, which developed in Germany to the all-covering “Treue”).
And there are even more Anglo-American expressions in the field of faith, loyalty, and trust: “staunchness” and “staunch”, for example, if one would refer to a certain steadfastness; “fidelity” if talking about integrity and sincerity; “constancy” and “constant” if referring to persistence and responsibility; “devotion” and “devoted” in matters of commitment and allegiance and still more…
Here, language fascinates me once again – and I think it is remarkable how many of the possible shades and nuances in the various expressions directly affect oligoamorous core issues.

Which brings us to the heart of today’s topic.

Because in the social networks, on a dating platform (once again…) to be precise, I had another peculiar run-in the other day. Since I always present my dating profiles as non-monogamous in a straightforward and transparent way, I had answered one of those “thousand questions”, that many profiles contain so that you can tell something about yourself, as follows:
»What do you think about fidelity?«
My answer: »Mononormative “fidelity” – which, strictly speaking, usually means “sexual exclusivity” – is often worthless because people don’t understand that loyalty and commitment is what really matters – and all other modalities are matters of agreement between the parties involved.«
Promptly I was thereupon addressed by a woman who replied that I would have arranged that with my answer quite nice, but genuine fidelity would be in her opinion much more than just that and would certainly go far beyond loyalty and commitment…
Since the lady in question then surprisingly quickly vanished from the corresponding network (perhaps she had found a “genuinely faithful” companion…), I was left owing her an answer, which I would therefore like to make up for here on my bLog.
Her statement prompts me to examine two positions: First, whether “genuine fidelity” actually outranks or overrides loyalty and commitment. –
And secondly: Whether, if “fidelity” is spontaneously felt by many people (especially in monogamy) as something “much more”, what this “more” then consists of.


The German Wikipedia comments on the keyword: »Fidelity (“to be staunch, to be constant, to trust, to be true, to believe, to be devoted”) is a virtue that expresses the reliability of an agent/protagonist towards someone else, a collective or a thing. Ideally, it is based on mutual trust or loyalty, respectively.«[…]
“Woho!”, I already want to exclaim at that point: Thus, fidelity is based “ideally” on trust and loyalty! Then according to my idealistic conception fidelity itself cannot go beyond these two fundamental qualities.
After all, it would be similar to my example concerning needs from Entry 58 about a barrel with its various barrel staves (the boards from which the barrel is made): The content of the barrel “fidelity” could not rise higher than the extent of its staves “trust” or “loyalty” would provide. If, therefore, in such a fidelity-balance there would be less of either trust or loyalty, then the barrel capacity “fidelity” could not rise any further than its shortest stave of the least inferior quality would allow. So without trust AND/OR loyalty, there can be no fidelity – or, if there is little of either, there is at last not all too much fidelity to be found.
Our focus therefore shifts to precisely those two underlying assets.
Which in turn puts me as the author in the very fortunate position of being able to say that on this bLog I have already given both topics extensive coverage since Entry 3, especially trust in Entry 15 and Entry 43 (as well as expanded to include the complex of responsibility and accountability in Entry 42).
In addition to the Wikipedia definition of “trust” cited in Entry 43, another perspective adds that trust is above all an expression of emotional (self-)security towards other people and one’s own existence – and thus the basis of any close, interpersonal relationship. In this sense, “trust” is also directly associated with the ability for devotion, because the social and behavioural sciences have worked out that our primordial trust is founded precisely by the fact that as children we surrender ourselves, as it were, unconditionally to our caregivers, from where our ego formation takes its (hopefully) centred beginning ². So, in our loving relationships, in a way, we are also always searching for the (re)experience of such a sustaining connection – and for mammals and horde beings like Homo sapiens, it would have been evolutionarily absurd (and deadly) to limit this possibility to only one other being.

Therefore, lets have one more look at loyalty, which to my forum critic seemed like a kind of “Fidelity light”. Wikipedia says here:
»Loyalty: refers to the inner bond – that is based on common moral maxims or guided by a rational interest and its expression in behaviour – toward a person, group or community. Loyalty means to share and represent the values (and ideology) of others in the interest of a common higher goal, or to represent them even if one does not fully share these values, as long as this serves the preservation of the jointly represented higher goal. Loyalty is manifested both in one’s behaviour toward those to whom one is loyally attached and toward third parties.[…]
Loyalty in loving relationships is the inner bond within the relationship based on mutual trust, commitment and a basis of shared values and principles of volition and action as an attitude constitutive of the relationship, as well as its expression in behaviour (communication, action) internally and externally (towards the participants, as well as towards others). In addition, loyalty also includes safeguarding and representing the other participant’s own interests, even if one does not fully share them oneself, especially if this serves to protect the other’s basic psychological needs (especially if reputation, dignity, trust, integrity, discretion are affected).
Loyalty is often seen as a requirement of fidelity in loving relationships. However, it does not mean blind allegiance or submission to interests or demands of that relationship, but rather requires, if necessary, a conscious confrontation with any value-conflicts while preserving one’s own integrity and values as an expression of loyalty to oneself, which is a prerequisite for loyalty to the other participants (without loyalty to the “I”, loyalty to the “you” is simply not possible). This applies in a similar way to loyalty in friendship.«

“Blimey!”, I have to say here, I couldn’t have expressed it more completely. And it is a pleasure for me that the basic values of trust and commitment are again emphasized by name in this paragraph.
By the way, did you recognize what is at the core of this concept of “loyalty”? It is the “Golden Rule(“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) that I just quoted in Entry 64 and the “inclusive thinking” of other people’s interests into one’s own thoughts and actions that I emphasized in Entry 53. For loyalty, as defined above, characteristically shows this ingenious quality of “going the extra mile” with the other(s) – even if the desired goal may not always match 100% with the comfort zone of one’s own ego.
In which case “trust” and “loyalty” are obviously mutually dependent: For how could I accommodate other people in this way, grant an advance of devotedness towards them, if I were not to trust them?
And with this exactly no blind obedience or dependence is meant, because all this is perfectly possible under preservation of one of my oligoamorous favourite values (since Entry 3!), integrity, which means: “acting in continuously sustained accordance with the personal value system”. And as a result, “I” and “relationship/community” are also always engaged in a dynamic correlation.
I think I could write a lot more on this complex, which is apparent throughout my entire bLog virtually since its very beginning – and could only ever sum it up far less eloquently than the 1993 edition of the Brockhaus encyclopedia’s definition of loyalty:

»Attitude of constancy in a relationship (e.g. marriage, friendship), which is not given up for the sake of one’s own advantages, and on which the other person can therefore trust.²«

And I would like to add: Show integrity. Establish trust first. When it begins to emerge, work to maintain and nurture it. Speak and act in a committed and accountable manner! Take responsibility for more than just the immediate square meter on which you stand. Be reliable; recognize yourself as part of the whole.


Even the German Wikipedia explains in its article on “Fidelity”:
»Colloquially, the term “fidelity” is often used as a synonym for sexual exclusivity in romantic relationships, in terms of the ideals of monogamy. In this context, fidelity is supposed to express that a partner does not engage in sexual contact with other persons outside a couple’s relationship. If he/she does it anyway, this is automatically understood as infidelity, i.e. a breach of loyalty, by those who consider such partners to be committed to mutual fidelity. Sexual behaviour that is considered illegitimate is prosecuted in those legal systems where “adultery” of this kind is punishable. However, there is a growing view in liberal societies that the question of whether people in a long-term sexual relationship must be faithful to each other is negotiable.
Because, in general, the attribute “faithful” is not always associated with the idea of an exclusivity requirement. For example, no one seriously expects that a “faithful/loyal” customer would never choose a competitor’s offer. In comparable cases, “fidelity” means the long-term maintenance of a (here: business-) relationship.«

As an oligoamorous chronicler of ethical non-monogamy I do smile a bit, because the sentence “However, there is a growing view in liberal societies…” I would of course have rephrased into “However, there is a growing view in liberal societies that the question of whether people in faithful (long-term) relationships must be sexually exclusive to each other is negotiable.”

In order to get to the bottom of what makes people perform an almost proverbial idolatrous “Dance around the Golden Calf” concerning the ideal of fidelity, I have talked to friends and acquaintances and have also looked into myself – after all, one fine day I too set out from the shores of Mono-amory to cross over to Oligo-amory…
Nevertheless, what was finally gathered under that widely diffusely felt (or rather hoped for) “more” turned out, when examined more closely, to be quite predominantly a pitiable “less”.
Because here, to say it in advance, there were all kinds of manifestations of personal anxieties (or more precisely: fears) to be found.
This was particularly evident in that almost all respondents referred very rarely indeed to the benefits of supposedly “genuine fidelity”, but almost always brought up scenarios in the first place when “fidelity” would be lacking – and in the majority a reference to exclusive sexuality was significantly noticeable:
Fear and envy that something would be shared with other people that one could not experience oneself, in the particular way, intensity or frequency.
Fear of other people’s alien energies, which would thus be carried into the relationship
(see: The tale of Anday and Tavitih).
Fear that this could jeopardize the harmony of the already existing relationship.
Fear of feeling inadequate, of coming off as worse in a downward comparison, of being pushed out of the relationship, of being replaced.
Fears of losing control over the relationship and its aspects and the partner(s).

These surprisingly circumstantial ways of describing fidelity rather indirectly – or what it might ensure or prevent as a metaphysical “passepartout” –, psychology calls “secondary motivations” – and, of course, they are a hallmark of a substantial “proxy war theater.” But the true battleground, of course, packs a punch of its own. Because there, unfortunately, it often does not work out so well at all, regarding the above mentioned“emotional (self-)security, towards other people and the own existence” – in other words, concerning the basic value “trust” on which the whole house of loyalty and faithfulness should be built according to numerous clever definitions.
And just this lack reveals how the word ” fidelity ” should rather serve the individual often as a control device, a regulating parameter which is supposed to prevent one’s own fear, to prevent that fear has to be felt at all.
Especially when sexuality comes into play as well, such shocks to our fragile self, which is often not as well established as it would be beneficial for us, are therefore quite conceivable: Sexuality is highly energetic and extremely intimate – and in my oligoamorous opinion, not something you “just do” (like meeting acquaintances or shopping), but something that every human being deeply owns, feels and emits with its oft-cited “core self”. Additionally, sexuality is something like the most materially (physically) tangible, literally graspable expression of being attached to another human being.
Which, with a shakily set up self, sparks the anxious question: How (else) am I otherwise able to determine that another person [“my” partner] truly belongs (to) me?

In my opinion, a strong sense of trust and perceived loyalty would be the better answers at this point. And I want to emphasize that I am in no way preaching against sexual exclusivity: For it can of course be bestowed quite deliberately (and there are several people who “dedicate ” themselves very consciously in this respect exactly because of the intensity of sexuality). But as soon as exclusivity is demanded under the guise of “genuine fidelity”, some private kind of fear is most likely the underlying cause.

“Ethical multiple relationships,” indeed, ethical relationships of every kind, as I wish them to become true for Oligoamory, mean, however, that we cannot remain in the shell and dictate of our fears. Rather, I hope that all involved in such ties will courageously face their constraints so that they may continue to empower themselves to be and to remain a truly co-supportive part of their relationship(s).
“Real faithfulness”, “true devotion” or “genuine fidelity”, which thus are actually characterized by mutual trust, loyalty, commitment and a high level of attunement to each other, will therefore probably remain as rare for a long time to come, as it has been since words to define those qualities had been created…

¹ Online Etymology Dictionary: “true”

² Brockhaus Encyclopedia, 19th edition (1986-1994 / 2001) Volume 23; F.A. Brockhaus, Mannheim

Thanks to jakob-wiesinger on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 65

Wayward Hazard! or: Am I queer?

When the two partners who were living with me at that time and I started to come out as polyamorous in our circle of friends and acquaintances almost eight years ago and we started to live our relationship constellation openly, first of all the two women were confronted with strange reactions almost immediately.
Remarkably, first by the men in our circle of acquaintances, who suddenly established a strangely invisible zone of inexplicable distance (both socially and actually spatially) between themselves and the newly declared non-monogamists – as if they had suddenly been seized by a strange kind of dread…
When asked, the cause of this male reserve revealed itself to be a rather astonishing conception, which is difficult to reproduce vividly in written form: By their commitment to ethical non-monogamy, the women concerned had obviously granted themselves a kind of frowned upon freedom of norms, which now made them appear peculiarly unpredictable, even downright dangerous, as it were.
Not only that these women, although they already were in a relationship with me, had thus invalidated the socially binding 1+1 formula (i.e. the given mononormative model, which provides exactly one female for exactly one male: So how should they be treated at future social events? As half-single?, almost-partnered?? or even as fair game???).
No, by their new lifestyle-philosophy, these women had practically also called attention to their sexual nature in an uncontrollably primal way, since they now constantly pointed directly to it in an almost obscene way with the choice of their relationship model, virtually a lascivious display of female self-efficacy…
Consequently, from now on these women were, so to speak, “ticking time bombs”, or better: treacherous floating mines, which – since they had just professed their own needs in such a frivolous way – behaved downright unpredictably: At any time they might now be willing to arbitrarily expand the circle of their potential partners! And precisely the absence of any mononormative framework that would have normally granted tactful consideration before – like, for example, existing relationships, engagement, or even marriage – would now no longer guarantee protection against such advances. Even more: presumably these polyamorous she-wolves were already shamelessly scouting the surroundings for a thicket and male prey, always ready to drag another mate in this way into the yawning gorge of their opened relationship, perpetually on the hunt, constantly hungry…

And as the men already reacted so unsettled, it was only a small step to the women in our circle of acquaintances, who for their part could no longer risk to leave friends, fiancées or husbands alone in a room with the poly-she-wolves, now that apparently rampant fellow females had openly embraced such a truly questionably unrestrained form of anarchy. For thereby these morally detached hormone bombs had propagated their facultative availability for every man in the room like an all befogging scent mark. And already the vernacular knows that opportunity – which means temptation – makes thieves, therefore nobody in his right mind should leave “her” guy with such seduction unobserved…

The most eye- or rather ear-catching further change in our social environment affected all of us – especially whenever a conversation in our circle of friends turned occasionally into a discussion. Because by our declaration towards ethical non-monogamy, we affected individuals had obviously experienced a strange change in our thinking, our perceptiveness and our perspectives, which from now on presumably made it more difficult for us to think and argue like “normal people”. Probably in order to draw our attention to this “translation problem” that had arisen, our conversation participants from now on remarkably often introduced their contribution to us with the preface “Well, you know, I’m not polyamorous, but…”, which was usually followed by an objection to our opinion and a rectification according to the other person’s point of view. And by no means only when it came to viewpoints on relationships. However, from that time on it seemed important to regularly point out a fundamental incongruence between their own and our possible point of view by previously stating “Well, I’m not polyamorous…”, no matter which topic began to unfold.

I myself “got it” actually with full force not before I went in search of like-minded people on the strange dating planet, a planet that – as I naïf learned only too soon – was administered basically and unswervingly by the hand of the hetero-as well as mononormative empire.
In addition to some, at least in detail explained rejections, which I have already written down in my Entries 40 and 44, I received in a short time brush-offs like “…such a togetherness would scare me…”, “…our relational needs are not alike in any way…”, “…someone like you is beyond dispute for me…”, “…there are surely other women who might be able to handle that…”.
Eventually, I experienced the culmination in the forum of a very elite dating portal, where a discussion participant wrote: “Get out of here, we here have a hard enough time just finding one partner for us at all!”
What a gloomy collection: fear of togetherness, assignment of strange needs (although we all share the same according to Abraham Maslow), assignment of a deviant personality (“like you”), assignment to an odd circle of people – and last but not least: prescribed shortage by the “for-every-pot-there-is-only-just-one-lid”-model.

After some time (ok, it had been two years) it really started to gnaw at me.
What was the common principle behind all these phenomena?
It wasn’t until this spring, when I watched the American short film Two Distant Strangers, which was tied to the Black Lives Matter campaign, that I understood:
It’s all about nothing more and nothing less than discrimination.
More specifically, discrimination against a person on the basis of a single characteristic.
A single characteristic, which for the discriminatory environment overwrites all other characteristics, traits and qualities of a person. And thus dehumanizes this person, his diverse personality, and reduces it to this single aspect.
Compartmentalization and a Reality of Separation in the flesh.

I don’t want to compare my situation to the suffering of black or colored people in the United States. But the resulting movie exemplifies numerous mechanisms of discrimination in a frighteningly knowledgeable and routine manner: Discrimination as experienced by every minority, every non-conformity worldwide.
While I was watching the movie in it’s first minutes, I still thought that the black main character could at least behave a little more moderately, a little more de-escalatory, so as not to draw too much attention to himself.
But the longer the movie ran, the more I understood that this couldn’t be the way: The attributions of the condemning environment are far too arbitrary; far too random, unpredictable and impulsively chosen the looming myriad of issues that others might take offence at.

“I am a human being!” is something I have wanted to exclaim out loud increasingly often over the past two years. “I am a human being with a complex personality. A person who – besides the fact that he is committed to ethical multiple relationships – is also very interesting in other ways and has all kinds of other exciting facets to offer!”
But my ethical multiple relationship was “the one characteristic”. It was the hurdle, the barrier, the wall, around which hardly anybody wanted to look any more once he*she*it took notice of me.
I admit that it is an important characteristic of mine. Yes, even a characteristic that I consider quite descriptive concerning myself. Also one that I tend to bring up quickly because I know it can seem unusual to many people as an approach towards close-knit relationships.

Exactly because of that I sympathise with Carter James, the main protagonist in Two Different Strangers: It makes no sense to diminish my characteristic, to hide it, to cover it up, to disguise it, to appease it, to relativize or to moderate it: It is inalienable, immanent, essential, inherent, distinctive – and contributes unmistakably to who and what I am.

Davon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, the two directors of “Two Distant Strangers” thus answered for me in an unforeseen way a question that I had been asking myself for a long time, that many people in the polyamory scene have been asking themselves, and that quite a few people in the field of ethical non-monogamy have been pondering for years:
Am I queer?

For the Oligoamory (at least – and for myself) I answer today: YES.

But not because in the short film the black graphic designer Carter is bullied and victimized by a white police officer. Thereby I would be agreeing with queer writers like Phillip Ayoub¹ or also Mortimer Dora¹, who want the (self-)attribution of “queer” to be understood in such a way that the term should only be used by those who are also oppressed by it.
But by supporting such a resentful justification I feel I wouldn’t do any service to an optimistic philosophy like Oligoamory with it’s positive view on humanity.

For as a multiple-relationship approach, my Oligoamory stands anyway comfortably and dryly under the roof of sexual emancipation as erected by LGBT+ and Queer people since the beginning of the 20th century. Some of these correlations I have already outlined in my series on the history of Oligoamory involving parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4.
Thereby and all at once I completely respect the testimony of these people, who have thus prepared the way for me to be able to write here today about this subject at all.
And that’s why I don’t want to simply leave just another “fancy subject” under that meanwhile most solid and highly conspicuous roof, but earn my place – as small as the Oligoamory might be – in that edifice of courageous deeds and keen thought.

In this regard, as a bLogger and occasional philosopher, I was fascinated by feminist, philosopher, and professor Gudrun Perko‘s perspective on “What is queer?”

According to Gudrun Perko, the term “queer” (which she interprets as “being against the norm”) encompasses the entire spectrum of those who do not conform to hetero- and mono-normative conceptions of sexuality, binary gender, or traditional types of relationships. The common denominator is that the prevailing social stereotypes are questioned and dissolved, and that people should be enabled to live their lives according to a variety of sexual orientations, gender identities, or forms of relationships free of established conventions.
Gudrun Perko developed from this point of view the so-called plural-queer approach, which radically openly includes all people “who do not match the social accepted conformity or do not want to match it”. This kind of plural-queer approach also embraces the stricter U.S.-interpretation of Queerness, which vehemently critiques hetero- and mono-normativity, gender binarity, repressive models of identity, and the exclusion of certain groups of people. At the centre of the plural-queer variant stands the effort to achieve the “greatest possible diversity of human kinds of being and existence in their incompleteness”. ²

By choosing her approach, Gudrun Perko addresses a queer central theme known as “deconstructivism”, which could be roughly summarized as follows: Asking for that which is excluded – and opening up to it by means of inclusion.
And it is precisely in this rationale that I see the active application of Scott Peck‘s integrative phrase “Is there any reason why xyz shouldn’t be allowed to participate?” (Instead of: “What’s the reason why xyz should be allowed to participate?”, see Entry 33), which constitutes every positive group formation- and community-building-process.
In that spirit, I wish that this deconstructionist “Why not ?” is hopefully also a hallmark of Oligoamory.

At this point, it is also easy to see that, as a result, the struggle against intersectionality (intersectionality = simultaneity of different types of discrimination against one person) has always been part of the queer DNA. As I have already briefly indicated in Entry 50, “being political” is thus queer key business par excellence: Linking topics and initiatives with issues such as ethnicity, culture, origin, and people without a collective concept of identity, but also, e.g., feminism, religious persecution, ableism or ageism, is imperative if the house cited above should endure for future generations.
In Entry 50, I cited that “politics is the constant struggle between changing or preserving existing conditions”. With my Oligoamory I wish to contribute at least to a diversification, if not a change, of these “existing conditions”. And in that mindset, I feel comfortable under the queer roof, standing thankfully on the shoulders of those who have been advocating and standing up for it over decades.

Queer theory, by the way, has brought me yet another surprise through the authors Heinz-Jürgen Voß and Salih Alexander Wolter, since they critically ask whether such queer openness and incompleteness could not all too easily be a characteristic of neoliberalist tendencies through the back door – where it should be considered whether this could be at all desirable and supportive for the basic idea?³.
From within my Oligoamory I say, “Yes, indeed, if it is done in a Shaftesburyian sense! (see previous Entry).” For as early as the beginning of the 18th century, the philosopher Shaftesbury defined neoliberalism in terms of his concept regarding freedom and autonomy as “a basic cosmopolitan attitude without supreme, centrally controlled institutions and as an expression of a multipolar world of sovereign, voluntarily cooperating elements”.
To my mind, I recognize both anti-oppressionistic and anti-capitalist thinking, which was fed by Shaftesbury’s faith in humankind as conscious, discerning and therefore (socially) responsible beings.

Consequently, to be oligoamorous means to be queer – “against the norm” – consciously transgressing, deliberately contrary.
To be oligoamorous means to be unconventional due to a peculiarity, to stand out and potentially to irritate somebody just because of it.
Oligoamor means to remain humanly inclusive and therefore to remain aware towards society.
To be oligoamorous means to be this from the inside out: Not as a label, as a fashion, as a phase; fad or performance, but as a rainbow-colored unicorn zebra among many black and white ones, which wears its multicolored fur with conviction because it neither can nor wants to get out of its skin.

In his book “Dignity: What makes us strong – as individuals and as a society” (published 2019), the author and neuroscientist Gerald Hüther points out that, in his view, Article 1 of the German Basic Law and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (“Human dignity is inviolable”) poses the problem that this sentence is often perceived by many people as unspecific and somehow empty, precisely because most of them cannot (yet) comprehend their own dignity in everyday life.
I believe that exactly this is different in the world of non- and antinormativity, in the world of minorities: Because they put their colorful otherness and distinct divergence on the line each single day, the people in these circles are usually highly conscious of their value and their indefeasible dignity that goes with it.

It was and is therefore the contribution of queer communities as well as individuals to keep our society awake and attentive to the fact that human dignity is not an elusive, already trivial good without any actual value, but a basic prerequisite for a more humane world, which is not yet an implicitness – not even in our most private circles.

¹ Phillip Ayoub; David Paternotte (28 October 2014). LGBT Activism and the Making of Europe: A Rainbow Europe?. Palgrave Macmillan.
Mortimer, Dora (9 Feb 2016). „Can Straight People Be Queer? – An increasing number of young celebrities are labeling themselves ‚queer.‘ But what does this mean for the queer community?“

² Gudrun Perko: Queer-Theorien: Ethische, politische und logische Dimensionen plural-queeren Denkens. PapyRossa, Köln 2005

³ Heinz-Jürgen Voß, Salih Alexander Wolter: Queer and (Anti-)Capitalism. Schmetterling Verlag, Stuttgart 2013

Entry 64

Meaningful Relationships (Part 3)

»The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds.
Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future«

Revelation of Sonmi; David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, 2004

With the third part of this series I would like to add another central keystone to the arch of oligoamorous thinking.
In the preceding parts 1 and 2, I have worked towards the in my view crucial theme of “categorylessness” regarding the circle of participants in significant relationships, by which I mean to propose that – especially when our most trusting and intimate relationships are concerned – we should no longer subject ourselves to predetermined frameworks regarding their characteristics and their degree of possible interaction.
In this way, we could regain for ourselves the freedom of experiencing our close relationships in all their nuances, facets and shades – and likewise, we would thereby have the chance to free ourselves from the limits of a dictate of social standardisation that may restrict us in our freedom of thought, imagination and creativity, both in loving as well as in the actual arrangement of our relationships themselves.

Anyone who has read this last sentence might now be surprised at its supposedly “radical” character and ask me whether this is not in the end precisely the call for “total liberty” in matters of love and relationships, which I myself have so often criticised since the beginning of my bLog project as a rather selfish and impulsive proclamation of unrestricted personal freedom in multiple relationships…
No – I don’t think so at all.
My answer to this is: If the category (of a relationship) is no longer relevant, then the quality of the respective connection inevitably becomes significantly more important.
The authors of the polyamory guidebook “More Than Two¹, Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, wrote on this very topic in the conclusion of their book:

»It is important, and useful, to come back often to the root of Polyamorie: Love.
We have relationships because we, as human beings are wired to love. And without love as the core of our relationships, and as the principle we come back to in everything we do in those relationships, the other principles – as indispensable as they are – aren’t going to get us anywhere. Love is the great clarifier of values. Without it, whatever framework we create will remain hollow, ultimately lifeless.«

With this, in my view, quite excellent description, this team of authors reinforces my oligoamorous conviction that, precisely because of this, the symbiosis of freedom and commitment in human relationships isn’t an awkward contradiction, but – on the contrary – is a profound “core component” (see also Entry 7).
And when we accept love as our “clarifier of values”, we are also accepting the (highly oligoamorous) qualities of wholeness and integrativity – and we are thereby also embracing the “Golden Rule” – both in the Gandhian sense of “We are one, you and I. – I cannot harm you without harming myself.” as well as according to the literal maxim “Treat others as you would wish them to treat you likewise.”

As far as I am concerned, the basics of this correlation were first and foremost set out in detail by the English politician, author and Enlightenment philosopher Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713).
Shaftesbury wrote that although the order of nature is only fragmentarily known to us [which any quantum- or astrophysicist will surely gladly confirm even today], e.g. the physical design and function of living beings would always reveal a common purpose, a goal of life. Each of them would possess a natural endowment that should serve its individual well-being, its “private good”. This is defined as that which is in harmony with the natural destiny of the living being. Instincts, passions and emotions would aim to achieve and maintain this optimal state for the individual.²

About 220 years later, by the way, Shaftesbury’s astute thinking received fascinating support on account of the emerging science of psychology.
There, at the beginning of the 20th century, the two Freudian students Carl Gustav Jung (on the basis of analytical psychology) and Alfred Adler (on the basis of individual psychology) had rejected the overly causal ideas of their mentor and had instead reached the view that a living being had always to be regarded as an “individual”, which, according to Adler, for example, would always strive towards its “optimal state (Shaftesbury!)” as a goal in order to overcome the vulnerability at the beginning of its life. Jung and Adler also agreed that every living being should thus be considered in-dividuus (from Latin: in-divisible) in its development, a lifelong process that C.G. Jung even called “individuation” (meaning: “inseparability”/”becoming whole”).
It is quite obvious here that psychology thereby adopted a holistic approach (see Entry 57), which intended to describe a living being and its existence as “more than merely the sum of its (experiential) parts”.

In his time, by the way, the philosopher Shaftesbury had also already acknowledged the underlying principle of holism, for he concluded that every living being would likewise always be linked to the well-being and continuity of its species or community. Therefore, the individual being as a “private system” would always also be integrated into a “more comprehensive system” [an almost “ecological” thought!]: into the system of its species, into the totality of the plant or animal world [i.e. into biodiversity!], into the global (eco)system [keyword Gaia hypothesis“], the solar system and finally the structure of the universe. All systems would ultimately together form the structure of the cosmos, and each of them would be determined by its relation to the whole. The systems would support each other and thus stand in a relationship of interaction to each other and at the same time to the totality.
This proved for Shaftesbury that the individual systems could always contribute to the whole, as it also revealed to him at the same time that there was a pronounced consonance between what was individually beneficial and what was beneficial in general.

Shaftesbury’s conception thus includes in my view exactly the incentive to heed the “Golden Rule” in every kind of relationship, as well as the invitation to approach all our relationships precisely for this reason in-dividually (i.e. holistically and NOT compartmentalised).
The approach of Shaftesbury wanted and wants to show that the goal of every human being should be the accomplishment of his*her life as a free individual, contributing and embedded in his*her community [attached and free at the same time!]
As a prerequisite, even Shaftesbury demanded: As a communal being, humans can only realise the autonomy to which they are predisposed without interference if the (superordinate) systems to which they belong are also free and thus a free interaction is possible.

I don’t think I’ve read a more apt endorsement of this kind of dynamic concerning self-chosen relationships, not even by the formidable community researcher Scott Peck himself:
Starting point is invariably the individual who, by virtue of the fact that he or she (quasi “by nature” or by means of his or her cooperative goal-oriented disposition) carries within him or her an awareness of what is beneficial, is therefore concerned about more than just his or her own well-being – which in turn enables him or her to envisage the well-being of (his or her) entire system AND thereby to recognise his or her own prosperity as part of it.

To my mind, this last sentence merges the need-management of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Marshall Rosenberg with the definition of interrelated intimacy (see footnote³) by S. Cohen, L. Underwood and B. Gottlieb.
The “categorylessness” that I would like to attain is thus by no means an egocentric “total liberation strike” as a quick fix against assumed annoying restrictions by our fellow human beings.
On the contrary, categorylessness regarding our meaningful relationships requires, in my view, empowered individuals who are able to make conscious volitional decisions and who at the same time are prepared to accept the responsibility that this involves for their creative potential.

In 2011, neurobiologist and author Gerald Hüther wrote in his book “Who we are and what we could be” that »…adulthood would mean a certain desire to assume responsibility…«, as well as the following quote (originally Entry 4):
»There is no freedom without attachment. But attachment is not dependence. We humans are capable of forming our relationships in such a way that we feel attached without being dependent. But to do so, we would have to take care of others, or at least be willing to share all that we have with them. Our food, our living space, our attention, our strength, our knowledge, our skills, our experience.«

However, to ensure that our human disposition to avoidance in these matters does not very quickly lead primarily to life avoidance, we have no choice but to continue to do our best again and again when it comes to forestalling our fears with confidence, confronting our desire for control with occasionally very stout-hearted trust, and countering our tendencies to compartmentalise and divide on both small and large scale with the integrative “Why-NOT-question?” (Entry 33).

In the end, I would therefore like to present here once more F. Veaux and E. Rickert from “More Than Two”, who could have said what they wrote there about loving connections likewise in the Shaftesburyian sense about self-awareness, almost all interpersonal relationships, as well as regarding our relationship to the environment as a whole or our responsibility for ourselves and for our planet:

»As we researched and collected people’s stories, we were struck by how often it seemed like the people who were able to navigate their way through situations that would have devastated others did so by being awesome: They did the hard work, they cared about each other, they didn’t give in, they reasoned with their overpowering emotions. They honored their loved one’s agency even when they were afraid of losing what they valued most. They faced their own deepest fears for the sake of themselves and the people they cared about.«

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

² “Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times” (first edition 1711, anonymous, 3 vols.)
Example: http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/authors/shaftesbury

³ S. Cohen, L.G. Underwood and B.H. Gottlieb in “Social support measurement and intervention“ – A guide for health and social scientists“, Oxford University Press, 2000 [quoted for the first time in Entry 14]:
»Thus, intimacy is a cardinal process, defined as feeling understood, validated and cared for by partners who are aware of facts and feelings central to one’s self-conception.
Contributing to this perception is trust (the expectation that partners can be counted on to respect and fulfil important needs) and acceptance (the belief that partners accept one for who one is).
Empathy is also relevant because it signals awareness of an appreciation for a partners core-self.
Attachment also contributes to perceived partner responsiveness, notwithstanding its link to interdependence and sentiment, because of the fundamental role of perceiving that one is worthy of and can expect to receive love and care from significant others.«

Thanks to Dallas Reedy on Unsplash for the picture!