Entry 93

Sex and Laundry

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

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

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

Since in Entry 9 I have put into words the content of the “mysterious emotional contract” behind every relationship virtually as a concentrate as follows: “Implied acknowledgement and agreement – as a result of a mutually established emotional close-knit relationship – regarding the totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed and are potentially enjoyable by all parties involved.” – two essential aspects concerning the topic “Who does the laundry?” came to my attention during my own research on the worldwide web:

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

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

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

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

Exactly – “expressed” – which brings me to the second point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entry 92

Long live diversity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Adam Sherez on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 91

Moving Chairs

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

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

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

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

A chair,
What does he need?
A table!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Renè Müller on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 90


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entry 89

Cognitive Bias¹

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 88 #Exclusivity

…and not exclusively?

Generally on this bLog I advocate that Oligoamory should be something “that you do” – and not something “that happens to you”. By this I usually want to emphasize especially the awareness with which I wish here on this project, on how we perceive, maintain and cherish our multiple relationships.

In practice, of course, things look different in many cases. There, romantic multi-person configurations are still predominantly “an event” and much less often the result of strategic life planning. By which I mean that even now, in the third decade of the 21st century, surely few individuals (even if they were teenagers…) are sitting at home right now thinking, “Oh yeah, in a few years a community with two, three, four (…) intimate partners, that’s exactly how I envision my personal life later…” And who would then also actively go about realizing this idea consequently and on purpose.
Unless we were growing up within a very liberal, maybe even queer, background with strong individualistic rainbow role models, this would still be rather the huge exception.

What I’m getting at is that if we reflect on this idea for a moment, it’s striking how strongly we still think in terms of relationships in the dimension known as the “social escalator”.
As a reminder, the “social escalator” is that kind of lifestyle that is predominantly practised by the current mainstream society – and therefore usually the one that is supported by the current socio-economic structures. At present this is e.g. our western curriculum vitae, which consists of kindergarten, elementary school, secondary school, professional training and/or study for career entrance; the last phases of this process usually coincides with partner-finding, perhaps also already the outset towards the establishment of a family… – and with these first basic determinations we usually still start into our further life (and in this we are not particularly different than most generations before us).

In Entry 12 I mention the often quoted, resistant exclamation “I am not a number, I am a free man!” ¹, by which we usually want to point out that in our lives we are nevertheless the helmsmen of our self-chosen course – and would our biographies possibly also superficially appear boringly normative…
Yes, well… But then – strictly speaking – actually not.
Because the “social escalator” has been in operation for a very long time, longer than any one of us has been alive, it surrounds us to the greatest possible extent until today – and that, of course, “does” something to us.
And since this is a relationship bLog, in particular: It does something to us in terms of the way we “think relationships”.

At this point I have to be a bit cautious myself, because the basics of those influences that affect our human behaviour in love and in the choice of a companion are, from my point of view, still not well enough researched. Sociological considerations, such as in Friedemann Karig‘s compilation “How we love – The End of Monogamy” (Aufbau Taschenbuch 2018), or evolutionary approaches such as those of Christopher Ryan and Cynthia Jethá in “Sex at Dawn – How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern sexuality“ (Harper Perennial 2011) increasingly seem to indicate that Homo sapiens is definitely more strategically flexible and diverse in this respect than the forms of society currently prevailing on our planet might suggest. At the same time, the monogamous partnership model has been extremely successful on this very planet for many centuries (almost more like one, two millennia…), to which 8,075,200,000 Earth citizens currently bear witness (as of April 2023).

And I myself have to be personally careful, because as a bLogger I am not orbiting our earth like an alien being in a flying saucer as a neutral observer, but am subject to the same mechanisms and rules down here as all of you.

In Entry 84, I postulate the connection between two people as the “smallest polycule” – the smallest subunit of relationship(s), so to speak.
It seems like we as humans are closely tied to that first-ever “boy meets girl” [or boy meets boy or girl meets girl or divers meets boy, divers meets girl, divers meets divers…] after all.
A monogamous concept makes it easy in such a situation, because the pending emotional contract of monogamy includes “exclusivity” in the GTC (General Terms & Conditions), so that the two parties involved are allowed to fully concentrate on each other, both initially and in the future – indeed, in terms of the contract, they even have to.

Whoever, on the other hand, has dared to take the step into the universe of the possibilities of multiple relationships, at some point – at least mentally – took exactly this described exclusivity and…, well, what…? Discarded it? Defined it aside? At this point, I say with caution: …at least mellowed, moderated, reduced.
After all, for the reasons stated above and also for the reasons stated in Entry 84, I do not believe that exclusivity is a characteristic that we can completely deny in our human, romantic intimate relationships [or even turn it into its opposite “arbitrariness/interchangeability,” which would make no sense, at least by oligoamorous standards in matters of love and committed-sustained relationships (see also Entry 3)].
So exclusivity is still there despite mellowing, moderation or reduction. And thus we still have to face this fact even within multiple relationships.
A circumstance that is sometimes forgotten or rejected in Poly– and Oligoamory, and thus regularly causes suffering in these relationships.

For example, there is the “Unicorn phenomenon”. The much sought-after “Unicorn” is a seemingly “easy starter” especially for a (often but not only) heterosexual couple that is still inexperienced in multiple relationships: A ( in most cases female) person who is bisexual and therefore romantically as well as intimately compatible with both partners of the core couple. A kind of “passe-partout“, where little drama should be expected…
The downside of the legendary search for the Unicorn – or rather the finding of a Unicorn – is that in this arrangement it is predominantly confronted with the previously accumulated biographical exclusivity of the core couple. This applies on the one hand to the entitlement level: the core couple has agreed on the appropriate characteristics and criteria that the Unicorn should fulfil merely with each other and some time in advance; on the other hand, it applies to the protective rights of the individual: the Unicorn will just be ok as long as it fulfils its role equally and constantly towards both participants of the core couple. If this is no longer the case (and emotionally identical relationships are highly improbable on the part of humans when examined as a whole), the Unicorn endangers either its relationship with one of the partners (through unequal allocation of affection) or even the relationship of the core couple (because one of the partners feels more strongly attracted to the Unicorn than to the other core partner).
By which, in most cases, the unicorn is chased back into the woods in order not to further endanger or to restore the exclusive peace of the core relationship.

Or there is the so-called “Cowboy/Cowgirl/Cowdiverse phenomenon”: In a (core)couple, one party falls in love with another person, but the other party does not. The person joining now begins an intense romantic relationship with the involved party, so that the other person of the original core couple soon feels like the proverbial “5th wheel on the wagon” (that is, strictly speaking, rather the 3rd wheel…); experiencing despite many assertions of the contrary a strange kind of detachment and elemination. [A “Cowboy” in “classical” Polyamory actually represents a person who catches one person out of a “herd” of polyamorous people as if with a lasso and pulls it back into monogamy – but in consequence the manifestation and the experience here applies to the non-involved part of the core couple nevertheless.]
Again, also in this case, it is apparently the exclusivity that endangers a relationship, sabotages an overall togetherness, and in any case leads to a perceived imbalance.

I write “apparently” because I believe that most of us are still too much subject to the above-mentioned traditional “social escalator” with regard to “exclusivity”, which is by itself basically necessary as “core-glue” for every interpersonal relationship, both in the way we express it as well as in the way we experience it.
So, in a way, we are overdoing it because we are not used to handling it any other way – and therefore we are simply not so much capable of doing it any better.
According to the dictionary, “exclusivity” can be synonymized with “exclusiveness” and even with “absoluteness”. According to my observation, even in multiple relationships we often still behave exactly as if we were claiming precisely this kind of meaning for ourselves like some sort of inner imperative. It becomes particularly visible there, when conflicts arise: We defend our own actions with teeth and claws, almost always reducing what is happening to “a harmonious relationship to protect” on one side and “the destructive, jealous, envious, petty (etc…) other” on the opposite. Suddenly, strange protective instincts surge up in us, we demand autonomy for ourselves – or we insist on agreed regulations and established rights…

In particular, triangular configurations are therefore often considered to be particularly vulnerable and susceptible to crises in multiple relationship environments. Once exclusivity unfolds its explosive power with its purely exclusionary or insistent forces in such a close arrangement, things will almost always turn out fatal.

Additionally fatal: when we experience the mellowing, moderation or reduction of exclusivity in our (multiple) relationships as a threat to our very selves.
The mentioned initial exclusivity referred to in Entry 84, which promotes the inner magnetism between two people, is basically something very important: Through this we experience that it is us who are wanted and meant.
In the monogamous world in which most of us grew up, however, exclusivity has often been handled as a promise, as a kind of reward that would come to us in our (future) partnership.
And a reward is part of a system in which achievements matter.
Many of us come from backgrounds where we have experienced little encouragement for our core selves while growing up. Often we have been treated arbitrarily or interchangeably, and precisely because of this we sometimes could not tell without self-doubt whether we were wanted or meant. Many times we were not really sure of our wonderful uniqueness in all our doing and being, in other words, of our healthy exclusiveness. Instead, we had to cope with possessive, fearful, or even rejecting parenting or attachment styles, in which we often had to perform up front with conformist and/or expected behaviour in order to receive any positive response at all (see also Entry 14).

Therefore, if one day we find ourselves in polyamorous circumstances, we can quickly run into problems with such an unfavourable preconception. A monogamous relationship promises us in its GTC the assurance of exclusivity in our partnership that we are about to establish, by which we, with a poorly positioned core self, all too easily interpret that a monogamous partnership finally will guarantee us the desired uniqueness and thus the recognition of our individual essence.

Also, in Poly- and Oligoamory, as I point out in Entry 14 as well, in order for these to succeed, we need to be able to experience affirmation, trust, acceptance, empathy, and affection. But there, in contrast, it is precisely not the task of exclusivity to ensure this.
Exclusivity in multiple relationships, serves there – as I quote the bLogger Sacriba in Entry 84 – rather to create confidential spaces for vulnerability and authenticity and to thereby (re)generate energy, which can then benefit the overall relationship in turn.

In a Polyamory forum, of which I am a member, the question came up about a month ago whether multiple relationships as a whole need a unifying “purpose” – somewhat like a club or a charitable foundation.
I think that’s true in a sense, it’s what I call “the mutual we” in many of my entries.
This “mutual we”, however, can be configured very differently; it is more like the frequently used advertising slogan “[…] is a feeling!” (therefore, please insert at […] your own thing).
However, it is precisely this feeling of “we are somehow all in this together” that is at the same time so important if it is meant to prevent the above-mentioned problematic conception and application of exclusivity in multiple relationships: Multiple relationships are not a cake where those involved can cut out “their piece” unobserved and then on top of that possibly eat it somewhere else.

Thus, dealing with exclusivity in multiple relationship contexts will always be a touchstone for the state of communality that exists in the overall relationship.
For most of us, however, the fact that this approach to exclusivity in particular will always be a touchstone for our own inner poise will probably weigh more heavily: Whether we have a well-established core self, whether we have learned to express our needs, whether we believe in ourselves.
Or whether we regularly cling fiercely to what we are trying to hold on to for ourselves, because we are still missing so much, because never was anything granted to us; and thus we will experience ourselves relativized and suspended as long as exclusivity still has to serve as compensation for our appreciation and uniqueness.

I leave today’s closing words to the American lawyer, writer, trans activist, and associate professor Dean Spade, who said:
»The point for me is to create relationships based on deeper and more real notions of trust. So that love becomes defined not by exclusivity, but by actual respect, concern, commitment to act with kind intentions, accountability for our actions, and a desire for mutual growth.«

¹ The quote is not originally from an album by Iron Maiden, but from the TV series The Prisoner from 1967.

Thanks to Gerd Altmann on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 87

From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook…

“One, two, three at whizzing pace time hurries – we hurry along.” This is what the German author Wilhelm Busch once wrote – and, hard to believe but true, the Oligoamory-bLog is now four years old!

For me, as the father of the birthday child, a proudly fulfilling opportunity to write once again about one of the more twisted paths through the landscapes of ethical multiple relationships.

Indeed, one of these narrow paths, which almost everyone involved has to follow regularly, leads through a treacherous frosty valley, which I would virtually describe as a “dichotomy”, between the balancing of personal freedom on the one hand and our longing for reliable attachment on the other.
At first glance, multiple relationship models often seem so attractive because they seem to promise us that we as participants can achieve more of the former (i.e., personal freedom) while at the same time increasing the latter (our desire for [more] attachment) – in any case at least more than could be achieved in (only) one monogamous relationship.

Very many people whom I have met and who are involved with ideas or even the implementation of multiple relationships quite regularly are already in touch with – hm…, let’s call it: “alternative potential” somewhere else in their lives.
It doesn’t have to be anything huge. But often these are minor to slightly major decisions contrary to something that is customary or predominant in the prevailing mainstream society. And this can be anything: The wraparound baby carrier, the purchase of organic food, involvement in a charitable organization or a political body, alternative spirituality, identification with a subculture (participation in special festivals of various music genres, medieval markets or even BDSM parties), participation in shared living arrangements or barter exchange, all the way to the creation of current art and culture. In many cases, therefore, those people here have already “thought themselves free” in certain areas of their lives from a “that’s the way everyone does it”.

Basically, I regard this as an extremely encouraging development, which for me also fits in with the history of multiple relationships in the 20th century, as I have presented it, for example, in my four-part historical review [Parts 1 | 2 | 3 | 4].
However, it was only during the lifetime of our own parents (or if you belong to Generation Y, Z or Alpha: our grandparents) that many patriarchal institutions began to dissolve [e.g. in Germany the medical profession only eased its restrictive attitude towards the “pill” as late as the end of the 1970s, which finally became a milestone for the reproductive self-determination of women also in my country; and it was not until 1977 (!) that actually the “First Law on the Reform of Marriage and Family” came into effect, according to which there was no longer a legally prescribed division of tasks in marriage – and women were now allowed to take up gainful employment even without her husband’s permission].
Thus, the striving for (more) freedom, especially after experiencing such long-term established authoritarian structures, has partly led to an effect of occasional overshooting, which I sometimes regard somewhat anxiously – because: “accustomed” to act in freedom, none of us, women, men or diverse, is, strictly speaking, yet.

What I mean by this is that under certain circumstances in our relationships we occasionally use “freedom” as a kind of “defensive right” against any perceived paternalism, against any supposedly unjustified liability – but therefore, unfortunately, sometimes also too lightly against some real responsibilities.

This is actually not surprising at all. Because as far as our love is concerned, there we want to be “completely ourselves”, there we feel that this is a decisive part of what I so often call here on the bLog our “core self”.
Which leads us to the other side of the treacherous valley, the dichotomy – our longing for reliable attachment. For in our core self we wouldn’t need love if we as “social animals” didn’t also carry this relatedness, this orientation towards other human beings.

By the way, I chose the phrase “longing for attachment” with some deliberation, because I believe that in this longing we assess ourselves in a rather idealized way on the one hand, and on the other hand, as Wikipedia says, we are at the same time occasionally identified with the anxious feeling of “no hope of attaining what is desired, or when attainment is uncertain, still distant”.
Which “when the occasion arises” means that our longing for attachment can quite quickly launch us into dramatic action not unlike – to choose an image – a person breaking through the ice on a frozen stretch of water.

How and why do we get on the ice at all? Usually it is our idealism: Surely we can handle that! We probably will be able to cross a solidly frozen lake. Nothing will happen to us, since we are experts on weather, ice conditions and especially on this lake!
Transferred to the relationship level, I would like to express herewith that we mostly go off with an idealized image of ourselves. A self-description in which we might say, “I see myself as a person who will act with commitment and loyalty (even in multiple relationships!). For this purpose, I have a set of guiding principles in me which are important to me and within which I will therefore act.”
So little can go wrong, we think – and off we go out onto the lake.

Sometimes, at that very moment, we have already abandoned our self-image both in terms of our commitment and our points of reference. In Entry 9, I wrote about the “Emotional Contract” that lies behind every more intimate interpersonal relationship. And either this “contract” allows a relationship to be considered “open” (for further connections) by all parties involved in it – or we have omitted to assure ourselves of this mutual equal evaluation, because, yes, because our personal freedom was just more important to us. Or rather, because at this moment we have given our personal freedom a higher priority than the commitment to already existing loved ones.
Whereby, in this case, a deep, ominous crack will immediately form on the lake as soon as we merely set foot on it. Because no matter what happens from there, ethically – in the sense of transparency, of equality or equal worthiness – things will no longer continue from here.
Our longing for more attachment has made us believe that we surely would be able to cross this lake – but the priority of our personal freedom has thereby caused all of our own safety valves (which I called guiding principles above) to burst; yes, of course, we still can enter the lake now – but on the course we have now taken, we will no longer be committed or loyal, we have dropped this part of our self-image, which we had actually claimed for ourselves, in the process.
Sure, it depends a bit on our personal resilience and ego (that is, on our callousness, dialectally speaking) – but such a shedding of a part of what we had until recently claimed as part of our identity will hardly pass anyone by without leaving a trace in the medium term. The consequences can range from pinching conscience or potential hangover to genuine remorse and massive shame (especially in front of ourselves), especially in the likely event that we don’t make it across the lake (meaning: that the continued/additional relationship doesn’t work out [as well/though]).

I let myself now already a little carried away in my descriptions regarding the circumstance that even the opening of a relationship is not clearly agreed upon.
What about the lake, however, if that is so – that it is agreed?
Well, then, accordingly, with the self-image “I see myself as a person who will act committedly and loyally with regard to all its existing and future engagements”, we set out on the lake, that is, into another relationship.

Gee! The POSSIBILITIES we now have on this lake!
This dizzying perspective, the oxygen shock, the unimagined momentum that this new experience offers…
Ice looks too cool on the surface, smooth, tempting and shiny – and very easily we forget that there is danger underneath…
For it happens very quickly that exactly at this moment, when our personal aspiration for freedom is rising to our heads, our longing for (more) attachment – which we had just valiantly affirmed and even safeguarded by our alternative relationship model – self-sabotages us.
On top of that, a phenomenon appears which is known and sometimes feared especially in multiple relationship circles as “NRE” (“New Relationship Energy”). Wikipedia substantiates: “…a state of mind experienced at the beginning of sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual feelings and excitement. NRE begins with the earliest attractions, may grow into full force when mutuality is established, and can fade over months or years.”
“New relationship energy” can therefore in principle also mean something good for the added relationship – but unfortunately it is sometimes already the indicator of breaking ice.

So what exactly brought us out onto the lake?
If our “longing for (more) attachment” contains a component of increased neediness (and, because we are not yet “habitual users of freedom,” this is not at all unlikely), then there is a danger that we will blow our safety valves the moment the sheer possibility of another intimate/romantic relationship becomes apparent to us, as in my first example. Due to the (im)balance of our inner needs we “want” so urgently another relationship that we are inclined to drop blindly – and additionally disinhibited by plenty of NRE-hormones – a part of our self-image, which is usually claimed by us, just for the sake of somehow ensuring the new emerging relationship.
The ice breaks.

Something happens that many cohabiting partners in multiple relationships, even in “ethical” ones like Polyamory, experience too regularly: The beloved person not only seems to suddenly turn over predominant parts of emotions, time and substantial resources to the new relationship person, no – objections, concerns, suggestions concerning existing liabilities and obligations are easily dismissed, relativized, perhaps ridiculed or even condemned as “unjustified” with the (expressed or also implicit) reference to personal freedom – even by pointing out possessive behaviour, monoamorous pettiness and a lack of compersion.
It is absolutely understandable that existing partners at this point literally “do not recognize” their favourite person who has just broken into the ice: because until a short time ago the favourite person acknowledged (and behaved according to) values and ideals of his or her “core self” which now suddenly can hardly be observed.

If we are the person who has broken into the ice in this way, then it will be difficult to “save” ourselves. Since we have just lost the ground under our feet that we thought to be safe a minute ago, we start to realize that we “flounder”…
We want to keep the new relationship, which is not yet really established, at all costs, not to leave the already existing one(s), because until now they have offered us the support of a solid shore – and so we smash more and more of the ice around us in the name of personal freedom (because we impetuously try to remain master/mistress of the gradually dissolving situation), so that both the danger exists that we really sink – and the risk grows that we are no longer reachable from the outside and destroy the last of the “substance” that once connected us to firm ground.

Very regularly, in poly- and oligoamorous communities, personal freedom and the unconditional “openness” of love are still given a very high value, in a way that one would probably attribute to the highest and all other cards beating trump in a poker game. Among other things, in my Entry 28 (Freedom of Love) and Entry 67 (Open Love) I describe why this approach, in my view, does not help to establish trusting and appreciative (multiple) relationships based on eye level equality.

Breakaway personal freedom in intimate human relationships is like a sharp shrapnel, with the potential to do much damage, even to the point of destroying the concerned relationships. In Entry 42 I argue that in our closest relationships our personal striving for freedom must therefore be embedded in the personal assumption of responsibility.
For our established partners, such ” self-effacement events” (when we strip ourselves of actually important parts of ourselves in a feverish effort to establish another relationship) are, as described above, frightening and often hurtful processes.
We, as fallible – and occasionally needy – human beings, can probably never completely prevent such things from happening.
What we can do, however, is to find our way back to our core self – to what is important to us and what should characterise us – on our own accord, to take up responsibility for our actions, and thus, for the people who know us and not least for our own sense of identity.
Our longing for attachment – as unfulfilled or already fulfilled as it is at this very moment – will repay us. Because at the end of the day, what matters in our hearts is not what parts of ourselves we have sacrificed in the struggle for personal freedom; that keeps us neither warm nor satisfied.
At the end of the day, we want to return to our loved ones, want to rejoice in their recognition of us.
And we want to have quite undivided joy in ourselves when we look in the mirror, that we may be idealistic, a little crazy and certainly are provided with a few not always quite predictable idiosyncrasies.
But that after all we can still recognize a reassuring correlation of meaning, a real sovereignty – conferring conclusiveness between our ideal self, which we would like to be, and our actually perceived self, which we are right here and now.¹
Both affirming and comforting.

…or as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described it at the end of his “Easter Walk” (part of Faust), of which the first line already served me as the heading of this Entry:

»Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
Here I am human, here dare it to be!«

¹ This last line refers to the important psychological concept of “Coherence” described by Carl Rogers

Thanks to Vincent Foret on Unsplash for the picture!

Entry 86

Do you (still) love me?

You say you love the rain,
but you open your umbrella
when it rains.

You say you love the sun,
but you find a shady spot
when it shines.

You say you love the wind,
but you close the windows
when it blows.

This is why I’m afraid,
– you said
that you love me too.

(anonym. Turkish poem, “Korkuyorum“ [“I Am Afraid“])

When the question “Do you (still) love me?” is asked, says German psychologist and couples therapist Ursula Nuber, there are actually deeper questions behind it, such as “Why do you love me?”, “What is it about me that you love?”, or even “Why are you with me?”.
For loving beings – hence for us and our loved ones – it is therefore important if we may not only “hear” a positive response, but experience and feel it with our whole being.
Because in the hectic pace of everyday life, everyone has probably received answers like the following: “Of course…”, “Sure, otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now…” or even “Why are you asking, you know that!”
Such quick “appeasements”, which are often answered without much thought, can be tricky, because if the person asking the question was really sure about it deep down, he or she would most likely not have asked…
This is also the view of Ursula Nuber, who was editor-in-chief of the German magazine Psychologie Heute (“Psychology Today”) for many years and, as a practitioner, also focuses in her work¹ on attachment styles in relationships and on the dynamics of long-term couples.
I can underline all of her major insights here on this bLog for ethical multiple relationships, since their manifestations have been regularly encountered by me in the last few years on my journey through the spheres of Poly- and Oligoamory as well.
In addition, however, I have noticed that multiple relationships apparently have the ability to act not only like a magnifying glass in relationship matters, but also in a certain way like an accelerator, so that certain circumstances in romantic multiple-person configurations occasionally come to light more clearly – but above all much more quickly – than is the case in conventional couple relationships.

Interestingly, one of the major variables that contributes essentially to the “magnifying-glass-quality” is precisely the presence of multiple participants, since this diversity is, in a way, a “stressor” for us as human beings as the psychotherapist Dr. Dietmar Hanisch explains in my Entry 83. At the same time, thanks to modern stress research, we know that “stress in itself” does not allow us automatically to determine whether we experience it as stimulating and positive in the sense of “eustress” – or as overwhelming and burdensome, as the word “stress” is predominantly used in everyday language: as negative “distress”.
Stress research thus also provides an answer to the question of how it can be that some people, under the same stress, rise above themselves and are even capable of altruistic acts for their community, while others become the notorious “hoarders” and lone wolves who only have their own well-being and survival in mind.

In her recent book “Tell me, do you actually still love me?” ¹ the author Ursula Nuber features the Swiss psychotherapist and couples researcher Guy Bodemann, who explains:
»While experiencing [di]stress, one neglects the nurturing and maintenance of love. People devote too little time to each other, become careless, lose positivity, ignore their own needs and those of others. [Di]Stress causes people to become self-centred, intolerant, and domineering.«

However, Mrs. Nuber adds that in relationship matters it is not primarily a question of stress generated “from the outside”, which puts the participants under pressure, but of stress generated “at home” in the relationship, which can be much more corrosive – and ultimately decides on the breakdown or continuance of a relationship.

In my view, the two most important aspects that are relevant here, which also continually appear throughout Mrs. Nuber’s report, are the following:

1. Appreciation:

Probably the most frequent complaint I have heard in numerous personal conversations – but also recurrently in social networks – regarding unfavourable progressing multiple relationships can be reduced to the point “lack of appreciation”. This is no small thing, but the relationship poison No. 1 par excellence; after all my favourite quote on this bLog says:
»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.

In addition to the above-mentioned “neutral stressor” of the multiple-people-configuration, it could possibly also be a problem in such relationships that we take the enamouredness or love in them for granted, because it is apparently brought in so abundantly from several sides. As a result, it is tempting to take the “sustainment” of this shared treasure perhaps too much for granted as well – and thus to neglect it.
As the hallmarks of such neglect, psychologist Nuber identifies five aspects to which anyone who has ever been in a relationship can probably relate:
The first factor is a rapidly diminishing appreciation for the “core self” of the other participants cited above. For the exact opposite, which is strengthening each other’s ego and not being taken for granted (or, as actor Anthony Hopkins once put it, being treated like a mere “afterthought”) is one of the most important pillars of any relationship.
Secondly, Mrs. Nuber mentions the “missing gestures of love”, by which she does not mean gala dinners or dream vacations, but the simple signs of solidarity; especially the small shared rituals that symbolize closeness in everyday life.
Thirdly, she uses the term “lack of understanding” to describe the unwillingness to change one’s perspective towards the famous “moccasin of the others”, in whose shoes one should occasionally place oneself. This would be an important tool not only to practice empathy (which is not easy for all of us), but above all not to fall victim to one’s own self-centredness (!).
Fourth, she lists “lack of respect”, expanding on the lack of appreciation mentioned as first factor – explaining that within a relationship, certain respect boundaries are often very quickly dropped which one would never transgress easily in the face of more distant friends or even strangers (both verbally and in behaviour).
This leads to point five with the phrase “too many injuries” which are often inflicted and accumulated in this way even after a brief period. In this way, the original feelings of closeness, trust, and friendship in a relationship may evaporate for the parties involved already after short time, giving way to an intensifying “psychic smog” (a concept of the Australian psychotherapist Russ Harris). This phenomenon describes a state in which I have already experienced quite a few Polycules in turmoil (including my own!): An insecure and desperate search for real contact, in which however the participants move in a dense fog of self-induced thought carousels, rigid mindsets and fear of injury, thereby colliding more and more often with each other in a painful way.
As a result, the sense of self further decreases, the atmosphere changes from a place of closeness to a place of mistrust, and the isolation of those involved progresses.

Now, at the latest, it becomes clear how the question “Do you (still) love me?” is an indicator that the people involved are struggling with themselves, whether they are still seen in the relationship, whether they are still important – or even whether they are still “ok”.

The key at this point is whether those involved in a (multiple) relationship succeed in finding a positive and empowering answer for themselves to the question of what constitutes their identification with the overall relationship:
According to the three authors of my quote introduced at the beginning of this section, Cohen, Underwood and Gottlieb, closeness and intimacy – that is, “to feel loved” – means that one receives respect, that there is an atmosphere of openness where we experience resonance for our concerns, desires, joys and fears, where we are comprehensively “heard.”
Psychologist Ursula Nuber also mentions five aspects here:
First of all, the appreciation that serves as the headline of this section, in the sense that it is and remains important in every relationship why someone is loved – and that this important question is as little banal as any of its possible honest answers. The decisive factor is rather that the question may be asked – but even more so that it receives an individual answer – aimed at the core self of the other – time and again, even without being verbally expressed.
Secondly, that it requires attention that signals true and authentic interest, for which the famous honest and active communication of speaking and listening to each other has to take place.
Third, as Cohen, Underwood and Gottlieb also described, we should support each other in our strengths. This may sound like a weak tool – but it is not, since this is precisely what guarantees our experience, when we are supported, that we thus recognize ourselves as definitely more than “just an afterthought” for the enjoyment of others.
Fourth: As an extension of point three, Mrs. Nuber lists “solidarity”. This refers precisely to what I consider to comprise the most important (multiple) relationship qualities of commitment, predictability and feeling safe. This bLog would make no sense without these values.
Fifth and last: empathy, which Mrs. Nuber uses above all to describe “emotional closeness” and which she puts into words with the sentence “Here, with you, I’m always ok and welcome.”

2. Permit Change

Next month the Oligoamory project will be five years old, your author Oligotropos just turned 50 some days ago…
On the home page of this bLog I once wrote a few lines about the choice of the Oligoamory symbol consisting of a heart and a double spiral – but since I have not written nearly as much about the effects of that double spiral in my entries as I have about the effects of the ubiquitous heart. The double spiral that I have chosen as a symbol for time and finiteness also stands for change, which, according to Ursula Nuber, we often assign too little significance to in our relationships – if at all.
In a conversation with journalist Ben Kendal, who made his interview available to the Einbecker Morgenpost³, (among others), the psychologist explains why we therefore far too often still approach our relationships with an unhelpful, romantically dressed-up, static image regarding the other people involved.
For on the one hand, this can lead us to reject certain traits of a person, which we once appreciate at the beginning of a relationship, at some later point as annoying or inhibiting quirks. Famous examples are, after all, the ” steady rock in the surf” who will one day be perceived as a mouthless communication refusenik. Just like the counterpart of the lively “social animal” whose animating actionism and extroversion melts away over time into a distorted image of restlessness and annoyance.
On the other hand, and here Mrs. Nuber names a irrefutable fact – perhaps sometimes forgotten by us: People change throughout their lives – and they also change in their relationships, which means that these relationships change as well.
The psychologist therefore recommends to strive for acceptance of one’s differences and not to react to them with “rescue fantasies” or “demands for continuity”. It is important to review the expectations towards the relationship in this respect, because relationships must be “allowed to be flexible” in order to be able to exist.
Literally, she says: »Just because we’re happy now doesn’t mean that’s always going to be the case. You have to expect that there will be challenges. […] Everyone has to adjust to the fact that partners can develop in ways one would never have expected. […] At the same time, one often ponders in such a situation: Do I want to live like that with this man or woman for several more years?«
Drawing on the research of U.S. psychologist Judith Wallerstein, who during her time had been investigating countless long-term relationships, Ursula Nuber explains that “happy relationships” are able to assess their situation realistically, revelling in the “good times” – but also acknowledging the “bad times”. It would be precisely these relationships that were able to hold on even in difficult times and to believe that there was an opportunity for development in them. “Happy relationships” would never take their togetherness as a “completed masterpiece” or as a self-evident fact; knowing that love is constantly in flux and not a static entity.
Mrs. Nuber sums up that the meaning of a love is thus not what is socially generally advertised as “happy”, but rather the joint development of those involved in a relationship. If the participants would be aware that the meaning of a common life would be to grow together (even sometimes under pain), they could face every possible further hurdle with more strength.
If such a (long-term) relationship were to look back on its crises at some point, the people involved would no longer want to know “Are we still happy?” but would answer “Yes!” to the question, which would be “Does our relationship still make sense?”. Because this would be the question that most likely would provide meaningful guidance on how to move forward into a joined future.

When the sun shines.
When the wind blows.

And as long as love lasts.

¹ Ursula Nuber: “The attachment effect – How early experiences influence our attachment happiness and what we can do about it”, Piper 2020 and “Tell me, do you actually still love me?”, Piper 2022

² 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.
Initially posted in Entry 14, but also Entry 46 (on self-knowledge), Entry 62 (on relationship skills), and Entry 71 (on Polyamory).

³ from Einbecker Morgenpost Kompakt, Wednesday February 8th 2023 – “Above all, appreciation counts”; by Ben Kendal

Thanks to Rebecca Scholz on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 85

Little Self-Inquiry

On whose shoulders do you stand?
In whose footsteps do you walk?
With whose eyes do you see?
In what books do you read?

With what blessings do you live?
What plans are you weaving?
In what places do you dwell?
And whose life do you share?*

In my last New Year’s address in January 2022, I challenged all of us last year to embrace conscious and proactive choices regarding our relationships. When I just adjusted my electricity bill with the help of a very friendly service employee, I had to think with a smile of this appeal back then, because in the case of my energy consumption I could have simply accepted the announced price increase out of laziness – with the exemplary side effect of having to deal with some little voices in my head for the rest of the year, that I should have taken care of an improvement of my conditions in time…
Relationships are no different: Either we regularly seek out the points where we believe there is still something to be achieved in favour of the parties involved – or we remain in the ponderous bucket of our status quo, comfortable for the time being, but at the price of the aforementioned nagging voices and an involuntarily continued (and presumably increasing) discomfort.
All in all, my Entries of 2022 focused very much on how deliberate we would be able to navigate our relationships. In February, for example, I advocated the importance of considering ourselves and our relationships as fully connected, in order to understand how we ourselves relate to our weal and woe there, as well as to the consequences of our choices in that regard. In March, I therefore provided a personal example of how quickly a somewhat obliviously triggered domino chain can literally fall back on oneself. And in April, I took a closer look at precisely those sensitivities which, based on our biographical past, sometimes very much entice us to make certain choices again and again in a similarly unfavourable manner, as long as we do not manage to address them with courage and goodwill. How to get it wrong with some verve, on the other hand, I presented by a roller coaster ride of emotions in May (which was not only meant ironically). Consequently, I dedicated the June-Entry to “not succeeding”, accompanied by the encouragement not to fall victim to one’s inner executive for purpose pessimism. For this I also revisited the seven most important aspects of Oligoamory in my favourite article of 2022 in July, emphasizing that “being-in-relation” always carries a very special devotion of actually almost spiritual nature. How this “interconnectedness” would look in practice is what I devoted the entries of August and September to, once again depicting our changing roles in an overall network of relationships. In October’s Entry, I subsequently turned the page back to spirituality and queerness; in November specifically pointing to the challenges of a polyamorous “coming out” – and why, unfortunately, we sometimes strive “back into the broom closet”. That’s why in the recent December-Entry, I particularly emphasized the need for special care with regard to the “smallest unit of relationship” – to be precise: you and me.

Having hereby done the traditional oligoamorous review of the past year, instead of an additional New Year’s address, I would prefer to let the British poet Sean R.J. Wilmot have her say with her “Gentle Reminder for 2023”, in which she states:

»It takes bravery to break old habits, to turn to the voice inside of your head and say: I will not let you speak to me that way.
It takes courage to sit down and have a conversation with your mistakes. Growth is uncomfortable; it’s slow and rarely steady, but I promise you that nothing in full bloom will ever tell you that the struggle wasn’t worth it.
Take a moment to realise just how far you’ve come. Look at all the bridges you crossed, everything you’ve done. There were times you thought the world was ending, and you still held on to see it through.
And I know you don’t give yourself credit for the little things, but there is strength in those things too. Try to remember that forever is only the sum of right nows.
You will never have everything figured out. Life is allowed to look like a renaissance piece and a work in progress at exactly the same time. Don’t wait until the day is perfect to look up and watch the sunrise.«

So old habits don’t just make us stick to our electricity bill….
Our “habit” (Wiktionary: “An action performed repeatedly and automatically, usually without awareness.”) therefore has to be constantly challenged – and for that we first have to identify it to some extent. The Protestant theologian and author Klaus Nagorni used questions to do this in his “Little Self-Enquiry” – which is also the title of the poem by which I prefaced this Entry. And it is good if we ask ourselves questions, because these have the chance to lead us to the edge of our comfort zone – and from there possibly grant us a (halfway) harmless view of what lies beyond…

For me, one of the most important questions in the multiple relationship universe is always, “Why do I want to maintain multiple relationships?”.
And the question behind this is, in fact, “What needs are there that I think I could better fulfil for myself by pursuing multiple (and parallel) romantic loving relationships?”.
For someone like me, this is a very important and exciting question. Because the logistical and personal effort will certainly increase with “more relationship” – or as the US psychiatrist Scott Peck put it more kindly: “…there won’t be fewer problems – but there will be more life!”.
Accordingly, it is definitely worth taking a closer look at our current needs.
The “external need fulfilment” – which is so often referred to within polyamorous communities [→“I am polyamorous because I no longer want to put the pressure on just one person to satisfy all my needs, as in monogamy. Just one person alone wouldn’t be able to fulfil them anyway…”] – I have already rejected several times on this bLog (especially Entry 58). Whether we go kitesurfing with Charlie, spend a tantra weekend with Juri, or visit an art exhibition with Lou: Never one of these partners fulfils one of our needs: neither the one for an adrenaline kick, nor the one for sensuality, nor the one for aesthetics. This is because Marshall Rosenberg, the father of “Nonviolent Communication“, who followed in the footsteps of the needs researcher Abraham Maslow, is regularly misquoted in this regard. Indeed, at no time did he use the word “fulfil” in this context – but always said “contribute”. So what Charlie, Juri and Lou can do at most is “contribute”. And that means in conclusion: we humans, each one for ourselves, have to “fulfil” our needs on our own (!).

This is why I place such a high priority on self-knowledge in Oligoamory (see Entry 46). And with that, it is also of utmost importance in our relationships to very carefully understand and assume the responsibility for our needs. For as the aforementioned Marshall Rosenberg once put it: »We do not have a magic mind-reading ruby in our foreheads; none of us can anticipate exactly what the other needs; this must therefore be communicated each time.«
Of course, in a certain unromantic way, these words disenchant the hope that our counterparts will already recognize what we lack (and thus provide it) even before we ourselves have properly grasped it or even expressed it. As well as the vain hope that there are “soul mates” who can “read” us as well – or even better – than we can ourselves.
At the same time – and for a healthy relationship life this message is much more significant – this realization also allows that any anticipatory action in the supposed sphere of needs of other relationship participants can cease; and indeed often this has an overzealous, almost overbearing and sometimes even controlling element in it: “Sit tight, honey, I just know what you need…!”.

So asking ourselves what we want, why we want it – and whether it’s good for us – are important questions. And meanwhile deep in the January entry 2023 it is therefore high time for a personal example at this point:

I have written about my own experiences on the dating planet several times on this bLog over the last four years. Last year, a new connection was created through one of my dating adventures, but the first meeting did not reveal any romantic component. Since neither the other person nor I can really be considered “frequent dater”, we both got a little annoyed about it; “annoyed” in the sense of ” slightly disappointed”.
However: Nevertheless, it became apparent at this first encounter that we found each other very interesting, stimulating and also enriching as individuals. And we decided, even though we had “actually” approached a “classic date” with the hope of establishing a romantic context, that we wanted to get involved in the attempt of an alternative “adult friendship” that might emerge from it. Dear readers – so far good news: In the meantime we have seen each other again several times, we write messages to each other, we talk on the phone from time to time.
Now about my needs.
Needs are a tricky thing to get to know in detail. It’s a bit like looking in the pantry before watching TV every evening to end the day on the sofa. And just there you have this diffuse unsatisfied feeling that something is still missing, that you still need something to be satisfied…, you roam across the shelves and deep inside you actually realize: What I really need is not in here at all. Well… That’s why at this point you’re often hijacked by your weaker self, grab a bag of chips (or the like) anyway, and retreat into the TV-den and the previously mentioned sofa. Surrogate. Substitute. A temporary, not quite fitting patch for a actually quite differently shaped hole.
Now what does that have to do with my new friendship? Do I want to say by this example that it is therefore (only) an ad-lib patch for my true Polyamory hole? No, things are more complex than that.
In fact, a few weeks after the initiation of our friendship, I felt a strange stirring inside me. To be precise, there was a certain apprehension in me which made me consider that mere friendship was somehow “not enough”. In fact, in four years of dating, it was the first time at all a friendship had resulted from a date. In the past, I had also gotten along quite well with some other dating partners at previous first meetings. But without emerging romantic component, it had always ended just there.
And now I caught myself with thoughts in which I assigned a “lower value” to my new friendship than to a “real” oligoamorous romantic relationship. And excitingly enough, at the same time two well-known “inner characters” of mine, which I had already revealed in Entry 21, entered the scene: Thus I noticed that my “White Knight” started to think about what “favours” he could perform for my new friend and how he wanted to “assist” in her life (fortunately, my new friendship was a very resourceful person whose personality offered only few toeholds for such endeavours). My “Vampire Lord”, on the other hand, rattled his chains noisily and greedily demanded that I urgently had to add a romantic or at least erotic component to the nature of the relationship so that he, too, would find nourishment.
The intense upsurge of these two inner figures, both of which in my past were capable of occasionally “knocking me over” when initiating a relationship, made me sit up and take notice. Both parts were pushing for a “full” additional relationship of a polyamorous nature – at least in a way that I had approached multiple relationships a few times before.
Why were the two of them objecting to a “mere friendship” in this respect?
To fathom their motivation, at this point I really had to get down to my need level, where a fascinating realization awaited me::
In fact, I found that there was a part of me that was convinced that only the framework of a romantic (polyamorous) loving relationship was sufficient to genuinely (!) ensure that I was actually meant, valued, loved, and acknowledged as a human being in any relationship. All other kinds of relationships, on the other hand, would not be able to grant this.
And why polyamorous? Well, because the “inner hole” in me was obviously of such a nature that I was striving for more “genuine/guaranteed” affection than from only one person. And since, after all, a monogamous standard model would provide only one “genuine” relationship according to the mode of my demands, therefore it had to be Polyamory by which I intended to fulfil some of my deepest social needs.
Social needs, which are called (alphabetically) among other things acceptance, appreciation, attention, belonging, care, closeness, comfort, community, connection, connectedness, constancy, contact, esteem, familiarity, friendship, harmony, intimacy, loyalty, reciprocity, recognition, reliability, significance, support and trust – and which are probably (also biographically induced) in a state of recurrent shortage in me.

What this means for me, Oligotropos? That I will hopefully let you, my dear readership, continuously know here on the bLog – because in that respect I am just at the beginning of a process of understanding.
What it definitely means already right now, however, is that knowing these correlations, I will be even more careful not to orchestrate my desire for multiple relationships.
Neither in the “need-outsourcing” way I mentioned at the beginning, by using existing partners to provide as many “patches” as possible for the need deficits I have identified.
Nor, however, above all with respect to my basic approach to (multiple) relationships: In that I now consider more carefully which “nature”, which urgent content of a relationship I am tempted to establish out of which inner deficiencies.

And I do not think that this “discovery” speaks against healthy multiple relationships, Poly- or Oligoamory, because perhaps I have succumbed to this way of life for the “wrong reasons”.
Without my involvement in spheres of multiple relationships, I would most likely never reached this kind of self-acknowledgement and fathomed myself so thoroughly from this side.

Rather, it remains important for all of us to stay awake and to continue asking ourselves questions, as Mr. Nagorni does at the very beginning of this text. And to courageously embrace the answers we will encounter during our little self-inquiries – quite imperfectly, and without giving up watching the sunrise.
In doing so, I wish us patience, dedication and confidence: for our manifold relationships, our fantastic loved ones and for a happy new year.

* Thanks to Klaus Nagorni for the kind and personal permission to reproduce his poem “Little Self-Inquiry” (Original title: “Kleine Selbsterforschung”) on this bLog (all rights by the author) and also thanks to Marlon Trottmann on Pexels.com for the photo!

Entry 84

Dyadic nucleus hypothesis

In the worldwide creation myths – especially concerning the creation of human beings – Polyamory somehow comes off badly.
By the way, this is not only the case with the – according to own statement¹ – “jealous” God of the Israelites, about whom all adherents of his religion can presumably be glad that he has ever created more than only one being and only one gender at all, considering that the Near Eastern Yahweh/Jehovah is almost regarded as archetype of mono-theistic and mono-normative creatorship…
No, from the plains of Asia to the coasts of Papua New Guinea, from the rainforests of South America to the icy expanses of the Arctic regions: almost everywhere in the world the history of mankind has mythologically begun first of all with only two individuals, who were quite predominantly referred to as woman and man in terms of sex and gender.
Ok, sometimes one of these two partners was a goddess who “fabricated” herself a companion in order to give birth to mankind after his assistance or there was an idle god who created a woman in order to escape the boredom of the eternity and who advanced with her to become the progenitor of humankind.
The few exceptions, where there was a situation of “more than two” right from the beginning – or where there was a positive hustle and bustle immediately from scratch – one is obliged to look for, but – thanks be to the Gods – there are also some of these:²

The gods of the ancient Maya, for example, really got into the thick of things, probably targeting a large number of people right from the start, and after disastrous attempts using initially clay (washed away by the rain) and then wood (brittle and disloyal), finally achieved such gigantic success with maize mush that the gods themselves soon felt afraid of the sheer fertile teeming of their creation.

Things are much more differentiated in the Hawaiian creation song “Kumulipo“. There, the goddess Laʻilaʻi conducts a kind of proto-polyamorous “open relationship” with two partners, from whose union three (of course divine) descendants are born, who then decide for themselves in the best rainbow manner, since they were born while their mother was with two men, to declare themselves “Poʻolua” (= “the ones whose origin is in the dark”) and to claim ancestry from both fathers.

Wonderfully polyamorous, however, I perceive above all the foundation myth of the Kiowa Apaches, who tell of their creator Kuterastan, and how he awoke and rubbed his eyes. When he peered above him into the darkness it filled with light and illuminated the darkness below. When he looked east the light became tinged with the yellow of dawn, and when he looked west the light was shaded with the amber tones of dusk. As he glanced about himself clouds in different colors appeared. Then again Kuterastan rubbed his eyes and face, and as he flung the sweat from his hands another cloud appeared with a tiny little girl Stenatliha sitting on top. Stenatliha’s name translates as the Woman Without Parents. Kuterastan and Stenatliha were puzzled where the other had come from, and where were the Earth and Sky. After thinking for some time, Kuterastan again rubbed his eyes and face, then his hands together, and from the sweat flying as he opened hands first Chuganaai, the Sun, and then Hadintin Skhin, or Pollen Boy, appeared. After the four sat a long time in silence on a single cloud, Kuterastan finally broke the silence to say, “What shall we do?” – whereupon it is told: And together they all began with creation…

In view of the overwhelming majority of exclusively dyadic (dyadic = “consisting of two units” / “concerning the interaction of two units”) creation myths, however, these remain nevertheless rather colourful marginal phenomena in a relationship-world which was obviously quite predominantly designed at the beginning above all for a get-together of (only) two beings.
So, if we leave out the purely reproductive aspect – which certainly played an essential role in early cultures (and which thus usually received a “higher” justification in mythology) – does wisdom still remain, which is not only still relevant for us today, but also has a right to appear on a bLog about multiple relationships?

Sure – rhetorical question – I certainly think that’s the case.
And in fact, this is often acknowledged also within our polyamorous lifestyle.
In an intensive exchange with the already on this platform quoted bLogger Sacriba (which lives for her part also polyamorous) she answered me once on my own statement »I believe […] that “falling in love” or “the beginning” needs phases of 1:1 time. For me this 1:1 forms the “nucleus” [of a relationship] – and in the “getting to know phase” I believe, we require some eye-to-eye togetherness in this way first of all…« the following:

»I totally agree with you on this, and would even add to it: I think that recurring one-on-one / 1:1 times are essential not only for the beginning, but also for maintaining a healthy, loving couple relationship. As the greatest possible interpersonal closeness, the romantic level is very receptive, and therefore also very vulnerable. Of course, this is even more true at the beginning. The more influences from “outside” are added, the more likely it is that the people concerned will close down and will no longer be able to interact at this level at all. This is why so many monogamous couple relationships “expire” as soon as children come along: In addition to full-time employment and being a parent, there is simply not enough time and energy left for romantic closeness, and after a few years there is none left at all.
Interestingly, a similar phenomenon happens to many people who actually try establishing a multiple relationship: For the time being, everyone is putting their time and energy into the establishment of the new shared relationship. And YES, it makes sense, because the threesome, foursome, whatever, is a new structure, which needs time and attention, especially in the “multiple relationship formation phase”. BUT: Couple relationships do not disappear as a result of this new system. On the contrary, a polycule is even defined as a “network of interrelated romantic connections”. Couple relationships continue to exist as subsystems, and with them the requirements for them to be predominantly healthy and energizing, exactly like the above-mentioned 1:1-time.«

Also in the German Facebook forum “Polyamory & Polyfidelity – The art of loving more than one there was just this month a short dialogue arising under an interview request with the topic “Everyday life in polyamorous relationships”:
Group member A: »I think it’s so important for outsiders to get some insight to maybe understand that it’s not that different from monogamy.«
Group member B: »Regarding this statement, one aspect comes to my mind. Basically, there are some things that are different from monogamy, but of course not everything, and one aspect strikes me directly: Poly relationships are also relationships of 2. You have an individual bond to each partner (like to your only partner in a monogamous relationship) and therefore you also need togetherness with every one of them. That’s what I find beautiful about polyamory. That love is able to flow easily, you don’t have to repress anything AND nevertheless you have distinct loves.«

Especially the statements of the two forum members, who expressed their thoughts spontaneously and straightforwardly, delight me, because I myself had already mentioned here on my bLog in Entry 29 and also repeatedly in Entry 72, that actually the whole essence of my writing could be summarized in the simple sentence “Maintain good relationships!”.
Members A and B above, in a sense, illustrate this “essence” twofold with their statements: On the one hand by expressing that polyamorous relationships are, at heart, entirely classic romantic human relationships, like every other romantic human relationship. On the other hand, that the basic structure of multiple relationships – which seem so nefarious to people not familiar with the subject precisely because of their “entangled intermingling” – consists, reduced to a common denominator, of distinct individual relationships.

I do not want to upset anyone here, if, for example, a three person relationship would feel offended now, which would have experienced the luck that all persons fell in love with each other there more or less at the same time. As a matter of fact, I would also say to such a group that it is worthwhile to reflect for a moment upon the “interrelationships” of the various members of such a “threesome” in the way that bLogger Sacriba has done above.

Because when I say “Maintain good relations!” I mean it a little like the Irish author, critic and activist George Bernard Shaw, who once wrote »Love is the ability to allow the people we care about the freedom they need to be who they want to be. Regardless of whether we can identify with it or not.«
This ability, if we want to share a romantic loving relationship with the corresponding person, in my opinion always refers to an individual. An individual from whom we (hopefully) experience the same ability in our favour the other way around.
Mr. Shaw has formulated in a concise way what has long been scientifically recognized – and what I have already quoted several times on this bLog; once again here, because it is so important:
»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.«

So this “process” is not automatic and, on top of that, it is – as bLogger Sacriba has quite properly observed – “very vulnerable”. Consequently, out of natural self-protection, we humans are much more likely to choose a 1:1 situation in order to first merely lower our shields when confronted with only one person, carefully discarding parts of our everyday armour on a swift-trust basis. The vast majority of us would certainly only dare such a process in a second step in front of a group. These “subsystems” – to take up a term by Sacriba – are thus to a certain extent the engine rooms of successful multiple relationship management. If these are healthy, i.e. in each case at eye level, honest, committed, trusting, and appreciative, energy can be generated that may then begin to circulate in an eventual “overall system”.

Probably this connection was latently – or even quite knowingly – clear to the narrators of the human creation myths: Apart from the famous “good relationship with ourselves”, we are indeed not capable of “multitasking” in our human connections. Thus, the very encounter with our respective direct counterpart is of special importance each time – all our attention is required, our full awareness and involvement. No matter whether in the myths the human beings originated from dust, blood, pebbles or sweat – in each case it becomes obvious rather quickly that an “I” needs above all a distinct “You” in order to understand – but also to mirror itself.
To maintain an independent, complete and entirely individual relationship with each of our favourite loved ones is therefore of considerable importance for a successful partnership network, which is also intended to succeed with more people.
Perhaps it was that awareness which the gods wanted to provide us with from the very beginning of mankind.

¹ The Bible – Exodus 20, 5: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” / Exodus 34, 14: “For Yahweh bears the name “the jealous one”; a jealous God he is.”

² All examples are taken from the collection List of creation myths available on the English Wikipedia and its redirections there to the Maya gods, the Kumulipo and Kuterastan.

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.
First cited in Entry 14, but also Entry 46 (Self-knowledge), Entry 62 (Relation Ability), and Entry 71 (on Polyamory).

Thanks to Morrisio Indra Hutama on Unsplash for the picture!