Entry 19

Frozen moments

Recently, in a social network – within a chat forum that focusses on multiple relationships – there was a discussion about infatuation and love. We here at home continued talking about these topics – and for that reason I want to use my blog to share our thoughts this way.

First of all, we considered that “falling in love” is probably a completely individual process, which every human presumably experiences in distinctively – especially if we leave the biological, phylogenetic, cerebral and hormonal proceedings of oxcytocin and vasopressin, testosterone and prolakin out of account (very detailed in this respect R.D. Precht in his book “LoveA disorderly feeling“, Goldmann 2009, Chapter 1: What love has to do with biology).

Often, true falling in love is preceded by so-called “idolising“.
Heroes, movie stars, musicians, models and the unreachable person of your dreams in the the other year group can be idolised. What those “target groups” have in common is that because of the imaginary or actual distance to these individuals, we tend to fancy our own imagination concerning these people – and not so much the real people themselves.

If the whole thing becomes “more serious”, when we actually fall in love with a tangible counterpart, then, nevertheless, the basis for this occurence often still results from something like “idolising”. Interestingly enough, it seems – as in the case of the “pragmatists and idealists” – that there are usually two initial positions:
The first group falls in love with another person because this person is doing something (for them).
The second group falls in love with another person because they believe they have recognised some part of the other person’s personality.

The first group I would like to call – maybe somewhat contrieved – “dissimilatory” (from Latin dissimilis, “dissimilar/unalike”).
People who belong to this group are mostly fascinated by the diversity of people. They attach great importance to their own independence and therefore appreciate it regarding their counterpart(s).
If, in this way, new perspectives regularly promise fresh input because of the diverse impulses of the different characters, a dissimilatory personality would probably think something like: “Yeah, that’s really cool NOW!”
The downside of a dissimilatory style would be a certain “savourer mode”, especially concerning relationshios to relish such moments “as long as it lasts” and a preponderance regarding positive stimuli only (“It has to be good, it has to be easy – if it is not easy, it’s/you’re not right… “).

Accordingly, I would like to call the second group “assimilatory” (from Latin assimilis, “similar”).
People who belong to this group are looking very quickly for commonality concerning themselves and their counterparts. They appreciate a feeling of togetherness and value all-round efforts for a certain harmony.
If a certain shared space begins to form in this way, an assimilatory personality would probably think something like, “Yeah, that’s really cool HERE!”.
The downside of the assimilatory style would therefore be a penchant for compulsive “similarity” and especially in relationships an urge for complete “wholeness” (“If we do not attain the greatest possible congruence and harmony, it’s/you’re not right…”).

Despite these differences, both groups fall in love with increasing regularity about equally often. And since infatuation afflicts to our bodies and our minds (which are basically trimmed to a rather economic energy management) always stress in terms of additional energy which has to be applied, falling in love is never really discretionary (and anyway: otherwise we would continue the much more comfortable idolising…).
To be precise, infatuation is usually facilitated by certain needs – or even neediness – which are aimed at ensuring personal well-being or at least satisfaction. Almost always these are needs which derive from the categories community and participation (e.g. acceptance, caring, community, support, connection), communication and comprehension (e.g. attention, reciprocity, being heard, trust), and affection and love (e.g. empathy, closeness, tenderness, sexuality ).

These needs activate us and motivate us (or at least put us in an open, expectant state), so that when we fall in love – at a time when we can barely assess the chosen counterpart – we are virtually prepared to invest invest in a potential or rather facultative future that may never manifest in our lives. Exciting parameters (as in the “Bridge experiment” mentioned in Entry 15) and/or indifferent pronounced personal boundaries (as in many psychological and neurophysiologically sensitive states) can additionally intensify this effect very easily.

However amazing and almost irrational that might appear at first glance, this is quite plausibel for us, who are members of the species “Homo Sapiens” – no matter to which of the two groups mentioned above we count ourselves.
For we humans are intentional and planning beings because we are conscious concerning our limited temporary nature, a fact which probably distinguishes us even from the majority of other mammals closely related to us.
We are aware that we have a past and a future that can still be shaped – and therefore we are aware of our finiteness. From there it is only a small step to the realisation that our lives – literally for the better and worse – are subject to processiveness and changeability.
The philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (Ecce Homo 1888) once called this unavoidable cognition quite appropriate “affirmation of evanescence“, because we human beings experience every day that it is almost impossible to exist permanently in a state of “Here & Now“. We can strive for a present moment, we can experience it, savour it – but we can not cling to it and thus it will not be permanent – like everything else.
And that’s why sometimes we are jealous of the animals or the rest of nature, who seem to be unaware of their time-constrained dimension – and that’s why they often seem “balanced” and even “contented” to us (which means they always live true to their “contence”), because they radiate, that they are intuitively/instinctively always “consistent” in their conduct.
Always” does not exist for us – and therefore no perpetual “consistent“.

In that respect, “infatuation” is a somewhat touchy subject: Because the hormonal upsurge quickly restricts our perceptive faculty concerning our limited temporary nature. As already in 1788 the famous baron Adolph von Knigge stated in his 4th chapter “Concerning the relations to and among lovers”:
»It is almost reasonably impossible to associate oneself with lovers; like drunks they are incapable of socialising, since – except their idol of desire – the whole wide world seems dead to them.«
It is precisely this focus on the “idol”, the beloved person, that effectively puts us in a kind of “spatio-temporal extra-zone”, wherein it is very easy for the participants to assume the “part for the whole” – to be more accurate: During our infatuation we are prone to believe that we have already mastered the most important part – and that our “journey towards each other” has already achieved complete mutual understanding.

As even Mr. Knigge noted (in the same chapter):
»The happiest moments in love are when you have not yet discovered each other with words, yet understand every countenance, every look. The most blissful pleasures are those which one communicates and receives without giving reason to account. The subtlety of feeling often does not suffer that way, because the explanation of things would spoil all their high value – which therefore can not be given and accepted properly without insulting the delicacy, once one has said something about it. It is tacitly granted that which one may not condone, when it is solicited, or when it becomes evident that it should be intentionally given.«
The old baron has observed this quite well – but from my point of view, as a conclusion, he praises these “happiest moments” of falling in love a little too much. For what he describes is, strictly speaking, still a state of absent communication, of hazy vagueness and sweet non-certainty. This arrangement, however, can still spoil any emerging relationship, since non-certainty might be a acceptable basis for idolising – but it is no useful foundation for reciprocal and constant love.

Because if we eventually “relate” to each other following an intense phase of infatuation we will in any case get to know each other in “other (much more mundane) contexts” as well: There our counterpart(s) might act differently in contrast to those initial actions we deemed so fascinating. Or our loved ones suddenly show facets of their personality that we had not recognised or expected so far…
What can be done?
The most promising secret of sound and long-lasting relationships, if one asks the lucky participants, is that the involved parties view each other not only as “lovers“, but also as “friends“. These people have internalised that “getting to know each other” means “getting to know thyself” at the same time.

It is therefore important for both groups mentioned above to recognise that neither inspirational experiences nor communal harmony can be achieved by mere (one-sided) volition.
Because in doing so we try the impossible: We try to preserve our loved ones in our imagination and in our wishes in a certain state that is “consistent” for us and that attracts us because it is in its way dissimilar or similar to us. But that approach can not do justice to “processiveness” and “changeability”, our actual human nature, in any way – and thus “forbids” our loved ones to ever change or develop.

But if you inwardly let go of your loved ones, then you have arrived (every time) in the Here & Now and no longer cling to constant volition (an insight which is prevalent e.g. in Buddhism). Your own energy can suddenly flow unhindered to your loved ones and is no longer blocked by your fixed conception or by imposing pressure. This does not mean not to act actively, but action arises from the moment, without a predetermined plan. It also does not mean to always agree. Instead, one does not fixate on a goal, but is part of the events and the proceedings.
It also means to embrace the moment as it emerges, to take the next step from there or to refrain from it, and in any case to accept the consequences of it.¹

And whether we are more likely to be “dissimilatory” or “assimilatory”: That is where the real “mutual we” begins.

¹ This last paragraph was taken (with little alterations) from the book “Being with Horses… – Life is unique” by Sabine Birmann, Ippikon Verlag 2017.

Thanks to Jean-Alain Passard on Pixabay for the photo.

Entry 18

“If one goes astray, that does not mean that he is not on the right path.”
(Hans Bemmann – The Stone and the Flute, 1983)

Oh, these Oligoamorists! An entire month of preliminary work and field studies. Selecting an ethnologically relevant group. Directional microphone, recording technique and finally a perfectly constructed, carefully camouflaged shelter near their regular “Hearthfire of stories”. All of this, just to achieve from the oligoamorous natives another of their fabulous legends, of which I know that they are full of symbols for the conduct of committed and sustainable multiple relationships.
And then THAT! Just this night (in the scientifically relevant night!) the selected spokesperson at the fireside tells the “Parable of the Prodigal Son“. Really! The thing from the Bible, Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15. That totally outdated homecoming story, concerning which I’m too embarrassed to recount it here another time. It can be found in the Bible or on the internet anyway – free for anyone to read.
My whole preparations down the drain, the field research ruined, gained insights: zero. The Oligoamorists are not even Christianised. Actually, I haven’t figured out yet what they believe in – religiously I mean. Probably some weird potpourri anyway, gathered by all those people who have made it to this remote island in the last few decades. That would be typical for the Oligoamorists anyway, since they are so keen about joined potential and all this stuff being “more than the sum of its parts”…
At any rate, sleep is unthinkable, I roll uneasily on my cot and still can hardly believe it. “Prodigal Son…, I beg your pardon…!”

The horizon is already reddish and announces the beginning of the new day, but I’m still awake. I’m squatting in front of my book collection, which I have brought with me to this island. But I was least prepared for Biblical matters, and I have little literature on the subject.
But there – to the left – there are a few works on religion and philosophical perspectives, and among them is a small volume that displays a lifebuoy on its cover. “The Silence of God – faith in case of emergency” by the pastor and professor Helmut Thielicke (published in 2000); I think indistinctly, that he wrote something about this parable. I pull out the thin paperback volume and indeed discover the section I had in mind:

The young man probably went away to find himself.
Sometimes you have to go your own way in order to find yourself. At home, in the atmosphere of his parents’ house, he always had to do what the family wanted or what domestic custom required. There he felt dependent. He could not do what he wanted, but he could only do what was proper. And that is why he wasn’t his own property, but he belonged to the habits of his parents’ house. And since he was also only the younger brother, he certainly couldn’t develop in his own way at all.
That’s why he went away: to find himself. One could also say: He went away to get to experience freedom.
And this freedom, which attracted him and promised him that he could be »entirely himself«, seemed to him to be a freedom from all ties and tasks

I whistle through my teeth and immediately glance around caught in the act – I nearly woke my sleeping companion. Therefore I mutter softly what I said just 12 hours ago: “Oh these Oligoamorists!” That’s why they like this story so much… Because it concerns the tension between commitment and freedom, which I had already highlighted in Entry 7…! Becoming even more curious, I continue to read what the professor had written:

Now the story tells something peculiar:
We are told that the prodigal son had squandered all his assets with untrue friends, dubious women and other evil riff-raff, had finally been reduced to beggary, had been abandoned by all, and in the end had to keep the pigs and eat out of the pig’s trough.
If there had been a certain idealistic impulse in his departure – and if he had been driven by something like the yearning for freedom, he soon failed miserably. He sought freedom and soon found himself oppressed by his impulses, by his ambitions, by his fear of loneliness – concerning which every obscure companionship was fine; he was enslaved to his money by which he indulged in his passions.
Thus, he was not free – but he was dependent and bound in a new way. But this new dependency was much more terrible than anything he had complained about at home before.
What had happened? Quite simply, that contrary to what he had set out to do, he did not find himself, but had lost himself.
When he set out to look after himself he might have thought that he would probably find himself once he would have developed all his talents and gifts. And of course he developed in that strange »free« country. But what developed, what »took shape«, what was »alive« in him?
Was it the so-called better self, were it his idealistic motives that came into play?
Maybe it was all there. But in any case, in his self-development also the dark sides of his being emerged: compulsion, ambition, fear, desire. As he unfolded himself, he was being enslaved to the dark forces that were present in him and which were emerging as well. As a result he finally sat in the most terrible misery of servitude and became the lowest servant himself.

The sun rises over the island of Oligoamory – but today I have no eyes for this natural spectacle. I’m sitting there, book in hand, thunderstruck. What has been revealed to me in these last lines has taken the last doubt, why the Oligoamorists appreciate this story so much and why they have integrated it into their own collection of legends.
What I initially thought was only a symbol of the well-known dichotomy between liability and freedom, turns out to be a significant parable regarding our motivation and inner orientation concerning (multiple) human relationships.
Because concerning (multiple) relationships we often talk of “emergence” (for example into Polyamory). And frequently we are experiencing such an “emergence”, full of yearning for new freedom and full of starry-eyed idealism.
Until – well, until we sometimes painfully notice that we always take ourselves along. And that we – like the “Prodigal Son” – probably will unfold our potential in new patterns of relationship and community – but literally our ENTIRE potential: Both what is in the light (what is conscious) – and our shadowed parts (which in psychology is called the “unconscious,” which contains traits that we do not really want to perceive ourselves).
And this, I know it myself, can get oneself into a pickle regarding multiple relationships – just when you are suddenly shaken by personal insecurities, old fears, poorly learned communication, overconfidence or lurking neediness – though you actually thought that you were “only” in search of freedom and loving connections…
The dichotomy between our desire for freedom and commitment – all right, that’s the point. But not, as I initially believed, outwardly – but deep in ourselves.
There is not much text left in the chapter, so I quickly read what the professor deduces from the parabel:

Now the second peculiarity happens:
As he sits in the misery of servitude, he longs for the freedom he had enjoyed as a child in his parents’ home. Now he suddenly realises that what he had experienced there was true freedom. Yes, he knows even more: He suddenly realises that freedom is not boundlessness (which has just exposed itself as servitude), but that true freedom is only a special form of attachment.
I only experience true freedom if I live in harmony with my original identity, that is, if I am at peace.
So – when he decides to return home, that is not a moral decision that would make him renounce the former temptations – with all that moral hangover that usually accompanies such decisions – but it is a turning point that is filled with happiness. […]
The reason is that human beings aren’t by nature preshaped forms, which only need to be developed and who carry everything necessary in them, but that we are beings that only attain self-actualisation if we grow into our responsibility – a goal we will miss if we try to seek it as an isolated ego or as a solitary concerning the art of life.

I’m sitting in silence, somewhat shaken.
I comprehend that to the Oligoamorists “The Prodigal Son” is nothing less than an ancient, mankind-embracing issue. Which is told in myths and legends by different people all over the world to remember. It’s the same challenge the protagonists have to go through, whether in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (ca. 2600 BC), whether in the Greek Odissey (ca. 800 BC), whether in the fairy tales “Mother Holle” or “The Water of Life” (put into writing by the Grimm Brothers beginning in 1815), whether in the “Star Wars-Saga” (since 1977) or whether in the “Harry Potter-Stories” (since 1997).
It is the theme of the “Night Sea Journey“, in which the heroine or the hero embark on an adventurous trip (not always voluntary), but which, strictly speaking, develops into a journey into the psyche’s innermost core – where the heroes have to confront their own dark aspects in the form of passion, compulsion and neediness.
And all these old and new myths also tell us that no hero remains unaffected by this dark journey, some even succumb to their challenges, in any case they all experience profound transitions.

Thus, if we sally forth into the waters surrounding the strange continent of open relationships, tack between the islands of Polyamory’s versatile archipelago and perhaps catch a glimpse of the remote island of Oligoamory, then maybe we too headed out looking for freedom, adventure and possibly satisfaction and amusement. But there we surely will also conjure up all the unredeemed nightmares and monstrosities that we will bring along with us.

That way, our search for successful relationships, our personal quest to find our loved ones, our soultribe, is at the same time a journey that will confront us with the acceptance of responsibility for ourselves. With self-knowledge anyway – actually I’d rather call it “self-acknowledgment” – because the “emergence into multiple relationships” is certainly one of the most fundamental ways to confront your own strengths and weaknesses.

But the Oligoamorists wouldn’t love these legends if they wouldn’t appreciate the potential award, despite all possible difficulties. As the professor did put it somewhat old-fashioned at the end: The growing into one’s own responsibility – and the experience of true freedom in attachment.

Instead of saying “Amen” I’d rather like to share two quotes with you which have accompanied myself for a long time and which express the topic to me in a most touching manner:
The first one originally stems from the French magnetizer Louis Alphonse Cahagnet (1805-1885) and became famous in the Wicca religion by the High Priestess Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) as part of the “Charge of the Goddess”:
That if that which you seekest, thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

Even better – and more comforting – the German writer and philosopher Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg [aka Novalis] (1772-1801) put it in his novel fragment “Heinrich von Ofterdingen”:
Whither are we bound? [Where are we really going?] Always home. Always home.”

Thanks to Joshua Earle on Unsplash for the image!

Entry 17

About pragmatists and idealists

When I read Scott Peck’s book on community-building “A different drum”, I experienced something incredibly reassuring in the first chapter. In this first chapter (“Stumbling into community“), the author describes his own first encounters with community-building processes. And right in his very first contact with this subject, he described a phenomenon that I too, in fact, perceive in all human gatherings – and that’s why I am very pleased that one of the most prominent representatives of the “community-building idea” was directly confronted with it himself.
Of course Scott Peck’s experience was about a group-building process (in which he himself participated in those days). During this process, he describes how a taking of sides occurred between two groups, which initially hampered the flow of the event considerably:

>> This way it didn’t take long for someone to say, “Hey guys, we messed it up. We’ve lost the good spirit. What’s going on?”
“I can not speak for all of you,” one answered, “but I was angry. I do not know why. It seems to me that we have lost ourselves in elusive discussions about human destiny and spiritual growth.” Some participants nodded vigorously to signal their approval.
“What is so elusive about talking about human destiny and spiritual growth?” countered another. “That’s something crucial. That’s how it works. That’s what life is all about. That’s the basis, for God’s sake!” Now others participants nodded vigorously.
“If you say ‘for God’s sake’, in my opinion, you are exactly pointing out the problem,” said one of those who had nodded first. “Me, for example – I do not believe in God. You chatter about God and destiny and spirit, as if these things were real. None of this is verifiable. That’s why it leaves me unimpressed. What I’m interested in is the here and now, that is, how I earn my living, the measles of my children, the increasing weight of my wife, how to cure schizophrenia, and whether I will be conscripted to Vietnam next year.”
“One might think that we are apparently divided into two factions,” another member said modestly.
Suddenly the whole group burst out laughing because he had framed his interpretation so mildly.
“One might think that – that’s the way it is – you’d think so,” someone called out loud and slapped his thighs. “Yes, it might seem that way,” said another and roared with laughter.
That way we finally cheerfully continued our work and analysed the division between us. We were divided into two equal sized factions.
The faction to which I belonged referred to the other six participants as “
The Materialists, on the other hand, called us “
Knights of the Grail. <<

Now, if you feel the same way as Scott Peck and me – and you often perceive in human communities, for example in conversations or concerning the course of action, that there are two quite different approaches competing with each other – this could be due to the difference between “Pragmatists” (materialists) and “Idealists” (Knights of the Grail).

are people who focus predominantly on factual circumstances. Pragmatists are less guided by principles, but rather consider which tangible situation they are in and then use a procedure that is shaped – you never would have guessed – by pragmatism.
To quote Wikipedia: “Pragmatism (from Greek πρᾶγμα pragma, “action”, “thing”) considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics – such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science – are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes. The philosophy of pragmatism emphasizes the practical application of ideas by acting on them to actually test them in human experiences“.
Thus, Pragmatism is a specific approach, where it is considered what is feasible and what impact (your own) actions will have.
Therefore, one of the pragmatists’ strengths is that they think and act in a very result-oriented way, or more precisely, goal-oriented. When pragmatists say “intention“, they almost always refer to a tangible chain of action.
Accordingly, if pragmatists recommend “Don’t ponder so much, just do it…” or “Don’t be overly intellectual, just live your life…“, then their statement corresponds in a sense to their inner nature because it is easy for them to (re)adjust their internal compass very quickly in accordance with the respective circumstances and thereby allowing them to proceed already towards the next goal or the next potential solution.
As a result pragmatics exist in their view in a universe where “Being determines consciousness” – and thus are deriving theories or procedures predominantly from existing facts.
A variant of the pragmatists are the “Materialists” who ultimately trace back all processes to the physical workings of tangible and measurable matter and personally assign this specific aspect the highest priority. These include, therefore, the “Utilitarians” as well who judge actions or objects according to a concept of appropriateness or suitability.
[Also among the pragmatists are often numbered the philosophical movements of “Hedonism” (based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristippus of Cyrene) or “Epicureanism” (named after the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus).
However, this ascription or self-attribution must be carefully considered, since “Hedonism” and “Epicureanism”are often paraphrased in social contexts with the “maximization of pleasure and the avoidance of pain”– but actually are complex life-philosophies in terms of balance and serenity.]

are people who – you never would have guessed – predominantly strive for ideals. “Ideals” are thereby usually perceptions of an accomplished or perfected state that they want to approximate in their approaches. The “ideas”, “maxims” or “principles” of a “highest possible XYZ” can also be based on a philosophical, spiritual or esoteric context to which Idealists feel committed.
To quote Wikipedia: “In philosophy, Idealism (from Greek ἰδεῖν idein , meaning “to see”) is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.”
Ethical idealism even assumes that we can and should justify and regulate our actions through reasonable, reliable and binding considerations.
Therefore, one of the idealists’ strength is that they think and act in a very process-oriented way, or more precisely, process-accompanying. When idealists say “intention“, they almost always refer to a maxim that – like a distant star to a helmsman – indicates the optimal course without actually being physically “attainable”.
Thus, if idealists say that “… an action or an effect is made up of many causes and therefore every approach must first be thoroughly considered… (“Think/Reflect first – then act”) “, then that statement corresponds in a sense to their inner nature because it is self-evident for them to bestow a similar careful consideration to all accompanying circumstances in order to come up with the best possible course of action.
The latter implies that idealists, from their point of view, are existing in a universe where “Consciousness determines being” – because they mostly act out of inner intuition and after thorough reflection of an idea.
However, a variant of the idealists are therefore the “Fanatics” (in a moderated form also known as “Perfectionists“) who want to subdue everything and everyone uncompromisingly to the fulfilment of their ideal of perfection.
[Among the idealists often the “Romantics” (named after the cultural-historical epoch of the Romantic era) are numbered as well.
However, this ascription or self-attribution must be carefully considered, since “Romaticism” is often paraphrased in social contexts with a backward-sentimental state of overflowing emotional affinity – but is actually based on a complex philosophy of altruism and awareness of the transience.]

Between pragmatists and idealists conflicts are prone to flare – like in the example of Scott Peck – especially regarding shared relationships, since mindset and approaches differ severely and the behaviour of the “opposite side” can easily be misconceived.
The result is often incomprehension and criticism.

For pragmatists, idealists sometimes can be cumbersome and even aloof from the world to a degree of pointless peanut counting. “Idealists are looking too long in the dark room for the black cat that is not there“, pragmatists might say.
On the other hand, pragmatists can sometimes seem unbelievably dull and unimaginative to idealists. Idealists might say: “Pragmatists have no interest in looking behind the curtain. They like the curtain.
Nevertheless, both approaches are equally important to most human projects: idealists think about what is desirable, pragmatists deal with what is feasible.
If pragmatists have no ideals, they are threatened with shallowness and banality.
Idealists, in turn, who believe that they can dispense with a grip on reality, either will have their heads in the clouds and accomplish nothing, or will falter in endless quarrels concerning some exaggerated ambition.
Therefore pragmatists and idealists can face each other quite unforgivingly, or the attempt of cooperation leads to a fruitless “juxtaposition”.
Or they have the opportunity to take the best of both worlds and unify them into a synthesis, complementing each other – thereby mitigating their more extreme manifestations.

Incidentally, Scott Peck’s community-building process turned out lucky thanks to the general mood of hilarity and goodwill described above:

>> We realised that the “Materialists” wouldn’t be able to “bring us to reason” and keep us “Knights of the Grail” from pursuing our ideals. At the same time, we accepted that we couldn’t dissuade the other faction from their down-to-earth materialism. <<

The group as a whole even managed to come up with a creative solution to “build a bridge between two (perceptual) worlds”, which combined the strengths of both kinds of mentality:
>> We considered creating a common, identity-establishing myth for all of us. We did not want to conceptualise the organism of our relationship-process as neither “purely materialistic” nor “super-spiritual.” Accordingly, each participant contributed own ideas, and together we designed a somewhat bizarre parable, a metaphor to which each participant could relate:
We compared our relationship process with a sea turtle that went ashore to lay its eggs and is now dragged itself back to the ocean to die. How many descendants might hatch and would reach the saving ocean despite many dangers was left to fate
. <<

Scott Peck summarises his experience:
>> The termination of the friction between the “Materialists” and the “Knights of the Grail” was my first experience of conflict resolution in a group. I hadn’t known before that it was possible for a group of people to acknowledge their differences, set them aside and still love each other. In that short period of time, I saw people creatively using – and thereby overcoming – their differences of opinion. <<

As an explorer of oligoamorous territories, I would like to add that this group of special people had voluntarily engaged in a community-building process. Their unifying strength was that, in spite of contrasting mindsets, they gave the “mutual we” – beyond all separating differences – the highest priority until they reached their goal.

And since idealists and pragmatists in everyday life can still speak quite different languages and understanding does not always prevail easily, it could probably be more important in oligoamorous multiple relationships – especially concerning the choice of partners or constellations – not so much to look for harmonious FFM, MMF, MFMF…¹ etc. but rather for IPP, PPI, IPIP …

¹ The letters refer to abbrievations that are oftelly used on dating-sites to designate certain configurations of “social activities” Female/Female/Male, Male/Male/Female etc.

Thanks to Anne for the inspiration and to Simona Robová on Pixabay for the image.

Entry 16 #Communication

Bad day for barbecue

In Entry 4, I wrote that concerning Oligoamory, I regard “communication” as a “flexible variable” rather than as a set “value” carved in stone.
The vast majority of texts, podcasts and videos on ethical non-monogamy emphasise “communication” as one of the most important pillars of functioning multiple relationships – and, of course, rightly so and with good reason. Because of that I’m pretty sure that I will dedicate several bLog-Entrys to that elementary topic in the upcoming future.
At the same time, I noticed recently that “good communication” itself again also requires “flexible variables” on its own in order to take place at all.
Such variables are represented for example by the own resources or respectively the overall condition of the communicating persons.
This may sound strange at first – but communication fails many times already despite the first well-intentioned advice: “Sit down and talk reasonably with each other!”
Occasionally, family is a very suitable field of practice for conduct in small communities, so I’ll give you a personal example of the potentially underlying problem.

Someone’s missing…

The story started Thursday when my daughter brought me one of those famous “information-leaflets” home from school. In it, as a parent, I was briefed on the details of the “school year-end feast” held on the very next Monday evening with both class teachers, parents, and students.
The letter began with the neat phrase “Dear Parents, as you have already been informed by your daughter/son, we want to conclude the school year together next Monday on our barbecue area […]“.
It was noon on Thursday when the note in question lay lonely on the kitchen table (where I discovered it when I entered the room because of my own lunch break) and – the readers will guess as much – I hadn’t “already been informed” in any way beforehand about anything.
Well – I have to admit that as a parent of two school-kids there are a lot of more or less important notes concerning school-activities in about 8 school-years that are handed in this way to catch the attention of a busy father. In fact there are so many that I – in order to keep track of them all – have become accustomed to prioritizing these announcements according to my own “rating-system of urgency”. E.g. I respond more promptly concerning an invitation to a personal one-to-one talk with the maths teacher on a breaking performance curve than on the appeal for donations to the sports festival or regarding the mere info with the opening hours of the cafeteria. And at the very bottom of my list are invitations to social events that are related to school only in so far as that the people who meet there have anything to do with class 8b (which in my case is also because I cannot muster any enthusiasm concerning social gatherings for the purpose of recreational activity with mostly strangers one way or the other).
Nevertheless, to subdue incoming messages to my system of “important” or “less important”, I have to read them at least once for this purpose (which is, at any rate, one bonus-point for me!).
Accordingly I knew that I would still be involved in my daily work “next Monday between 6 and 8 p.m.” – and thus would have a plausible explanation for my non-participation. Honestly however, I would have to admit, of course, that for personal summons by the maths teacher concerning a crisis talk regarding the above mentioned performance curve, I would have certainly made the time (and this wouldn’t have been too much of an effort fo me either…).
Anyway, I eventually met my 14-year-old daughter in the course of the Thursday evening and left it up to her whether she wanted to go to the barbecue or not (since: “The students tell the teachers until Friday how many participants from their family are to be expected […] “). I also offered her to buy anything she wanted to provide at the event.
Alas, parents of teenagers might have guessed the answer – determined and definite as it was delivered: “I just dunno…”

Even some guidebooks recommend it: Perhaps this would have been the point to start a conversation about communication culture – in a way a kind of meta-communication – concerning the general way of delivering school-relevant news and up to the precise verbalisation of an opinion-forming process – on which in turn actions of other persons (in this case mine) would have been based.
But I didn’t and left the matter at that.

Anyhow, even if this brief incident may not throw a rosy light on the organisational and rhetorical achievements of adolescents, it is essentially telling to a great degree something about myself.
This I realised when I was approached by my nesting-partner on Saturday whether I talked to my daughter about the school-barbecue. And if I had asked her about the neglected preannouncement “… as you have already been informed by your daughter/son…” (since my nesting-partner as mistress of our family-.schedule appreciates definite plans and observed agreements).

So what about “my share” concerning this (communicative) occurence?
First and foremost, I have to admit that I, Oligotropos, allocate issues that directly affect myself my top priority. In relation to the described example, therefore e.g. a letter from the tax office with my name on it would have impressed me much more – and would have led to a much more committed reaction. At the same time, the school tried its part to involve me – because the appellation “Dear parents” clearly included me.
Nevertheless, I was biased because I attributed the topic “school” to the sphere of my children. And not so much in the sense of “(That is) Not my problem”, but rather in the sense of “This is not primarily my problem” – and therefore not my main priority.
But in doing so, I started a “dwindling spiral of diminution”. Maybe it was supported by the fact that my children – on the whole – are quite good in school. Accordingly, I usually expect that the topic “school” isn’t coming down on me suddenly (but we all know that accidents are quickly going to happen here…). This way I downgraded the note and the barbecue-event to a “subsidiary occurrence” and my brain, always striving for coherent structures, equated “subsidiary” with “of less importance (to me)”.
And alas, as shown above, I had supplied my “internal filing system” with another demur yet, because my brain knew my dislike concerning “social activities” very well – and thus was an easy target to succumb to inner temptation.
And my inner temptation in turn had already the upper hand anyway because that week I was on the edge of exhaustion due to an immediate increase in workload.
Still, I managed to address my daughter concerning the parent’s letter because I’m responsible for our family-shopping and the letter had informed me that “everyone brings their own food and drinks”. “Shopping” and “Caring for the family” seem to have a heightened priority in my classification (since I actually maintain those activities under almost all circumstances, even if I’m pretty battered).
However, my daughter’s indecisive response regarding participation was in my view halfheartedly and I couldn’t tell any more if I would contribute to her well-being in any way by badgering her about the barbecue.
And that nailed the last nail into the communication-coffin: The “Dunno…” of my daughter confirmed to me that the barbecue-event was probably of low priority to her, too, and I ticked off the topic – literally: Hardly worth mentioning.
This way, any conversation about “how” the note was conveyed was buried alongside the whole subject as well. After all: Why take the risk of disharmony because of a topic that was pursued by all parties involved with so little urgency?

That’s what I meant in the beginning with the terms resources and overall condition of the communicating persons.
Genuine communication – no matter how the quality would have been – regarding the subject, in which all parties could express their concerns didn’t take place.
And that’s why we will never know how this conversation would have turned out – and only you, dear readers, will learn about my motivations – although it would have been much more important if I had managed to convey them in time to the members of my social group (here: my family). Since “family” is, strictly speaking, also a kind of “multiple relationship” (even if some relations – those of children to their parents, for example – are not utterly based on free choice).

So – how was my above behaviour influencing my multiple relationship?
On the one hand, of course, I can attribute myself and my own needs a high priority, even in social settings. And in Entry 11 we have agreed that I am the “hero in my own life’s movie”.
On the other hand I am not above or beyond these social settings since I participate willingly – and I want to contribute to the “mutual we” (which I quote so often concerning Oligoamory). In Entry 11, therefore, I also have shown that it is not a contradiction for Homo sapiens to combine self-interest and group-interest in individual actions – providing that a being perceives itself as part of that very group.
►As a result, it is extremely important – in respect of this social group – to separate the topic of a conversation or the reason for communication from the conversation proper or the act of communication itself (at least in your head).
Because otherwise I impose my personal reasons that I associate with the topic (such as exhaustion, convenience, individual priorities…) on any opportunity for communication – and thereby on my entire social group. As a consequence I strip the other participants at the outset from their voice – and thus place my own motives at the highest rank for the entire community: thereby forfeiting the “mutual we”.

And this was not even a deliberate-intentional process of mine, but rather based on a series of individual reasons and counterarguments, which in my view, due to my situational condition, intertwined quite comprehensibly.
Nevertheless, in achieving a short-term success (Now I do not have to go/contribute to the barbecue) I have spoiled several important opportunities for me and my community:
First and foremost, I’m not going to know know whether my daughter really wanted to attend the barbecue-party or whether she had sensed quite clearly that I had already dismissed the matter beforehand. After all, the other participants in our social group also act “reciprocally” – in other words, the sensitivities of others are incorporated into their own wishes and decisions (especially children or sensitive individuals are affected).
In the same way, I avoided a talk which might have led to the possible improvement of the overall conversational culture – and, to be precise, even contributed a paramount example of sloppy conduct myself.
Thereby I had deprived myself of the opportunity to show myself in my true colours towards my loved ones: To explain my situation, my condition, my wishes and needs.
That way the core-competence of “the mutual we “, the resource-pooling and the power of support – which I regard as the backbone of Oligoamory – didn’t unfold.

Of course, in the end, the result might have been the same: Maybe we all wouldn’t have mustered the capacity to include the barbecue-party in the common schedule. Or maybe it would have become apparent that no one would have been in the mood to participate anyway.
But more minds might have found amazing possibilities or showed surprising motivation – which I myself couldn’t have foreseen in my own preoccupied and exhausted head.
In addition, communication, like any skill, can best be improved through practice. Even if a not completely harmonious conversation would have been the result because the touchy subject “transport of information” (by means of the kitchen table) would have been part of the talk.

Sometimes we need courage not to work things out just on our own. Especially when we see ourselves as part of a close-knit community. Even things that we classify allegedly as trifles may probably affect our whole relationship-network in some way – and thus all the others involved.
Therefore, we can strengthen our mutual trust the most by making our personal motivations transparent.
It is possible that at the end of the day it will become apparent to us that our own “good reasons” weren’t quite as heroic or comprehensible to the others as to ourselves.
But the likelihood is much greater that we will benefit from our relationship-network because it is “more than the sum of its parts” and we will gain unexpected support or at least mutual understanding.
I hope that next time, this friendly thought will help me if I avoid a conversation from the very start, because I assume that I am not up to it.

Thanks to sacriba on sacriba’s Blog for her question concerning the “good (personal) reasons” and thanks to Jill Wellington on Pixabay for the image.

Entry 15 #Trust

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
(W. Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well – Act 1, Scene 1)

I often find it difficult to become acquainted with new people. Because in the beginning there is no established mutual trust I can build upon...”
That’s what a friend said to me the other day when we talked about multiple relationships.
And although this sounds perfectly understandable at first, there are two types of trust that are already available to us in such a case at any given time.
Yes, that’s right.
And today I like to start off with the yet rather unknown type which is called “Swift Trust” in the first place:

Swift Trust

The “Swift Trust Theory” was drafted for the first time in 1995 by the neuropsychologist D. Meyerson, the organization theorist K.E. Weick and the social psychologist R.M. Kramer in the essay collection “Trust in Organizations: Frontiers of Theory and Research” (published by Sage-Publications, London).
Technically speaking, they described a human dynamic that they had observed in business contexts, notably when strangers were assembled into a task force and had to work together as a team. And therefore at a starting point when no criterion for true trust was fulfilled – either in terms of time spent together nor on the basis of an already existing acquaintance.
Although “Swift Trust” was thus originally a feature concerning buisness-relationships, I am quite sure that several of its characteristics are applicable on any process where people are beginning to get to know each other or even fall in love (check with yourself!):

  • Orientation: Since everyone is new and the situation can not really be overseen or assessed, this very uncertainty actually arises as “common ground”. In addition, in such a stressed situation, adrenaline is released in all involved – as in the famous “Bridge experiment“¹, which provides an extra incentive for cooperation “amidst tension”.
  • Normativity: Uncertainty causes most people to switch back to adapted or normalised behaviors as a “crisis mode”, much like a “safety net”. Those participants are the most successful who are able to avoid extreme actions or statements and can thus position themselves as reliable or predictable.
  • Expectations: Yes, it’s proven: The reciprocal expectations concerning a successful outcome create another virtual “common ground” (although the details of what qualifies as “success”, can vary greatly individually).
  • Similar activities and joint reward(s): These are initial “amplifiers”, which allow the parties involved to experience the possibility of synchronization (Therefore, for example, animals court and croon in complex coordinated patterns in order to allow more and more closeness [to an otherwisely competitive being]).
  • The idea of strong mutual relatedness: As far as our brains are concerned, sometimes “to do” means “to be”. Accordingly, If we initially apply our attention intensively to somebody, our brain gladly registers this behaviour as “the whole thing” – and supports the impression that there is already a common basis with a lot of mutual familiarity (which, realistically, can not yet be established at all).
  • Scant time: Many first meetings are situational or short-termed, and often far from mundane. Similar to the bridge experiment¹ in such situations our perception/cognition focuses only on the most obvious (selfish or unproductive activities, which could show us in bad light are rarely displayed at this early stage).
  • Sufficient resources (tangible or psychic): You met at a concert, in a pub or at a seminar? All these are in a way “feel-good environments” for us, in which we experience ourselves – albeit not completely “safe” – as “in abundance” or in any case in a “preferential situation”. Thus, we’re probably going to act more generously and with less concern.
  • Intense process orientation: Personal problems or individual criticism are usually postponed during this phase. The general priority is “… that things get on the road as smoothly as possible“.

Criticism – thereby including voices from the world of scientific – concerning the “Swift Trust Theory” is sounding like friendly advice: Swift Trust represents above all a human mechanism for reducing complexity in an unfamiliar situation. As a result, it meets many criteria that are also displayed in crisis management models.
And even our mothers already told us that: “No one can play pretend much longer than 14 days.” Concerning “Swift Trust” they would have been right one more time, because closer research revealed that in regard to longer-term cooperation, the element of “communication” became evermore important. However, good communication (or rather the absence of it) turned out to be the real Achilles’ heel of the “Swift Trust Theory”, since its kind of initial (pre-)trust is admittedly essential concerning the display of trustworthiness, but it is not sufficient at all to constitute a stable relationship.

But I wrote of “two” kinds of trust, which are available to us without any prior knowledge regarding our counterpart. So is there a more solid version available than the aforementioned “swift (pre)trust”?
Yes – But it is not accessible to all of us in the same quantity and quality. I’m talking about


Being self-confident is a great advantage in unfamiliar situations, especially with regard to other people. After all, this means nothing less than trusting in our competence to deal with any challenge or even with difficulties which might arise – e.g. in our interpersonal relationships. If we are predominantly convinced that we can cope with most of our issues – come what may – in that case we are overall less afraid, and that is a very important precondition for true mutual trust.
With sufficient self-confidence, we also able to perceive other people as “heroes in their own life’s movie” (as in Entry 11) – who may act occasionally unluckily, but basically, like us, have good intentions.

Lack of self-confidence, on the other hand, causes us to become anxious, accordingly we are prone to turn to a defensive posture or become even belligerent – because we believe that we are “not up to” the others, or we constantly assess ourselves as “weak”.
In this way, self-confidence, unfortunately, has a lot to do with our attitude towards other people. And this attitude in turn has been strongly influenced by our experiences as we grew up.
“Negative” parental attachment styles, as I described in Entry 14, haunt us deep into our adult lives.
A “fearful” attachment-style e.g. undermined our belief concerning our self-efficacy, most likely by being overprotected – which resulted in a lack of opportunities to gain own experiences.
A “preoccupying” attachment-style imposed high demands on us, and we experienced ourselves as constantly failing or “insufficient”.
Or we were exposed to a rather “dismissive” attachment-style, where we almost never received assistance – not even in emergency situations – and promises were broken regularly.
Such learning experiences, however, teach people that they can not really trust their own abilities, nor other persons, nor life itself.

Unfortunately, both the social as well as the psychological research of the past 25 years have shown that not only are we ourselves are the victims of such a “learned” attitude, but that all the people we interact with sense this attitude – maybe only on a subconscious level – because there is always some kind of inner detachment or personal reservedness in us.
In the worst case, this can lead to the phenomenon of “self-fulfilling prophecy,” in which our inner attitude exactly evokes those results and responses regarding other people which we fear. Because our very attitude of reservation – or at least of reluctance – turn us into “shaky candidates” for the other parties, since then we are quite difficult to assess and for the others it becomes challenging to muster the courage to invest such a relationship.

Concerning Wikipedia, trust is described as follows: “One party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee); the situation is directed to the future. In addition, the trustor abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome of the other’s actions; they can only develop and evaluate expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired.”
Thereby it becomes rather obvious that trust is distinctly linked to confidence and self-esteem.
Since stunted self-confidence and crippled trust have deep causes that can not be overcome with simple positive thinking or a 14-day behavioural change program, I as an author – mainly writing about a world of committed-sustainable (multiple)relationships – would like to propose three suggestions, which have worked to some extent quite well for myself:

  1. I browse on the internet with an active adblocker and in social networks I block undesired content. Real life “out there” sometimes seems to be like a huge internet as well – nevertheless I have a choice, which “presetting” I choose to interact with my surroundings. The protective stance “assume the worst, so at least you’re not going to be disappointed” is almost never useful in encounters with real people, because in the worst case it provides a rather fragile protection – and even in the best cases most likely nothing at all will happen. Because only if I open up at least a little bit and deactivate my “protective shield” temporarily, I get a chance to experience any amicable meeting. And such a meeting can only turn out prosperous if my “deactivated shielding” signals the other person that in turn their future expectations concerning me are in any way promising.
  2. As I have shown in Entry 11 “Hero in our own movie”, my own attitude is a direct contribution to a more approachable and caring world. For again the things I do affect the things I have on my mind: If I choose a distrustful attitude the chances are very high that I will also experience distrust.
    In such cases sometimes some purposeful idealism actually helps: E.g. the thought that “out there” are lovable and trustworthy people enables me to feel more peaceful myself. As a result, I am virtually my own contribution to a “better world”. In this way I can already experience self-efficacy in a first small dimension, which definitely provides a first basis for any further development of healthy self-confidence.
  3. (Advanced): If I still feel disappointed because (in my opinion) other people might take advantage of me or possibly reject me, I will try to communicate my disappointment and my wishes concerning this matter. If the other party continues its behaviour, I gain a moment of great clarity that the other person(s) do(es) not want to contribute to my well-being at this particular moment. Since I can not know what their motivations are (and in such a configuration I’m predominantly preoccupied with myself and self-empathy often enough – so I seldom have resources for resolution) I can nevertheless move away from the situation or limit the contact to this person to the necessary extent.
    But that is already a huge progress, because it is a situationally adapted reaction of mine. Because this way, I can react in a appropriate and self-efficacious way instead of falling into a total attitude of avoidance with a preset “blocker” that tarnishes from the outset any possibility of potential joie de vivre.

Already in 1974, American psychologists Donald Dutton and Art Aron published an experiment in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which they conducted on two pedestrian (suspension) bridges over Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver. Thereby they demonstrated an increased “confidentiality probability” under precarious external circumstances.

Thanks to the psychotherapists Doris Wolf and Rolf Merkle and their book “Prescriptions for Happiness” (pAl-Verlagsgesellschaft 2017), in which they outline brief accounts on the topics of trust and self-esteem.
And thanks to Purnomo Capunk on Unsplash.com for the wonderful photo.

Entry 14

Cupid and Psyche

The conversation with the Oligoamorist last week has made me think. Somehow I still believe that these extraordinary people have a special “6th Relationship-Sense” that is not available to us “humble mortal lovers”.
And although I’ve already picked out a few things from the Oligoamorists, which help to provide the basics of good (multiple) relationship management, I wonder what oftenly still detains us – despite this knowledge – to truly establish a durable foundation concerning our relationships.
For that reason: Are there any measurable ratings at all – maybe outside the remote island of Oligoamory – that can reasonably describe the quality of a (loving) relationship?

So I dig for a week through the archives of the old world and discover – almost serendipitously¹ – the “The relationship closeness inventory (RCI) – Assessing the closeness of interpersonal relationships” – from the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” No. 57, pp. 792-807, by E. Berscheid, M. Snyder and A.M. Omoto from the year 1989.
And if somebody would ask me why I’m coming forth with precisely that investigation, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, I would venture to explain the following: The “RCI” of the above-mentioned scientists stems from the second half of the 1980s and formed the groundwork for many more researches into interpersonal attachment which are still continuing to this day. Incidentally, “inventory” in this case is to be taken quite literally, because a kind of “relationship-test” has been assembled from the parameters of the study, which can still be completed on the Internet today (click here). In the last three decades this “test” has been accessed many times by the curious – and not always with serious intentions – to determine the supposed “quality” of a relationship.
Nevertheless, Berscheid, Snyder and Omoto identified with their work several important factors. In particular, they developed a model in which “closeness” in a relationship could be described by three dimensions: a) frequency of interaction, b) diversity of activities and c) strength of impact (of the persons in the relationship on each other).
The mere consideration of the frequency of interaction proved that “closeness” in a relationship is determined not only by a purely “metaphysical component” in the sense of “feeling attached to someone,” but literally depends qualitatively and directly on time actually spent together [I emphasize this, since to this day, especially in the freedom-proclaiming circles of Polyamory – notably to vindicate long-distance- and weekend-relationships – that correlation is still regularly disputed. But even science tells us that it is deeply human, real – and elemental.].
Quite earthly as well as human were also the considerations regarding the “diversity of activities”, because the scientists postulated by no means particularly unusual interactions in that matter, but rather a wide range of everyday activities (such as shared laundry, visits to friends or a visit to concert), which conducive to experiencing “closeness” in a relationship.
The third “subscale” of their variables described the reciprocal influence of the relationship-participants on each other’s personal conduct, decisions and plans. This was a groundbreaking thought – which I personally consider to be exceedingly oligoamorous – as it was the first time that scientists formulated a scale concerning the important dimension of a transpersonal “mutual we”. Thereby providing as well an initial estimation of all the little gestures and concessions which participants of real relationships put forward on behalf of each other to live in true mutual attachment and togetherness.
In conclusion, by combining all three factors (a-frequency, b-diversity, c-reciprocity) in the work of Berscheid, Snyder and Omoto, statements about the resilience of relationships could be deduced. Because this also showed how important the conjoined experience of “closeness” is – especially concerning essential relationship-building-blocks such as commitment, reliability, participation and identification. And as a bLogger about Oligoamory I would like to add: And thus as well for the “sustainability-factor” of every relationship (see Entry 3).

In the years that followed, however, the conclusions of Berscheid’s, Snyder’s and Omoto’s “RC-Inventory” brought other researchers to the scene who had observed that the mere improvement of “frequency”, “diversity” and “reciprocity” didn’t always lead to more superior relationships – or to be precise: That several participants in relationships seemed to sabotage their “improvement” by themselves.
One of the most important studies on this topic was written by the researchers K. Bartholomew and L.M. Horowitz, titled “Attachment styles among young adults – A test of a four-category model ” in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” No. 61, pp. 226-244, 1991. Bartholomew and Horowitz applied an approach one step ahead of Berscheid, Snyder and Omoto by examining the question “why” people were initiating (loving) relationships.
Noticing that some people regularly had difficulties initiating and maintaining loving relationships because of their above-mentioned “self-sabotage” the scientists attempted to identify possible causes by means of surveys and interviews. And because disturbances in parent-child attachment were widely studied in animals and humans in the 1960s and 1970s (particularly by Harry Harlow, John Bowlby), the researchers suspected a link concerning learned “attachment strategies” in infancy and therefore inquired into both the self-image and the public image that the subjects had developed in the course of their growing-up.
The results were categorised along a two-axis-model, whereby “secure” vs. “fearful” and “preoccupied” vs. “ dismissive” generated contrastive polarities – thus deploying the “four-category model”.
In this way the psychologists indeed identified a correlation in the present attachment behaviour of their adult participants depending on different coping strategies regarding an unsatisfied need for closeness in the former parent-child relationship of some of their testees:
Who e.g “fell victim” to a rather “dismissive” parental style was inclined in her*his present (loving) relationships to maintain a positive self-esteem mainly by depreciating other partners.
Concerning people who had experienced a “fearful” style, the endured rejection frequently resulted in a buildup of inferiority feelings and sometimes in the avoidance of too much intimacy – thereby even complicating the commencement of any (loving) relationship at all.
The young adults from “preoccupied” parental homes, on the other hand, showed a tendency towards being excessively dependent on their loved ones – even right up to a degree of self-abandonment and over-identification with their partners.
Interestingly enough, however, it also became clear that concerning a “secure” bond there had to be a certain degree of affection as well as relatedness.
On the whole, the “two-axis model” allowed to prove that there were many hybrid forms and even conflicting tendencies in all of the examined phenomena.

These basic results were attenuated several times in the following years by supplementary examinations, since the findings would otherwise have suggested too high a degree of “pathological” relationship management, if only the measure of parental attention during the childhood and adolescence would be decisive for interpersonal abilities in loving relationships (M.W. Baldwin et al²). Further research made apparent that peer group and circle of friends in later puberty and early adulthood would have an almost equivalent effect – which was either able to strengthen any “previous damage” or indeed to remove it completely.
However, the fact that our “loving past” always affects our “loving present”, especially as far as our motivations are concerned – and why and how we “relate” to each other – turned out to be more and more obvious on the road into the 21st century.

For that reason – and last but not least – I’d like to spotlight the study by B. Thornton, R. Ryckman and J. Gold “Hypercompetitiveness and relationships: Further implications for romantic, family and peer relationship” in the journal “Psychology” No.2, pp. 269-274 from 2011. For although this survey is based on the previous two, it nevertheless showed that at present even “external factors” are further affecting our relationship-abilities.
For we are currently living in a world that strongly supports a “cult of the individual” and likes to label close-knit intimate relationships as “outmoded” or “sticky” and thus as a model for conventionality or even as an example of interdependency.
However, since closeness still remains a basic human need, we often find ourselves in relationships despite such opinions – and currently several forms of non-monogamy are being promoted as a universal solution to our drama of eulogised individualistic aspirations and our occasional desire for closeness.
But if we nevertheless insist in such (non-monogamous) relationships on our untouchable individuality and mainly on the fulfilment of hereupon ensuing needs – without taking into account the mutual relatedness and concessions mentioned by Berscheid, Snyder and Omoto – in that case we are very quickly entering the territory of “Hypercompetitiveness“.
In their research Thornton, Ryckman and Gold were able to show that in such “competitive relationships” there was a high degree of selfishness, cursoriness and expediency – but very little commitment. They were also able to show that the emotional support in such relationships was lower, the potential for conflict was increased, and there was often a greater motivation to unduly control the behavior of the other partners. Even for us laymen it can be seen in this way that such features already pave the way for both selfish and narcissistic tendencies.
And let’s be honest – traces of exaggerated comparative thinking are occasionally a part of our (loving) relationships these days anyway: Whether if we feel the urge to rectify our loved ones or to criticise them self-righteously, whether we choose our loved ones as “benchmarks” to check if they or we are somewhere “better” or “worse”, or if we are convinced that we have to do everything by ourselves because no one else seems reliable enough.

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova (Paris, Louvre)

When I finally return from the archives of psychological laboratories and questionnaires, I’m actually more thoughtful than before. For modern science seems to prove what even the ancient Greeks and Romans knew quite well over 2000 years ago: That the forces of Cupid and Psyche in each and every one of us still have many adventures ahead of them before they can really enter a relationship with each other on an equal footing. And that seems to be accordingly true for us and our loved ones.
When I look at the scientists of modern times as the contemporary interpreters of our hidden inner world – a role that was assumed in the old days by storytellers and poets – they too want to reveal to us that there are no simple answers concerning human relationships.

For example, Berscheid, Snyder and Omoto show us why it is not enough for sustainable relationship management to sit with the crisp-bag together on the same couch every night and merely be united in frustration about e.g. European border policy.
Because in order to create real closeness, it is rather important that we mutually explore our personal borders, transcend them and empathise in our partners. Attachment and closeness require a sense of togetherness, in which we allow ourselves to be touched and influenced by the inner reality of our loved ones – and they in turn by our’s. And that points to the fact why real closeness and commitment are full-time projects which are neither quick to create nor enduring without constant attention.

Precisely with regard to this “full-time project”, a study like that of Bartholomew and Horowitz emphasises why it is so important to improve our awareness concerning ourselves and the others:
Because not all of us start our life’s journey with the same kind of burden. And therefore it is possible that some of us say “relationship” or even “love” – but actually we are trying to compensate our neediness concerning closeness by self-aggrandisement, because we lack self-esteem or by means of codependency.
And because only a few of us start with bulging love tanks and highly polished self-esteem into their own love-life, especially for the engagement in multiple relationships a recipe that already Greeks and Romans employed is highly recommended which is „Γνῶθι σεαυτόν”, or respectively „Nosce te ipsum” – “Know thyself!”.
For it is this self-knowledge, both of our own limitations – but also of our own potential – that makes us all more human and merciful in respect to each other. And this is especially important in times when things are not running smoothly, when we are in doubt and we or the others experience us as being little capable of managing a relationship.

At those times it is especially beneficial if we are able not to perceive ourselves as participants in a competitive rat-race regarding relationship matters by the dimensions “faster” or “the more the better”. Thornton, Rickman, and Gold have shown how we ensnare ourselves often involuntarily in a self-imposed trap if we want to keep up with such aspirations, and how we begin to treat our relationships and the people in it like our environment: as if there were always a replacement just around the corner.

If some of my dear readers still think that modern science and ancient myths certainly want to impart incompatible ideals to us I’d like to conclude this bLogbook-entry by quoting S. Cohen, L.G. Underwood and B.H. Gottlieb in “Social support measurement and intervention“ – A guide for health and social scientists“, Oxford University Press, 2000:
Thus, intimacy is a cardinal process, defined as feeling understood, validated and cared for by partners who are aware of facts and feelings central to one’s self-conception.
Contributing to this perception is trust (the expectation that partners can be counted on to respect and fulfil important needs) and acceptance (the belief that partners accept one for who one is).
Empathy is also relevant because it signals awareness of an appreciation for a partners core-self.
Attachment also contributes to perceived partner responsiveness, notwithstanding its link to interdependence and sentiment, because of the fundamental role of perceiving that one is worthy of and can expect to receive love and care from significant others

Sometimes even science can be so beautiful.
Cupid and psyche would have found each other ♥.

¹ Berscheid, Snyder, and Omoto’s “Relationship-Closeness-Inventory” is featured in the television series “The Big Bang Theory” when mentioned by the character Sheldon Cooper in episode 162 (Season 8, chapter 3: “The first pitch insuffificiency”).

² Baldwin M.W., Keelan J.P.R., Fehr B., Enns V. & Koh-Rangarajoo E. (1996). Social-cognitive conceptualization of attachment working models: Availability and accessibility effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, No.71, pp 94-109

Thanks to Francesca Bratto on Pixabay for the picture of Cupid and Psyche

Entry 13

It was great when it all began…

A full-grown oligoamorous native, who is coming with big strides out of the forest while at the same time waving a tablet-computer, is quite an impressive as well as a somewhat strange sight. Especially, when it is still early in the morning and the mist between the tree trunks is just ascending, which in turn is thereby transformed by the first rays of sun into fabulous luminous formations. Even before I can set down the teapot next to the campfire, however, the awesome newcomer has already settled down next to me on a scarily creaking camping chair and begins to speak:

“I liked your story about Multi-speed-Europe. And also, how you demonstrated in it that we humans have very similar varying speeds in our own relationships.”
After a moment, in a mixture of surprise and intimidation, I manage to mumble something about my gratefulness and I am able to offer the Oligoamorist a cup of tea – which the latter accepts and then continues: “… However, you have chosen an interesting point of time when you stopped your story.”
“Well…”, I say, finally finding my voice, “At the end of the story I wrote that all involved were actually only at the very beginning of their relationship-journey. And I also describe their inner desires, ambiguities and objections, which have to be integrated together in the future.”
My seat mate weighs his head: “That may be suitable enough concerning the strange continent of Open Relationships or on the versatile archipelago of Polyamory…,” he says, “… but by oligoamorous standards, your story might be at that point even literally at the end – bones and all.”
There I fall back into my initial role of staring at my visitor with my mouth open and eyes wide.
But he suddenly looks very serious, almost sad somehow, as he continues: “Well, my dear Oligotropos, you are probably familiar enough with multiple relationships that, after a few weeks or even months of promising and brilliant beginnings, seemingly suddenly and unexpectedly went completely out of hand – where often one or more participants peeled off and announced to the horror of the remaining few that they could not continue like this…”
Instead of answering, I start nodding, because I can see that the Oligoamorist is up to something really important.
“Here, Vincent in your story and also Ivana could be such persons – maybe Max too.”

Now my interlocutor has aroused my interest completely, I sit up straight, refill the tea-mugs and ask: “Do the Oligoamorists know something in that respect that lies still hidden from the rest of us so far? Do you perhaps have a kind of ‘6th Relationship-Sense’?”
My visitor only allows himself half a smile before he answers: “Probably nothing like that. Nevertheless, some of us are good observers – and of course we have gained our own experience in the course of time. Which does not mean on the other hand that the remote island of Oligoamory has been completely spared from such incidents.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought so,” I say. “Please tell me everything you know about these sudden mood changes!”
“Well,” my guest begins slowly, “for example, that it’s never really ‘sudden’.”
“Explain it to me!”
“Now – It is true that as living beings we always send out small signals, even if it may be unconscious.” “Yes …”
“If in the beginning of a multiple relationship any irritations are flourishing in obscurity, then these ‘small signals’ are always already there too”
“I understand.”
“Well – but then people in such a relationship sometimes are demonstrating a seemingly strange behaviour, which observers are often more likely to notice than the person concerned.”
“There I would need an example…”

“Right – for example, when establishing a multiple relationship some potential participants don’t express a clear and present ‘Yes!‘ – and a rather stating things like ‘Ok, let’s try…’ or ‘If you think so...’ or ‘Maybe it might work…‘. But that way it is too easy for the other persons in the developing relationship – presumably even because all are not yet well enough acquainted – to overlook the ‘small signals’ in such a case, and that instead of a clear and present ‘Yes!’ some kind of awkwardness has been expressed. Or the other people will rely on what has been said – what is quite likely – since a clear and present ‘No!’ wasn’t expressed either.”
“But it is broadly understood,” I object, “that communication in multiple relationships is the most important thing. It’s the most recurring precept in almost every article on the topic… “
“That may be true,” my visitor replies, “but at the same time, we humans are often afraid that when we make an enquiry, we have to hear something we do not want to hear. So we prefer not to ask, because the other person has not yet clearly expressed a circumstance that would make it necessary. And as long as she or he has not said anything intelligible, I can continue to believe that everything is okay and continue my previous behaviour… And that can initiate a kind of vicious circle – or to be precise a vicious spiral – because the person who has expressed its insecurities all too indirectly will experience as well how everyone else continues or even reinforces their previous behaviour.”
“But hereby you admit that the recognition of uncertainty is difficult…”, I object.
“We do not always have to recognise everything, right. We also do not have to constantly look after the others. But as grown-ups we have the responsibility to muster the courage to listen to things we may not want to hear. After all, it’s about nothing less than building relationships with each other. The more timely we ask, the more likely it will be that we are able to solve any hidden issues together.”
” Yes, but…”
“Oligotropos, people are very different. Some may just not have a good initial situation regarding multiple relationships on the whole. Accordingly, many things can be ‘too much’ right from the start, as far as the state of their internal development is concerned. Maybe somebody can’t keep the common pace because she*he thinks that it is all too demanding. Or she*he wants to contribute – but doesn’t quite know how. Or she*he has never really given any thought to the whole idea of multiple relationships and is unsure if that can be a constant lifestyle for her*him at all.” “That sounds grave…”
“Oh, it is – for those affected. Because from their point of view the beginning of a multiple relationship could quickly feel like a sprint of marathon length, since they soon realise by the pace of the others that they are compelled to catch up – and then the discrepancy between inner attitude and what is shown outwards often becomes greater.” “Ah ok, now I begin to understand your earlier depiction concerning ‘awkwardness’.”
“Yes exactly. Because the initial rift remains – and in the worst case gradually gets bigger. And the incoherence between inner attitude and what is shown outwardly, the conflict that prevails in such a person, is most certainly noticeable from the outside.”
“That again could be the moment for good communication – or even for a break!”, I say eagerly.

The huge guy at my side sighs heavily. “Yes, but here often another phase begins, in which the participants then try to cover up their foreboding perceptions with misplaced humour – or the person who has difficulties is proclaimed as just being somewhat quirky. For after all, to really enquire the matter in such a moment would certainly carry the risk of not being able to continue what you’d rather be doing.” The Oligoamorist pauses and frowns before continuing.
“That can lead to very stupid thoughts on both sides. The party that desperately wants to consummate the long-awaited multiple relationship, may think at such a point, ‘I have to prevail here and now, otherwise I’ll lose myself (and the fulfilment of my needs)…’ And the insecure party might be anxious: ‘I’ll let you do it, otherwise I might lose you…’ And unfortunately, usually both parties waits too long, until one of the participants says: ‘Stop, that way it doesn’t work for me.’.
At such a point, everyone starts acting out of fear: fear of resignation vs. fear of loss. Which won’t work at all.”
“That seems pretty severe to me,” I say. “Is there anything to be done concerning the people in such a relationship?”
The Oligoamorist breathes heavily; he looks a bit like he’s thinking of something that had happened to him once. Without a word, I fill up his tea-mug.

“It is often enough emphasised that in such a case the slow ones should be the pacemakers,” he continues finally. If you put pressure on the slowest person and they go overboard all are eventually lost. Because somewhere someone sits at home, frustrated and defeated by mental overload and is very unhappy.
You see, we’re talking about people who actually have strong feelings concerning each other, who love each other. Accordingly, a solution can only be found by focusing on a common, benevolent whole. Party A could thus e.g. seek for solutions regarding their own insecurities. At the same time, however, Party B would have to wait with its desired consummation. And both procedures would have to happen in a reciprocal process – in such a way that it would be mutually perceptible. That way, while A is exercising ‘comfort-zone-stretching’, B has to practice self-effacement. Both is pretty demanding stuff.”
“Phew, it sounds like that to me too. Especially in a multiple relationship where several people can be affected…”
“Indeed. And that’s not all. The previous process of ambiguity and insufficient mindfulness develops gradually, like an exponential curve. The ‘explosion’ or ‘capitulation’ of those affectetd is in the end almost always a behaviour that is chosen at a climax when no other strategy is working any more.
And at that point, even decisive steps have to be taken back from the all the things that you imagined you had already achieved. And the slower pace that has to follow after that will not recover the imagined ‘mock-achievements’ for quite a while.”
“I do not want to be rude, but that sounds so frustrating…”

But there suddenly I have the full attention of the Oligoamorist, because his head is swinging round towards me and he looks at me with flashing wild eyes: “What is the alternative, oligotropos? Who in a loving relationship has the responsibility that all involved are feeling well?
You folks from the mainland – you deal with those things as if you would jump in a book right into the middle of its story, because your need – oh yes, I even say your neediness – is at a point, that when you have finally found your book, you are no longer able to wait and see how the story unfolds in the first place! You want to be right in the middle of the story – or rather at its happy end, you want to have everything immediately, the whole gamut. But then it’s just a ‘mock-story’, since because of the attempt to cut corners there’s actually no real story. And without a real story, there is only an illusion about those ‘mock-achievemenst’ that I just mentioned.
Often, however, in such cases something is amiss for someone, and people often go beyond their own limits in this way, some want to grant more than they can actually give – since in the background, their dynamics of acquired fears, reservations or emotionality remains active anyway.
For some time now, this provokes the phenomenon of demonstrated compliance (this rather involuntary mixture of docility and conformity) in those who struggle with their self-consciousness, beyond which actually a paradox lies hidden: tempo and harmony are not ripe yet – but someone acts as if.
But ‘cutting corners’ is simply not possible here – and will only lead deeper into the conflict and onto that ‘vicious spiral’ of which I have already spoken.
Hereby the afflicted person becomes a ‘difficult case’ for himself and for the others. Because everyone tries to pretend that nothing is wrong. And the self-efficacy of those affected suffer the most – and as a result no no real trust will be established – despite flowery all-round assertions.
However, each one of us can only confide in someone whom he or she truly trusts. What is more, self-expression would be of utmost importance at that stage, so that everybody else could understand what’s really alive in the suffering person”
“Now I understand what you tried to tell me when you initially mentioned that at the point where I stopped my story it could be ultimately over in the worst case,” I say quietly. “I’ll think about it thoroughly. But what should I write to my dear readers today in the bLog-book of my expedition?”

The Oligoamorist rises groaning – and once again I recognise how big he actually is. “Write that it is important for everyone to be able to express herself or himself in their own way. And everyone should be allowed to do so. Write that it is important for everyone to practice honest and sincere expression amongst each other. Everybody wants to be taken seriously and wants to be heard.
But alas, more often than not, most of us take such attempts personally, we often feel liable in those moments, perhaps even offended or guilty. This usually happens when we hear with our ‘Appeal-Ear‘: ‘You have to do something right now to make things better for me …!’ – But that intention is rarely the case. And that’s why, Oligotropos, I really appreciated your story about our legend concerning the fallen hero, the black flittermouse-man: People usually try to achieve something good for themselves and for each other; of course that can also go terribly awry – but the intention behind it was usually a good one anyway. That’s important to keep in mind, especially in loving relationships!”
I’m almost flattered by these last praises of the native – and for that reason I scarcely notice that he has already started to disappear with long strides right back into his forest. And that’s why I catch only one last look of him, as he is waving his tablet-computer high over his head, yet shouting: “Write on, Oligotropos. Keep writing and tell our stories! “
In this manner I linger a bit confused by my campfire today. Rather abruptly this encounter descended upon me – and in its wake that somewhat uncomfortable topic.
But suddenly, I almost laugh because all at once I think: To listen to something that is not entirely pleasant… Maybe I succeeded today in that respect a bit after all.

Thank you Katrin, Kerstin, Sebastian and Silke – without your experiences I wouldn’t have been able to compose the whole Entry.
And thank you holgerheinze0 on Pixabay for the picture of my visitor.

Entry 12

How many are a few?

Today I received a message from the mainland, in which I was asked how many the much-cited “few” would be, who were supposed to congregate in one of those oligoamorous relationship-networks. And who in any case would be allowed to establish that number, especially if somebody would be falling in love again – because that probably could lead to the commencement of another relationship.

I think that these two questions are extremely exciting. And – like the questioner – I also think that the answers are somehow connected. I believe as well that these questions concern many oligoamorous core topics – therefore, instead of a short answer, I am going to reply to it by means of a whole bLog-entry, by which I will try to approach the entire subject area.

In the 1990s, the British psychologist Robin Dunbar discovered an interesting correlation regarding the magnitude of communities of primates in relation to brain size and the number of possible individuals of such communities, from which he eventually derived the so-called “Dunbar’s number“, which he determined to be about 150 applied to human beings. For better understanding, he partitioned this quantity of 150 people by several concentric circles, with the individual at the centre of the innermost circle – representing you or me.
The first and smallest circle was designated by Dunbar with the specification “intimacy and nearness” and he assigned to it the amount of 5 persons. He pointed out that in this “circle” those people were gathered, with whom someone would usually be living together, who would know each other very well, with whom there would be a very high degree of social interaction and to whom the highest degree of trust among each other would be available.
He designated the second circle with the term “friendship” and allotted its quantity to 15 persons. To that circle he assigned all those close-knit relations to which there would still be quite strong ties, e.g. dreams, plans, joy and sorrow would be shared, even though perhaps there would no longer necessarily be residential or financial companionship and most of the time wouldn’t be spent together anymore.
The third circle can be called “participation” with about 35-50 people in it, who are approximating what many of us call “acquaintances.” Accordingly it contains e.g. our more companionable colleagues, steady attendants from our local parish or convivial club members with whom we are dealing on a regular basis – but in any case a group whose affiliation with us is already becoming quite heterogeneous (of inconsistent composition). Additionally Dunbar himself also pointed out that this group included all so called “friendships” that are not maintained regularly (anymore).
The fourth circle, which would consist of 100 to 200 people – depending on the individual, finally may be called “exchange”. It contains all those persons who we would know just by name, and with whom we only would have isolated dealings and transactions such as a doctor, a home cleaner, possibly own customers, etc.
[Some Dunbar-models even work with larger circles of about 500 to 1500 people. These depict areas in which we may still recognise the face of a person and deduct that this is someone who probably works in our company or in our educational establishment, although their name wouldn’t be realy available to us – or people about which we are pretty sure that they live in our hometown or in our neighbourhood, but we do not have any biographical data about them at all (and never cared to acquire it)]

Of course we are – to quote Patrick McGoohan¹ – not just numbers but real people. Nevertheless, Dunbar’s number and its “circles” surprisingly were found and still can be found in many human correlations in real life, which appear to emerge without any artificial arrangement, for they actually seem to do justice to certain “human criteria”, to which we (in)voluntary react amazingly favourable as well as aligned. Anthropological observations have shown, for example, that African self-supporting villages are still frequently divided into two settlements when the mark of 150 to 200 inhabitants is exceeded. Camps of cooperating hunter-gatherers from the early period of humanity to present-day Amazonia regularly consist of no more than 35 to 50 individuals to ensure the efficiency of a foray.
And from the 12 disciples of Jesus to workshops, immersion courses or team building seminars offered on the internet you will encounter regularly required attendance figures of 8 to 15 participants maximum.
Particularly with the latter we enter the oligoamorous relevant range.

For it is interestingly enough that many spiritual and psychological examples in particular point to an intimate “upper limit” of approximately a “dozen” participants: Be it the disciples quoted above, training groups in Catholic seminaries, the size of church-related home groups, witches circles (in neo-paganism) or conversation circles and therapy groups, as well as small ensembles of musicians who do not need a conductor (and therefore “intuitively communicate”).
For the intensive involvement with a common topic or with each other, there were always quite tangible reasons concerning such an approach: Because somewhere around that “dozen” lurks certainly a threshold of discomfort – and beyond it a “group” becomes a “crowd” wherein either individuals are short-changed or the whole bunch splits up into cliques and factions (thereby establishing exactly that kind of “heterogeneity” by which friends become mere “acquaintances” in Dunbar’s 3rd circle…).
On the other hand, less “tangible”, but all the more important seems to be that beneath that threshold we humans appear to be more likely to engage in a “group process”, wherein we dare to open ourselves up – even to the possibility of conflict and the risk of vulnerability (as well as to the display of fallibility and weakness!). Concerning the size of the group or rather of the relationship, this size seems to facilitate the possibility of tolerating different opinions and needs. And even if anger or harm is experienced, a feeling of clearness an predictability seems to be sustained that in the end respect and trust can be reestablished.

So if you ask me as the author of this bLog-project describing committed-sustainable multiple relationships, I say: According to my experience, an amount of up to 12 participants ensures that all parties in an oligoamorous relationship are still able to display commitment and sustainability as well as they are able to experience it. Because, first of all, the very heterogeneity of a group beyond that point will affect any individual’s commitment, because integrity and reliability can quickly become literally a supra-human Herculean task due to the increasing input of multifarious stimulations. And, secondly, the criteria of sustainability like dependability (consistency), appropriateness (efficiency), and satisfaction (sufficiency) are increasingly watering down [these aspired “values” of Oligoamory are to be found in Entry 3].

Is there an “ideal size” for me as an author as well?
The Jewish proverb says, “He who saves a single soul saves an entire world.” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin, 23 a-b [similar statement incidentally in Qur’an 5:32]). If I consider this metaphor in connection with the Anaïs Nin quote “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.” (Entry 6) then it is very likely that initiating a single relationship with “just” one other person could reveal an intense journey of discovery into a completely unique universe that will occupy us with its infinite diversity for a lifetime.
And to be honest: The mere prospect of such a journey of discovery is already perfectly able to engulf us completely when falling in love with a new person.
Exactly this phenomenon often is such a profound issue, especially when opening an existing relationship to a multiple relationship: For (usually) one of the participants a “new world” opens up, which initially often leads to formidable turbulences in terms of resource management, time distribution and a reorientation concerning personal needs and their satisfaction.

However, the challenges of resource management, time distribution and needs remain an important subject in multiple relationships, even if the initial, and often hormonal abundant, upheaval begins to ease.
Accordingly, more sensitive natures (as I am as Highly Sensitive Person / SPS, for example) may soon be totally involved with “only” two close relationship-persons – which, by the way, certainly occasionally sparks the desire for triadic triple-constellations (though perhaps as shortsighted as well as understandable: human beings are prone to putting themselves in the place of the “central point” of their relationship network…).
However, consistently reviewed – and concerning Oligoamory – we probably will find ourselves somewhere in Dunbar’s “First Circle”: A group of up to 6 people (5 + myself, of course) who share a high level of intimacy and nearness as described above, which is so important in respect to the maintenance of mutual trust as well as mutual familiarity.
►To keep in mind: we are talking about the intensity, the nearness and the mutual relatedness in our loving relationships. Accordingly we are referring to those people with whom we make decisive contribution to our lives, essentially create our lives – and whom in return we allow to exert a rather decisive influence concerning our lives. Because (hopefully) we are thereby able to establish loving ties and faithful relationships, in which we may experience the imbuing certainty that all participants are reciprocal that important to each other that they involve the others even in considerations regarding individual decisions and personal conduct – in thought at least.
This last paragraph conveys a very oligoamorous core idea, because, to my mind, the predictable “amount” of the “few” is directly related to the ensuring of oligoamorous values (especially regarding commitment, entitlement, honesty, identification and sustainability [see Entry 4 for reference]).

This is exactly where the transition to the second question “And who decides? ” comes in.
Basically – just for the record – there always will be fascination, attraction, “feelings for one another”, infatuation and falling in love.
There is also a strong probability that quite often this will affect the “smallest possible unit” – involving two people for a start (whether they are already in relationship or not). As a result, the participants of this “smallest unit” then engage in a possible process of getting to know each other – and potentially also of learning to love each other.
When this process finally passes into the consideration concerning an emerging relationship, even involuntarily, questions regarding respective life plans are affected in any case, like for example: How do the participants see themselves? As solitary entities, who relate themselves situationally and selectively – or rather as member of a social group and potentially a bigger picture?
An oligoamorous view on relationships contains very much the curiosity to experience oneself as “more than the sum of ones parts” – and thus also to deal intensively with the own human nature as “fellow being”.
However, such a request already contains a certain degree of desire for self-awareness and hence for self-responsibility as well: “I want to contribute and share in a common treasure of knowledge, gifts and experiences. I’ll be revealing a lot about myself (as Dunbar argued for the first and second of his “circles”), and the other people involved will open up to me – which is impotant, because without this reciprocity, it is hard to establish any trust.”
So in the end, it is exactly this “self-responsibility” by which everyone finally has to decide for her/himself to what extent new people will fit into the personal relationship-network in the medium and the long run.
Because in respect to my associates, which I choose in a distinctive way (and my relatives choose me), I would finally like to participate in the potential of our community, which in turn is composed of the potential of all the individuals in it – with their peculiarities and aptitudes. Accordingly, in the best case, I benefit from both. And this is precisely the reason why those factors of nearness and togetherness are so vital to Oligoamory.

To some readers this last part may sound quite ideal and maybe even a bit aloof.
Therefore, a “cross-check” with the personal attitude towards the people in our own relationship-network can sometimes be a thought-provoking impulse.
For example, I have noticed for myself, that I have difficulties with the conduct of long-distance- or weekend-relationships and they pose a constant challenge to me because I often find it hard to appreciate a degree of reciprocity that satisfies me. To all intents and purposes, I usually share such relationships with people who should have a great significance for my life – but we are often separated in terms of space or time. In my case, this often leads to a feeling that both the relationship and the people involved therein do not quite take a proper shape or literally “become real” – just because they participate to a lesser degree in my everyday life. Personally, I have learned for myself that I have experienced these relationships as oligoamorous difficult to sustain – even medium-term, because I seem to be more fascinated by an “exciting feature” there than to really perceive myself in a genuine relation to a person of flesh and blood.
Which takes my journey back to Robin Dunbar, who would probably point out to me that in those cases my relationships are in the considerable danger of deviating from my first and second “circle” to the rim of the third – and loved ones and friends could become mere “acquaintances” that way.

For I myself do not want to hope that my fascination as an optional add-on feature will last as long as possible – because we all deserve it to be truly accepted and be loved as real people with our unique nooks and crannies by our chosen loved ones.
And in this regard, I would like to invite with my conception of Oligoamory to favour quality and intensity over quantity and diversion in any case ².

¹ Did you know? The quote stems not originally from lyrics by Iron Maiden but from the television series “The Prisoner” from 1967.

² In contrast to the ambitious perceptions I put into my version of Oligoamory, I deem it perfectly possible that – I’d say – less sophisticated multiple relationships are covered and can be conducted by the terms of Polyamory. The critical thoughts in this regard, which have therefore led to my own approach, I have laid down in Entry 2.

Thanks to Christine for her inspiring questions and to rawpixel on unsplash.com for the fine picture!

Entry 11

Hero in our own movie

The treasure trove of the Oligoamorists is teeming with heroes and monsters, idols, mythical figures and chimeras. A favoured figure who is likely to be invoked around the campfires because the audience can relate to him so much is the black flittermouse-man.
[This story would of course also work with the FantasticFemme or the DiverseDiva as the protagonist but today I want to tell you the story as I heard it from the natives of the remote island of Oligoamory for the first time myself]:

He is a hero.
He is the flittermouse-man,
the black chevalier.
He is doing the best he can.
He is doing what has to be done: the right thing.
He lives to see another day.

But today the hero sits gloomily on the large gargoyle of marble, high above the city, and is very thoughtful. Because lately his exploits do not seem to be so heroic anymore – and he just can not explain why.
In his view there is nothing to blame himself: He acts as he has always done, he is brave, he fights for the good – or at least for what he thought that would be just yesterday.

But in the last few days, his restless dedication seems to serve less and less the intended noble goals, to which the flittermouse-man is committed of his own accord.
Actually he stands through and through for the ideal of an oligoamorous relationship-person: loyal, reliable, responsible and full of integrity.
In this way he returned last weekend from a meeting with a couple – both trusted as well as dear companions and lovers of the flittermouse-man. It was an intense weekend, which had strengthened the closeness and intimacy of the relationship between the three of them. Especially with the wife the flittermouse-man had strengthened this time even more friendly ties, which had been important to him in advance regarding their entire togetherness.
This wholehearted togetherness had completely imbued him, and he had been enchanted throughout on his way back home. How could he give this unique feeling even more expression and increase it even further, now that it was flowing through him from head to toe? He wouldn’t have been the flittermose-man if he hadn’t come up with something at the speed of light: Before his verspertine arrival in his secret hiding place he turned his dark vehicle and rushed immediately to his third loved one, in order to share his gained fulfilment with her that night.
The next morning, in the mirror, he not only saw the hero he was, but felt it in every fibre. And that’s why the next oligoamorous feat was obvious: Instant creation of transparency and sharing of these experiences and insights with his prior hosts. Today I’m doing it the right way!
But what came over our good flittermouse-man next was not what he had expected. For it was precisely the wife of his trusted couple that gave him a completely unheroic testimonial: How he could have acted so needily and so ungrateful after their intimate weekend, that in his rush of lust and in his insatiability he would have had to throw himself right at the very next bosom on the way back? Whether the intense closeness of body, mind and soul during their weekend meant so little to him that it would have to be overwritten immediately by the next sensation? And that he was duly asked to rethink his arbitrary dealings concerning all his loved ones…

If only things had stopped there! But even with his third sweetheart he seemed to deviate further and further from the self-imposed path of virtue in the course of the remaining week.
With her he naturally had an agreement of transparency and honesty as well – and so he had gradually described her on Monday all the events of the preceding weekend. Along the way our flittermouse-man – mindful relationship-person that he was – noticed that his sweetheart had by no means coped with all the details quite so confidently, yes, that he had sensed some kind of inner turmoil in her, perhaps even anxiety or irritation. A clean-cut case for the flittermouse-man: grief foreseen is grief avoided! That’s why he was an oligoamorous hero after all, to be committed and to ensure stability. Further inquiries of his loved one during the following days he answered now with less details and more general description – not only to lend a protecting hand to a potentially shaken fellow being in distress but to prove: You can always rely on the flittermouse-man as a careful guardian and true keeper of your sensitive limits!
But then – on Thursday – his sweetheart broke on him like a thunderstorm: That she would perceive all this reluctance and the worming out of any information regarding x and y as nasty as well as sad. That he would deprive her of the whole truth out of misguided patronage, and would obviously handle his transparency slippery as an eel. And that this whole conduct concerning all his loved ones wasn’t very oligoamorous after all…

There he had fled to his lonely gargoyle high above, broken, desperate, feeling misunderstood. Drizzle coveres him and sinks like a veil upon the heart of the black chevalier.
How could a hero like him have fallen so deeply?

The tragic figure of the flittermouse-man in the oligoamorous legends is for us – as well as for the spellbound listeners at the campfire – as an archetype almost a kind of “soul mate” and has a lot to do with ourselves:
Because Marshall B. Rosenberg explains in his model of “Nonviolent Communication” that almost all people usually have “very good (personal) reasons” for their actions. If you have read this sentence quickly, I ask you to do it again – and emphasise the word “good” lovingly and explicitly, because this is of utmost importance for the further understanding!

Psychological research (in particular humanistic psychology with the representatives V. Satir, C. Rogers and A. Maslow) bases these “good reasons” on the existence of universal human needs, which all members of the species “Homo sapiens” search to fulfil for themselves (►These include life-sustaining needs such as air, water, food, heat, light and sleep; the need for safety and protection – such as physical health, shelter and privacy; needs to ensure community and participation – such as security, support and contact; needs regarding communication and understanding – such as attention, exchange, appreciation and sincerity; needs for affection and love – such as acceptance, constancy, care or sexuality; needs regarding rest and leisure – such as relaxation, harmony and play; needs to express creativity – such as learning, self-efficacy, spontaneity or self-development; needs regarding autonomy and identity – such as self-esteem, identification, success or meaning – and also needs concerning the conduct of life and the search for meaning – such as dignity, mindfulness, meaningfulness, and competence).
These “universal” needs are common to all human beings and are by themselves neither positive nor negative; however, they motivate people to behave in certain ways.

For our mutual understanding, indeed for human communication and interaction as a whole, this could basically be a fantastic message: We all have the same needs, we are all equal in our pursuit of fulfilling them.
So what else needs to be considered – where’s the catch?
That it is very important to note in the second step that the way in which needs are met is differing from individual to individual nevertheless. Consequently, we have to separate between “(universal) need” and “(individual) need fulfilment strategy”.
Which means that when fulfilment is concerned, individual priorities come into play.
It is precisely this distinction that shows that conflicts may very well arise when need fulfilment is pursued at the expense of other living beings (and their needs).
And the fact that we can distinguish between “motivation” and “strategy” allows us to understand and even to respect a cause – but at the same time we don’t have to agree automatically with the effect it has (on us / on the surroundings).
Hence, no living thing, no human being, has negative or even “evil” needs – but he/ she/it can choose problematic approaches to their fulfillment.
Even more, it is still almost impossible for a reasonable and healthy person to accomplish truly profound abominations in their normal (and usually unconcious) conduct.
Because brain research of the last few years (especially J. Panksepp’s and T. Insel’s research on social appreciation in the brain’s own reward centre) and primate research on our next relatives (especially F. de Waal) have additionally proved that we humans tend to act because of our “horde-nature” according to the (positively formulated) maxim “What I want you to do for me – that’s what I too shall do for you”. That means: Because of our biological and social components, we are almost always very strongly motivated in our pursuit of personal need fulfillment and personal benefit to ensure a “group benefit”, which of course could benefit us again in the end.

Conclusion: Because of our pursuit of personal need fulfillment and the resulting motivation in combination with our tendency to maximise the broadest possible social well-being, we are literally as acting person “the hero in our own movie”.
For the above shows that the likelihood that there is a fundamental “good intention” behind almost every human action, which is aimed at increasing (some) well-being or satisfaction, is exorbitantly high.
And while media coverage and fiction in particular often display the opposite fascination, I’d like to propose – especially regarding loving relationships – in accordance with Marshall Rosenberg’s concept of “Non-violence”, first of all, to favour the much more obvious (and rational) trust in those good intentions.
Which means even in the case of own harm to assume foremost down-to-earth, all-too-human factors for a conflict or a misfortune, such as unconsciousness/unreflectivity, laziness, inaccuracy, self-forgetfulness or overburdening, instead of suspecting cruel intent or a calculated scheme to injure behind those actions.

In my view, the benefit we have in respect of our human relationships by such an attitude of more benevolent trust is threefold.

  • First of all, this directly affects the point of view we take in such a moment concerning the experienced process, the acting person(s) and thus also regarding the entire movie – which will become our world: There is a person who tries by the best means it has to offer to fulfil its needs. He/she/it tried to do the right thing. If this has failed – and perhaps even some collateral damage was done – the poor actor/actress is more of a “fallen hero”, perhaps a broken hero (like the black chevalier or many other super-heroes who have a non-linear legend); but not the scheming evil, nor the antagonist, nor the enemy. This attitude prevents ourselves from getting engulfed in a two-dimensional world where only “Good vs. Evil”, “Right vs. Wrong” or “White vs. Black” exists. Hence we remain open, we are able to differentiate and continue to perceive shades and nuances. And that is good for the brain as well as the heart because our overall sensation of self-efficacy and safety remains intact.
  • Secondly, this view preserves the chance for true trust because we do not want to close ourselves up but to understand what has happened “on the other side”: What needs were there actually in deficit, that it has come so far? This interest actually comprises already the bud for an emerging connection to the other party. Because this can initiate a process in which the mutual understanding of the motives and motivations become apparent: Why had that been done? How did you experience it? Anyone who begins to think in this way introduces a dialogue in which both the “foreign” as well as the own motives and strategies for need-fulfilment can be reconsidered.
    And whoever comes this far, is about to make a synthesis and is moving away from the potential conflict: Is there perhaps an approach in the future that could meet both our needs?
  • Thirdly, this facilitates the understanding that we are all presumably fallen or broken heroes (but nonetheless heroes!) who still try every day to give our best over and over, even under the most adverse conditions. In this way, we allow ourselves and the others to make mistakes, to be prepared to learn thereof, and to continue to strive and to seize new opportunities. And that is definitely a truly heroic contribution to a (more) humane world.

Especially when it comes down to our loved ones and our soultribe, these can be enormously reassuring thoughts – especially in moments when things are not running smoothly and the world seems to be upside down. Because in this way we are all real conjoined “heroes in everyday life”, which strive by means of “very good reasons” for the same goals and the underlying needs, thereby becoming a kind of “humanity league”, no matter whether we are FantasticFemme, MultiMan or DiverseDiva.
We differ only in the choice of our means – but that is quite likely among superheroes, since we are all equipped with very different biographies, powers and talents.

Just like the protagonist of our story above.
Because he too lives for another day.
There he will do the right thing –
doing what has to be done: his best.
He is the flittermouse-man,
the black chevalier –
and he is a hero.

My deep appreciation to Richard David Precht and his detailed thoughts on human nature and morality in his book “The Art of Not Being an Egoist” (Goldmann 2010)
Thanks to Marcel on Unsplash for the photo of the Hero-Graffito.

Entry 10


The German-French friendship is legendary. Actually, it is more than that: It’s a true partnership.
And it’s been around for a while now. Although that was not so obvious in the beginning; nobody would have dared to predict that back then.
For those who knew France and Germany in that era remembered that there had often been conflict in the air and differences were regularly emphasised.
All this, even though they had always been neighbours and almost lived next door to each other.
But then, when the idea of the (European) community was born, there were almost no holding back any longer: Enough of the calamities of the past! A lavish party was celebrated, which many remembered for a long time – Germany and France moved closer together.
So close that they were soon jointly referred to by friends and critics as the “engine”, so synchronously were they connected in their mutual progress. That was not always easy for the rest of the world: France and Germany, sometimes almost like symbiotic twins, were eager to prove to the others that their alliance was a successful role-model.
Germany and France – they often set the pace that the others should follow: exemplary – for a life in the community.
Nevertheless, it was not always easy with each other. So much time together: There were also periods of divergence, real disagreements, even temporary unilateral actions.
But the whole thing worked in the long run. That good that one day a refreshing breeze was taken in and it was decided:
Opening up and extension! (to a European “Union“…)

Austria had been able to observe France and Germany in their splendid community for quite some time. But in such a kind of community Austria had seen no real gain for itself. Off course, similarities and closeness had been around long enough, though. Especially with Germany … – beautiful and less beautiful memories from not too long ago.
But he opening up as a Union was now the chance for Austria to move closer “officially”. Not for old times sake, but because of this “fresh breeze”, which was blowing through the whole new arrangement (the united Europe…). And especially with Germany, closeness and great similarity were quickly restored.
This was not always an easy time for France to see Germany and Austria so familiar again side by side. Fears arose to be manoeuvred into an (Atlantic) offside position and to take the back-seat in the emerging relationship. And accordingly debates became noisy and severe when all struggled for a mutual understanding and a “mutual we”.
But despite all the initial uncertainty and the scepticism of some doubters, the new relationship-model as a (European) union succeed, because what everyone had to offer and which now was merged, was greater and substantially more than the sum of the individual parts.
France e.g. recognised itself in many things in respect to Austria: the holidays, the country life with its strengths and weaknesses – and of course a taste for good and plentiful food.
Now it could happen that it was even Germany, which was overruled by the interests of its partners – and it took the proud country quite a moment to come to terms with that…
A new overall dynamic emerged: a partnership, yes, a community of equally-entitled and equally-supported.
Unconventional in any case – but visionary and fit for the future.
Austria, France and Germany became stronger partners: for themselves, for each other and also to the outside world.
And as it was decided with the new mode of relationship as a Union that it should continue as planned: Open to possible expansion and to the things that might happen along the way.

So one day Croatia joined, encouraged and attracted by the other participants.
Initial attraction was immediately present, as Croatia shared the desire to travel with Germany, the passion for the mountains with Austria and with France the ancient art of viticulture. Moreover, a certain closeness with Austria had been in place ever since.
Nevertheless, it is not easy for Croatia to always find its way in the already well-established alliance of the others: Everywhere Croatia is introduced as the “newcomer”, although it could certainly shine with its own achievements. Several affairs in this new Union are processed too fast for Croatia – and sometimes it feels reduced to a mere “junior partner”, although from the beginning equal rights were promised. And many things are difficult to understand at first – and the “old-timers” do not always take enough time for careful explanations.
But Croatia is now one of them – everyone agrees in that: It joined to stay. Even if that means a lot of work and adjustment for everyone again – watch out for different speeds of development, grow together and to have consideration for each other.

France is represented by Vincent, who remained in Germany, strictly speaking in Bavaria, over a decade ago after finishing his university degree to marry “his” Karin there.
When those two opened their marriage a year and a half ago, Max, an Austrian, joined in, whom Karin had long known as a sales representative in her firm.
And now, barely two months ago, these three met the Croatian Ivana at a three-day motorcycle convention by the romantic Königsee.
And as the ball sometimes bounces: In the course of an extended hut-evening somehow all caught fire for each other that night…

Karin and Vincent combine the best of Germany and France: down-to-earth thinking mingles with Romanesque esprit to a good-humoured self-wit, with which the two have since mastered all the ups and downs of the common life. By the way, they also have two children, now 8 and 10 years old.
Until recently, both were just a little bit well-read about open relationship and Polyamory and once in a conversation they had – rather theoretically – stipulated “that such a kind of occurrence wouldn’t be impossible for the development of their further relationship…”.
Vincent, who himself owns an “eye for beautiful women” by his own admission, had also noticed around that time that a certain Max had been more to his Karin than just the “colleague in the field”. That was the moment in which Karin, a somewhat buoyant spirit ever since, came forward about an “advanced training course” with Max two weeks ago, which had not remained that firm-specific.
In the following mutual debate Vincent was surprised to find that he already knew Max as the extremely competent event-organiser “Crostini”, with which he had already attended two cooking classes – and whose social media barbecue-site he had eagerly followed for quite some time.
Now, however, followed a fairly “chilly phase” in the strained relationship of the three, which should have nothing to do with barbecue any more.
Almost a bit desperate it was Max in the end, who suddenly brought the topic “Polyamory” like a rescue anchor for himself on the table. And he was quite surprised to find out that the basic idea wasn’t such a novelty to Karin and Vincent at all.
Nine months and numerous deep conversations (mutual and paired) later, an amazing agreement was about to unfold: Vincent wanted to gain stability and trust, Karin wanted to “keep her menfolk” and Max, who was already travelling lightly for occupational reasons, got the chance to move in two blocks away from the couple into a small apartment.
With this day Max became more and more a permanent guest and finally something like a permanent resident in the house of our German-French family.
The children found this development the most exciting, because to them Max was a new fellow to romp and bolt around with – a role about which Vincent, who even called TV-soccer “cruellement”, always liked to give someone else the advantage.
In addition, the rather different working hours of the trio resulted in surprisingly favourable dynamics for the household and recreational activities as a whole, which was quite beneficial to the overall togetherness.
And one night, when everyone was at home coincidentally, “things happened” in Karin’s bedchamber with her and all the “menfolk”, which made Max and Vincent reconsider their own relationship to each other for some surprisingly unforeseen reasons…

Max, a thoroughly funny but also very thoughtful Tyrolean, does not view himself as a “happy-go-lucky-chap”. Admittedly, in the beginning he wouldn’t have guessed where this “thing with Karin” would have lead him to. But now the “whole bunch” has become quite dear to his heart. Especially for the children, he is a mixture of part-time dad and oldest brother – and he was almost taken by surprise, with how much confidence he was literally overrun by the kids.
He had always admired Karin for her great independence and straightforwardness. To tell the truth after all, he really fell in love with it one day and did not want to miss it anymore.
If only he had known earlier about Vincent, this eager visitor of his barbecue-courses. In that case he would have had arranged the opportunity for a men’s talk in advance and would have avoided the subsequent mess.
But blessedly they barely got that turn. Max has to admit that Vincent can be quite impressive in his Gallic wrath. But – Max also knows by now that Vincent has a totally romantic side as well and an impish, lark-some charm, and not only Karin will turn red from now on when thinking about it.

Well. And now Ivana. Hat way she would had hardly imagined her holiday in Germany. First of all that biker-meeting at the Königsee. “Hut Evening”, if anyone still speaks that word today, she gets this tingling sensation in the stomach again … After the last gig – in this heated mood of exuberant spirits and ingenious music Karin and she jumped each other like crazed voles , ignoring the the stunned men still in the same room, beer-bottle in hand. At some point Max almost carefully dared to venture into the fray – and in fact was welcomed. And Vincent? He just enjoyed the erotic “installation” that had suddenly sprung up in his bedroom.
Who had the crazy idea to invite the beautiful Croatian home to Landshut the next morning after just one wild night? Nobody knows that anymore. Only that Ivana dared to do it on the spur of the moment.
But everyone knows that the result was a totally harmonious, almost familial week which nobody could have ever arranged in advance.
And everybody knows that Max had suddenly activated one of his internet contacts, concerning some vacancy at the BRSO, and if there wasn’t an opening for Ivana somewhere… For Ivana is a talented but poorly paid cellist at the National Theater in Rijeka and maybe something could be wangled…
Ivana had to return to the Adriatic after 10 marvellous days.
But after a month she was back again, this time with a cello and a trolley suitcase full of black trouser suits … Karin, Vincent and Max listened breathtakingly and somewhat excitedly as Ivana negotiated a trial contract over the phone with a firework of rolling “r”s and her deep voice, thereby turning a volunteer offer into a proper engagement.
“GREAT! Ivana is staying and coming to the zoo with us!”, the children cheer, even before she manages to hang up the phone.

“The End” and credits, fanfare and curtain?
On the contrary. Actually, all four are still pretty much at the beginning of their journey together:

Karin has found a friend in Ivana who makes her feel like she can finally be herself there and as if she knows her already for a whole lifetime. If it was up to her, she would finally have gathered by now all the lovely people she had always longed for. Hopefully the others will share her desire for genuine and close as well as lasting togetherness…

Vincent is a bit worried because he remembers the time when Max joined in, which was not easy for him and almost brought his relationship to the edge of the abyss.
Although Max has become an ingenious friend (and more) with whom he likes to tinker about kettle-grills and smoking ovens – perfect confidence is still not completely restored yet.
He also recognises that he and Karin often set the pace concerning “the program” in their home – but he and she are parents, and the concerns of the children still have an important role – and compromises must be considered so that the kids are able to receive stability and care…

Max is deeply insecure inside because he feels he just has to reinvent himself completely. He had thought to find his haven with Karin and was willing under all circumstances to share her life with Vincent at the side. Now this Ivana has caught him completely – and for the first time he feels torn between two quite different women. Max just does not know where to stand and longs for Vincent’s French easiness. Maybe he should reveal himself to his best friend and metamour, so that a mess can be prevented this time at the outset. Max would like to finally settle down, actually he had hoped it would become more quiet, rather than more turbulent…

Ivana does not recognise herself anymore: A quarter of a year ago she did not even know the word “multiple relationship”. What is it – and is it possible at all? She has just developed feelings for three people who are already starting to talk about whether they shouldn’t move into a house together.
Ivana comes from a family where she does not even know how to explain at home, what binds her so intensely to these people. She is afraid – and part of her is even ashamed in a strange way. Everything is new: Karin, love for a woman, isn’t that mad? There’s Max, a decent guy – but sometimes he’s a bit of a punk with his rustic approaches. And Vincent? Does he really really like her? There are moments when she can still judge him badly. Sometimes he seems to look at her almost fearfully…

I have chosen the long introduction about the “governmental role models” of our protagonists to show that, as in Europe, there are always “many different speeds” active in relationship-processes. And as uniform as Europe appears on the outside as a Union – or our four heroes as a close-knit biker formation at a convention – their internal relationship can be rather different and diverse.
With my little and perhaps somewhat ideal story, which is by no means decided how it will turn out, I would like to suggest to ponder on the phenomenon of “different speeds in (multiple) relationships”.
And I wanted to show that it is important to keep in mind that these different speeds are always active in the actions and desires of different people, which is why, after moments of great harmony, situations of great differences and shifts can be experienced – especially in multiple relationships.

Oligoamorously I would finally like to say: The more the participants are interested in their “common Europe”, meaning their “common centre”, their “mutual we” in respect of the whole relationship, the better they will be able to recognise, consider and integrate these different speeds.
Talk to each other!

Svenja and Tobi: This is for you!
Thank you Marc Sendra Martorell on Unsplash.com for the great image.