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.

Alright.
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.
«²

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.«
³

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!

Entry 83 #Coming-out

Out…, in…, out…, in…

© Kurt Löwenstein Education CenterCertain rights reserved

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The German specialist for internal medicine and psychotherapist Dr. Dietmar Hanisch writes about these issues: »Relationships with our fellow human beings are indeed ambivalent: They can be our most important sources of protection, but they can also be extreme stressors. For us humans, being socially integrated is absolutely necessary for survival. Our urge for social recognition is therefore extraordinarily intense. And this unfolds in our brains, which have a strong tendency to reflect anyway. […]
In addition, our thinking has a bias towards idealization, exaggeration, and absolutization: We want to be loved by everyone, want everyone to fulfil our expectations. If this is not so, it inevitably causes stress.«
²

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Entry 82

The rainbow within
(almost a recension)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Belonging” is also what Oligoamory has been about since Entry 5. At the end of Entry 55, I wrote in addition:
»Personally, one of the great challenges of ethical multiple relationships in my opinion is to maintain different relationships without compartmentalizing the other parties involved (splitting them into separate features). To achieve this, all those involved need precisely the curiosity and the courage to become acquainted with their “inner diversity”, i.e. their contrasts, their heterogeneity, their irregularities, their bewilderment and their spheres of tension, and to accept that it is also from this diversity that the ingredients emerge which transform a multiple relationship into “more than the sum of its parts”.
Thus, a multiple relationship could, at some point, become a living image of this “choir of our multiple inner voices”, which eventually defines each and every one of us as “us”…«


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



Thanks to Jason Leung on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 81

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Kiraan p on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 80

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

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

© Tikva Wolf auf TikvaWolf.com (Kimchi Cuddles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Entry 79

…though the blessing comes from higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

² Links to possible translations:
http://friedrichschiller.weebly.com/song-of-the-bell.html
https://www.bartleby.com/177/46.html

Thanks to Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash for the photo!