Entry 3

The Oligoamorist’s Stone

One day, approximately in the middle of the island, I came across a huge half-sunken and somewhat overgrown stone. Nevertheless, I was able to make out quite clear several words and symbols in the language of the local natives on its surface. Immediately I started to decipher them curiously. In doing so I realised that in this place many a hand had gathered the values of Oligoamory. Among the criteria I already had knowledge of based on my journeys on the archipelago of Polyamory, I discovered to my surprise so far quite unfamiliar terms as well as impressions I had never seen before.

At this place I want to share my personal transcription of the retrieved features with you:

1) At first a symbol caught my eye, which seemed familiar to me for quite a long time. “Oh, but that is ‘responsibility’ “, I initially thought, “I know it already from the otherwisely barely regulated continent of open relationships!”And I was quite able to grasp the meaning of that term, since it was of utmost requirement to any non-monogamous relationship to act responsible concerning personal conduct relating to other potential mates. “But of course”, I thought, “respect your own boundaries as well as the other’s, don’t take risks – especially concerning intimacies with multiple participants – that’s so obvious.”
I already wanted to turn to he next item, when I hesitated, for someone had added to the symbol a somewhat weathered glyph, in such a way that it no longer meant solely “responsibility” but “accountability”.
“Look at that ,” I recognised, “in that respect the creators of the stone are definitely kindred to the inhabitants of the archipelago of Polyamory. They seem to be yearning not only for responsibility concerning oneself but for ethical accountability concerning the realtionship-network as a whole!” To tell the truth, even that wasn’t entirely a novelty to me, since I had been living on the archipelago long enough. In the end, accountability means not to take yourself out of the equation if it gets tight once in a while. It rather means to own one’s ventures and mistakes, especially in respect to the extended multiple relationship one is part of. “Right, accountability involves that all participants have the entirety in mind – as well as their part therein”, I smiled, “quite clever, those Polyamorists…” And with that conclusion I really had earned the next icon!
But – how shall I put it: I finally just wanted to tick off “accountability”, when I recognised that the oligoamorous authors of this elaborate monolith had amplified the meaning of the symbol with another strike of their ingenious chisel into “commitment”. Now, this was nearly a metaphor, since it lay emphasis on the fact that any participant had to be committed not only to the other participants but as well to the relationship as a whole. And, of course, it was an obvious reminiscent of the famous binding nature of the idiom “for better, for worse”…
Close to that by now rather complex icon, another artist had put the symbol of “integrity”. Was that supposed to offer any explanation? I was nearly drawn to dismiss the whole thing, when it jumped to my mind, that integrity indicates “that the individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles.” Inwardly I thanked the anonymous lexicographer – and smiled, since just next to it I found the symbol for “reliability” as well.

2) After the first symbol had proved to be unexpectedly versatile and meaningful, I wanted to relax myself a little with an allegedly simpler looking icon. Therefore I rejoiced, when I recognised the term “consensus” – which I knew already from my origins on the continent of open relationships as well. Consensus was essential to any opening up of a relation towards non-monogamy – otherwise it would just end up as affair or any other kind of underhandedness, especially if not all participants had informed choices or an equal voice in the decision.
But my experience with the first symbol urged me to take a closer look. And – of course – the sigil “consensus” had been altered by an obviously polyamorous-fashioned hand into “entitlement”, which could even be read as “equality”. “Coherent,” I thought, “ethical multiple relationships entitle all participants to have an equal say concerning individual decision-making, allocation of resources and borders. I think, there even was a kind of charter… Because of that there is almost no room for “Don’t-ask-don’t-tell-agreements¹ in Polyamory, since they curtail the entitlement to the above mentioned informed choices all too much. Entitlement, yes, absolutely important in order to negotiate for oneself and for the loved ones!”
Just as I wanted to turn away from this really comprehensible term, I observed once more one of those ingenious oligoamorous augmentations which upgrades the symbol to the meaning of “partaking”. “But why did they put emphasis on ‘partaking’ instead of mere ‘participation’?”, I pondered, “ for participation in an equitable multiple relationship is surely great…”
But then I conceived that merely passive participation or entitlement only wasn’t enough prerequisite regarding Oligoamory. Concerning the close-knit relationship-networks that were forming the basis of Oligoamory, it seemed of utmost importance that all parties involved were taking an active part in the development of the relationship as well as in applying their indefeasible right of co-creation. While putting down those insights in my notebook it all made perfect sense to me:
A relationship which should represent all its participants and in which all of them had to be comfortable, was bound to be shaped by all parties involved.

3) Meanwhile the sun had risen higher – and I realised that this oligoamorous legacy was profoundly more than met the eye. Yet I was more than willing to accept the challenge – so I focused on the symbol with the meaning “transparency” next. Transparency could only have been brought to this remote island by the polyamorous ancestors of the local natives since the majority of common open relationships managed without. Whereas to any participant of ethical multiple relationships the symbol was rather reasonable and clear, for as they say Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. Unsurprisingly, someone had added the symbol of “sincerity” next to it…
But exactly there the oligoamorous descendants had interfered once more and had deepened the former symbol and its meaning by adding the icons of “truthfulness”and “openness” – so in the end it could be read as “honesty”.
At that moment I had to reminisce about the countless inhabitants of the polyamorous archipelago, who were concerned with the task of being as sincere and truthful as possible in respect of their loved ones – and who were even applying philosophies like “Nonviolent Communication” for that matter, to reveal their feelings and needs as accurately as humanely possible. And certainly I knew by myself, how difficult it could become sometimes, listening to some unblemished (and often subjective) truth… Why, this being the case, “honesty” as genuinely oligoamorous virtue?
At that moment, the story of “Radical Honesty” came to my mind, which was propagandised by an US-American with the name of Dr. Brad Blanton. According to his philosophy it would be necessary in order to dissolve manipulation and lying among the people to be at all times absolutely and radically honest: Consequently to present oneself utterly undisguised and unadorned with all weaknesses and shortcomings – and particularly without any attempts to appear more superior by word and deed than truly intended. That way, concluded the doctor, there will arise a “moment of great clarity”, in which the attendants would really be able to discern each other as they are – and if all parties were truthfully interested in contributing to each others needs and well-being.
Concerning the evolvement of oligoamorous relationships this seemed to be such a crucial insight that it deserved a symbol of its own on the monolith.

4) At this point I got distracted by a strange mark on the stone, where the artists seemed to have blundered. For I discovered a symbol which seemed to be identical with the icon standing for “faithfulness”. Meanwhile I should have known better in respect to to the oligoamorous craftspeople, for I didn’t even need a magnifying glass to detect that the symbol actually meant “loyality”. For my own part, I must admit that I quite like the term “faithfulness”, since in the old days “faith” meant “trust”, “confidence” and even “reliability” – and it’s surely not owned by mononormativity alone. I can remain faithful to myself, be faithful towards several commitments – and on that behalf towards multiple companions or loved ones as well. The fact that the creators of the monolith had been anxious to avoid flawed assignment of the term is understandable to me, for nowadays most people will think of matrimonial prison till doomsday regarding “faithfulness” – and that was never intended neither by our ancestors nor by the artists of the stone.
Now then “loyalty”, which can be understood as follows: “Loyalty is based on common moral maxims or guided by a rational interest of inner connectedness and its expression in behavior towards a person, group or community. Loyalty means sharing and representing the values (and ideology) of the other in the interest of a common higher goal, or representing them even if they are not fully shared, as long as this serves to preserve the higher objective that we share. Loyalty manifests itself in behavior towards the one loyally attached to, as well as towards third parties.”
Hence, I no longer wondered, why the oligoamorous originators, who put the “mutual we” as principal concern above everything else, had adorned this part of the stone with the symbols of “involvement” and “identification” as well.

5) I decided to allow myself to take a short break – and when I awoke in the shadow of the stone, I spotted another symbol against which I previously had propped my back. It made me chuckle, for its rather contemporary design seemed to be completely out of time and space in this idyllic surroundings. “Look at that”, I smiled, “this is where the old Oligoamorists tried to be fashionable for once…” But quickly I realised that the peculiar symbol of “sustainability” had been on the stone just as long as any of the other icons – albeit it had been placed intentionally in its significant position at the base of the monolith. Nonetheless, somebody clever had put another somewhat complex icon close to it more recently – apparently as a kind of explanation.
But what were the meaning of those three interconnected terms “consistency”, “efficiency” and “sufficiency” in regard to “sustainability”? Surely people were no recycling-wrappings…?

As I contemplated the triangular symbol again, it finally struck me: “But of course!” Obviously the proponents of Oligoamory desired consistency in their relationships, since they hoped, that their relationships would be lasting as well as steady in respect to the people and values involved. Therefore, even in Polyamory longevity was sometimes a valued feature.
But oligoamorous relationships were bound to be “efficient” as well. That means in effect, that the relationship had to be conductive to all people involved, that it was meant to promote the participants to evolve themselves and to complement one another, depending on their individual potential.
And the relationships were bound to be “sufficient” – how could I have forgotten the double-spiral of the oligoamorous heart in its dynamic and finite shape – because the relationships were bound to be satisfactorily and literally self-sufficient, and for that reason precisely not unlimited and arbitrary, but suitable to a humane degree of clearness and nearness.

Evening light had engulfed the spot around the large stone, thus providing the location with an almost eerie atmosphere. As I bundled my equipment, I took al last glance at the stone and something came to my mind that once had been written by Scott Peck in his book “A Different Drum” concerning community-building:

“It is true that we are called to wholeness. But it is just as true that we can not become entirely whole only by ourselves. We can’t be everything for ourselves and the others. […]
It is true that we are made to become unique as individuals.
But we are social beings as well, who essentially need each other – not only as provider, not only as company, but to make our lives meaningful. […]
If we have come so far as to appreciate the rather different style of the others as gift, we gradually start to internalize the aptitude of the others to a certain degree. […] That would have not been possible, if we hadn’t dealt with our own shortcomings in the fist place and we hadn’t recognized our mutual dependency. […]
It is that kind of soft individualism which acknowledges our dependency of each other, not only intellectual, but deep in our hearts.”

¹ “Don’t-ask-don’t-tell”: intransparent relationship agreement in which the parties involved decide not to question and inform each other about details concerning further partners.

Thanks to Prof. Dr. Bend Siebenhüner for the “Sustainability-image” and to the user darf-nicht-mehr-hochladen auf pixabay.com for the image of the stone.

Entry 2

Immediate reply to the archipelago of Polyamory

Dear friend,

you asked me why I have left the versatile archipelago of Polyamory for a yet unknown island.
First and foremost I want to reassure you that I’m not completely gone out of your world, because my new domain – remote as it might seem – is and will be part of your archipelago, still.
At the same time I want to give you an explicit answer to your question, as the issue matters to me a lot as well:

Apart from the meanwhile excessive use of the term “Polyamory” concerning rather different varieties and lifestyles of multiple relationships (as I outlined in Entry 1), in my view there have emerged three problematic issues regarding the very core of Polyamory itself at he beginning of the 21st century. And these issues are representing constantly recurring stumbling blocks in the whole philosophy to relationship persons like myself.
Furthermore, these neuralgic topics seem to be linked to each other in some way. They are:

1) Sexuality as main reason for mutuality:
I must start this paragraph by ascertaining that I am in no way “sex-negative”. I cherish, enjoy and practice sexuality in a number of ways, and my high sensitivity alone sends me flying high regularly with my loved ones.
But in regard to Polyamory I’m repeatedly annoyed, when even in serious newsgroups and subject-specific contributions sexuality is emphasised frequently as essential and indefeasible ingredient to any real polyamorous relationships.
This emphasis is especially pointed out when the particular importance of polyamorous mentality and its pending way of life are to be highlighted concerning their relevance regarding individual sexual liberation and ethical nonconformity as a result.
But that relevance – which therefore is in a narrow sense a socio-political argument as well as an argument of cultural policy sprouting from feminism and the “Free Love-Movement” – is quite capable to lead into trouble if applied to emerging romantic relationships in real life.
First of all simply because in that case “Poly-Amory” is vulnerable to being acted out mainly quantitatively as “loving-many” with the understanding of “make-love-with-many” – thereby becoming a kind of promiscuity.
But even to a lesser extent there is a risk that sexuality can become the main and only reason for mutuality in such a relationship – and its abuse as a kind of “door-opener” or even “compatibility verification” concerning potential new mates.
Albeit I have asserted above, that mutual consenting sexuality can be delightful and life-enhancing, there is the substantial probability that by this means affection might remain continually only on the sexual level. And even if this is absolutely okay for all parties concerned, I still have the following two demurs:
a) Regarding mere serial or rather parallel (multiple) sexual commitments without additional dimensions in the manner of an intricate relationship, there is no need for a (pseudo-)legitimation by means of citation of a sophisticated relationship-philosophy like Polyamory. Open relationships, swinging-arrangements and casual dating cover that territory since decades – so please: Let’s call things what they are.
Underlining sexuality as main feature of polyamorous relationships will evoke above all further debatable media coverage – and continuing confusing of terms in public awareness.
b) In those agreements I am actually compartmentalising my potential partners, by reducing them to their sexual aspect only. That way, I’m no longer addressing them as a whole and evolved person.
As a result the danger of seriality and substitutability increases in my opinion – especially if, for example, appeal or performance are declining – accurately because the whole “relationship” had been founded mainly on that single purpose.
For my part, that would display a rather unethical treatment of my loved ones – and I myself don’t want to be viewed or even treated accordingly by my beloved vice versa.

2) Unconditionality & Needlessness:
Even some entries on Wikipedia regarding Polyamory are currently mentioning “non-possessiveness” as favourable prerequisite. Some people conceive this as “unconditionality” (of love) though. Often “unconditionality” is also paraphrased by terms like “to be free from (mutual) demands” or even “needlessness”.
Polyamorous circles in particular, who deal with political “Free-Love” or spiritual “Universal Love” or – as I pointed out in 1) – with Poly- or Pansexuality are placing a lot of emphasis on those precepts. Often they are stating that only if a person has surpassed all its (pre-)conceptions, pretensions and needs, he*she would gain the ability of evolved multiple or universal love (to each and any being).
In my opinion, even as an idealist, this assumption appears to be literally in-humane. Because, on the one hand, it seems to set the bar all too high, to the point that Polyamory becomes attainable to a somewhat demanding elite only (who points out often enough that one probably has to be born as a “true Poly”) on the other hand this way the rest of us will feel permanently “immature”, “unevolved”, “backward” or at least “failing”. And, from my point of view, that can never be an affectionate attitude towards anyone. Neither I want to consider my partners in such a way, nor do I want to be evaluated by them accordingly.
But what concerns me the most, is the fact that there is being framed an ideal, to which we human beings can’t live up to its requirements in any possible way: Should I be really capable of loving anyone with all my heart? Will it be arbitrary then, with whom or what I initiate a relationship?
I say: As humans we all are individuals with unique prerequisites – usually combined with a specific biography. Both has made us to what we are here and now.
Those uniquenesses in particular induce the special attraction I appreciate in my (potential) loved ones – and I hope I am appreciated by them for my idiosyncrasies… – and for that reason I love them and hope to build close-knit romantic relationships with them. According to that, their and my (emerging) love are therefore directly linked to our uniqueness, idiosyncrasies and characteristics, for those qualities are evoking mutual interest and enrichment.
We human beings posses those qualities exactly because our biological and biographic diversity caused these distinct preferences, which are bestowing attraction only to distinct uniqueness, idiosyncrasies and characteristics. As a result, it is not at all arbitrary, free or universal who or what contributes to our personal well-being. It is rather profoundly human, if we have needs, wishes and even demands concerning exactly those select dear people we gather round ourselves to form companion-, fellow- and relationships with.
Conditions demanding unconditionality, however, which are bound to deny our biological scaffolding as well as to marginalise our biographies, reveal themselves to me as contradictions in terms.

3) Pokémon-Poly and the boundlessness of love(s):
Last but not least I receive the increasing impression that “Polyamory” is being propagandised much to vehemently as role model for “highly topical relationships” by some of its adherents. The concurrent emphasis on sexual liberty and non-possesiveness of the individual has thereby led to the odd manifestation of a kind of “Pokémon-Polyamory”, to which our lifestyle with paradigms of a western industrial nation (e.g. appraisal of independence, ideal of meritocracy, migratory employees and resulting singledom…) has probably contributed a lot.
As a result, this cute sounding lifestyle is mainly – but not exclusively – practised by Solopolys¹, who often offer the following polyamorous or rather realtionship-anarchic rationale. For concerning their liberal-enlightened view, “…it is never possible for just one relationship person to be apt/in the position/utilised in regard to the upcoming or existing wishes and needs of another individual.”
According to this doctrine, the resulting solution is to subsequently acquire one potential partner for each possibly accruing need – and to bond with this person only in a relationship according to its situational aptitude: Shopping with René, intimacy with Lou, literature with Alex, workshops with Fritzi, kitesurfing with Micky and cooking with Jojo…etc.
To my mind such an approach is neither polyamorous nor overly enlightened – or even anyhow highly topical. I perceive it as particularly egocentric and as being inappropriate towards the involved persons in their capacity of whole human beings. Because here too the same compartmentalisation and purpose-reduction takes place that I already criticised in 1): The whole human being with its strengths and shortcomings is not being required, least desired or even loved wholeheartedly. By this means people are turned into need-fulfillment-machines.
This kind of “Poly-Amory” frightens me terribly, because I fear that down that road we will find ourselves sending former loved ones packing if they are no longer able or willing to perform their designated purpose. And what might befall us if one day we ourselves become ill, senile or handicapped? How much loving and caring is left in such a strategy after that?

No, dear friend. These are reasons I don’t want to be part of my obituary, by the time I have perished in loneliness and frailty because I treated my fellow human beings under the pretext of “Polyamory” as sex objects, arbitrary beings or service provider.
Therefore I sat sail to yon island of Oligoamory, since the “loving-many” threatened to become too discretionary to me.
And here I hope to establish with those select few, who are willing to accept my every peculiarities, those committed-sustainable multiple relationships, lest we might become companions and perchance soultribe to each other.

With the promise to keep on writing regularly, I send kindest regards


PS: Concerning the question if we/I need just another term to describe multiple relationships, I, as the leader in this venture, answer: Yes, of course!The implicit reproach, that doing so would be pigeonholing, I counter – as usually in such cases – that a term, as a start, is just another term. A “pigeonhole”, however, is only being constituted if a mere term is combined with a (commonly negative) assessment.
In my opinion, terms facilitate proper communicating, to the end that people can describe themselves and agree on something. For example they might outline their own initial position. And from there on people have to talk to each other anyway, to ensure mutual apprehension.
For instance, one could start off as follows: “I would like for myself to be engaged in a close-knit oligoamorous relationships. Oligoamory is associated with polyamorous and thereby transparent multiple relationships, which in turn represent in the broadest sense a kind of open relationship.”

¹ Solopoly: A polyamorous person that lives indeed solitary, but who nevertheless can be part of multiple relationship(s) at the same time.
² Relationship anarchy: A kind of multiple relationship in which all pending relationships have no hierarchy or emphasis in regard to each other. All pending relationships are conducted in equivalent coexistence.

Thanks to Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash for the image!

Entry 1

How it came to happen that I sallied out to discover the remote island:

My previous marriage would have been described by our former friends and acquaintances as an “Open Relationship” – a description which my former wife and I would have declined as not appropriate at all.
On the verge of the last millenium, and only a few years before we were married in 2002, we had jointly – and maybe a little naive – “just” agreed that if ever someone of us would wish a sexual encounter out of wedlock, he or she in any event should have veritable affection and feelings for that very person (!).
Yes, you read it right. Whereas couples in “Open Relationships” usually allow each other sexual encounters out of wedlock, it is also commonplace that affection or love in particular are kept out of such arrangements to protect the core-relationship. But the both of us had stipulated it nearly completely the other way round…

That somewhat antithetic understanding worked for us for over a decade until…– well…, until out of the permitted affections and feelings concerning third parties one day there emerged unawares a request for a genuine additional close-knit relationship.
The observant reader might be astonished, since that consequence seems to be only to obvious in retrospect regarding such an attitude. But indeed – in those days we had never thought about the ramifications or any procedures in case such a scenario would unfold: The moment true affection for another dear person developed into the full sized desire for a further relationship…
All parties involved were literally flabbergasted.

According to this the three of us (okay, the five of us – including the children) tried from that moment on to keep going “DIY-Style” in a manner of speaking – gathering all the comprehension, humour, and compassion we could muster. We strived towards any approach to this unorthodox new kind of joint adventure, including and up to shifting configurations concerning bed and board.
At length and nearly by chance we finally laid hands on the book “More Than Two – A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory” written by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux. And this 480-pages strong treatise developed into our first viable outline – you might even call it nautical chart – to a more substantial understanding of the bearing and the implications of multiple relationships, particularly in regard to the persons involved. Thus straightening out proper criteria concerning the requirements and needs of those persons involved – which they applied to their aspired way of life in the light of the pending philosophy inherent to Polyamory.

So it was bound to happen that only two of us (and not the original crew!) boarded our home-made raft to venture out of the quaint havens of Monoamory across the sea to the versatile archipelago of Polyamory – equipped with our nautical chart and a lot of idealism.
My high hopes in to completing my quest by doing just that turned out to be premature, however. Although at first sight the new land seemed to be vast and free and populated by fascinating inhabitants, whose customs we eagerly adapted. For this purpose we participated zealously in their web forums, attended their regular’s tables – and as a matter of fact entered into intimate relationships with a very few of them. We even visited with awe the prodigious atoll of Relationship-Anarchy for a while, taking some cautious steps on it’s elusive egalitarian surface.

Nevertheless: After nearly three years of intense research uneasiness and perplexity had diffused throughout my small team. For as if a raging Amor had confused and scattered the tongues of the polyamorous people, no coherent basic principles could be established regarding their corresponding way of life.

For example there were lovers who cohabited with each other like in a traditional closed marriage albeit with multiple mates. Quite a number of other people on the other hand saw themselves as members of far-flung and multi-branched relationship-networks. Some others lived excessively all alone and joined chosen mates only at festivals, workshops or especially arranged weekend-meetings. At times there was the proclamation of the inevitable congruency with free or universal love. Whereas other Polyamorists seemed to practice something that was very similar to Swinging, and a number of people even joined in parallel or serial flings and affairs in the ubiquitous name of loving-many.
And the emphasis on the expression of individual sexual freedom seemed to be at the forefront of the general thinking in many quarters anyway.
But nonetheless all of the aforementioned folks called themselves proudly participants in the polyamorous lifestyle – accentuating the very fact vehemently and noisily, especially in order to distinguish oneself from the next neighbour, who was claiming exactly the same privilege for himself…

Those pervasive differences of opinion appeared to reduce the promised characteristics of honesty, responsibility and commitment – which once motivated myself to the crossover to Polyamory – to mere negotiable footnotes.

At this critical juncture I recognised that I myself had not only come as an explorer but also as a seeker – with my own needs and desires concerning the surplus value I had hoped to find in polyamorous relationships.
Even so it became distressingly apparent to me that at the dawn of the 21st century the mere term “Polyamory” was no longer consistently employed by its users. Therefore, the general term wasn’t any longer suited for congruent communication and to a much lesser extent qualified concerning the convergence of like-minded people or even community building.

What could I do?
To content myself with “Mission Impossible”, to compromise and settle down with a merely approximate idea?

Restlessly my binoculars searched the versatile archipelago, which suddenly appeared to be inhospitable and full of fissures.
Shouldn’t there…?
But there – at the extreme end of the archipelago, barely visible and spaced out into glimmering remoteness – wasn’t there another island? An island nominally associated with the archipelago – but distinct in its peculiarity? Featuring a seemingly austere shoreline – albeit an abundantly verdant and lively looking heartland…? An island apparently pristine, as if it had never been tarnished by any sour springs of conceptual dilution!

Instantaneously my mind was quite made up. Accompanied by one companion only I ventured out by boat, daring the uncertain passage. Yet luckily we disembarked on the shingle-strewn beach.
And thus I sat foot into this uncharted territory.
The very moment I unfurled the heart-flag I had brought along – thereby displaying the blue double-spiral – I deemed to perceive a few silhouettes of members of the local tribe remote at some distance towards the flowering interior. It was this fleeting emergence of those select few which inspired in me at that very moment the idea to the name of that small isle – and so I said while stepping onto the shore:
“I shall call you OLIGOAMORY!”

(Thanks to Ken Suarez on unsplash.com for the image of the isle!)