Entry 31


This weekend, my nesting-partner received a message that gave her reason for some concern.
My nesting partner is a horse owner and has kept a few horse in the course of her life. A horse, however, is a somewhat costly passion – definitely in terms of time and finances – and accordingly it may happen in the life of the owners that changes to the overall circumstances concerning their everyday life eventually impair the constant responsible care such an animal claims. In such moments of crisis it may happen that most horse owners (which at least I know) try to pass their animal into the much sought-after “good hands“. The search for a suitable takeover is therefore as much a service to the own conscience, as well as to ensure the continued well-being according to ones own standards even after the change of ownership. In those favourable cases, such a procedure results in the fact that even after the animal has been transmitted, the former owner is periodically provided with status messages on health or even with photos – provisions by which the new owners on occasion confirms: the horse is (still) well.
In this way, horse keeping still sometimes resembles to some extent a switch-yard – and of course it may happen at some point that by a further change of ownership such an arrangement is eventually broken or forgotten – and as a previous owner * in the second or third row you no longer learn how the further fate of the animal develops.
Exactly such a “second-degree change of ownership” was pending concerning one of my partner’s former horses: Her former pet was about to pass from the originally thoroughly selected “good hands” once more into a more uncertain future of further ownership.

Of course, there is a certain ostentatious arrogance of impropriety regarding this quite regularly occurring transfer of ownership – even and especially among seasoned equestrian enthusiasts.
If you want to own a horse, then you have to think about the like of it before! “, is a typical remark in such cases. Or even more extreme: “If you are not ready to take on responsibility for a horse for a lifetime, then you should not get one in the first place.”
Pithy appeals regarding our loyalty, integrity, responsibility and sustainability towards a living being – and thus we are immediately in the midst of the complexities of Oligoamory (see Entries 3 + 4 ).

Because as an observer of the happenings at the weekend I immediately felt reminded of a more personal area, which perhaps manifests not quite the same – but nevertheless similar implications and moral calls: Being a parent. And as a father, I know quite well that “in the long run” you sooner or later encounter stages during that vocation, where you are overchallenged, helpless and dependent on support in any possible way. And here, too, there are similar “moral guardians” who are always at hand in such situations with the most helpful advice of all: “About something like that you should have thought before! “. That’s why there exists not only “Rider-Shaming¹” but of course the well-established “Parent-Shaming¹”. And from there it’s only a small step to “Husband¹- or Spouse-Shaming¹” – or to keep the picture of the “owner change”: the well-known “Divorcee-Shaming¹”. All and sundry life situations in which “well-intentioned” fellows appear – just to knock us down with their virtuousness reminiscent of fortune-telling skills: “Such an occurence should have been considered sooner/beforehand! “.

Anyone who has followed me valiantly through 30 entries on the subject of Oligoamory up to this point, knows by now that I as the author of this project, as far as relationship-management is concerned, gladly immerse myself in drafting rather ambitious ideas. Sometimes my texts sound rather passionate, sometimes they become almost idealistic. And, of course, Oligoamory is idealistic, because an ideal is for me a beacon, a signpost – something worth striving for, and the steady journey is the destination.
But I also hope that I have succeeded in clarifying that it is not “only” an ideal, for a mere ideal is always in danger of becoming means to an end: In such a case pure idealism invokes precisely those moral guardians, who just want to depress us even more in our tentativeness with their twisted advice “You should have thought about a thing like that before!
Oligoamory – and that’s why I chose the symbol of the double spiral – should be humanly. And humanness means finiteness – and thus limitedness as well.

The moral guardians of idealism (and a dwarfish variety of them dwells in almost everyone of us) forget as participants in the “game of life” that life itself is not a static condition, but the very essence of the game itself. Consequently, not much of it is “predictable” or can be “planned ahead “.
Our human nature and our biological inheritance may be attuned to favourable energy management (“Make a break an put your feet up! “). And as the most sophisticated ape we are somewhat prone to social cooperation (“Treat others as you would like others to treat you…“) – but in the “third Dimension” regarding precaution and planning we are rather limited exactly because of our finiteness.
Current example: That’s why we have such difficulties concerning the pending energy-transition (concerning the exit from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy). The assumption of responsibility for human generations, which are not yet born, is difficult for us. Accordingly, this step requires a very conscious and active willingness, because it’s not “in our nature” – a “primordial” Homo sapiens would have hardly ever thought beyond the generation of his*her grandchildren (genes passed, mission accomplished).

But now we are no longer “primordial” hominids – and meanwhile our lifespan has increased significantly. And as a consequence we are confronted with a much higher degree of “ending” and “finiteness” in our lives than ever before in human history – and are also challenged by the need for increased “precaution” and sustainability. Of course, this development didn’t happen all of a sudden, because on closer examination, thoughts and insights about “life cycles” can be found in different philosophies and spiritual systems since antiquity: Ideas, that in a human life we pass through different stages, sometimes repetitive, sometimes similar (depicted by the symbolism of circle and spiral). And both ancient philosophy² and Buddhism³ have developed the phrase “What does not want to cease can not emerge“.

Regarding our idealism, that seems to be a bitter blow at first. Because it means that on the human scale there is no perfect loyalty, no absolute integrity, no total responsibility and never complete sustainability.
A relentless penchant for perfection that spawns phrases as “forever (and ever)” or “for a lifetime” however, likewise compromises the ideals. Because people who only try to live up to their ideals quickly lose sight of their fellow human beings – and themselves in their own humanness (and fallibility).
In his book “The Art of Not Being an Egoist” (“Die Kunst, kein Egoist zu sein”, 2010) the contemporary philosopher R.D. Precht illustrates, that we human beings are above all committed to our self-image:
»That’s why it’s only half as bad for us if a particular desire can not be fulfilled or if we fail regarding an intention. It is much worse if we feel attacked as a person. If we are questioned as a human being. When our self-esteem is hurt or destroyed. Our being – otherwise this sensitivity can scarcely be explained – is always more than our intentions, our speech, our actions.«
As to sabotaging our self-esteem with our inner “moral guardians”, however, we are at least as effective as our patronising critics in the outside world. R.D. Precht therefore recommends with Aristotle that it is important to become “a good friend of yourself” – beyond any alleged perfectionism.

I started this entry with an example concerning horses, because already the topic “animals”, at least if they are considered as pets (rather than livestock), can quickly become very sensitive. However, I believe that in the end it does not matter to which living being we position ourselves in this way if we feel that we are in a relationship with them. Because in that case loyalty, integrity, responsibility and sustainability inevitably interlock: The advocacy of a common goal, the agreement with one’s own values, accountability regarding the (self-)commitment, adherence of boundaries.
Nevertheless, personal goals, own values, self-commitment and individual boundaries are no static entities of eternal continuance. Definitely not concerning a finite human life, which has to be able to adapt to changing external conditions (and I’m not talking of the changeability of character in the manner of a chameleon!).
However, I would like to concede to all of us that even apparently weighty values and in particular their contents may change over time – and some may simply expire.

My conclusion for today is therefore also somewhat philosophical:
Regarding the initiation, conduct and termination of our relationships, we are all like potters who sit together around the potter’s wheel and form a vessel. Because of the nature of our working material – if we dare to think that way – it is quite obvious that our joint product will probably have a limited lifespan, it’s definitely finite. We may therefore be tempted to create an artless, robust standard model, which will hopefully serve its purpose for as long as possible, but would deny by that part of our idealism, our inspiration, and our individual expression.
But because we are concious regarding it’s finiteness, we could also create a design that represents precisely the greatest possible degree of our (artistic) skill, as the spatio-temporal creation of our presentness and our striving. In this way, our relationships will become much more unique and appropriate to those involved – and their appropriateness will truly be “more than the sum of their parts“.
By accepting finiteness (which means: ceasing, expiring) in this process, we simultaneously gain the potential motivation for new emergence in this process, which on the relationship-level allows fallibility, adaptability, and negotiation.
Therefore, if we are reasonably certain that all those involved in a relationship are as loyal, honest, accountable and sustainable as they can be, it will take tremendous pressure of all the participating individuals regarding the relentless penchant for perfection. And it strengthens the conjoined experience of freedom and connectedness, which I consider as one of the core-qualities of Oligoamory (see Entry 7).
The long-term nature of relationships in the context of ethical non-monogamy is very important to me, because longevity is needed so that the values of Poly- or Oligoamory can be experienced and shaped (!) by everyone involved. But “forever and ever” and “you’d better think of such things before”? That isn’t human, that does not do justice to any living being and our common changeable and versatile nature.
And that’s when even horses say “Na-a-a-a-ayyyy !” ☺

* “Nesting-Partner” is a phrase which is sometimes used for loved ones you share living quarters with.

¹ Though the term “Rider-Shaming” is a humorous phrase I made up myself, the terms “Parent-Shaming”, “Husband-Shaming”, “Spouse-Shaming” and even “Divorcee-Shaming” do exist. These terms describe a behaviour where certain individuals are (verbally) attacked and denounced for not fulfilling their function up to a socially claimed standard.

² Teachings regarding immortality by the Greek philosopher Plotinus, authored and edited by his pupil Porphyrios.

³ Teachings of Nagarjuna in early Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Thanks to Crawford Jolly on Unsplash and the photo showing one of the heads of the “Kelpie-Monument” in Falkirk, Scotland.

Entry 30

Dating is as dating does…

Once again, Oligotropos is dating.
No, stop.
In fact, he does not yet date. He’s roving around on dating platforms first of all. At least this time on websites that guarantee both monogamous and non-monogamous variations of search options.
So far, so good.
However, after he has viewed half a dozen profiles he is struck by a peculiar tentativeness, when he realises that his “oligoamorous search” has deeper inner implications of its own on such websites:

Level 1 – Monogamy as an example: Almost all dating sites seem to have been made for monogamy. I don’t think that dating there is really easy for monogamous people – but all the criteria seem to be tailored to monogamy: Jack is looking for Jill – or Jill is looking for a Jack. Women or men are searching for the „one special person“. And if two people find each other on such a site in this way, they get together and both disappear from the pool of potential seekers – in order to do henceforth those things monogamous people usually do together. Accordingly, we can dismiss those people furthermore from our story, since first of all they will sally forth inevitably in pairs and secondly we are not monogamous ourselves. Hence, we gaze after them somewhat admiringly, somewhat baffled: These two have “bonded” somehow – until who- or whatever will part them…

Level 2 – Non-monogamous / polyamorous search: To all the world this mode really sounds like great freedom par excellence. On this level it seemingly does not matter if I am a free atom or an already bound molecule when looking for further potential bonds.
Of course, there is some “homework” here one has to finish beforehand: One has to practice, or desire a relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. This practice or desire has to be seasoned by equality regarding all possibly involved parties, consistent assumption of responsibility for own risky behaviour (e.g. sexually) – plus a dram of commitment concerning the potentially emerging relationship-network and a longer-term perspective (otherwise occasional swinging or casual dating would do just as fine).
And then the merry dating may start. And all the people who feel like it and whose parameters fit my ideas of multiple relationships – and my parameters in turn to their ideas – may meet. If distance and/or logistics as well as communication with each other work out.
However, I, Oligotropos, as the author of this bLog, still find one-two-three snags regarding the relationships which this approach would enable. I have described these three “snags” in detail in Entry 2, because I have seen too often with regard to “Polyamory” that the relationships arising from such guidelines are often based on sexuality as the main (or sole) common interest, the involved parties are entangled in a unrealistic dictate regarding mutual non-possessiveness, and eventually personality-fragmentation is facilitated.
But it’s not my place to decide on the appropriateness of such relationships. The parties involved must decide for themselves whether the resulting kinds of connections are conducive to them (anyway). And for many configurations such polyamorous arrangements are also completely sufficient: Wether sexual freedom is acted out in a (established) relationship, while participating in the neotantric community or regarding BDSM-relationships, or even in terms of category-free relationship anarchy.
And that’s why I also believe that sooner or later this kind of search will lead to dating-success in the end. Because in this way people will get together who want to share selected special moments of their lives with each other: During leisure time or vacation, at events or workshops, based on accordance, shared interest and mutual passion.

Concerning myself, all that still wasn’t enough. Regarding my own peace of mind and peace of heart, Polyamory manifested too many discontinuities in terms of reliability/predictability, loyalty and sustainability (see Entries 3 + 4).
Moreover, contrary to its founding concept, “Polyamory” often no longer seemed to be regarded as a “relationship-philosophy” but as a kind of novel philosophy of love and personal freedom.
Influenced by a mix of ideas containing Zen-Buddhism, free love and the codependency-movement, in the 21st century considerations like the following started to affect the argumentative focus:
»A relationship is a structure. So love relates, certainly, but never becomes a relationship. Love is a moment-to-moment process. Remember it. Love is a state of your being, not a relationship. There are loving people and there are unloving people. Unloving people pretend to be loving through the relationship. Loving people need not have any relationship – love is enough. Be a loving person rather than in a loving relationship – because relationships happen one day and disappear another day. They are flowers; in the morning they bloom, by the evening they are gone. […] A relationship may be just out of fear, may not have anything to do with love. Relationships may be a kind of security – financial or something else. The relationship is only needed because love is not there. A relationship is a substitute. Be alert. A relationship destroys love, destroys the very possibility of its birth.¹«
»Real persons love each other as a luxury. It is no longer a need. They enjoy sharing: they have so much joy, they would like to pour it into somebody. And they know how to play their lives as a solo instrument.²«
“Poor Rajneesh!”, I would now almost exclaim loudly (see also Entry 8), “did you experience your relationships predominantly that way?” Because in the increasing human disability to attach and to relate as well as in the increasing rate of “solitaries” I currently see more of a problem than a visionary (re)solution.
And that’s one important reason why I set out to explore the “Oligoamory” for myself, especially with regard to the needs and wishes that I had concerning multiple relationships.
But that way I encountered new challenges while dating and looking for likeminded people. Or, at least, questions popped up I had to face.

Level 3 – Oligoamorous search:
Let’s counter these Rajneesh/Osho quotes above with a citation from the British actor Anthony Hopkins:
»None of us are getting out of here alive. So please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There is no time for anything else
What I particularly like about this quotation from the oligoamorous viewpoint is the direct reference to our deepest humanness with its joys – and to our finiteness.
Mr. Hopkins also says, “Stop treating yourself and each other like “afterthoughts”, like bonuses or “give-aways”. And he adds: Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure – by that he appeals to our radical honesty.
Precisely these two aspects seem to be of significant importance to me concerning the quest for potential lovers and soulmates in Oligoamory.
Because according to the principleDo not do to others what you would not want them to do to you”, I do not want to be considered or treated as a “luxury” or a “bonus” at any rate. I am a whole, complicated person with my weaknesses and strengths and I wish to be accepted as such. Whoops, with that request I touched the second aspect as well: Because in order to be “accepted”, I must be able to accept myself just as sincerely. In Entry 26 and 27, I discuss how I can overcome my internal fragmentation in order to experience real closeness and true intimacy once again. And concerning that, the somewhat tenacious and relentless utilisation of straight self-honesty plays a major part.

Let’s assume that, according to Mr. Hopkins, we would be tolerably able to treat ourselves no longer “as an afterthought” because we managed to accept us and each other in our quirky-beautiful, definitely human, uniqueness, to which our valiantly applied honesty would significantly contribute.
Then, in return, this would clearly mean that our potential loved ones should be treated just as equally…
Since now we have stated an aspiration regarding our “search” and regarding possible dating, concerning which we ourselves have to do meet the requirements first:
Do I currently have the capacity in my life to appreciate a WHOLE (additional) person as such?
Maybe some people will think now: “Oh, please, dear Oligotropos, I would never ask anyone else for something like that, that he*she*it considers me in such a way. It would be enough for me if they would appreciate me as a good guitarist/surfer/bedfellow – whether I pay my taxes correctly or where I stand politically is quite unimportant in that respect…!”
Oh yes? Then you may(be) still get lucky in Polyamory – but in that case this website has nothing to offer for you. And do not complain any more about experiencing such a deep miserable inner discrepancy between pretence and reality – because you seem to favour a “Reality of separation” or at least a life far away from integrity and coherence.
I apologise for these outspoken words – but there are consequences, if we want to stand up for the equal well-being of all parties involved regarding the relationship level.
And it’s a good thing if we try to incorporate these consequences already at a very early stage, virtually unilateral while setting things in motion on our side.
Our goal of an “oligoamorous relationship” would be marked by the desire to find a (additional) person, who in this way becomes part of our “soul tribe”, becomes one of our “associates“. That way, we hope for a relationship that is characterised by familiarity and a level of intimacy that allows all participants to put off their “everyday-armor” in front of each other. In such a relationship, the affected people would be important to one another precisely because of the many little things that – according to the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – would “gain the colour of wheat³ “: (Just) Seemingly insignificant details, which make the respective personality shine and highlight it in the view of the loved ones.
After all, every human relationship is based on the fact that in such relationships, beyond our visible achievements, beyond our successes and beyond our knowledge – and also beyond our sorrows and worries – we simply want to feel accepted as human beings. And, to be sure, not as a kind of validation from outside – here Osho and all his co-speakers err in my opinion – but as an encouragement and an assurance of our own inner acquired certainty regarding our value, the value that every other human being owns – without being diminished by anything or anybody.

Conclusion: That’s why for me as an oligoamorous-sensitive person online dating is more exciting and complicated than it could favourably be.
E.g. many websites appear to prefer a strategy that suggests multiple introductions to as many profiles as possible. I can’t do this without feeling somewhat incoherent and disloyal in a strange way: Every profile stands for a whole person (as I am behind my profile). And no two profiles or people are alike. That is why I think that each of these people has earned its own approach. Otherwise it would be a little bit as if I had yelled into a pub to a group of women “Hey girls!” And would hoped that one of them approaches me now because of my eloquent and individualistic speech…
And in fact, when I read a profile, I think about whether I have the capacity to be more than just a projection surface for the desires and needs of the other side – which in case of doubt would be badly thin veneer, which wouldn’t withstand any acid test.
And I’m always wondering if it’s a good moment for such a step right now in my life:

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

¹ Osho/Rajneesh/Bhagwan, “Walk without feet, fly without wings and think without mind “, Talk #8

² Osho/Rajneesh/Bhagwan, “The Power of Love” He said /She said: Love in a relationship

³ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince, Chapter 21, Excerpt from the Fox’s Speech: »But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me back hurrying underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: do you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. The golden wheat-fields have nothing to say to me. That is said. But yo have hair that is the colour of gold! Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…«

Thanks to Simon Müller on Pixabay for the photo!

Entry 29

…and missed the forest for the trees.

A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine, who cancelled an agreed meeting, wrote to me the following lines:
…I turned my life around spontaneously in the last few weeks and for now I am monogamous once more. I fell deeply in love and right now we just want to be on our own. He had only normal relationships in the past and I realise that this is beneficial to me as well. Especially after all that constant back and forth I experienced before...”
Maybe it’s a pity concerning our meeting – but if they want to concentrate on their twosome togetherness because of their fresh infatuation, I can understand that.
And yet…– in a sense a “disturbance in the Force“, as actor Alec Guiness stated as the sensitive Yedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie “Star Wars” (Episode IV).

A far more greater “disturbance in the Force” I felt just last September when LGBT activist, actress and comedian Margaret Cho revealed in a podcast interview¹:
You know, for me, I get polyamory-fatigue and I get total BDSM-fatigue. It takes so much energy in terms of negotiating and what you want and what you’re doing and I just don’t have the energy for it. Also, the processing that happens, so I did get tired of it. To me, it’s very stuck in the 90s and early 2000s, but I do love it.”
Well, at least she has added the last half-sentence… Because otherwise such a statement from someone who had committed the last 25 years of her life intensively to a lifestyle of ethical non-monogamy appears to me like an earthquake of seismic magnitude. Especially if this person adds in the same interview:
I have this idea that because I’m now single, my thought is I would like to try to remain unpartnered for the rest of my life and I’m going to really try.”
And when asked why, she answered:
Well, because I’ve been partnered for so long. For my adult life, I’ve had partners pretty much since I was like 25 or whatever. I feel like now that I’m 50, I should really give a college try to see if I could just be a lady alone.
These are also understandable reasons for me.
And yet both statements unsettle me. Since I have heard such explanations in polyamorous circles before. However, Mrs. Cho was a very prominent example to me recently which is thought-provoking – and somewhat troubling.
“Polyamory fatigue” – that sounds serious, like a medical trait; to quote Wikipedia »significant tiredness, depleted reserves of strength or increased need for rest disproportionate to recent exertion«.

Concerning someone like Margaret Cho, much of it may be true, especially with a quarter of a century of experience and an active life including major media presence, her support regarding gay and LGBT rights, BDSM, and queer lifestyle altogether.
Especially if you are somehow “different” yourself, then there is often the need to stand one’s ground, to defend the “divergent”, the “deviant” against the prevailing morality and the established lifestyle – thereby making the personal political – and the political personal.

As an explorer of non-monogamous-oligoamorous lands I am nevertheless concerned. For it seems to me that my acquaintance as well as Margaret Cho query two values which are crucial to my view of Oligoamory – crucial to a point that I put those values in the subtitle: Commitment and sustainability.
To be fair, I would like to add that neither my acquaintance nor Mrs. Cho ever declared themselves oligoamorous – and that even I, who am the author of this blog, would by no means want to decree that a once-chosen lifestyle must be retained at any cost.
And yet they exist – a substantial group of people who will confess after some time: “Polyamory? I tried it. It didn’t work…, I’m back being monogamous/single again…” Maybe the more sincere people in this group say somewhat more specific: “It didn’t work for me.”
Everytime I hear those stories, I sigh and think: “Oh, folks...”
For personally, I often experienced that if something does not work, very rarely “the thing” itself is the problem, but much more often our quality management.
“Quality management” is a broad term in this case. However, there is evidence that many people apply ethical non-monogamy (such as Poly- or Oigoamory) in much the same way like that devastated guy who returns a chainsaw back to the hardware store and groans: “I’m totally exhausted, it didn’t work, I drudged all day and barely managed a single tree...” The salesman looks at the chainsaw, pulls the starter, listens to the engine and says: “I can’t find any fault...” While the stunned customer stares at him: “What’s that noise…?!”
If people try to handle multiple relationships in this way, it’s no surprise that they actually experience them as “back and forth” and are threatened by “Polyamory fatigue” in the end.

At the same time, I absolutely do not want to deny the strenuous ramifications while practising ethical non-monogamy: Time management with multiple partners, constant (self-)justifications comcerning the own way of life, a lack of legal foundations and the difficulties of finding like-minded people – these are all real hardships and therefore potential sources of conflict. A single bLog-Entry on an obscure Oligoamory website can not even list the numerous challenges, or offer in a few lines adequate practical solutions to the various living conditions in which people can get in contexts regarding multiple relationships.
What I want to offer is some calming for the waves of exhaustion before those affected believe that the only way out is to pull the plug entirely and to be “monogamous once more” or “would like to try to remain unpartnered for the rest of their life“.

I do not know either my acquaintance or Mrs. Cho well enough to be able to tell anything for sure about their inner motivation. And as I wrote, the road to ethical non-monogamy is truly not exactly adorned with a red carpet.
Aside from the many inner and outer pitfalls which we seekers of multiple relationships have to deal with, I nevertheless believe that we create a certain amount of pressure all by ourselves. And this pressure has an effect on our mentioned “quality management” – particularly because we want to become proud “chainsaw owners” as soon as possible so that we may live it up at the next tree straight away. Next, you will find yourself visiting chainsaw workshops, the local chain sawing regulars’ table, browsing through chainsaw forums on the internet – all the while the stress is mounting: When you realise how many logs the other people seem to be finishing off – and your knees are trembling just because of only one tiny tree trunk…
Because analogously, “the other polyamorists” can very quickly appear as seasoned jack-of-all-trades, who happily manage several intense relationships with a multitude of interesting lovers. Whereas oneself e.g. is stuck in an unpleasantly tough dating-swamp, finding not a single soul who shares the own preferences regarding multiple relationships even approximately halfway. At the same time you will still get more and more confused, because at the side of the road you will spot exciting monogamous people or solitary singles, who unfortunately do not share your own view now. Oh, everything was much easier back then, when you were still monogamous or leastwise solitary yourself… On top of it all, the pressure even increases, if you are possibly in an already existing relationship, joined with a slightly dusted (marriage) partner, – you have perhaps mutually agreed on opening your relationship – but in a strange way nothing substantial happens… Or when you get into a multiple relationship with people who said “poly-/ oligoamorous”, but meant realistically “promiscuous”. In addition all that constant processing (which often fluctuates somewhere between sore soul-searching and self-defiant justification): That’s more Polyamory-fatigue than anyone can bear. Put that chainsaw back right where it came from or – so help me…!

It is said that especially men always want to try out new devices immediately, without wasting even a thought regarding its manual. In the case of ethical multiple relationships, this applies in fair equality to all participants – independent of gender. Otherwise, we all would rather notice that we could achieve a better result if we first of all would be paying attention to the performing engine. And even a running engine does not “guarantee” any yield – but it makes it in any case more likely.
Perhaps it is important to reassure us by what it does not mean to be a chainsaw owner – I beg your pardon – a human being in the context of ethical non-monogamy:
It does not automatically mean that you have immediately many exciting parallel relationships – or rather, that they are instantly available to you. In general, “availability” seems to me the key word here: A change of our choice, how we want to lead relationships doesn’t change the status quo spontaneously. And then? Am I a “failed polyamorist” because I do not have any other relationships right now? Or just one? Would my conviction or my activism concerning matters of ethical non-monogamy be less credible in such cases?
Does being “non-monogamous” mean that you (or other participants) are always available, always potentially accessible – or, what’s more, that you (or they) have to be it?
If we actually begin to think about ourselves like this, then we would summon up a considerable amount of stress and polyamory fatigue on ourselves.
Because it would accordingly mean that we pay more attention to the (chain)saw – regarding the “if ” – instead of its quality and performance – regarding the “how “. Which could mean in consequence that we would be willing to make concessions concerning the “how” to ensure the “if”. Transferred to the relationship-level, this could mean that we end up sooner or later in relationships which don’t match our needs (being a “constant back and forth”) or in circumstances where we feel restricted and dependent (and you crave to “try to see if I could just be a lady alone”). Even from an oligoamorous perspective such conditions wouldn’t be either sustainable or committed.

In the best case, it would be up to us to decide for ourselves what kind of concessions we would agree to in order to finally get involved in multiple relationships.
Wether pragmatist or idealist – this time your being determines consciousness at any rate. Since we convince ourselves that chainsaws are unsuitable and unreliable in the long run, which means: That ethical non-monogamy can not provide fulfilling relationships. Because it’s always such an abnormal back-and-forth with tedious processing, which in the end fatigues us “disproportionately to the previous efforts”.
Who wouldn’t return the chainsaw now?
Who wouldn’t be tempted to think that monogamy was “normal” and “beneficial” – and that being “unpartnered” finally meant to “be a lady alone”?

But that is somewhat flawed reasoning, since that way we didn’t prove whether ethical non-monogamy, Poly- or Oligoamory wouldn’t have been capable. We did prove that our expectations eloped our neediness – because, when we first heard of a chainsaw, we grasped the story as though this miracle saw was doing our job all on its own. Referring to multiple relationships: that choosing this particular lifestyle would ensure need fulfilment [And here’s a bitter blow for those poly-preachers who still believe in the argument that polyamorous people are better off than monogamous people because “one single lover/partner can neeeever fulfil all the needs of another lover/partner”. Fiddlesticks. Non-monogamy, even with 100 lovers/partners, doesn’t achieve this either].
That way, in the worst case, we will create “converted polys” who will report (more weird than the usual opponents of multiple relationships) back their (bad) experiences: “Never again multiple relationships, they did not only fail to make me happy, but exhausted me and left me burned-out…”

Just as the possession of a chainsaw calls for a great deal of due diligence, I would like to invite you, with regard to ethical non-monogamy, to exercise this carefulness, which should primarily benefit your own self. In the context of Oligoamory, I desire precisely for that very reason a distinct honesty, which is first and foremost a combination of self-sincerity and self-responsibility.
And in fact, we would not get around those values in any kind of relationship, even if being solitary or monogamous seem to ensnare us as “social default mode”: Just because something seems familiar it does not mean that all our questions had already been solved by our predecessors (parents, teachers, social philosophers, politicians) – and without our further contribution. The ubiquitous “default mode” conveys this illusion only by its dictate of musty-familiar normativity.
To continue my metaphor: In this respect, any relationship-philosophy would be some kind of saw – a jig saw, a folding saw, a hacksaw… – and the risk in case of incompetent use will inevitably lead to self-injury or collateral damage.
In that respect, no one can provide us with finished answers, as Confucius said: »Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.«
We ourselves have to fill our relationships with our own lives – thereby learning to apprehend ourselves, the relationship(s) and the other people involved. “Processing”, which Margaret Cho perceived as tiresome, is an important part of it. But if I’m tired of it and no longer dare to face my own intentions and motivations, how am I supposed to be credible and authentic anywhere – or believe I “could just be a lady alone” (red-incoherency-alert)?
If I wish in Oligoamory “Have good relationships!” I mean that you shall have appropriate relationships – but most of all, conscious and honest relationships. Usually we are not used to such an high degree of honesty – neither towards ourselves nor towards other people – even less in an early stage of a relationship. We may improve – I agree with Confucius – but only by practising, by involvement – not by abandoning or resetting the strategy.

I wish that regarding the renunciation of ethical non-monogamy in those affected applies, what Charlie’s mother explains to her son in the book by Roald DahlCharlie and the Chocolate Factory“: »Ah yes, well, sometimes when grown-ups say “forever” they mean “a very long time

¹ The podcast is available HERE but requires registration on the site.

Thanks to Andreas Scherbel on Pixabay for the photo.

Entry 28

Oh, Freedom…¹

Actually, I do not like these memes in social networks at all and usually keep away from posting them on my part.
In a somewhat contrary fashion, the picture above contains an important truth concerning multiple relationships – especially in an oligoamorous setting.
Well – it touches (once again) the topic of sexuality and the freedom of love. And I have already laid down in my second Entry why I do not like the way these topics are currently covered by Polyamory and why I started to describe myself in that regard as “oligoamorous”. And in Entry 7 I try to explain why commitment and freedom do not contradict each other in Oligoamory.
So it’s freedom – once again.
Especially our personal freedom, which we always believe to be in danger, particularly when we think that other people in our immediate vicinity are restricting us somehow.
At the same time, we, who think in terms of multiple relationships, are – as far as “freedom” is concerned – already rather privileged.
Privileged? Yes, privileged. We have a privilege. The degree of freedom in our relationships – which we have worked out individually, which we share with our partners and which we mutually grant ourselves – that is a privilege.
A privilege – I beg your pardon, Oligotropos, you call strange things a privilege… I just care about my personal freedom and do not want to be limited by any conventions, that’s all…
But exactly that’s a privilege, dear friends!
Privilege: The thing you own and display but usually never think about.
The “thing” that only becomes apparent, when you suddenly change context – e.g. if you move into a non-privileged one.

For better understanding a personal example:
We “multiple-relationship-seekers” know that non-monogamous dating isn’t that easy. Hardly anyone admits it openly; like-minded people, who also live models of ethical non-monogamy are usually scarce in ones own periphery. Accordingly, once again the world-wide-web has to compensate… But even out there aren’t too many sites who deal with ethical Non-monogamy or Polyamory – and if it is actually the case one encounters the 200-300 “usual suspects” who are scattered from Flensburg to Garmisch-Partenkirchen – crap!
Last resort: Sign up to a conventional dating-forum. With 200 participants? Pah, there are even more people living in my small town… With 5000? Nice – but there’s still room for improvement… Ah, look there: Almost 30.000 members. That sounds good. Referring to Germany as a whole, it’s still a modest probability (strictly speaking…) – but at least a better chance. That way, I quickly logged into a Facebook-forum “Find new friends and fall in love” (kind like that). And one Friday-evening I obediently posted my introduction according to the rules, featured myself interestingly and honestly – of course, including a smart picture of mine.
Honestly: By that I mean that I posted as well that I considered myself to be part of multiple relationships (and already was).
And then all I had to do was wait and see.

OK – of course I had already seen that when a woman made her appearence, she collected in a short time (2-3h) about 70 to 80 likes and gathered in the same period a full dozen of more or less meaningful comments, including PN offers. If a man appeared, he gathered in the same time about 1 to 3 likes and sometimes someone dared to post a comment.
That in mind I thought that I had approached the matter modestly enough – and was actually waiting for the first stupid comment regarding my statement concerning the multiple relationships. Nevertheless, I was not really prepared for what actually happened.
In the following 72 hours of a busy forum weekend and a following cheerful Monday, there happened… …nothing. No comment, not even a silly one – and not a single “like”. Not even when I commented on myself on Sunday evening, in order to push my post back to the top of the newsfeed. No reaction at all.
That, dear reader, can be a manifestation of privilege, too. And if you become aware of it in such a drastic way. When one realises what exorbitant measure of personal freedom one already has – which for other people is an absolutely unimaginable no-go, almost a blemish, but in any case a “don’t-touch-it”.
Even with a moderately camouflaged screwing-offer, I would probably have received more reaction in the appropriate forum than with an introduction that depicted me as such an odd screwball of non-monogamy. Probably even if I had advertised myself with the same text as well-behaved single – but not as (potentially) “taken” according to the worldview there.
These too can be repercussions of freedom. And the risk that one assumes regarding the freedom of authentic and honest self-expression.

Oligotropos, then do not be bluntly honest next time, but wait and see how things develop…
You didn’t say that – or thought it – or did you?

As the author of this blog I would like to make it clear that we, who advocate ethical non-monogamy – especially because freedom is so important to us – have closed such a (back)door by choosing our particular relationship-philosophy (or at least: should have closed…).
But my freedom to do as I see fit, to do as I choose…!”

Oh, freedom. Which currently seems to be at the centre of attention again because for many people in this world that privilege is far from being as natural as it is for us. Even the quarterly magazine of the Max Planck Society, which I received just yesterday, is dedicated to this title theme in its current issue.
Of course, this journal deals with the freedom of science and research – but that is enough to re-establish context regarding the much-debated concept of freedom.
For everything that concerns our personal freedom is largely covered in Germany by our Constitution (»Grundgesetz/Basic Law« – in particular in the fundamental rights Articles 1-19). I have always thought our Constitution to be rather prosaic and austere, but on closer examination its phrasing is surprisingly comprehensive.
Of course, I love Article 1, which attributes to us all indefeasible human dignity – and if I have my idealistic 5 minutes, then I think that this article alone could have been sufficient, because in it the most important and essential principle is summarised already.
And possibly it would have been enough if we were always aware of our human dignity and that of other people in every situation (which Prof. Gerald Hüther questions in his book “Dignity”).
Nevertheless, even the mothers and fathers of our constitution seem to have suspected that this wouldn’t be the case. Since in Article 2, paragraph (1), they appear to limit our personal freedom – interestingly because of the “rights of others”. And since we haven’t come very far in the text of the constitution until Article 2 yet, these “rights of others” in turn seem to be constituted in their dignity and their right of personal development.
Indeed: By law I am limited in the enjoyment of my personal freedom by the dignity and the personality of other people…

Ah – that’s why I will end up lonely on a bench in my later years. Because my personal freedom is limited anyway and therefore my freedom of love and the freedom to explore my sexuality as I see fit, too…

In my last Entry 27, I explained how quickly our desire for true intimacy is “confused” with sexual desire, or even equated with it. For that reason I emphasised why it is so important to be honest to ourselves, which needs lie behind our wish concerning the implementation of multiple relationships in our life.
Sexuality,” once Marshall Rosenberg² said, “is not a need but a strategy.” When I first heard it, I was angry regarding his assignment – then I pondered on it for a while – and finally I realised why he was right: Because deep down we seek out relationships to experience intimacy, because of our need for familiarity, for closeness, for affection, connection and an emotional home.
Of course, sexuality can be part of the fulfilment. But (at least in my case) it wouldn’t be honest to call sexuality a “need” for it would appoint only a part of the truth as an end in itself – instead of the far more complex entirety of reasons behind it (and if so, then I certainly wouldn’t need such elaborate models like Poly-or Oligoamory).
But if I wish to be blessed with true intimacy until later years (I repeat: familiarity, closeness, affection, connection, and an emotional home), then I probably need these “other people” in my life as well – with whom I can experience this yearned-for and appreciated state.
Come on – other people can be found on every corner – almost 8 billion will be on Earth soon…
That may be so. At the same time, I would like to point to my experience above in the FB-forum, which proved that there are still just a few people who are willing to share our privileged kind of relationship ethos. And of those, realistically, even fewer can be considered as potential loved ones for us (and we for them, by the way).
That’s why it is important that I do not handle the privilege of my “extensive personal freedom” like the literal ax in the woods. Because that way I’m probably going to curb somebody in his personal development here (Oops...) and curtail soemone else concerning her dignity there (Ouch!). By that manner I’ll definitely end up lonely on the park bench someday…

Therefore, I have to make sure that I carefully balance the privilege of my freedom with the privilege of my chosen loved ones.
“Ethical Non-Monogamy” means, in a way, that I no longer regard my “personal freedom” as an unconscious privilege (“Here I go again on my own…!”) – but rather that I am always in a constant dialogue, almost in a kind of dance, regarding my freedom and the freedom of the people around me. The dialogue – or the the dance – is conducted in dignity and respect – sort of like a motto, but at the same time a kind of self-commitment. This performance (only) succeeds, because everyone involved proceeds by the maxim “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
In this manner, my freedom, my personal development, my need fulfilment strategy always exist in a dynamic pattern with the freedom, the personal development and the need fulfilment strategies of the others.
And out of this dynamic on this playing field of coexistence, all significant values of ethical non-monogamy emerge, whether they are poly- or oligoamorous: Compassion, appreciation, cooperation, self-responsibility, forgiveness, clarity, utterly perfect honesty – and a good measure of serenity.
If we would be able to mutually ensure these things towards each other we would go far. If we keep on working together towards these goals, then we are on a great path – for we have understood that our personal freedom is not a static privilege, but a collective achievement that we establish anew every day by giving our best.

Today I would like to leave the final words to the satirical writer Johannes Trojan, whose text I modified a little bit:

»It is striking that in old tales there is little talk of the freedom of love or of freedom itself in the way of special privilege. To our forefathers, love seemed to be natural.
And maybe they hadn’t yet a clear idea of freedom, or they might have taken for granted what they knew as the freedom of love and saw no need to emphasise it.
Now, however, no lover can sit any longer in front of a cup of coffee without expressively affirming that he feels “loving and free” and that he can not live without his freedom of love.
May there come a time when there is less insistance on love and its freedom again.
They both seem to suffer from it.«³

PS: Recommended further reading 17 DOs and DON’Ts of Open Relationships” by Alexander Cheves

¹ “Oh, Freedom” is a post-Civil War African-American freedom song, composed in the 1860s. It is often associated with the American Civil Rights Movement – but was ever since instrumentalised in several political campaigns as well.

² Marshall B. Rosenberg developed an extensive system of needs – which motivate our every thinking and communicating – as a reference frame for his “Nonviolent Communication”.

³ Original text by Johannes Trojan from “Auswahl aus seine Schriften” (Stuttgart 1905):
»It is striking that in ancient German songs there is little talk of German freedom and of Germanism in the way of a special privilege.
To our forefathers it seemed to be natural that a German is German. And maybe they hadn’t yet a clear idea of German freedom, or they may have taken for granted what they knew as German freedom and saw no need to emphasise it.
But now no German can sing a song by his drinking glass without expressively asserting that he feels “German and great” and that he can not live without German freedom.
May there come a time in which less is drunk on Germanity and German freedom.
They both seem to be suffering.

Thanks to by Eric X on Unsplash for the photo!

Entry 27


Committed-sustainable multiple relationships with (just) a few participants.
That’s what I started my journey for.
Maybe that’s what you might be looking for, too, dear reader.

What do we wish for?
To be involved in some real, intimate relationships in our lives.

Oh intimacy – so often misunderstood…
Especially since the 19th century, when the little word “intimate” was chosen as one of the many substitutes to avoid the term “sexual” – thereby forestalling that anybody might call certain “things and procedures” by their proper names. Thanks to these times we still use words like e.g. “intimate hygiene”, “intimate shaving” and “intimate piercing” – and all these words quickly become involuntarily funny, if instead of the disguising derivative “intimate” we are trying to use a proper denomination designating the tangible matter. “Intimate”, is as usefull (or rather useless) as the term “private parts “– which explains nothing but that there seems to be something at close range that is very personal and dear to me.
While this prudish sqeamishness from Victorian times may amuse, that shamefaced use of the term “intimate” caused continuing damage until today – “intimate” and its noun “intimacy” are still broadly applied for everything “sexual”. Accordingly we read or hear “intimacies” and we think: “Oh, it’s about sex…!

And we, who long for real, intimate relationships, quickly get in trouble – with the outside world and with ourselves. “I see – it’s just about sex! ”, – sometimes it doesn’t matter if an inward voice needles us like that or if our best mate blares it out bluntly.

Twitter activist Sassbox wrote earlier this month:

»We think we want sex. It’s not always about sex.
It’s intimacy we want.
To be touched. Looked at. Admired. Smiled at. Laugh with someone.
Feel safe. Feel like someone’s really got you.
That’s what we crave

I’m appreciating such activism, since people like Sassbox are reclaiming a term in this way – thereby restoring its true meaning.
The term “intimacy” stems from the Latin phrase “intimus/a/um” – which is the superlative of the word “intra” (meaning: inside), the comparative “interior” (meaning: more interiorly). Thus, “intimate” means – according to the Online Etymology Dictionary¹: “innermost, deepest”; “closely acquainted, very familiar,” and “inmost, intrinsic”.

Accordingly, we seekers of intimate relationships, in fact, crave for human connections that evoke feelings of deepest attachment, closeness, familiarity and an emotional home.
Hear! Hear!

Anyone who has followed me up to this point may now give me the opportunity to link some “loose ends” that may have been left open by previous expedition entries.
First of all: “a feeling of deepest attachment, closeness, familiarity and an emotional home” corresponds exactly to the ideal state, which Jean Liedloff calls the “continuum” and Daniel Hess calls “Reality of Unity” – and to which I referred in my last Entry 26. Both authors apply their terms to an experience of nearness and intimateness, to a primal ground of perfect cohesion and oneness.

But in Entry 26 I also wrote about a strange dismay and a sudden feeling of shame that sometimes arises when we are confronted with our own urge for closeness and intimacy. Why?
Because we exist in a “Reality of Separation” nevertheless.
And a “Reality of Separation” has two nasty aspects which hamper any emancipated approach back to the lost “primal ground” of unity:
On the one hand, there is the element of elusiveness, which I addressed in Entry 19. As spatiotemporally limited and “finite” living beings we can hardly permanently linger in just one state of existence – even if it is deeply fulfilling. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe depicted this dilemma in his drama “Faust” in a scene where Dr. Faust makes a bet with the devil. Triggering condition of the bet is the following sentence, which Dr. Faust has to utter “If to the moment I should say: Abide, you are so fair”. Dr. Faust – the betting partner of the devil – thus had lost in any case, because the devil plays the ever-changing human mind against our yearning for the lost paradise, the lost “Reality of Unity”, in which everything falls into its place and regarding which we yearn to hold on to forever.

On the other hand, there is the constant “Praise of the Reality of Separation” which we hear almost every minute of the day.
Since the Age of Enlightenment there had been an ever-growing belief in a strong and autonomous self. Therefore, our present morality is often based on maxims such as “The strong one is most powerful alone.²” or “One only can be oneself as long as one is alone: therefore, he who does not love being alone does not love freedom: for only when one is alone , one is truly free.³”. That sounds extreme? Such thoughts don’t have a place in the world of love and multiple relationships? Then I like to link back to my 8th Entry, which I opened with a Rajneesh/Osho quote about our aloneness – or refer to Byron Katie – who is currently in vogue in many polyamorous circles – who postulated in her book, “I need your love, is that true? “(Goldmann 2012) that »other people are just mirrors for our feelings of love that are triggered within us – merely revealing feelings that have been there all along«.
In that kind of “reality” we wouldn’t need other people if we were able to maintain our strong independence and individualism just firmly enough…

But the other people exist nonetheless – and sometimes they can become overwhelmingly “real”. They have their own wishes and needs, which they seek to realise and which they pursue with their own strategies. Like ourselves, they experience fears and hardships which afflict us sometimes (for we are social beings after all).
If we want to fulfill ourselves uncompromisingly, if we want to be completely “free” of alleged restrictions by foreigen strategies and foreigen fears – well, then we have to seek shelter in a “Reality of Separation”. And keep up the daily rat race, which means: Me against “the others”.

And yet: We, the relationship-seekers, still long for intimate connections, for familiarity and togetherness, for the people of our “soul-tribe”, for kindred spirits

A person in the Middle Ages would probably have been unable to understand our conflict between “unity” and “separation” concerning interpersonal relationships: She or he probably would not have been much aware of any lack of individuality, even of inadequate “individuation”. In everyday life, she/he would also have been constantly surrounded by the people of clan and kin. They would have shared the only bed at night with several people, maybe eaten from the same bowl, on the tight table they would have felt (and smelled) right and left the bodies of the other eaters – work and life would have been entirely embedded in a network which the clan provided. Obvious closeness and familiarity everywhere. “Sometimes it’s almost a little bit too much…“, such a person might have said, thereby knowing fully well how she/he was supported by the entire structure in many ways – and therefore why any personal contribution to it was necessary as well.

But today? We do not live like that any more. We grew up in our “Reality of Separation”, we are used to the fact that divisiveness is regularly emphasised and sometimes obligatory. Ever since the beginning of industrialisation in the late 19th century, we have increasingly been living in small-scale families. And since the 1980s, the “single-lifestyle” has statistically been the fastest-growing sector in all Western industrialised nations.
Additionally, we rarely live and work hand to hand any more. Many of us are pursuing occupations where a screen is the main workplace and the only contact to the outside world – open-plan offices with their isolated cubicles are a sign of the times.
Keyword »time«, which is money, as we all know: Our working hours as well as our mode of working barely allow us any recess for social contact, true conversations or even empathic interpersonal moments. Hugging or touching is also a rarity – our Reality of Separation has ensured with many mechanisms that this terrain as well has become too delicate to cross.

All that results is an empty spot. A void felt by an increasing number of people, who try to counteract this isolation in their lives. People who feel that even in the midst of other people hardly anyone touches anyone else, or even looks appreciatively. Where few people allow themselves a smile and laughter is seldom heard. In such circumstances, you quickly feel insecure. Because in our Reality of Separation, we can hardly recognise who’s really got us….
And amidst all this – there we are – the”relationship seekers”, with our need for closeness, affection and, yes, intimacy.

That’ll be some challenge!
Because – first of all – we have to admit that there is this need inside of us. Admit it honestly to ourselves. And that is not easy because we are violating everything that our surrounding Reality of Separation has taught us: The strongest is most powerful alone – and therefore we MUST NOT need the other people.
And that’s why we’re scared of ourselves or even a little ashamed when we catch ourselves fancying that innermost (intimate!) need. For in the harsh light of a Reality of Separation, we would thus be considered as needy – and as dependent.

Maybe there even is a desire for more than one beloved person… Perhaps our need has become quite strong in many years, sinc in a Reality of Separation, true intimacy is always stinted. In a Reality of Separation the powers that be use such mechanisms to keep us obedient and manageable. Accordingly, in western industrialised nations, there is only one officially sanctioned model in which love and intimacy can be granted among adults: it is called “monogamy” and allows only two providing participants… Anyone who wants to break away from this narrow framework has to be very courageous and non-conformist, because in a Reality of Separation divergent tendencies are seldom welcome and often are branded as extremely frivolous and suspicious.
Anyway. There they are now …: The “other people”. The other people with their petty worries and fears. Parents, children, spouses, friends and lovers…
Finally, despite all the inner adversities, we halfway consolidated our yearnings; contrary to the prevailing forces we try to live a life in which multiple relationships are possible – and there they are, holding us down: These people, with whom one is connected for life in systems of liabilities, commitments and mutual care. We have come that far. But we can never really be free like that – Schopenhauer and Osho and Mrs. Mitchell are quite right: If only we were alone, away from those stupid agreements that we have somehow approved – regarding some people we are related to in lots of intimate ways – we would be soooo much more advanced… (*Irony off*)

Really? You would rather be separate? Because voluntary-conclusive attachment concerning your family or your relationship is too sticky, too restrictive?
Then you think like the wife of the fisherman (“The Fisherman and His Wife“), who is rewarded at the end of the journey with a bitter return to her old hovel: Welcome (back) to your Reality of Separation!

No, you who are still longing, the romantics, the relationship-seekers, on the road to experience true intimacy: Familiarity, appreciation, attachment, and an emotional home are always “inclusive.” These values do not exist detached from your primal ground, but are directly connected with everything that (already) is in your life. And above all, these are the people with whom we already share our lives. Because there exists “intimacy” yet.
And if we really take the term seriously – which I think is what were are bound to do – we should acknowledge that these people are part of our “innermost” being, too. And if I would try to exclude that, I would once again create an artificial separation.
Every new “intimate” relationship that I aspire is connected in my “innermost being” to the existing ones. And that is why I also feel the cares and concerns of my loved ones like my own: I’m not afraid for them because of their cares and concerns or because I have to watch sometimes helplessly from the sideline. In the end it’s always the fear for myself. It’s my fear that I can not fulfil my needs as I would like to do. Fear that suggests, that I would have to split up internally, thereby creating nothing but small, separate units, in which I could only realise bits and pieces of my yearnings. An inner fragmentation concerning which I know that by doing so I will never really experience my inner peace of a “Reality of Unity”, the true “continuum”.

We have to choose the ambitious approach: An approach of trust and integration if we want to experience a oneness of our relations within ourselves. And that’s why it was so important to the writer Saint-Exupéry to point out in his story with the little prince and the fox (chapter XXI) that “getting to know each other, to make oneself familiar” always takes time. Even the “familiarisation” with ourselves. That way we may benevolently recognise how sincere we actually are towards ourselves, how much “unconventionality” we might dare already.
Or whether we are still predominantly falling into the traps of an all too well known “Reality of Separation”, while we are trying hard to reach out for unity and oneness.

That’s what true multiple relationships and ethical non-monogamy are all about. Or, as Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart said at the end of her article, in which she published the term »polyamorous« for the first time:
The magic words are still, after all: Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

¹ Ethymology Online Dictionary by Douglas Harper

² Friedrich Schiller, “William Tell”, 1802-1804. Act 1, Scene 3

³ Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher, from “Parerga and Paralipomena”, 1851

Thanks to Jay-O for calling my attention to the Twitter-quote and thanks to Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 26

United or separated?

After spending half a year on the remote island of Oligoamory, I can not avoid writing down an interim report.
For as much as the island and its friendly inhabitants cast a spell over me, I wonder at the same time, whether I myself had been prepared for an expedition of this magnitude – and if I’m prepared at all.
Sometimes that is the challenge for every explorer: With curiosity and élan you set out to new shores – and sometimes, despite the supposedly best of intentions, you are not quite ready for what you will eventually find. And… – it is often the case that one discovers in a certain way “more” (or “something quite different”) than one had ever dared to hope for. All of a sudden, one is facing a larger and more complex reality.
Of course, as an explorer one must always humbly acknowledge that there are never any “objectifiable facts” as such. In the old days, scientists liked to believe that. Today we know that we ourselves, who are exploring, who are observing, who are trying to understand, are not acting as a neutral “blank board”. On the contrary, everything that we explore, observe, seek to understand, is always getting into the context of those ideas that we already bring along within ourselves – it is like looking through some kind of glasses that we can never ever set down.

When I look at the oligoamorous natives in this way, it seems to me sometimes that we are more separated from each other than I had hoped for. Like by a kind of thick glass pane, which stands between them and myself. They seem to exist in a state that anthropologist and author Jean Liedloff¹ called “The Continuum” – which the author Daniel Hess² called a bit more understandable: the “Reality of Unity“, a condition of original happiness.
If it were true concerning that “glass pane” between them and me, then that would mean that I, on my part, exist in a “Reality of Separation” – and I fear that there’s some evidence to confirm it. And regarding that it’s not the only sign, that the Oligoamorists sometimes shyly call me “Ma’Vrik” – an expression the children use to call a fledgling out of its nest – or an animal, which has lost its flock.

If the Oligoamorists have retained a certain childlike attitude on their remote island, they indeed would still have an important amount of the above mentioned “original happiness.”
Time and again – in certainly more than a dozen expedition entries – I have struggled with the important state of “connectedness”, which is a core topic of Oligoamory by itself. If the natives were never expelled from their unified paradise, then they posses the great bliss that they have never lost this remarkable state. Every day they are able to experience connectedness – and thus they still feel “complete” and, accordingly, whole. Unsurprisingly, I admire and appreciate their integrity almost reverentially – but in their respect it is no challenge that an “individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles” – because they are always acting and talking out of their coherent unity. And after writing down this sentence, it does not surprise me anymore why they seem so energetic to me all the time: What a paradisiacal existence, as their brains almost never find themselves harassed by any “incoherence-alarm” – thereby keeping up enormous capacities for more peaceful processes and creativity (Incoherence see Entry 25). “Oligoamorous Flow” should therefore be an almost phenomenal experience…

But what does that tell about me, the explorer?
Unfortunately, I’m no oligoamorous native, I am rather a mainlander with non-monogamous affinity. In fact, I seem to come from a “different reality” – apparently one in which I have closed off my direct access to an ubiquitous sense of connectedness and to that natural unity of being, talking and doing.
I exist in a “Reality of Separation”.

Of course, it is quite easy now to complain about this condition and to point out that, as an “inhabitant of the old world,” I can’t manage any better. After all, I grew up in a society of separation, in a political system of separation, and “the powers that be” are responsible for ensuring that the divisive rather than the inclusive remains the main topic of the global discourse. One click on any news portal and any social network will confirm this very easily.

Nevertheless, a “Reality of Separation” has its advantages, too. Because in this way I can create categories, I get structure and some order in my everyday life. After all, systematisation and evaluation have been characteristic features of the whole process of humanisation ever since. Maybe the serpent and I are part of a globally connected ecological context – but in the end it was an important achievement of my ancestors that they could decide: Toxic or harmless? Tension or relaxation? Flee or stay? Accordingly, people have always made dozens of basic decisions every day – thereby creating categories: to survive, to develop and to deduce.
It is important for me to point out in this way that a “Reality of Separation” is also part of our human nature – certainly likewise the oligoamorous one. And I want to emphasize that category formation and evaluation per se do not automatically belong to a “realm of evil”.

Nevertheless, by living in my “Reality of Separation”, in a sense, I am actually “driven out of Paradise”. The mechanisms that worked in my favour during the evolution, thereby ensuring my alertness and safety, turn now in a subtle and often unconscious way against me: My fears.
They might be useful in the Neolithic age or while practising extreme sports today: Fears of predators, high altitude, darkness, to be abandoned or trapped somewhere – these are life-threatening situations and deep ingrained instincts want to preserve us. But our environment at the beginning of the 21st century, especially in Central Europe, has long since ceased to be determined by those hardships. In the form of basic emotions, in situations which we perceive as threatening, our fears have nevertheless remained as a biological heritage. And fears are characteristics which, as described above, shape a “Reality of Separation” by category formation: dangerous = bad = avoid // conducive = good = seek out.
However, since we humans are social beings and there have never been so many of us on this planet before, today’s fears are primarily social fears.
Author Daniel Hess, mentioned at the beginning of this article, specifies on that front our fear of rejection and possibly punishment (including shame), our fear of being alone and our fear of death (limitedness, finiteness).

Since fears are almost always intense and literally blood-curdling emotions, our “fear of fear” causes us to use our Reality of Separation to evaluate all of their manifestations as “negative” – and try to avoid feeling or enduring them Instead, we often compensate by deflecting, trivializing, denying or suppressing (which usually means to adapt to the circumstances).
In this way, we separate our fears, which are actually warning signs concerning a particular matter we should urgently notice, from ourselves.

The recently deceased family therapist Jesper Juul called the most important values he identified in almost 50 years of observation as “equal-dignity,” “integrity,” “authenticity,” and “responsibility.”
Regarding a “Reality of Separation” and our resulting “anxiety management”, it is easy to recognise where a large part of our current personal problems originate (and why, for example, I also experience myself “separated” from the happy Oligoamorists):

For example, that way we never fully accept our whole responsibility – which Jesper Juul specifies as “accountability” – concerning our talking and and doing. Those parts of it that would touch our hidden fears are the parts of the iceberg that will usually stay below the surface. And, because of our “fear of fear”, we prefer in a somewhat recoiling, unconscious way, that those parts should continue to remain in our own private kingdom. Because in regarding full personal accountability, we would first have to deal with our fears and in particular with those matters they want to point us to. That way, there also lurks shame concerning our hitherto existing inadequacy, our limitations and our weaknesses.
Assume accountability – despite these imperfections? This is a rarely practised, revolutionary concept that I hardly dare to confront myself…

It is even more obvious that authenticity (= being genuine and true) and integrity, which I have invoked so often, fall by the wayside as well – at least partially. Since in this manner we always cover a part of our own personality. And that must be terrible for our fellow human beings, especially for our loved ones, if they feel our inner ambivalence and our incoherence and may in turn ask themselves if they are in any way the cause of our inconsistency (which manifests itself more often than not in cynicism, exaggeration and generalization).
And we ourselves, who we never dare to be completely “genuine and true”? Become often depressed about it or choose for our life some facade as a working mode, which we permanently present to the outside world – hoping that no one discovers this supposedly ugly anxious part of us, which we unfortunately have to endure ourselves.
That’s why communication teacher like Dr. Brad Blanton, Marshall Rosenberg, and Tich Nhat Hanh want to bring us together with a manipulation-free and honest language, so that we dare to stand by our inner sensitivities and express these – because only that way we ourselves and the others may really understand each other (see Entry 20).

But what obstructs our way back to a “Reality of Unity” and back to a heartfelt connectedness the most is our persisting lack of equal-dignity (Danish: “ligeværdighed “). Not just “equal” – we want to be “equally-dignified”, Jesper Juul verbalised that expression very nicely. And it is a difficult way back exactly because of that dignity.
Because somewhere in me there is an anxious part, in which I am deeply insecure, whether it’s “OK”. Nay, because I’m that anxious, I’m almost convinced that it “isn’t OK”.
Anyone who has ever dealt with negotiation strategies knows what it means when a side gets the impression of “I’m not OK” when trying to balance their interests. Concerning group-dynamics it means to identify with the attitude “lose”. Anyone who is stuck in such a position (and can not bring about a “win”) can only bring about a supposed success, as the other participants also have to lose too, in order to establish a “lose-lose-sitiuation”. Which in the end means “I’m not OK” – “the others are not OK either”.
This result, in turn, dreadfully merges with our remaining “Reality of Separation”, for along with entrenched categories and evaluations, a system of power play and exclusion unfolds. Because I suppress (unawarely) a part of my own dignity, I do not fully admit the others to theirs. And because I have to keep my countenance – at least towards myself in order to survive – I have to substitute some sense of self-esteem by exercising power (and if it is only by slander…).

Of course, that way hegemonic structures, whole societies and political systems unfold. Even the “powers that be” strive towards their exalted positions in such a manner.
Ultimately, however, these are symptoms, these are effects – and those are not the ones that keep me from my much longed-for connectedness and unity.

Causally it is me, myself, who recoils or feels embarrassed in a strange way when I catch myself during certain thoughts and actions. It is me, who realises that I’m saying or doing certain things out of fear (or keep silent or passive instead), but who would never admit that this is behind my deepest motivations. Even worse when those fears appear to be somewhat irrational – and one feels almost lunatic because of it.
Often, however, those fears may manifest in a very tangible appearance: Fears of (often experienced) rejection; afraid of being left out or of being left alone. Or we have to face fears of embarrassment and shame (which by now we impose on ourselves) – because we weren’t as careful or thorough as we would have wished in a number of matters.
Caught by yourself – an awkward feeling…
Living with our own limitations, having to admit to ourselves that we can not control everything, that we are much less than perfect, that we have weaknesses and impatience in us that really keep some goals out of our reach, that there are unfulfilled or inadequately fulfilled needs, some maybe nonconformist or difficult to control… – sometimes that demands more strength than we can muster.

I’m looking through the glass pane towards the Oligoamorists in their continuum, in their “Reality of Unity”.
I believe they want to show me that there is no need to muster that strength just because I believe that I must always be able to withstand myself.
Oligotropos, you’re a fine guy! “, one of them is calling. And when such a full-size native is looking at you, one fancies for a moment that one is completely transparent and that the caller over there meant every word he had just uttered perfectly serious.
I would like to see myself that way too.
I would like to trust.
And will continue to search for the glass door.

¹ Jean Liedloff: “The Continuum-Concept, In Search of Lost Happiness”, Duckworth, London 1975.

² Daniel Hess: “Happiness School – Living Lucky & Learning Joyfully”, Novum Verlag, 2014

³ Jesper Juul: “4 Values that Children Carry For Life“, Gräfe and Unzer, 2014

Thanks to Andrew Ridley on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 25

“Hello – may I introduce you to an alternative relationship-concept?”

There are certainly duller hook-ups than this – on the other hand, I still fear that even with such a conversation-starter the chances of success will be rather low.
But how and where can I find people who are interested in multiple relationships?” Well, that is such a good question and the answer to that may not sound very helpful, for it is “everywhere and nowhere”.
In fact, I have already delivered the »bad news« in Entry 4, referring to sources that show that the number of people who are consistently committed to non-monogamy is rather small.
There is, however, also a kind of »good news«, because our life plans within an individual biography have probably never changed as strongly and repeatedly as ours now at the beginning of the 21st century. In particular, our job flexibility is involved in this, which in its wake immediately also occupies both our flexibility concerning habitual residence and flexibility in terms of our attachment- and reproduction-strategies. And in one way or another, this social dictate catches up with all of us. Even people who do not have their gainful employment at the centre of their lives nowadays manifest an astonishing account of relocations and cohabitation models.
The strategies we choose to tackle these challenges are as various as we are ourselves. And one of the great strengths of Homo sapiens is, strictly speaking, our outstanding curiosity, our continued ability to learn and our ability to adapt. With a tiny – but important! – restriction: We need a little time for that.
Unless we belong to the very small avant-garde of ultra-spontaneous contemporaries, most of us are not overly keen regarding sudden surprise or the announcement of rapid change. And in a certain sense this would also include our first sentence in this article – and that’s why it seldom yields a radiant countenance and the reply: “Yeah, I have been waiting for this question for so long; sit down and tell me all about it!“.

Again it is mainly our biology which does not follow suit and hurries somewhat inconveniently to the rescue of our biography. In Entry 21 I mentioned the neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Gerald Hüther, who in his book “What we are – and what we could be” explains that our brains are basically adjusted to energy conservation and therefore would like nothing more than to manage familiar tasks – thereby ensuring enduring »coherence« (= consistency, correlation). Most cleverly, our brains reward us in such a case with a sense of well-being: “Everything’s fine, everything as it should be”. This coherence forms the basis for what is commonly referred to as the »comfort zone« .
Because in a certain way, we are all always a little comfortable in our current established living conditions. And that is even necessary so that we can at least reasonably fulfil our basic needs such as sustainment, safety, recreation and structure (to which we may eventually add some kind of community, communication and a creative way of life). The tricky thing is: Because we rely heavily on the feeling of well-being and coherence generated by our brains (thanks to a pleasant cocktail of all sorts of rewarding hormones, etc.), we often settle down regarding our (self-)generated living conditions and report back to our brains “I chose it that way – that’s how I want it.”. And our dear brains are pleased to register our confirmed mood as lasting coherence, pour out a little more endorphins and are switching to default mode: “Carry on as usual!”
Such a comfort zone can’t be changed »quickly« and if we would try, it would feel at first as if we were violating our own interests. Therefore, our advertising campaign concerning “alternative relationship-concepts” is bound to fail, at least if we try to submit it via direct marketing to people who have never really dealt with things like that before.

If, on the other hand, we want to employ the strengths of the human species, curiosity, the ability to learn and adaptability, then we need a different approach – and that, in turn, will only be successful if we ourselves leave our own established »comfort zone« (or at least dismiss a part of it).

When I met one of my later partners for the first time, she entered the apartment of my family because she wanted to participate in a spiritual home group we held there with some of our friends. The original appointment had been made by one of the involved friends who had searched for other participants, but the circumstances are almost arbitrary. Almost, I say, because there actually weren’t any »relational intentions« regarding the background of the meeting. And I have to choose the word »actually« for two reasons:
Once, some kind of relationship involuntarily establishes itself in each case when people do anything together. You know the ol’ proverb: “There’re always relationships…” ? – And of course this is true, because I usually have some kind of “relationship” with all those persons with whom I regularly interact in everyday life, whether they are cashiers, postmen, mechanics etc. Whenever human interaction gains an extra quality, a relationship is established: My cashier has considerations for my pace because he knows me as a regular customer in his checkout line; my postmen delivers all large-size envelopes to me personally because he knows that I value that service; and my car-mechanic knows all the aches and pains of my venerable car better than I do. All these people are no longer »anyone« to me at these moments – and I’m not »anyone« to them. And that’s not unimportant regarding the relationship level: Because relationships can retain a certain quality, which they usually do in a public setting – but we also always have the opportunity to personalise, deepen and empower them by means of committent.
Secondly, I am inwardly not a fully monogamous person; and in my relationships I had over long stretches the happiness and the freedom to think (and express!): “Now, there’s an interesting and pleasant person who just walked in. I would like to get to know her better. Maybe there’s »more« to it.” (and this »more« has a dimension in my mind like the Mariana Trench: Everything is possible from “We can enjoy ourselves watching colourful fish together…” to “All the way down…”).
Of course, at the time, I too had “settled in my life”. I was a spouse, father of a family, a househusband – which, however, in my case did pose no contradiction to my profession of sympathy above. That way, my brain was at ease, reported coherence, and at the same time had a pleasant stimulus of gentle curiosity concerning things to come.
And that was a pretty perfect combination for the resulting process, which is currently much cited but rarely understood correctly: Getting to know each other.
»Getting to know« – incorporates the word »know«, which means “to perceive, to understand and to recognise” (at least regarding the Ethymology Online Dictionary). That will hardly be possible within a day, especially with respect to something complex like another human personality. And our brains would raise »Red-Incoherency-Alert« – quite fitting for the first stages of »falling in love«. But »getting to know«? To assess well-founded if there is a true relation to another human being – to an extent that one does not want to miss that relation any more? Regarding such an evaluation our poor brains need more time. Because they are putting in a lot of hard labour during the »getting-to-know-phase«: Not only do they need to open up the existing “comfort zone” of established coherence, but, strictly speaking, in order to regain their lost efficiency, they have to create a new comfort zone – but a more inclusive version than the previous one.
Hardly anyone has described this process more considerate than the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his book “The Little Prince” (1943):

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince.
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean – ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince.
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please – tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”

If by now we have wiped a teardrop out of the corner of our eyes, we can identify in this short excerpt all the »human factors« that I have previously mentioned, such as curiosity (concerning each other) , mutual willingness to learn (from each other) , and adaptability (to each other). And regarding the fox and the wheat, Saint-Exupéry even describes, in a lyrical way, how in ones mind a new experience harmoniously is integrated into the context of what already exists, so that a new, larger correlation can be established and the desired coherence can be regained.

Accordingly, what would be my recommendation on how and where to find people who are interested in multiple relationships?
Before the new visitor of our house-group became my (additional) »significant other«, she had probably come and gone dozens of times to our house. During this time we had met on a variety of occasions, together with other acquaintances, at parties, on excursions and so on – and at the same time we had spent a significant proportion of everyday life (there are always preparations, trips, agreements; simply profane stuff that usually goes hand in hand with everything special). Both of us were able to check whether we had room for each other in our already “existing frame” and if such an arrangement was viable at all. For in this regard it is much more important for our brains to register how someone reacts when the lid of the salt shaker drops off over the salad bowl as to assize a glamorous outfit on the same person…
Incidentally, in the vast majority of Mediterranean and Romance-influenced countries, first dates almost never happen in a 1:1-context: New acquaintances are first introduced to the (whole) existing circle of friends in a relaxed atmosphere – and often it is checked out whether the »new« harmonises with the »existing«. And that was also a decisive factor for me: It contributed decisively to my »sense of coherence«, how my partner and my children got along with our new guest over the next few months – and whether they were able to form independent relationships of their own.

That way our brains need a playing field where they can learn to assess a new »influencing factor« – and the remaining amount of familiarity has to be sufficient enough to avoid loosing coherence – which even literally means to be »joined with each other«.
Dating-struggle for the sake of dating, however, means stress to our brains. And stress makes us insecure, tense, easily irritable and sends out ambivalent signals – or at best makes it easy for a while to maintain a certain pretence. Which in turn is not good for our counterparts, as their brains will likely report incoherence in that case – and by now we know that this will turn out rather counterproductive.

Grandmother’s advice (which even I do not always like to heed) is therefore still true today: Do something that you enjoy; do something that you have loved ever since. It is much more likely that you will find like-minded people in such contexts – and that they will be excited and exiting like yourself.
A common interest (Oh yes, I really mean something like hiking or pottery) is excellent for our brains to serve as the playing field I mentioned above: “There are other people who are doing something similar to me. That’s good, that’s how things should be…¹ “. And if you are a little bit bolder, I suggest activities where you can show a little bit more of your personality – and therefore you will be able to experience more of the others as well. Involvement in a self-help or environmental group is not bad at all – and even the spiritual circle I used myself may work (it does not have to be ecclesiastical, there are also meditation groups, fasting, yoga, etc.) – and all of them can provide a “get-to-know-you” atmosphere.
And, as Saint-Exupéry once told us, getting to know each other is a gradual, in-depth process that can range from initial sympathy and friendship, fellowship, harmony, intimacy, connection, closeness and familiarity, to affection, togetherness,and deep love.

By now I suppose that some readers will argue that even in the pottery class, in the environmental club and in the chanting-circle there are only monogamous people who, at best, will utter something like “Is that some kind of swinging???” when you dare to mention multiple relationships.
Statistically most likely. But. At this point I would like to remind my dear readers not to underestimate our multifarious biographies I mentioned at the beginning. All the mentioned groups and activities above have the enormous bonus that we can meet people of any age, sex or gender there. Lifestyles and living conditions are very changeable over time – our need for attachment, for social communication, for reciprocity, an emotional home and yes, for love, however, remains for a lifetime. With whom do I want to share my life with? Accordingly, our strategies how we want to meet those needs have to adapt to our lives. And if we are not entirely sociopathic it is certain that we all long for other people to share our lives with, people we want to associate and join with.
Whether this always involves sexual activity? Regarding this I suggest my inner Mariana Trench: It has a depth of 36.201ft and in the darkness down there a lot of things may be conceivable and even possible. But likewise looking at colourful fish just inches below the surface will prove more than satisfactory if it is shared wholeheartedly with beloved people – who in turn are loving us.

PS: Dancing, however, I do not recommend (if it’s not a group-activity like Salsa Rueda, line dancing, etc.) since it is usually conducted in pairs. The scene is also occasionally marked by vanities and outward comparisons that can quickly lead to awkward dynamics – especially when “more than two” parties are concerned…

¹ That’s why many people are getting to know potential loved ones at work. Besides much time spent there, there is a community, there’s common context, maybe even a connecting objective.

Thanks to Subenja for the inspiration and thanks to Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash for the photo.

Entry 24

Declaration of Dependency

Ever since I started working on the Oligoamory-project – which is part of the larger context of ethical non-monogamy – I wanted to write an article on the subject of “codependency“.
And since I’m constantly inviting to nearness, commitment and identification with the relationship as a whole (see Entry 3 and Entry 4) I also think that it is important to give an opinion regarding that specific topic.

However, there is already plenty of literature concerning this neuralgic field of research, both analogue and digital – furthermore, this phenomenon is the subject of both socio-medical and psychological health care – and because of my limited expertise I will restrict myself to a personal statement.
That’s why I want to outline my point of view here as a participant of multiple relationships and in this way share my thoughts and my own questions.

First of all, I am sometimes still confused by the occasionally inaccurate use of terms regarding the subject.
The mainly qualifying word “codependency” had originally developed during the 60s and 70s of the 20th century, especially in the self-help movement among relatives of addicted persons. Within organisations such as the “Alcoholics Anonymous” and in particular the Al-Anon family groups, which began to form in Germany since 1970, the term eventually entered a broader linguistic usage. The principal use of the term in the context of addiction refers to “a behavioural condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.”. It was recognised early on, that in this way relatives and friends of an addicted person could become “accomplices” of a dependent person, thus creating a dynamic which in my opinion, however, should be designated more appropriately as a warped kind of “interdependence”. Regarding this, especially the American psychiatrist Timmen L. Cermak (starting 1986) called attention to the fact that “codependency” of this nature should be treated as a separate personality disorder.

Nevertheless, when the issue of “interdependence in intimate relationships” was discovered as a marketable topic in the sprawling self-help wave of guidebook literature and workshops in the late 1990s, the original context of addiction, which applied only to a limited range of customers, was soon somewhat blurred. As a result, the term “codependency” remained – thereby covering several issues of malfunctioning “interdependence” in various social contexts.
This development was quite marketing-oriented since it introduced “codependency” into the public dialogue regarding unhappy relationships at large – but quite often the criteria were biased by viewpoint or even school of thought (scientific, socio-critical, self-help, esoteric).

Because of that the term “codependency” remained attached to a tragic fate that requires immediate treatment – and a statement like “You are codependent!” will always imply pending doom.
The same is true for terms like “toxic” and “pathological” (in social networks all too readily added), which also give the appearance of diagnostic vocabulary, thereby containing no tangible description and often brandished to provoke resentments and negative feelings – yet being arbitrary estimations.

Concerning the relationship level, this disease mongering sometimes creates a problem of understanding. Following Cermak’s initiative, what might be the problem?
According to him, among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. Regarding the relationship? Regarding love? Regarding ones personal amount of freedom?
If that is the case, we have to look closer on the interdependent connections in a relationship-system like e.g. Oligoamory:
For in my opinion, of course, we renounce part of our (absolute) personal freedom when we become part of such a (loving) relationship. We are doing that because we want to contribute with our commitment to an additional value, which is created by the contributions of all the potentials of possible participants – and thereby the whole relationship becomes literally “more than the sum of its parts” (see Entries 7, 9 and 14).
Accordingly “entering a relationship” always goes with a certain desire to assume responsibility (which, by the way, is an attribute of being grown-up!) and the endavour of predictable integrity (I recapitulate: that the individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles).
This works, even if we consider an arrangement in some respects, more or less unvarnished, purely as an exchange, for example: One person works, the other takes care of the household. By fulfilling their part of the (emotional)contract, both parties release each other from the reciprocal tasks, and that way a common gain is created. And, of course, these two (unromantic) participants are in a sense immediately mutually dependent on each other. For if one side wouldn’t act committed or responsible, the previously balanced arrangements would immediately be shifted to the disadvantage of the other party, and the added value of e.g. shared free time or additional resources would vanish for both.
At this point, therefore, I urge you to have enough honesty as participants in loving relationships, that you are aware of this mutual dependency, which you entered voluntarily, be it conscious or implied. In everyday life, in every connection between people, a whole bundle of reciprocal, jointly committed liabilities and self-commitments quickly accumulate – and it would be a somewhat shameful self-deception if we were tryingto persuade ourselves as adults that “we would not know how they came about”.
And at last when we are speaking about loving relationships, we are (hopefully!) not referring to chain gangs which are forcibly shackeled and who are discharging their duty curtailed by each other – but rather to a balance of dynamic tension, like children on a seesaw: It only works if no-one jumps off or is dragging her*his weight (regarding multiple relationships, readers may now simply imagine an ingenious multi-seesaw, which works the better, the more the players cope for all-round equilibrium…).

According to oligoamorous standards, “mutual interdependency” per se is therefore not a deficiency in need of treatment which has to be eradicated, and it is neither toxic nor pathological in its conscious form.
Such a well-adjusted, or even better: well-established, reciprocal joint venture is rather a committed, dynamic and open relationship that benefits from regular negotiations and (re)adjustments.

But alas – since we do not always exist in a conscious and well-conceived ideal state, I nevertheless have found myself in situations in which there were signs that my relationship of intended beneficial mutual cohesion still had entanglements of codependent nature. Because in a sense, of course, we can in deed be “addicted” to a person, to a relationship or to individual importance. And this is almost always the case when our (unfulfilled) neediness gains the upper hand and gets the better part of us. And neediness can be an extremely powerful motivator that impels us for a long time, without us taking notice – neither deliberately nor knowingly. And worse: It can make us cling to the illusion that – for good or bad – we have “earned it” all along.

The psychotherapist, clinical psychologist and feminist Anne Wilson Schaef outlined in her book “Co-Dependence, Misunderstood – Mistreated ” (1992) the following characteristics of codependency:

  • Imbalanced emotional situation and (self-)dishonesty
  • Strong outward orientation and self-centeredness
  • Need for clinginess, over-controlling and manipulation
  • Lack of flexibility and dogmatism (caused by fear)

Note: When I tackled the approach of Anne Wilson Schaef during the composition of this article, I briefly came to a dead end because I could not immediately understand the linking connection touching the context of dependency. Finally, I understood that Wilson Schaef and her co-thinkers want to draw attention to a global problem inherent in many social systems:
Most of us still live in circumstances which facilitate and reward dependency (and the preservation of it) by means of manipulation and control. What’s more: The structures and mechanisms, by which this is accomplished on a huge scale, are widely established and approved. Thus, to this day our political systems, our societies and accordingly our relationships are endangered by denial, depression, compulsion, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, over-controlling, external referencing and the like (In the feminist discourse, it is criticised above all that mostly women suffer from this kind of “preservation of dependency” [see also the last paragraph of Entry 5!]).

Since it is very easy for our minds to discount such stern descriptions as inappropriate concerning ourselves, I would like to encourage all those sensitive people, who strive for a life in harmonious multiple relationships, to take a deep breath and ponder for a while on their motivations by considering th following questions – which are not always pleasant (I recognised myself to a certain extent in each of them):

Why do I long for (multiple) relationships?
Should activity on the outside distract myself from inner unfulfilledness? Or am I experiencing unfullfilledness in my current relationship? Do I therefore need the attention that I can get by multiple connections in many different ways?
Do I want to confirm my value by potentially recurring relationships? Do I need this confirmation to feel self-assured?
Am I “in love with love” – do I need a strong emotion like infatuation to feel alive (see also Entry 23)?
How much do I try to hide my shortcomings? Or do I rather employ those to get empathy?
Do I posess a self-ascription as an “indispensable provider and problem solver”? Am I quite sure that without me everything would collapse and the others “would be lost”?
Do I sometimes like my role as the “rational one”? Am I sometimes tempted to believe that I should “watch out” for the other(s) and occasionally even see myself as a kind of “guardian”?
Do I particularly value any appreciation concerning my day-to-day efforts? Do I regularly pay attention to these because I’m thinking I’m not being appreciated enough regarding my workload?
Am I standing back “for the sake of love” because otherwise recognition, affection and respect for me are in danger?
Which style of attachment (secure, anxious, possessive, dismissive [see also Entry 14])) has been instrumental in my growing up? Do I therefore establish a certain personal style in my adult relationships over and over again (see also Entry 21)? Do I want princes to share my life, but am I getting only frogs – and do I throw them hopefully against the wall just to find out that I spend my life mostly with damaged frogs¹?
Do I tend to think sometimes in categories like “We against the rest of the world”?
Am I irritated by routine changes because they seem inharmonious and disturbing to me? Do I whish for “light and love” and lingering lightness, because aggressive potentials or questions that I can not immediately answer often feel like shattering, fundamental criticism?
Do I believe that my relationship to other persons can positively influence them?
Does my responsibility for the overall relationship correspond to the responsibility that I am willing to spend on myself?
To what extent have I “settled in my life”?
What about my zeal, the energy, and the degree of my emotional state when I want to communicate or clarify my point of view or one of my qualities? With what intensity do I experience the emotions of my counterparts – and do I occasionally lose track of who feels what (Hello HSP!)?
Where do I stop when I read “diversity means differences, differences mean deviation, deviation means contestation”?

¹ The author Vicky Gabriel wrote in her book “Ways to the old gods” (Arun-Verlag 2002): “Anyone who thinks as an aid […] to know exactly what is good and right for the person seeking help, or what s*he must do to get out of her*his misery, obviously can not release her*him into her*his own freedom and maturity because the helper needs unfree and immature individuals in the surroundings to feel valuable in comparison. Oh, I’ve been wondering for years why in my surroundings never someone turned up »like me«! Why? Because I did not admit these people – because of my own lack of self-confidence, I gathered »poor, needy souls« around me, whom I could »support« with devotion and self-sacrifice and compared to whom I performed incredibly well.”

Thanks to Manfred Antranias Zimmer on Pixabay for the photo.

Entry 23

The Highly Sensitive Person

It was this description, by which the American psychologist Elaine N. Aron in 1996 depicted for the first time in detail a psychological and neurophysiological phenomenon affecting about one in six people (between 15 to 20% of the population) worldwide.
In this entry, I wouldn’t like to ponder too much on the physiological prerequisites of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) – and thus evade a hitherto ongoing dispute of experts, whether sensory processing sensitivity (also known as heightened sensitivity or hypersensitivity) is primarily a condition due to differently connected neuronal stimulus transmitters in the brain, an excessive release of messenger substances at the synapses, a deficit in the relevant/irrelevant filtering of sensory input or rather a purely psychological conditioning due to certain experiences while growing up (or something of everything).
Since the beginning of the 21st century, SPS has been a much-noticed subject of research which, thanks to intensive efforts, has produced a large number of studies and professional publications – and which, thanks to the dedication of diligent non-fiction authors, has been made comprehensible in its various aspects to a broad lay public.

Oligoamory is the topic of this website, I am the author of this bLog – and if someone would asks me “SPS and Oligoamory – is there a connection somewhere?”, then I will answer “In every letter – because I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) too!”.
Accordingly, why do I think that Oligoamory is a relationship-philosophy that is favourable in respect to highly sensitive people, why do I deem it beneficial, helpful and even appropriate? Or rather, why does a highly sensitive person like myself approach the issue of multiple relationships and ethical non-monogamy by accessing a project like Oligoamory?

However, I will not be able to avoid a bit of “theory” when answering these questions. Of course, I wish that some of my readers, when they are discovering this entry, are already somewhat familiar with the phenomenon of SPS, although there still exists a lot of confusion and a heightened sensitivity is still more often than not connoted in terms of hypersensitivity, sentimentality, or delicateness.
Therefore some clarification might be helpful to outline the phenomenon. For the intently curious, who want to know immediately whether the characteristic of “SPS” could also apply to them, the Internet offers various online-tests:

The original by Elaine N. Aron:

On a webspace focussing on introverts:

And in the media:

In my experience, one should actually muster the persistency and take several tests in different moods, though many questions seem to have a similar tendency. However, it has turned out for me that a “reasonable suspicion” concerning one’s own SPS really does exist when one regularly completes these quick tests with a probability of 90+% – and then the time has come to further explore this fascinating matter.

For this purpose, some books have gradually accumulated in my library, I’d like to introduce you to the best of them:

For beginners:
Judy Dyer, “The Highly Sensitive: How to Stop Emotional Overload, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Energy”, Create Space Publishing, 2018
A comprehensible introduction to the topic, self-help and tips for everyday life.

Elaine N. Aron, “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You”, Broadway Books, 1997
The book which started it all, written by the “Mother of SPS”; thorough, extensive and covering almost any aspect of life with heightened sensitivity.

Books by Ilse Sand, e.g. “Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World: How to Create a Happy Life“, Kingsley Publishers 2016
A book series providing inspiration, research, and encouragement concerning SPS. Written lifeward and approachable.

Elaine N. Aron, “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook”, Harmony Publishing, 1999
Get off the sofa and hands on! Explore every aspect of your potential yourself. A challenging experience, I have to say…

Ted Zeff, “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide: Essential Skills for Living Well in an Overstimulating World”, New Harbinger, 2004
Another hands-on guide abound with practical help and a good sense of humour.

With these basics in mind, we can finally approach the question why highly sensitive persons are in good hands when choosing Oligoamory as a mode for their relationships – and why Oligomory benefits people with SPS.

First and foremost there is the aspect of non-monogamy. Personally, I believe that multiple relationships are particularly suitable for HSP, because in those connections they are encouraged and allowed to explore and experience the diverse nuances and facets of their rich inner being, especially in its social dimensions.
However, this potential is always provided with an obvious “BUT” concerning any HSP due to the high sensorial input in social contexts and their often deep internal reflection processes. To the same extent that HSP gain a tremendous quality of life by acting out their natural role as a “social lubricating oil” in partnership and group-related contexts, they also need an appropriately defined shelter and retreat for themselves in order to – let’s stick with the “lubricating oil image” – to “clarify” when too many confusing impressions and alien energies have exhausted them. In such a case a model like Oligoamory, with its committed as well as sustainable approach, can provide exactly the framework that guarantees the important mixture of freedom and closeness a HSP needs as counterbalances.

Overall, many HSPs have problems with their rather unstable, somewhat “shimmering” outer boundaries in a lot of situations. Imposing stimuli on all sensory portals, be they optical, acoustic, aromatic, olfactory or haptic by their nature; an occasional, veritable infatuation with details (and, as a result, often a certain severity towards oneself on the verge of perfectionism); foreign emotions and feelings which are perceived like own impressions (and thus an occasional over-attribution of responsibility) are always recurring challenges.
Since the neuronal “constitution” of a HSP can easily be put into a state of excessive activity, even on minor occasions, they are prone to fall in love more quickly – a result which the husband of Elaine N. Aron, Art Aron, proved in his well-known “Bridge-experiment” (I mention the experiment already in Entry 15). Such spontanous infatuations can lead to self-doubts and hangovers if a HSP starts to realise that such “inflammations” often lack seriousness and commitment after a few days. Nevertheless, an “open” kind of relationship is in any way favourable in this respect concerning HSP, as they are regularly confronted with the fact of presumably having intense feelings for more than one person. But since highly sensitive individuals literally “lose the ground under their feet” because of the very same mechanism and are susceptible to embark on a steep ascent to “cloud nine”, they also need stability and the ability to ground and center as a counterweight.
Because of the “hormonal kick” there are two dangers regarding HSP: On the one hand to be “in love with love” and thus to approach relationships too idealistically; whereby potential partners, if they dare to show earthly-human weaknesses, are rashly “sorted out” – because they no longer fit into the romantic idealisation or the perfect partner. On the other hand, the phenomenon of becoming a “NRE-Junkie” [NRE = New-Relationship-Energy, an approximation to describe the overwhelming flash of initial infatuation]. That way, a HSP may turn into a kind of addict, who at some point starts to tumble from relationship to the next relationship, to renew and experience the hormonal flash again, never getting enough of these “kicks”.
Clearly structured, small relationship networks by contrast, as the Oligoamory tries to establish, provide HSP with opportunities to play off their much better trump: the chance for intense and deep connections offering long-term imbuing and satisfying experiences – thereby providing insights and perceptions which constitute those silent but powerful climaxes in the life of any HSP.
I agree at this point that, of course, that even small (relationship)networks at some point start with a first encounter – exactly in that case it is particularly important for HSP to immediately pay attention to the “sustainability factor” (see also Entry 3) in order to connect with people who are appreciative concerning the attribute of SPS, so that a viable basis can be created. To use an illustration: It makes little sense to establish a sophisticated and full-scale organic diet, but to prepare the food each time on a disposable cooker…

Anyway, regarding (multiple)relationships, there is another factor that can be both a talent and a curse to HSP. The Dutch poet Margaretha Vasalis (being HSP herself) called this occurence “tentacles that are slipping into the other being“. It is quite easy to recognise in this description the desire for confluence and intensive connection, which corresponds to the very nature of a HSP.
In fact, by being so “naturally”, it is also a mode that HSPs have little or no control over (unless they are very much involved in researching their own SPS – and even then it would be as if one would voluntarily tie an arm on the back…). Literally they “can barely help it”.
But – of course – this can be problematic in many respects concerning the relationship quality. In the first place there is the aforementioned issue of the amalgamation regarding emotions and feelings of own and foreign origin. Secondly, there is always a certain factor of involuntary incapacitation towards the person the “tentacles are slipping into” – which is most often subconscious and self-forgetful. Nevertheless, as Marshall Rosenberg expressed in Nonviolent Communication, “involuntaryness” is quickly perceived as coercion and can trigger conflicts (or lead deeper into them). The responsibility that HSP have for their particular condition is rather substantial at this point – and in such a case, again, a kind of relationship that is conducted within the scope of a predictable and committed oligoamorous framework can greatly support all parties involved:
HSP already have a very “high-resolving” perception thanks to their sensory system, which is excitable and delicate. For each community or relationship-network, they represent an extremely sentient heart as well as a sensitive early warning system. At the same time, concerning the HSP itself, this ability quickly becomes a kind of tightrope-walk – and the HSP is in danger of reflecting in its behaviour any aspect of its surroundings, or prone to giving good advice like “I know what’s bothering you…!”. Because of their special talents of observation and empathy, some HSP (but not all!), often hit the bull’s eye. However, remembering the last time somebody gave us a painfully accurate piece of advice, we easily realise that such a kind of marksmanship may not always be enjoyable. It is therefore also important for both the HSP and the environment – especially if they are engaged in a loving relationship with each other – to carefully practice communication concepts such as Nonviolent Communication or Radical Honesty (see Entry 20) in order to maintain all-round well-being.
HSP who are stressed, poorly recovered or who are plagued by worries/fears can, when their precise perceptions mingle on the emotional level with a mixture of self-generated and foreign feelings, literally drown in their “sensations”. In that case even the observations of a HSP are mixed with interpretations and evaluations that are influenced by own filters of negativity, such as abandonment, envy or jealousy, and such an emotional momentum immediately leads into an inner chamber of horror of assumptions and fears. This mechanism isn’t happening out of malice, but in such a case a HSP literally falls victim to its own, otherwise often so useful, potentials.

At this point it is easy to see why I have already written a bLog-entry like No. 11, in which I have dealt in detail with the “good personal reasons” that are underlying almost every one of our day-to-day actions.
Because we HSP ourselves also have to realise at any time that we are all humans, who exist in a universe of abundance and possibilities – and that we all are incredibly complex beings. Therefore, we should limit our experience as little as possible with interpretations and assumptions and instead cultivate our immense skill of openness and fascinated curiosity.
In addition it is enormously conducive, if we HSP in particular preserve our excellent perception organic and viable: Do I really experience today “the same things as always”? Or is it just supposedly “always the same”? For a truly neutral camera, for a child, or for a being from outer space that has never been on earth before, any sunrise is new and unique every day. Regarding that it is important to remember not to confuse supposed wisdom with (bored) expectation.

In this way – and by a mixture of good and less good experiences – I as a HSP have noticed bit by bit that “less” (of everything) is much more favourable to me, but that I am still able to savour this “less” intensely, in depth and on a broad spectrum. The vast majority of HSP are all their lives engaged with a similar “fine tuning” due to high stimuli in their perceptions and strong inner sensations – and therefore we are busily trying to equilibrate between “…further deepening…?” or “…rather omit…!”.
By developing my Oligoamory-project I would like to invite you to create a playing field with your chosen loved ones, which is based on mutual respect and the joy of discovery so as to ensure for all parties mainly nurturing and safe experiences. This applies in particular to all the self-experiences and “foreign-experiences” that are so important to HSP, which in this way can lead to self-awareness and the best experiences of all: familiarity-experiences.

Today I give thanks to my readers who have joined me on this short journey into the realm of SPS and HSP, regardless of whether they count themselves among its inhabitants or whether they have a loved one to whom this characteristic applies. We all benefit from our common understanding for each other.

And thanks to MartisFuksu on pixabay.com for the photo.

Entry 22

On steep ground

There are times in life where things involuntarily come to a halt. Stagnation. That can be somewhat unhinging – especially if issues are involved which are dear to you. Enthusiasm, creativity, progressiveness, self-initiative, joyful anticipation – and suddenly it’s like being a car without gears: The engine is still running at high speeds, but nothing moves in any way. Worse: the engine is noisy and consumes energy yet – but you’re not getting anywhere though.
That’s frustrating – and “frustration”, according to lexical definition, is “an experience of (actual or perceived) disadvantage or refusal that is perceived as an emotional response to an unfulfilled or unfulfillable expectation (disappointment), e.g. due to the failure of a personal plan or to the complete or partial lack of satisfaction of primary and secondary needs. On the one hand, frustration can lead to a constructive change in behaviour, but often triggers regressive, aggressive or depressive patterns of behaviour.

Before it becomes too theoretical, first of all a personal example:
Moved to a rural area three years ago and optimistically hoped that my self-chosen lifestyle of multiple-relationships would subsist and progress. And of course, thanks to the internet you are connected everywhere with the whole world…
In 2018, however, after the non-monogamy-friendly dating platform OkCupid had changed their search heuristics, I deleted my profile there (being stranded without results anyway). But I showed my colours sedulously on JoyClub and on Facebook… Concerning my experiences with these two internet presences I could write a detailed history here – but I’ll leave it at last month. Then I dissolved the Joy-account to the day after exactly two rather inconclusive years. And three weeks ago, I also got out of the last polyamorous Facebook forum (Weekly recurring questions – and especially the subsequent antioligoamorous debates – such as “And how do you proceeeeed with your chiiiildren…?” or “And wheeeen do I have to tell my new date that I’m leading another relationship…? ” will eventually crush even the toughest cookie…).
The closest monthly Polyamory-Meetup is located 50 km away in the next major city – and anyway: It’s a regulars’ table and no contact-exchange where constantly most interesting potential mates and sweethearts walk through the door.
Therefore: Poly-Single again. Yep. No, nonsense – well, allright I live in a relationship… – but even as a “duo” you’re just not a polycule, in any case no proper multiple relationship, dear, whatever, I just hope you understand what I mean.
And now the mobile phone is silent, the mail inbox remains empty and the data stream of the daily dozens “XYZ has shared a post” messages (finally ?!) dried up…

Now what?
Now the moment has arrived to deal with the above-mentioned emotional response to an unfulfilled or unfulfillable expectation.
And knowing me that’s not so splendid, because instead of the above-mentioned chance for a “constructive change of behaviour”, I personally tend to lean towards the also recited “regressive and depressive behaviour patterns”.
Oh, great.
Frustration, a severe shortage concerning need-fulfilment (among them connection, community, exchange, friendship, intimacy, togetherness – to name but a few…) – and on top of that, depression.
Colourless, joyless, hopeless, lifeless.

Depression – and I know my bit about depressions, because they likewise have afflicted me outside of potential multiple relationships for all my life to a greater or lesser extent – have in my opinion their most annoying virtue by being so “sticky”. Or – as a friend called it some times ago – by feeling “caked”. And that’s what I feel is just the right picture: Depressions muster a vicious tenacity, as if you had made a yeast dough on a non-greased baking sheet – and now the whole thing “sticks” like a sedimentary conglomerate. With such a thorough and ingrained attachment that on some days one can no longer distinguish “Where do I end and where does ‘It’ begin?”. That’s why I empathise a lot with those people who identify themselves on some days with their “black dog”, with those for whom everything seems to be doused in darkness or, as Rainer Maria Rilke once put it , “there seem to be a thousand bars and back behind those thousand bars no world”¹.

The most terrible thing about such a situation is that we – who live in such a performance-oriented world today – are quickly convinced that depressive states and those who are suffering from them them are both economically and otherwise rather useless. In western industrialized nations, this view is so widespread that even those affected judge themselves in such a way – which usually aggravates their condition and very often chronicles it. In western industrialised nations, this view is so widespread that even those affected judge themselves in such a way – which usually aggravates their condition and very often chronifies it. The word is “widespread disease” – there is little we can do.

And yes, with such a firmly established belief, with such a judgment, such a pathological diagnosis – I would also say: There is little you can do.

But what if this appraisals were incorrect?
What if depression had an “important function” – or, more gently, “a value” that could be of significant impact for leading committed-sustainable (multiple)relationships?
The American psychiatrist and psychotherapist Scott Peck, whom I have sometimes quoted in recent entries, calls the the long dark tea-time of the soul² “The Work of Depression”.
By this description alone he explains, as I have mentioned at the beginning, that depression is by no means inevitably equated with lifelessness. Because – as I stated in my initial picture – deep down there is still an engine running, though it seems as if in vain – and one is getting nowhere.
Nevertheless, Scott Peck, for his part, is also perfectly clear in his evaluation that “depression” is definitely one of the borderline states of human existence. And to illustrate this, he refers back to the findings of the death-researcher Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who identified in her book “On Death and Dying” (1969), “depression” as one of the five stages in the process of dealing with the own (inevitable) death: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and, possibly, 5) Acceptance.
In that respect Scott Peck drafted an example:
»Say, e.g., there is a flaw in my personality, and my friends are beginning to criticise me for that.
My first reaction is that I deny it: She probably got up this morning on the wrong side of the bed, I think, or: He’s just angry because of his wife. So I tell myself that their criticism really has nothing to do with me.
But if my friends are keeping it up, then I get angry with them. What gives them the right to poke their noses in my affairs? They do not know what it’s like to be in my shoes. “Why do not you keep your nose to your own affairs?” I think or even tell them.
If they love me enough to insist on their criticism, then I start to negotiate: I really have not slapped their backs lately often enough and told them how well they are doing. And I stroll around, smile at my friends and am in a good mood and hope that this will put them to silence.
If that does not work – if they still insist on criticising me – then I finally start thinking about the possibility: Maybe something is really wrong. And that’s depressing

Anyway, both Scott Peck and Elisabeth Kübler Ross agree of course, that no one passes through such a process simply by waving a magic wand. Accordingly, both confirm that most people die either in denial or angry or negotiating or depressed – or keep o living in such a way.

Because in order to reach the stage of “Acceptance”, the previous stages are inevitable, including the completely obtained stage of “Depression”, about which Scott Peck, referring to his example, says:
»When I deal with these depressing thoughts, if I reflect on them, analyse them, deal with them, then I’m not only able to spot the flaw in my personality, but I can also name it, explain it, and finally be void of it. And if I succeed with this effort to let this part of mine die, I will emerge at the end of my depression as a new and, in a sense, resurrected person.«³

Thus, according to Scott Peck, the “Work of Depression” is the logical (and necessary) “final stage” of an inner psychic dying process – that always has to go through exactly these same stages, if we perform any significant change or step in our mental growth.

Why do Scott Peck and I, as the authors of this bLog, believe that this “inner work” can contribute to our relationship skills?
Because by accomplishing the “Work of Depression” there is a chance that we become willing to renounce and to surrender ourselves.
And this “self-renunciation” is an important prerequisite for Scott Peck’s so-called “void” of any community- or relationship-building process (briefly sketched by me in Entry 8).
He admits, however, that most of us nowadays struggle with the “void,” which implies a good measure of “non-certainty,” since today “knowledge” is literally equated with “power (over)” – and even in spiritual or philosophical circles at least the knowledge about oneself is esteemed as the highest goal of human experience (concerning the latter I have to clean my own backyard yet…).

Regarding my view of Oligoamory I have written several times that I value an ideal oligoamorous (multiple)relationship because of its potential to be “more than the sum of its parts“. To make this possible – and in order to keep their relationship alive – it would be important for the people involved in such a relationship to continually strive for the understanding that the relationship itself is a separate organism beyond their respective identities (the identities of the individual participants).
And that’s exactly why the “void” is needed; that’s where breathing-space has to be created.

If we go back to the level of relationship-building, then Scott Peck describes that the stage “void” is regularly preceded by the stage “chaos“: The stage in which we want to improve the others, where we would like to enforce our own viewpoints. Exactly a stage in which denial, rage and haggling takes place. Here, too, my car-example can be applied: The engine is howling loudly – but the occupants are still arguing about the access to the driver’s seat and all would like to indicate the direction; but because the controls are sometimes dragged in this direction and sometimes in the other, there is actually no measurable forward movement.

Thus, if the stage of “void” corresponds to the “Work of Depression,” then this is, to a certain extent, the not always pleasant realisation that we have to give something up, to let it die, in order to gain something better, by creating “space” for it. Accordingly, possible growth obviously requires it that we literally have to go through this “depression”.

If we are about to “create space” in our hitherto accumulated knowledge, it means that we have narrowed our perspective beforehand precisely by that knowledge – and its accompanying assumptions, prejudices and diagnoses.
It’s a bit like a cherished room, which we have gradually furnished more and more (or where people of our past and present have put things in) – until it is “overgrown” straight to the point of derangement. The problem is obvious: at some point there is no room left for something “different”.
What’s “different”? It is the extra-ordinary, the un-expected, the new.
And to us, who are thinking (and writing) in terms of ethical non-monogamy and multiple relationships, that can also mean human beings. And if we do not occasionally empty our hearts and minds thanks to the “void”, then we will have difficulties: To allow other people to come near us, to truly listen to them, to entrust ourselves, to surrender ourselves.
To us, who believe in committed human relationships, the value of the “void” is always twofold: On the one hand with regard to new, previously unknown people and on the other for our loved ones, who are already by our side.

And there is another aspect which may encourage us in periods of depression and apparent stagnation. If we truly dare to surrender to the “void” a phenomenon manifests in our psyche, which is known as “horror vacui”. As a matter of fact, “void” as “non-condition” is never an end in itself, even if we initiate it on purpose, e.g. with the help of meditation.
Because of that the void itself creates always an attraction that is not subject to our control: Thus, there is always the chance for the un-foreseen, the un-expected and the new.

Accordingly, if we sometimes literally experience ourselves as “victims” to our frustration and depression, when we feel anxiety, because we have lost any familiar terrain (or were forced out of it), when we feel abandoned and numb, we should be prepared to trace our “un-certainty” and “alienation”.
Beyond guarantees and safeties, beyond the void, the “new” emerges – and we can not know who or what it might be.

And if the aphorist Sophie Manleitner is right: “Loving someone who has depression is like London – it’s the greatest city in the world, but it rains every day…”, then I’m going to like my rain a bit more from today onwards.

* JoyClub.de is a German adult dating site (like e.g. fling.com) with a large nonmonogamous community.

¹ This line stems from Rilke’s most poular poem “The Panther”.

² Yes – that is the title of Douglas Adams’ famous novel from 1988 and its reference to the depressions of immortal beings in the face of eternity.

³ This is a random example to outline any optional issue! Scott Peck didn’t choose it to suggest that all depressed persons have personality-flaws! Please feel free to put in your own subject.

Thanks to Andy Dutton on Unsplash for the photo.