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.

Entry 9

Mysterious Emotional Contract

Anyone looking for the keyword “emotional contract” on the Internet today will mainly find two categories of application: On the one hand contributions dealing with problems about family issues concerning the parent/child relationship, mainly due to uncertain bonding experiences during adolescence. Or it is utilised in work-related contexts regarding the “emotional connection” of employees to their employing company – most often with references to the most extreme consequence of it: the dreaded “emotional resignation”.
The fact that in both cases an “emotional contract” is mentioned, which obviously is in a state of some crisis, seems to be no coincidence. And equally obvious, in both cases, there seems to be a kind of “invisible contract”, to which the concerned parties have consented somehow implicitly. Which means in the language of the law: “If someone tacitly expresses his will and the honest recipient of this may conclude on a legal will, so that a contract can come about without explicit declaration of will.
This definition, however, points to the inherent problem of the two applications mentioned above: For there is hardly any tacit expression of will by a child by which it agrees to be an emotional and educational object of its parents, nor an implied right of employers to any emotional (and thus difficult to verify) corporate ties of their employees.
And here my topic for today comes into play:
Because not only the parent-child-relationship or an employment-relationship are based on such an implicit invisible “emotional contract”, but strictly speaking almost every relationship.
That is why it is important to make this phenomenon as visible as possible in our loving relationships, especially in non-monogamous multiple relationships, so that all those involved are able to recognise it and to participate in it.

Why do I use the term “emotional contract“? To this end, I would like to show first of all with help of the definition of the German Wikipedia, what a (legal) “contract” is – and surprisingly, some formulations already sound almost oligoamorous there:

A contract is a legally-binding agreement which recognises and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement.

A contract coordinates and regulates social behaviour through a mutual commitment. It is voluntarily arranged between two (or more) parties. In the contract, each party promises the other to do or refrain from doing something specific (and thereby to provide a performance desired by the other party). This makes the future more predictable for the parties. If one party cancels the contract, this may release the other party in whole or in part from its obligation to perform the contract.

The content of the contractual agreement must be understood by the contracting parties in the same meaning. Otherwise, there are different interpretations of the contract, and the purpose of the contract, the coordination of future behaviour, may fail. Therefore also deceptions of the other party, concerning the agreed, are inadmissible.

The self-obligation by promise presupposes that the party concerned is of age with respect to the subject matter of the contract and can speak for and decide for itself, meaning the party in question must be legally competent. A person of legal standing can make an effective declaration of intent and participate in business transactions. A person incapable of doing business can not make an effective declaration of intent. Each party must also be capable and entitled to act as promised. In this respect, the parties must be correspondingly autonomous and entitled to dispose.

If the services of the parties are provided at a later stage, the party who is making the advance input must be confident that the other party will still meet its obligations, otherwise there is an advance risk. Since no one will conclude a contract without a basis of trust, it is important for the parties to have a good reputation as reliable contractors.

In the meantime, if the agreed benefits extend far into the future, unforeseen events may occur which render the intentions of the parties in the contract null and void (discontinuation of the business basis). In this case, it may lead to a cancellation of the contract.

The content of a contract is negotiated by the parties. The final agreement depends on the interests of the parties, their options and their negotiating skills. In principle, each party is free to pursue their interests freely within the given legal framework. So the parties will only conclude a rational deal that puts them in a better position than without the contract.

Between the point where a contract becomes beneficial to the parties and the point where it becomes detrimental, there is more or less room for negotiation. The bargaining power of the parties may be quite different, depending on how urgently they might need the contract.

Most of my readers will probably consent, if I call the participants of a loving relationship “legal subjects” , for in the language of law they are literally the often quoted “mutual consenting adults”.
What is exciting above all concerning the aforementioned definition is that on the entire (complete) Wikipedia-page, there is no mention at all of conclusive or tacit contracts: So contracts seem to be from their basic conception thoroughly conscious and comprehensible agreements for all parties involved(!).
However, it becomes interesting when we touch the question of the “object of agreement” – that is, what the contract was concluded about: Everybody knows from everyday life, that this can be a tangible item (for example a loaf of bread) or a measurable action (for example a car wash).
The concept of the “emotional contract” in loving relationships may therefore seem misleading at first because “love”, “affection”, “feeling for one another”, “tenderness”, etc. are neither tangible nor measurable (e.g. like the emotional attachment to the employing company in my first paragraph).
According to this “love” certainly cannot be an “object of agreement”. However, in a narrow sense, it certainly plays a role, as I am hopefully able to show.

The reality is that “emotional contracts” are usually by no means “consistent declarations of intent after responsible contentual negotiation” – and thus puts most emotional contracts, even in loving relationships, in the rather sad society of my two initial examples.
For emotional contracts are – and this, too, contributes to the very term – almost always highly subjective, “felt” arrangements of giving and taking (or gentler: of contribution and enjoyment) in human relationships.
And just this “giving and taking” is almost always a one-sided subjective – and therefore often emotionally influenced in terms of quantity and quality – view of those tangible items, measurable actions and, yes, especially the emotional engagement in the relationship and for the relationship.

If we join in loving relationships, we will get the quicker into trouble and conflict the more unconsciously we behave towards the phenomenon of “emotional contract”. For most suppressed topics will rot under the carpet and lie there waiting for the opportune moment where they may cause the most unpredictable damage.
For former residents of the “Old World of Monoamory” like me, this could have and does have very far-reaching consequences, since very often even the choice of the relationship-model itself was affected by this unconsciousness (and often enough this is the reality for many young people to the present day).
I like to compare this to our behaviour when buying a car: We see a certain model with a certain (standard)equipment everywhere in the streets, the thing is obviously proven and all other users are mostly satisfied with it. Accordingly we, too, decide upon such a car, tick off the general buisness terms without reading them (all the others seem to be fairly carefree, too, and obviously reach their destinations – so there probably won’t be any pitfalls in the fine print …) and – well, then there we are with our car and may already recognise medium-term that the thing does not fit our own needs…
In many cases, we behave when entering into loving relationships that often will have long-term effects on our entire life, as sloppy as while being engaged in online shopping.
Who then, for example, even married in terms of civil status has even entered into a very real contract that contains enforceable pension and property law consequences

At this point, it seems important to me to declare that I am in no way advocating the drawing up of marriage contracts in the sense of American movie stars and multimillionaires (which are correctly termed “prenuptial agreements” in English-speaking countries). On the one hand, these regulate mere material eventualities, on the other hand, they may never be suitable for covering the flexibility and changeable nature of the inner dynamics of loving relationships.

Equally questionable, in my opinion, would be any reciprocal evaluation or even a summation of the “pending benefits” concerning the emotional contract: How often putting the children to bed equals an afternoon’s work in the garden? Does the number of working hours during the spring cleaning match the three-day personnel-management training? Are the qualifications and achievements of the people in the relationship linearly comparable at all?
The dangers of such a reckoning will be higher for love than the actual benefit (of equity): There is a risk that eventually all tasks in the relationship may be given a nominal exchange value (parents of adolescent teens probably can tell a tale…). Thus, the door will be opened to a purely calculatory distributive justice, to the point of absurdity that sooner or later “accounts” are kept, which balances are scrupulously observed and demanded.
It is easy to see that such arrangements, which are more reminiscent of a War of the Roses or divorcing couples in dissolution, are neither lovingly nor humanly advised.

The multiple intertwining of voluntarily tasks, engaged self-commitments, and quasi-charitable favours at numerous levels is usually enormously high in loving relationships.
This intertwining is so proverbial that Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert called the pending chapter in their very extensive book “More than Two” on the subject of Polyamory “Sex and Laundry” – and started that chapter with the pun that the most frequently asked questions to people involved in multiple relationships are usually “Who sleeps with whom?”and “Who does the laundry?”.
In particular with regard to multiple relationships, a more or less “unconscious dark field”, concerning an emotional contract left to itself for a long time, has the potential to turn into a dangerous social incendiary agent. In my experience especially the following two constellations need our attention:

1) Existing relationship as residual burden of the past:
It would be a pretty ideal if, from now on – and because we all took note of this excellent bLog-entry – in case of the possible development of any future relationship, we would consciously take notice of our own material, mental, and emotional resources, to employ them by then with a high degree of integrity in that evolving relationship – and the same would apply to the other potential parties involved.
Alas, even this ideal case would only exist if we were single at that moment and would face the possibility of a new relationship at that moment.
More often, however, it is rather the case that we are already in an established relationship (and inhabitants of the “Old World of Monoamory” usually still with an old-fashioned monogamous standard-contract including a load of carelessly signed terms of business on top of it…).
Actually I do not want to choose such supposedly derogatory words for an already existing loving relationship, because – emotional contract or not – these can be in their manifestation wonderful, long-term and all-round fulfilling connections, though.
However, precisely because of the “unsubstantial nature” of emotional contracts, it may well be that one or more people are thus in a close-knit relationship, where fundamental views regarding the very nature of the relationship, concerning entitlement, viability, needs and desires of the participants, differ surprisingly strong behind the scenes nevertheless. And this poses a problem precisely in such cases, when different pace of development, divergent views or simmering conflicts suddenly pull the deeply buried emotional contract into the harsh light of the day.
Accordingly I urge in case of such residual burdens to check them together well in advance and on a sunny day – instead of being overrun by them on a bad day unprepared on a rough relationship-sea (Some helpful oligoamorous insights regarding that I will put into my last paragraph)

2) Resource management in (multiple) relationships:
Even for a well-established relationships-networks – whether containing “only” two or more participants – every “conversion moment” (moment of change) when another relationship(person) appears, poses a real challenge.
And this too is mainly related to the mode of the underlying emotional contract. I say “mode” because multiple relationships immediately crystallize in such a moment, whether a (multiple) relationship tends to have more of an oligoamorous structure (with a “mutual we” at the centre), or whether it is rather an affiliation of mostly autonomous individuals (the latter might occur in open relationships, polyamory or relationship anarchy).
But if there is a “mutual we” – meaning that not every person is running their own resource-management, in which they contextually decide on their own how much commitment they wish to add to the companionship – then a new relationship(person) will always instantly touch the core of the existing overall relationship – and thus the overall resources(!).
This is exactly the point where it becomes apparent how important the highest possible transparency and honesty are in such moments, because every newcomer immediately affects the existing relationship both with his “energetic signature” (as in the “Tale of Anday and Tavitih“) as well as with his or her actual material needs.
This shows that this also demands a new approach to the distribution of the previous resource management. And this is more likely to become an opportunity and a gain for all, if
a) all parties are informed from the beginning and
b) in this way willingly activate their potential concerning participation.
With respect to the above mentioned circumstances it becomes quite obvious that at least with considerations about and the engagement in multiple relationships a thorough raising of conciousness regarding the emotional contract is of utmost importance: The “opening-up of a marriage” contains usually in the medium-term so much dynamite, because the existing “inmates” often have not clarified in any way the nature of their intertwined relationship and the allocation of their (material and emotional) resources, so that when another person is added usually this whole delicate structure is overstrained – and more often than not the surprised victims of such an event will find themselves being scattered abroad in different directions in short order.

The emotional contract – definition – and (a little) support:

Emotional contract:
“Implied acknowledgement and agreement – as a result of a mutually established emotional close-knit relationship – regarding the totality of voluntary yielded obligations, self-commitments and care which have been reciprocally contributed and are potentially enjoyable by all parties involved.”

(© Julius Otto Röber, Oligoamory.org)

First and foremost – as I have already suggested with the two initial examples above – the most important thing is to realise that there is a tacit emotional contract in almost all cases concerning relationships. This gained consciousness is literally more than “half the battle”, because it is the basis of all further achievable personal self-efficacy and creative capacity regarding that notorious “invisible agreement”.
And because we humans tend to worry about such “invisibility,” it’s also a good idea to reassure ourselves about its non-disclosure. For this sounds more complicated than it is, and in our everyday lives we practice it regularly without worrying about it: For example, if we allow the bakery saleswoman of our favourite stand-up café to recommend a new treat based on our well-known preferences to us (by which, for example, we impliedly ratify the new GDPR).
Moreover, it is good to realise that even an implied (tacit) consent (of an adult!) is usually a genuine expression of will; according to the motto “A decision for something is always a decision against something else (whether pronounced or not).
In this way, by taking up a (loving) relationship, we always express an explanation of our will/intent to be involved (in this relationship).

With this explanation of our involvement, a playing field, a creative space arises, which is often left fallow by unconsciousness or (so far more often) overwritten with traditional conventions.
That is why it is so important to work together predominantly on the concious conduct and cultivation of the relationship behind which the emotional contract rests. For this means activity and participation on all sides and obtains the opportunity to participate in the configuration for everyone.
The whole thing becomes “oligoamorous”, if we do not regard our relationship as a mere game of strategically calculating parties (see Entry 8 – “Check, dear mate!”), but if we perceive it from the outset as a project of togetherness, as a joint effort to achieve our “mutual we”.
Thereby, the “values” of Oligoamory are available to us as tools, in particular the topics of committment (especially in terms of integrity and predictability), entitlement, honesty, identification and sustainability (described in my blog in Entry 3 and Entry 4).

But how to deal with the all-too-human desire for recognition and being seen, which nevertheless arises someday in almost any relationship? How can we reduce the risk that someday we will try to outbid each other with our “great sacrifices” that everyone contributes to maintain the relationship?
Expectations towards other participants are always problematic, as is the expectation of recognition.
In affectionate relationships, we can make use of something like a “mirror tactic,” which Marshall Rosenberg called “Celebration of Life” in his “Nonviolent Communication“: Instead of emphasising loudly “Look, I do that and that …” (which would surely open a general debate), it is much more effective to recall those topics in a conversation, by which the others contribute to your own well-being (and to the progress of the relationship).
If we have recognised that emotional contracts are highly subjective matters simply because of the nature of their occurrence, then we can make use of this in terms of assuming responsibility by ourselves – as much as possible and of our own accord – for exactly those things which we regularly (already) contribute. And by doing so we keep in mind that “the others” might conceive our commitment differently than we do. If we nevertheless proceed with commitment and integrity (I recall: acting in perpetually maintaining agreement with the personal value system), we will show ourselves to the people in our relationship as predictable and reliable contributors.
So, if our relationships are no one-way streets, then such a “Celebration of Life” can also turn into a moment when it literally becomes apparent how “yours,” “mine”, “his” and “hers” evokes an “our” – a “mutual we” eventually.
In any case, a moment of renewed awareness arises, which always also contains the opportunity for communication or possible (new/re-)negotiation of shares, commitments and resources – thereby making the whole emotional contract not so mysterious anymore.

Thanks to Michael Henry on Unsplash.com for the great image.

Entry 8

Check, dear mate!

Sometimes there is even internet on the remote island of Oligoamory. Via satellite link. On some days it doesn’t work – today it does. I quickly check news portals, browse through the colourful underbrushes of social media…
But then – Whäm! – All of a sudden a huge quote from Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh¹ pops up on my screen; adorned with some pretty imagery in the background:

We are born alone, we die alone. Between these two realities we create a thousand and one illusions of being together – all kinds of relationships, friends and enemies, loves and hates, nations, races, religions. We create all kinds of hallucinations just to avoid one fact: that we are alone. But whatsoever we do, the truth cannot be changed. It is so, and rather than trying to escape from it, the best way is to rejoice in it.
Rejoicing in your own aloneness is what meditation is all about. The meditator is one who dives deep into one´s aloneness, knowing that we are born alone, we will be dying alone, and deep down we are living alone. So why not experience what this aloneness is? It is our very nature, our very being.
(The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Talk #14)

Instantly, everything is churning in me: “Woah! That’s so anti-oligoamorous! And above all: Again, such a quote, which probably addresses most notably the young and healthy, especially as long as they have their own lives in their hand…! “
Of course, I try to calm myself a bit subsequently. For I know a few authorities on my side, who wouldn’t leave the issue at that, either. E.g. the paediatrician Dr. William Sears comes to mind straight-away, the attentive representative of “Attachment Parenting²“, who emphasises the naturalness and importance of being born into close human bonding from the first moment on. Likewise the Danish family therapist Jesper Juul, who has repeatedly confirmed concerning children and adolescents, how important it is for us humans to experience ourselves in community throughout our lives both as conjoined as well as free to develop social skills and self-efficacy. And last but not least, the great behavioural and primate researcher Jane Goodall, who has observed and proved even in our animal “next of kin” that even in these birth and death are processes of sophisticated group dynamics and sympathy of the community – and thus is anchored apparently very deep in our own sociology and biology.

However, a few days ago I met a Polyamorist on one of my excursions to their archipelago, who literally said to me regarding my last Entry about freedom and commitment:
In my experience, love is non-personal. I can choose to share my love with whom or with how many people I want. But if I seem to miss someone, I rather miss my idea of him/her or I miss what he/she contributes to me. Once, when I was longing for people and were missing them, I wondered what I really missed: The other person or the feeling he/she generates in me? And then I asked myself why I missed that specific feeling. The answer was quite sobering …: Because I myself felt a lack of just these feelings: closeness, appreciation, love, self-confidence, attachment etc. in me. And I have learned from the answer that a lack of attachment (closeness, appreciation etc.) in respect of myself can not be compensated by any attachment to others.
Especially when you apply teachings such as those of Rajneesh above on love concerning your “in-dependent self” this appears at first glance like thorough (self)cognition – and of course it sounds beautifuly and seems comprehensible too.

On the other hand, our basic need for other people or rather human company is an irrefutable fact as well…
What causes this contradiction – and is there even such a thing?

In the seventies and eighties of the last century, when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh tried to introduce in his speeches to people of Western industrialised nations the devotion to “Emptiness” according to Hindu Sannyasa and Buddhist Zen, he directly confronted a lifestyle of noisy mass enterprise and the first great boom of popular entertainment culture. He notably counteracted the expression of “Togetherness” – which at that time was highly claimed by the hippie movement – with the concept of “Aloneness” and deliberately emphasised not to equate this with “loneliness”.
The manner of “togetherness” that Rajneesh observed with us Westerners then seemed to his point of view probably often superficial, exaggerated and like some sort of escapism. The term as well as the lifestyle of this kind of “togetherness” were criticised considerably by Rajneesh several times in his speeches3.

What we know today about the committed concept of Polyamory with its hallmarks of consent an honesty was literally still in its swaddling clothes. Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart gave the baby its proper name just in the very year in which Rajneesh died as “Osho” (1990).
“Togetherness”, as it is understood today in Polyamory and especially in Oligoamory, actually means something very important; e.g. Collins English Dictonary defines it as:
a feeling of closeness or affection from being united with other people” – and Webster’s New World College Dictionary even writes in its 4th edition:
the spending of much time together, as in social and leisure-time activities by the members of a group, esp. when regarded as resulting in a more unified, stable relationship
Thus, emotional and behavioural descriptions with which probably also Dr. Sears, Jesper Juul and Jane Goodall would have agreed.

How – in contrast – would it seem that Rajneesh in his teachings rather recommends an existence in splendid “solitude” or more precisely “Aloneness” nonetheless?
Modern solitaries who should strive not to put anything at the centre of their lives, to whom their pure self should suffice and to which the other people at best are a luxury4, a discretionary bonus.

Is it possible that “we Western people” have stumbled into the next trap by then?
Because actually, the Hindu Sannyasa and the Buddhist Zen want to express above all the following gist:

“Let go of the idea of your ‘I’. Then you truly can be ‘I’.”

This wish, this goal, is really wise: For in everyday life, above all, the ideas about ourselves as well as our ideas that we have about the others, are what makes life difficult for us.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, the “creator of non-violent communication,” called these ideas and assumptions accurately “diagnoses and judgements“.
Like Hindu Sannyasin or Buddhist Zen-masters, Rosenberg explains that these diagnoses and judgements are almost always irrational, because they arise, above all, from our own appropriated beliefs, how something/somebody should have to be – and are rarely founded in (sensory) perception of the Here & Now.
And that’s why the process of good relationship- and community-building is so difficult.
The US psychiatrist and psychotherapist Scott Peck, arguably the most involved in community-building practice, once identified the four stages of such a process as “pseudo-community,” “chaos,” “emptiness,” and “community.” For my purpose I will call them “superficial sympathy”, “crisis”, “clarity” and “real relationship”. And without elaborating these different stages too exhaustively, I want to try to explain what these stages have to do with what has been said so far.

I was confused for some time regarding Scott Peck and his community-building-processes when he wrote about groups of 60 or more people. I thought him hardly believable and assumed that small groups would have to be much easier to unite, because especially regarding the “chaos-stage” I applied the following equasion: more participants = greater confusion.
But my own close-knit- and multiple relationships proved to me almost the opposite: Fewer people can actually have a much harder time because of their much higher nearness-factor and indeed because of the few contributors.

Into the chaos/crisis stage we bring in exactly the aforementioned ideas, assumptions, diagnoses and judgements about ourselves and the others – and start taking it out on each other there.
With only a few “players” (two or three, for example), this can literally lead to a kind of “Relationship-Chess” or “Spite and Malice” (and even as “Relationship-Bridge” or “-Poker” it does not get much better with four to six participants). For in doing so, literally manoeuvres are planned and trumps played out against each other. And all in the endeavour to decide the “game” in the end for oneself. Which means: To show the other parties that only the own way is the most advantageous and therefore the right one (and of course to prove that the others are not successful and for that reason definitely in the wrong).
Scott Peck now describes that this competitive as well as chaotic stage ends not until all parties reveal exactly their strategy for themselves as nonsensical and not expedient.
And right there I am afraid that the “few” may have much more difficulties with each other until they can dismiss themselves from mutual clutches, attempts of humiliation or allocation of guilt and blame. Because regarding few participants it is all too easy to persuade oneself for a long time that there is always a chance or a hitherto unknown master-stroke to the alleged “victory” – or to cling to the hope that the others may just surrender eventually.
With 40, 60 or more participants, even the most stubborn player would rather sooner than later recognise the ultimate futility or folly of such a Sisyphean task…

Only when we reach this point in our loving relationships, then all the philosophies described here really merge and the supposedly persistent contradictions dissolve.
That’s why Scott Peck did not immediately call the subsequent third phase “community”, but “Emptiness”: Because this realisation, this letting go of one’s own bias and one’s sense of mission, is nothing else but the Zen of the Buddhists, the Sannyasa of the Hindus, and the freedom of judgment in “Nonviolent Communication”.
This “Emptiness” is the moment that e.g. athletes, craftsmen or artisans know as “Flow”, which consists of a unity of pure perception as well as doing and being all in one and at the same time – the moment from which many insights and achievements can emerge.
This is another reason why the “community” or the “real relationship”-stage does not follow immediately after the “crisis”, because this “emptiness” is also a “moment of great clarity”, which gives us back our freedom of choice and freedom of action in order to make open-minded decisions.
In a relationship this moment of great clarity can only fully unfold when all participants reach it together.
Which also means that this is also a state of great self-admitted and self-chosen vulnerability. Even and especially concerning oneself, if one has just gotten rid of beloved and often long-term meaningful beliefs..

No matter what happens then: Space has been created for something new and genuine.
Maybe it will be a true relationship; maybe it will be true togetherness.

But without the previous and serious crisis, without the subsequent confrontation, without the friction among each other, it would be quite possible to consider ourselves still as the sole centre of the universe for a very long time.
Because for that, too, we need other loving people close to us, from birth to death:
Not just to experience that it doesn’t matter at all if we are at that centre.
But to have the opportunity to experience that in our loving relationships and in true togetherness, the potential of our diversity becomes still infinitely greater than the potential of our uniqueness alone.

1 In the last year of his life Rajneesh rebranded all his writings and products under his just then adopted identification „Osho“. Since I knew his work by his proper name for the most part of my own life, I’m going to use that original name continually.

2 Dr. Sears view was directly influenced by the findings of the author and anthropologist Jean Liedloff (The Continuum Process)

3The Fallacy of Togetherness, 1968”

4The Power of Love, Chapter 2: He said / She said; Love in a Relationship

My thanks to Jason Leung on Unsplash.com for the chessboard-image.

Entry 7

Committed Carpets Inc.

I am sitting on the shore of the remote island of Oligoamory. Small peaceful waves are rippling quietly towards the beach – the sun is shining, but here on the beach usually a fresh breeze prevails.
Somewhere in the distant woods of the islands’ interior behind me, I believe to hear a flute far away – a mere simple sequence of sounds.
The tale of Anday and Tavitih still echoes in me.
Would the Oligoamorists have been able to tell the story that way on the mainland or on the versatile archipelago of Polyamory, too?
Or would they have caused criticism and incomprehension?
Would the protagonists have been considered as occupying or even needy? Would their behaviour have been interpreted as possessive, their close, almost spiritual intertwining and sensitivity as interdependence?
Would the local audience have ticked off the story for themselves soon and furthermore – would they have urged Anday and Tavitih to better pay heed to the following sentence for future romance “Love is only true when it gives freedom”?

Lost in thought, I blink through my goblet glass full of semi-transparent cuja-cuja nectar into the distance, in which the sky and sea now appear greenish-yellow.
“True love”, I think – and I remember instantly several of the the numerous tales and legends that I alone already know which are entwined with this topic. Heroes are therein and villains, great ideals and jet-black abysses. Contradictory epics thus, in manifold guises.
“True love”, I weigh the words again on my tongue – and then think: “True love … – … first of all does… … nothing!”
It is – alright. And at some point in time, it arises between living beings – and they are almost always the ones who, in turn, do something with that love or at least in their name.
So if love is primarily a connection, a kind of energy between living beings … – might the aforementioned advocates then possibly be right that it would be therefore important for it to flow freely and unburdened – wherever it wants to go?

What would the Oligoamorists say about that?
They probably wouldn’t question the free flow of love. But as far as I know that sustainable bunch, they would probably have something to say about its quality:
“Free yes – but not arbitrary! Look, Oligotropos, that fits perfectly.”, they might exclaim. “It’s literally like your energy, which you call ‘electricity’: Seemingly neutral, it is available to you constantly in the same strength every day right from your socket-outlet. The electricity is always there – and it does not mind if you use it to attach a bolt or raise the sound of a whole orchestra with it. But it will probably mind to you if its source is nuclear fire or wind power! That’s where commitment comes into play – but commitment and freedom do not have to be a contradiction!”
Well. Sometimes these bold Oligoamorists overwhelm even me when they leap from sustainability to commitment in such a way… In that case, they often look for an example from which they assume that I would gain better comprehension: “Like knotted carpets…”
“Knotted carpets, I beg your pardon…”, I try to utter – but they already are deep into the topic:

“Yes, imagine, you are dealing with knotted carpets. Would not you like to buy the most pristine quality for your customers at the best price?”
“Most definitely…”
“Then imagine that you would meet a manufacturer that offers you all that: The finest texture, most delicate patterns – and at a price well below that of the other competitors.”
“Isn’t it? But now you would find out that the carpets are made so finely only because they are made by children who have very small fingers. And because they are kids, the manufacturer pays them badly and shares that with you in terms of low purchase prices …”
“I understand.”
“Although the carpets would be in fact excellent as well as a fine bargain, it would probably be no longer arbitrary to you, how this result was achieved.
Moreover, perhaps you would instantly make use of your freedom, namely your freedom of will and your freedom of choice, in the interest of your dear customers and possibly also in the interest of those exploited children – to not become part of this retail-system.”
“Very likely!”
“In doing so you demonstrate that you use your freedom both sustainably and committingly.”
“The part with the sustainability is apparent to me – but the commitment remains a bit nebulous…”
“Look Oligotropos: You sorted out the dishonest manufacturer…” “Yes …”
“Now, however, you do not want to just remain a passive shareholder in the carpet business in order to be no longer exposed to similar, dubious offers. That’s why you want to actively participate and to arrange things, to take some circumstances into your own hands.”

“Now it dawns on me…!”
“Yes, e.g. you are founding a quality offensive that promotes better conditions and fair trade. You are supporting the artisans on site and fight with them for the recognition of small local businesses…”
“And then I am committed?”
“If you are serious and consistent in your actions, yes. Do you remember that on the Oligoamorist’s Stone there was also the term ‘integrity’, which means that the individual’s actions are based upon an internally consistent framework of principles?”
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“That’s good, because it’s obvious that such a process can not always be a Sunday stroll. There will be challenges, difficulties and even setbacks …!”
“I think by now I know where this is going…”
“That’s right, we’re already on the relationship level:
If you are appreciating your own freedom as well as the freedom of the others in sustainability and commitment, you can not manage your relationships like an equity fund. Which means: Release your own shares and opt out, if there are any problems or the share price fluctuates – and start looking round for greener pastures then.
Which, by the way, also introduces the predictability again – that we have already mentioned when talking about trust: Integrity and predictability go hand in hand in relationships…”

“Clever philosophy, I guessed something like that …”, I murmur to myself, because I’m still sitting all by myself on the beach and no soul can be seen far and wide. Only the flute in the distant forest has been joined in the meantime by the tam-tam of a hand-drum, which resonates from time to time.
“That might be well as it is”, I yawn, “… but that way one still seems to remain somewhat dependent, yet: On the stock quotations, as well as on the well-being or woe of the loved ones in a relationship… ” With this thought, I doze off in the afternoon sun.

The sounds of the flute and the drum, however, seem to blend into my dreams and soon I can almost see the two musicians in their forest clearing with my mind’s eye:
They laugh and play to the sounds, thereby feeding each other lines, improvising and changing their parts over and over…
At that moment I realise that the Oligoamorists tried to tell me a deeper truth with their strange carpet example:
In matters, where I have a choice, where I intervene creatively and participate actively, I am not dependent. Especially in respect of things that are close to my heart, that I have embraced myself and which pursue with passion.
And all of that although sometimes there may be discords and even if – for a time – someone else carries the tune… Conjoined and yet free …!

I wake up abruptly. The cuja-cuja nectar is overturned and has long since seeped into the sand. The music has faded away. Oligoamory, you strange island…

I fold up my camping chair and return to our small eco-sphere, which has been the centre of our small camp ever since my arrival. At the entrance of it is my companion, she is just talking agitatedly into our radio. Maybe with someone from the press, but in any case with someone from the mainland. She gestures while exclaiming:
“Why is commitment possessive? Where is your problem?
I can not stand it when I talk to someone and want to know something about this person, when that one declares: ‘Hmm yes…, somehow I’m something, somewhere between… well, and…not quite…’
What does ‘Knowing thyself’ and then ‘Explaining thyself’ in subsequent communication, so that the other person has a chance to know – rather than to speculate where I stand – have to do with possessiveness?
And that doesn’t automatically mean that people may not develop or change anymore!
Or are you worried that people could rely on your statements, and you couldn’t bend it in the way that suits you if the occasion arises?”

I smile and think: “The Oligoamorists themselves could not have said it more distinctly…”

“You are free to choose,
but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decisions.” ¹

A paradox?

Not according to my reason: It is the appropriate self-attribution that our actions (or non-actions) are always switch points, which will therefore invariably have an impact on the whole chosen course.

¹Although circulated in various versions on the Internet, this quote originally stems from the former US Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994).

My thanks goes to Toa Heftiba on unsplash.com for his fine image of the carpet-empire and to my nesting-partner Kerstin for her ingenious remark.

Entry 6

The tale of Anday and Tavitih

Among the most popular legends told by the natives on the remote island of Oligoamory are the tales about Anday and Tavitih
One of the best known is this one:

Anday and Tavitih were two young Oligoamorists who loved each other and who already were living together for some while.
[Sometimes this story is told concerning already three or four affiliated lovers – but also on the island of Oligoamory some communities start by two people whose coming together establishes the smallest possible unit – and for the sake of simplicity I am going to tell this version today.]
Once, one morning, Anday awoke and spoke to Tavitih: “I had a very restless night, I hardly slept at your side. In the middle of the night I was even afraid in the dark – because I imagined half sleeping that there was something foreign in you.”
On that account Tavitih became very thoughtful, sat down pensively by Anday’s side at their table in the middle of the house and said: “I met Nabiku yesterday when I was travelling. It was a good day and we talked a lot to each other on the way. This morning I think I fell in love with Nabiku – and Nabiku in me as well. I wanted to tell you about it yesterday, but I was not sure what exactly had happened. I realise now that I should have told you immediately.”
“Yes,” said Anday, “now I can understand all this much better. You know – tonight – there it seemed to me, as if an unknown kind of power emanated from you. Like an energy or a kind of aura that I’ve never felt in you before. And at night I was insecure, because this influence was unknown to me and therefore seemed so strange and I was scared.”
“You have probably already felt the emerging affection, however small it might have been, from me to Nabiku”, said Tavitih, “as I felt it myself, even though I couldn’t name it then. This shows me how close our connection is, between you, Anday, and me, Tavitih. Our ancestors would smile – as the ancient Oligoamorists said – because the both of us have already established our ‘mutual we’ – especially if you are able to sense it as quickly as I do when it is stirred! “
“It may be as you say, dear Tavitih,” said Anday. “But last night it seemed to me more than just that. There was a moment, in which it seemed to me as if you had brought more than just yourself back home from your hike… “
“Oh, yes, you wisely sensed this new emerging connection …!” Tavitih exclaimed.
“No, it seemed to me in the midnight hour for a moment, as if you had brought along a proper guest, who then shared our bed next to me – but the moment passed – and because I still couldn’t understand what I know about you this morning, I was scared. “
In this way, Tavitih realised that Nabiku had already entered their house on the way of the heart and that Anday’s soul had noticed that instantly.
But Anday spoke cheerfully: “Let’s visit Nabiku today and tell me about your walk. And the two of you should also explore and nurture your new connection and see where it will lead you and us. Because the unknown is always the new with whom you didn’t have become acquainted yet. And it may well be new – but it should not stay alien any longer! “

So it happened that Anday and Nabiku immediately heard about each other as they met shortly afterwards. And Anday recognised what Tavitih appreciated about Nabiku, for Tavitih was truly familiar with Anday.
But there were also parts of Nabiku that Anday understood less – and a hint of doubt touched Anday, if Tavitih’s heart was really that predictable…
Nevertheless, during the following nights, Anday slept more quietly at Tavitih’s side, because Anday now knew about Nabiku and their new affection.
However, the unknown did not give way as easily as Anday had hoped, for the alien traits of Nabiku seemed to establish alien traits in Tavitih. For example, Anday observed that Tavitih was now doing a lot of water-trekking with Nabiku, something that Anday and Tavitih had never done before. That’s why Anday finally spoke to Tavitih:
“You often go water-trekking with Nabiku. We never did that. Of course I know well that you like being in nature. If you had the urge to go water-trekking, then you could have revealed that to me – then you could have been trekking with me ever since”
Tavitih replied, “I always knew that water-trekking meant almost nothing to you. Therefore it would never have occurred to me to press you with this request. Nabiku is water-trekking a lot, though, so I noticed again by the side of Nabiku that I, too, like to do it.”
In this way, Anday realised 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.

And Anday also realised that a new world would always contain a lot of the unknown and thus alien – so it would take time to get used to it – or even to love it.
When Anday revealed this to Tavitih, Tavitih realised in turn that concerning Nabiku not only a new connection, not just a new person, but a whole new world had come into their house.
And Anday and Tavitih both recognised why the ancient Oligoamorists never spoke lightly of that “mutual we” in which “mine”, “yours”, “his” and “hers” could become “ours”.

The story of Anday, Tavitih and Nabiku, however, luckily succeeded because all three learned together in this way, what it meant to be connected and affected despite differences. And that when the differences of Nabiku entered into the relation between Anday and Tavitih, a new “mutual we” arose, which was different from the one that had previously existed only between Anday and Tavitih.

Now – as stories go – it happened that some time later Anday fell passionately in love with Mowin. Hence, right the next week there were Tavitih, trembling and shaking wide awake on the bed with Nabiku that night. When Nabiku asked in alarm what the reason was, Tavitih said:
“I slept peacefully by your side when a sound seemed to wake me in the dark. I turned to you half sleeping – but there you were no longer. Instead there was Mowin right by my side and looked at me with wide open eyes!”
Nabiku tried to reassure Tavitih by recollecting the story how Anday once had almost fared in the same way. Inside, however, Nabiku was a little worried, as there were no deeper affections for Mowin in Nabiku yet, although Mowin was a familiar friend. Had Anday brought Mowin’s presence to their house to such an extent already?
Tavitih kept on sleeping badly, and it is well known that bad sleep generates irritability, so that after a few days eventually there was an argument between Anday and Tavitih about some trivial matter. But even arguing with Anday, which often led to general clarity afterwards, did not seem to work for Tavitih, all too bothering seemed this “new world” of Mowin that day. That’s why it finally broke out of Tavitih:
“It seems to me, Anday, as if I was arguing not with you but with Mowin! Mowin is always as irritable and sensitive as you are today and dominant moreover. And like Mowin, you’re twisting all my arguments and playing intellectual tricks!”
But because Anday and Tavitih were truly familiar with each other since a long time, they managed to settle that dispute in the end – but to Tavitih the overall alienation simply did not vanish. Thus, as Nabiku brushed Tavitih’s hair the next day, Tavitih wheeled around confused and exclaimed:
“That’s how I saw Mowin brushing hair: complacent and without feeling. How can you, Nabiku, mimic Mowin it in such a way?”

Nabiku and Anday were very terrified by these events and immediately turned to a wise old Oligoamorist, whether he could speak to Tavitih, especially for the sake of the “mutual we, which seemed to be in danger.
The oligoamorous elder accepted this request and invited Tavitih to the Hearthfire of Stories in the middle of the village the next evening – where he inquired directly about Mowin.
Tavitih immediately exclaimed: “That Mowin seems almost omnipresent to me! Mowin is proud and self-opinionated – and on top of it all that even seems to attract Anday… Yes, it seems to me that this is suddenly implanted in Anday as well – and even in Nabiku it seems to germinate already! I do not appreciate all this Mowin and also in Anday and Nabiku I do not like it!”
At this point the oligoamorous elder reminded Tavitih 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.
And he pointed out that Tavitih would probably now recognise things more clearly in Anday and in Nabiku, which had perhaps always been in those two, but which would now be more apparent through the presence of Mowin. “Do you remember your water-trekking?” the old one concluded.
Tavitih was silent for a long time – and seemed to understand. But then Tavitih’s face darkened again: “To me, Mowin is a hypocrite and concerning Mowin, I can not imagine any ‘mutual we’. I absolutely can not trust Mowin!”
The old Oligoamorist looked at Tavitih and replied thereupon: “I’m not talking to you about absolute or blind trust. But there is a difference between absolute trust and the assumption that others are entirely untrustworthy. Furthermore, you do not have to love Mowin and maybe you do not necessarily have to love Mowin in Anday yet. But consider if at least you might accept Mowin there nonetheless.”

The story of Anday and Tavitih, which by now has become the story of Nabiku and Mowin, too, is retold differently by the Oligoamorists from this point on.
In some versions Mowin does not become part of the relationship, in other versions even Anday and Tavitih split up in the end. And in some versions, everyone lives together happily ever after.

Nevertheless, all versions contain the same morality: Namely, what a strong force the others are in ourselves.
And how important it is for any oligoamorous relationship to recognise the unrefusable presence of the people involved in the other participants. That it is important to understand that one contains the others involved in oneself as soon as any loving relationship starts to emerge.
And that it would be a wonderful goal to respect these other persons in the hearts of all the parties involved and to love them passionately and dearly therefore.
But that it is at least important for mutual success to accept the other loved ones in each other, in order to perceive yourselves further as whole human beings and to value each other as such.

I am deeply grateful in respect of Anaïs Nin’s World-quotation in her diaries 1929–1931 “Am I able to love two men?“,
for Tanner Larson ‘s great campfire-image on unsplash.com,
and to Sandra Fels, without her this story would have remained an idea only.