Entry 10

Multi-Speed-Europe

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…

Epilogue:
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.”
“Tempting…!”
“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.

Entry 5

About relatives and associates

One of the most interesting pieces of lore about the mysterious Oligoamorists, which had motivated me to travel to the remote island, was that in their seclusion they would not live together in classical families, but in groups called “Communities of Associates” [“Associates” as derived from the Latin word “associare” – “to join / to be united”]
Historically, this definitely made sense to me, because the island of Oligoamory was first settled at the beginning of the 19th century, as the increasing industrialization and the increasing labor migration to the cities started to dissolve the functions that once the classic rural extended family performed for its members.
However, I do not want to make this a historical excerpt, but I will return to some of the implications of this process that started at those times.

For I myself, who confessedly stem from the “Old World of Mono-Amory”, grew up there with aphorisms that seemingly upheld the old ideal of the family as an all-time support community, founded on biological affinity. One of best known proverbs in many European countries will be the maxim
“Blood is thicker than water”
which will also be given a long life by its recurring media presence in radio, television and on the internet. Additionally, in the bourgeois circles in which I used to live, the attendants were regularly sworn in on the reasonableness of the “Relatives-model” with the always passionately presented formula
“Friendship is a wonderful ‘maybe’ – family is a wonderful ‘must have’.”
In this sense, probably each of us “Old World-guys” will come up with some motto or statement, in which the value of the birth-family is emphasised or even put above everything else…

Some of my dear readers may now become irritated and think: “Now the ol’ Oligotropos is going against the family … – he will probably have had bad experiences there. But that is not the case everywhere else! “
And I would like to immediately turn to this and say that I know great families, in which several generations, connected in love and mutual support, promote every one and care for every one, while at the same time they still appreciate each other as individuals.
At the same time, however, these are almost always those families that do not have to emphasise any of the above mentioned beliefs in order to establish their inner dynamics.
I will try to point it out to you somewhat exaggerated: If grandfather sticks the grandson and his fiancée $ 500 for their planned carport at the family barbecue-party, then perhaps this may be a not entirely successful expression of “I love you – and I want to support you …”. But if grandson and fiancée go to the barbecue, just “… because there’s probably $ 500 from Grandpa …” – or if actually the grandson will be arguing with his fiancée beforehand, whether they would have to go to the terrible barbecue – for if they wouldn’t “… there would never be any kind of contribution from Grandpa again…” – then particularly in the latter example no blood or water needs to be cited anymore: (loving) “kinship” has long since given way to a “business relationship“. And to continue functioning, “business relationships” must be noisily proclaimed and asserted – whereas loving relationships are based on entirely different attachments.

Why then is the physical family still affirmed to this day with such striking terms as “blood” and a lot of superlatives?
Because it was not so long ago that above all the family had to serve as an emergency-alliance and as a protective community. This was particularly the case in Germany from the beginning to middle of the 20th century, especially during the post-apocalyptic collapse of all public support and order after the devastating World Wars. At that time, families and relationships became such emergency-communities, to which people always merge if their lives are utterly threatened. And therefore, there are such phenomena in all war zones and crisis areas, in bunkers, trenches, after acts of terrorism or natural disasters. Thus showing at the same time the awesome potential of humanity, such as spontaneous solidarity or even selfless behaviour right up to self-abandonment.
However, as e.g. Scott Peck writes in his book “A Different Drum” on community-building, emergency-communities gradually dissolve again and do not last forever, if the external threat that provides the community-creating trigger someday vanishes.
By the way, personally, I view that as a very hopeful sign for humanity: Otherwise, we always would have to rely on a feeling of threat and separation in order to stimulate fellowship or to conjure up the ability to relate! But that’s obviously not the fabric that binds us durably.
And that’s why I wish for us to stop looking at our birth families as such places to which we are bound first and foremost by literal imperative or obligation.

In the meantime, the realities of the 21st century have contributed to relativising purely biological bonds anyway: Only rarely do the generations still live together, more often many miles actually separate us. Sometimes folks have been able to choose their (separated) place of residence, but more often it is still the basic monetary security of our lives through paid work that determines it. Especially since the turn of the 21st century, our jobs have mounted additional demands on our flexibility, so that we usually spend more time outside than within our own four walls, that we have to change the place of work occasionally – and sometimes we are even more involved in our professional networks than in our social environments. Regarding that there are many causes that I’m not planning to highlight here extensively, not all of them are inevitable, but these causes affect some of our most basic human needs.

Concerning those needs, alongside the repeated crises of the 20th century, the psychologists Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Marshall Rosenberg focused on the appertaining rationales.
And no matter whether one assigns a hierarchy to their found parameters or not, they all identified our essential need for community, attachment and closeness, especially with regard to security, care, esteem and interest (in us from the others), autonomy and participation, communication and stimulation (by others), the possibility to show our feelings, as well as trust, stability and an emotional home.
Their research also started to show that our adopted lifestyle of increasing individualism and isolation scarcely guaranteed those goals to a sufficient degree, so that even our mental and physical health became endangered. In addition, there was increasing evidence that the ever-growing preesence of the “nuclear-family-model” alone, strictly speaking, is no longer able to ensure the fulfillment of the whole set of needs for its participants.
And, to the present day, research based on the results of these scientists confirms, that to experience community and attachment beyond mere goal attainment, the perception of these various emotional components is required for human beings in oder to maintain their mental balance and contentment.
These needs are of course fundamental to the healthy development of children, but regardless of that, they affect each and every one of us,regardless of age, throughout our lives and – as stated above: essential, belonging to our very being, vital.

This illustrated, it seems rather understandable to me why “blood relationship” or mere “relational-status” can not be an explanatory unique feature regarding this important need-fulfillment. How should my parents who live 300 miles apart from me contribute to it meaningfully every day? How ever a cousin with whom I have not spoken for fifteen years and who does not even know where I live? And if I already dread this meeting with Grandpa on his barbecue, then he will hardly be able to contribute truly to my well-being. That does not even necessarily have to be caused by Grandpa: For I myself decide and ultimately choose who belongs to the circle of people who really matter to me, who really have meaning in my life.

If this “meaning” is not only monetary or expedient in nature (after all, I have a “relationship” with my personal insurance agent as well …) but is provided with this famous metaphysical component called “love”, then transpires what I am describing in terms of Oligoamory as the “choice of my associates“: Therefore those are people who associate themselves with me. And to which, in turn, I feel associated to.
It is the moment in which emerges what is sometimes referred to as the “family of choice”, “the soultribe” or “the bonding of soulmates”. These “associates” are hence people who are mutually meaningful to each other, playing important, special roles in their lives, who truly share in each other. And – I would like to emphasise that in terms of Oligoamory – this “share” is quite comprehensive and tries to include the whole human being, with all its strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes and quirks.
But in the end, these “shares” establish what will jointly shape the benevolent “mutual we” described on the Start!-page and in Entry 4, when “yours”, “mine”, “his” and “hers” becomes “ours”.
(I have already written a bit about the time, the favourable proximity and the intensity required to this end – and I will continue to do so in the future.)

Exactly because of the above mentioned “metaphysical component”, I would also like that all my “associates” are always attached to me in an oligoamorous context: For if I’m in a good mood and brilliant, it might be easy to be fine with me, and I suppose I’m mostly enriching at those times. But even in an average week, I’m already dealing with deeds and mental games (about Oligoamory, for example), as to which not everyone may be thrilled.
But to whom can I entrust myself on those very days if even that is not the case? I will not always be attractive, eloquent and healthy. Presumably, times will come when I am in many ways in need of help or otherwisely unappealing…
At this point in time, hopefully, I have gathered around me those people who can endure me in the much-cited “bad times”, since we have previously contributed mutually to a sustainable treasure, which will comfort us even when things are not going so well anymore.

As an author, I wish that I managed to illustrate why even some “biological families” might be able to fulfil the criteria for such “communities of associates”. Or rather, that most certainly there is room for true relatives who contribute to each other in the “associates- model”, too.
But equally for any other form of heartfelt, emotional attachment that is mutually based in love and includes participation in terms of (intimate) nearness and everyday life (which, by the way, outlines the relationship-anarchistic share to my conception of Oligoamory).

Incidentally, I find the following two nonconforming platforms interesting in this regard:

Wahlverwandtschaften e.V. with the downright oligoamorous self-description
– Chosen familiy is
– showing interest
– listening
– committed
– designed for the long term
– The will to assume responsibility concerning each other
– Philanthropy: tolerance & trust
– pluralistic
– Solidarity: give & take

Bring-toghether.de with its website, App and newsletter

►Although personally I am not entirely enthusiastic regarding the concept of co-housing from my oligoamorous point of view: On the one hand, I’m worried that mere “communal housing” as a goal might lead to a latent objectification instead of a loving togetherness in the end.
And on the other hand, the further conception of whole Tiny-House settlements, which in my heart completely twist the whole purpose of Oligoamory, is frightening me because that way veritable colonies of modern hermits are created who can at best endure their fellow human beings for just a short time or in selected doses (e.g. in the central community building) before returning to their self-chosen ego-isolation again.

Last but not least, family-claims reloaded – and as long as it still has to be stated:

The German cultural philosopher, writer and literary scholar Friedrich von Schlegel (1772 – 1829) wrote:
“Only around a loving woman a family may evolve.”
Over a period of a few hundred years, this sentence – written to my regret by a Romantic – contributed to a myth that is still occasionally circulated to the present day.
According to it, in an adult human being, there appears to be some switch that predisposes to what kind of task the designated person would be particularly “fit”.
This myth has led over the above-mentioned centuries to the above-mentioned present to the fact that not only the remit “family” with its tasks of household, education, child care, nursing and geriatric care was attributed to the female sex, but also that this area was linked to the “metaphysical component of love” in such a way that all activities subordinate to this sphere of action would, naturally, be performed out of “self-sacrificing love” – hence voluntarily and free of charge.
I, Oligotropos, say that this myth contradicts Oligoamory’s belief in a justice of need in every way. Not only that there is no “switch” in any human being, of whatever race, sex, identity or gender, that “predisposes” her or him to anything. Further more: No one is born into this world as a perfect parent, educator, teacher, social worker, kitchentable-psychologist or qualified nurse. Nobody automatically seizes such tasks because it is supposed to be “her or his nature”, not even if such a task is already an inevitable and demanding fact.
In that regard love may be a foundation. But it is not a qualification and certainly not an implicit “vocation”.
If indeed we wish for such tasks to be performed truly out of “vocation,” then we must fully liberalise the choice of who feels called upon to do so. And these people must be adequately recognised and rewarded accordingly. Not with a romantic dedication, not with a social gesture, but as tangible as in respect to any other vocation.
That would be decent, committed – and loving.



Thanks to rawpixel on unsplash.com for great images,
to Gabriele Hartmann on Wahlverwandschaften e.V.
and Christoph Wieseke on Bring-together.de

Entry 4

The visit

Yesterday, for the first time, I received a visit to the remote island of Oligoamory, since I had landed here only three weeks ago myself. It was my friend from the versatile archipelago of Polyamory and I was accordingly excited.
Of course, I enthusiastically showed all the things I had encountered so far: We visited the place of my landing, I presented photos and maps on which the outlines of the island began to emerge, we looked at the rich flora and fauna of the island, whose promising potential of course I emphasised and naturally we went to the imposing “Oligoamorist’s Stone“.
However, when we sat in the evening on the porch of my hut with a cool drink, I noticed a significant irritation in my guest, of which I had the impression that it had gradually built up over the whole day.
Since I wanted to practice my honesty in the best sense of Oligoamory, I addressed my friend concerning it – and asked to respond just as sincerely.

“Now you have told me and shown me so much about this hidden new island,” began my interlocutor, “but the most important thing, it seems to me, you have left out. Where are these much-quoted inhabitants? Even you, my dear Oligotropos, live here with your nesting partner in your self-proclaimed research station – just the two of you – almost like a stuffy couple.”

“On the one hand, that bothers me a bit, of course,” I replied, “and naturally I would have liked to present you more in that regard. On the other hand, the current state is quite realistic.”
“How am I to understand that?” “Well – first of all, we are literally quite ‘off-beat’ here on the remote island of Oligoamory – it is very important that we realise that, especially in times when, at first sight, it seems that there is ‘nothing to be seen’. Already the legendary continent of ‘Open Relationships’ itself is actually rather distant from the currently still much larger ‘Old World of Monogamy’. About 15% of the population can imagine at present to lead non-monogamous relationships at best, and even that is not a large amount.
And then your own versatile archipelago of Polyamory – this pluralistic island chain, barely in the territorial waters of the ‘Open relationships’. It is said that there are just 2 to 3% of people on it now who call themselves truly ‘polyamorous’.
And from this archipelago, ‘Oligoamory’ is the last little known island – there are only very few people who have moved up to here, yet. I mean, the name almost says it all: I do not need to remind you that ‘oligo-‘ means ‘few’, and there are only a few who, in this respect, want to understand and share this relationship-philosophy and its way of life in a similar way. They have to find each other first! “
“But you yourself are now on this island …” my friend protested. “Ah yes,” I interrupted, “but only for three weeks. And that calls a very important oligoamorous factor into play … ” “Which is?”
Time, of course,” I said. “And that’s why I perceive the symbol of Oligoamory, especially its double spiral, so distinctive: No relationship can be turned on like a switch and then it is immediately unfolded in the world. Relationships are budding, are being commenced, are evolving, growing (hopefully) together and are becoming deeper over a long period of time, thereby drawing circles and having repercussions. Quite apart from their own dynamic momentum and interaction concerning those parties involved, which I find in the spiral-symbol so pretty well met … “
“All right, we’re not on every corner, sometimes it’s difficult, I must admit,” said my opposite. “But the relationship initiation and management is probably nowhere any different – or is it?” “To that I’ll answer with a razor-sharp ‘as the case my be’ “,I said. “Unfortunately, we live in a world that tends to become more and more serial. The high divorce rates already suggest that. However, people do not automatically abandon this penchant for seriality when they enter the territory of open relationships or polyamorous ground, even if they find new tools for relationship management there. “
“And Oligoamory…”, my visitor started. “Is so far out and and so small that its inhabitants do not seek rapid interchangeability for reasons of sustainability alone. Or more precisely, as I wrote to you in my letter, in their quest to recognise each other as ‘whole people’ with all their strengths and weaknesses, they would rather not initiate parallel relationships due to purely situationally unfulfilled needs (or abandon them at whim). That would not fit in with their idea of time and finiteness: Relationships are more like plants to them, quasi organic. It is much more meaningful for all participants to be committed over a really long period of time in order to be able to shape them and make them prosper. In that regard, time always plays an important role in Oligoamory. To finally lead a multiple relationship under committed and sustainable criteria also means to approach them in a committing and sustainable way in the first place – and this takes time again.”
“But as for your splendid two-by-two togetherness here, my dear …” This time I interrupted immediately: “The few who are addressed by Oligoamory can also be just two,” I said. “Qualitative relationship management is good for everyone, no matter how many. In that case, I would even say that it would be really great if you had a good relationship with just yourself…” “Sounds like a ‘but’ will follow…” “Right, you already know that I agree with Scott Peck and Gerald Hüther there: To really get ahead, we need the others! Hüther, for example, wrote in his book ‘Who we are – and who we could become’ (2011): ‘So in order to evolve, you have to think in relationships and invest in relationship skills. That is the secret of the art of growing together and growing next to each other. However, this feat can only be achieved through the appreciation of each other as unique personalities, as a source of knowledge and experience, as well as through the introduction of a learning- and an error-culture in spirited togetherness.’

“OK, I understand. Oligoamory concerns the few – and the little they start with needs time to evolve.
But how am I supposed to understand this stone that you showed me in that regard? That’s quite a monstrosity, don’t you think? What would one have to be for a superior being to fulfil all this? I can not imagine any living relationship anywhere that realises all the characteristics listed there!” my counterpart spoke more and more indignant. “Wait, wait!” I called. “You should neither overvalue nor underestimate the stone in this regard.” “What exactly do you mean by this?” “You have seen the stone yourself,” said I, “that is not exactly a pompous place of worship in which the Oligoamorists offer up their relationships performing dramatic rites. On the contrary, it is a remote, almost contemplative place.
From time to time, when an oligoamorous person feels the need for it, he, it or she adjourns to that private space to hold inner dialogue there. It’s usually about the person itself, for example, when they look at their connections in terms of values, whether their relationship still fulfils those things, whether everything is contained in good proportions, if perhaps something could be changed, and whether a time for communication and intercommunion with each other has come about – things like that.”
“Ah, I start to understand…” Incidentally, I do not view the values to be that superhumanly. Admittedly, because of the amount of icons and synonyms, it seems so overwhelming at first. In fact, they are organised around only five core areas, which I would call commitment, entitlement, honesty, identification and sustainability. In addition, the Oligoamorists have always emphasised the ‘human dimension’ a lot. In the sense that an ideal is important as a guiding star, always worth striving for – but for which you shouldn’t take any hostages in the achievement, not even yourself.

As far as I know, Gerald Hüther had commented on that as well, wait a minute:
‘Once as well as today people can only develop these potentials together. But not in communities resembling ant-colonies, hordes or swarms, but in individualistic communities where every single member matters, where each individual can develop the special aptitudes he/she/it has in him*her, and can contribute with his*her special abilities to the unfolding of the potentials hidden in their communities.’
That is a very nice idea for me with regard to Oligoamory. Individualistic communities. This ensures that even the frequently invoked ‘values’ for the people involved are always individually accessible and enriching in their content. Do you remember: The oligoamorous key phrase was ‘justice of needs’ instead of ‘distributional justice’

“All right,” my friend admitted, “if you put it this way it sounds much warmer and closer to life. But I still have some concerns…” “So? Well then – open fire!”
You have already explained a lot about why ‘Polyamory’ was not distinguishing for you anymore and where you see the chances of ‘Oligoamory’. Nonetheless, at the same time you are relying on numerous achievements of Polyamory. But, it seems to me, you’ve thrown a lot overboard in that process. For example, what about those values that you have not yet mentioned, such as communication, trust, as well as freedom from control and possessiveness?”
“In fact, regarding that I really oppose” I stated, “because I do not think of those terms as ‘values’ as such.” “I beg your pardon?” “Yes, you heard that one right. In contrast to criteria such as e.g. transparency, consensus or equality, to which – despite gradual differences in interpretation – a somewhat coherent content is attributed, the same cannot be applied to ‘communication’, ‘trust’ or ‘freedom of control and possessiveness’ – since these descriptions contain a very wide range of behaviour which they depict. I do not want to dissect the individual points, because in my opinion they are not ‘fixed values’ but nonetheless important, ‘flexible variables’. And the four above mentioned terms can actually be covered by only two variables, both of which are also important to Oligoamory: communication and intimate nearness.”
“Please elaborate!” “Communication is a great example: Communication is important for every relationship. Without communication we would need mind-reading rubies that would have to be embedded in our foreheads if we were trying to figure out what might be alive in the other, as Marshal Rosenberg, the creator of Non-Violent Communication once said with a wink. By means of communication only I can express myself, by means of communication only I can experience the others. Correspondingly, there will be stormy times when presumably a lot of communication is required – and there may be harmonious times that might be managed with very little of it. ‘Communication’ is accordingly like a lever or a regulator on a scale. ‘Communication’ is a lot like a tool in that sense anyway, because it is all the more useful the more upscaled it is. That is why so many polyamorous and especially oligoamorous people are constantly practising mindful speech and even better hearing.”
“According to you ‘trust’ is such a ‘regulator’ as well?” “Exactly. If you say ‘possessiveness’ or ‘control’ or even in part ‘jealousy’, then at the root of all these manifestations hides in most cases a lack of (mutual) trust. Therefore ‘trust’ is clearly an adjustable ‘regulator’ because the behaviour of the participants, just as in communication, will have an impact on the point of the scale at which the parties concerned are arranged. Here the oligoamorous factor comes into play again…” “Oh no…!” “Oh yes – After all, trust (and good communication too, in fact) depends on time invested and spent together. I’ll probably have to introduce you to a very boring term here: ‘Predictability‘…” “Yikes!” “Jay, yikes – but ‘predictability’ is a very important thing to humans, especially if you consider the alternative.’ “ “Which might be…?” “‘Unpredictability’! And that’s what we humans – at least in our close-knit relationships can not stand well (and by the way it is proven to be extremely unhealthy in long term).” “Alright – but what does that have to do with our topic?”
“OK, listen carefully: “If ‘trust’ is to be established to serve the parties involved, so that possessiveness, control or jealousy will not become the winners at the relationship-table in the end, a certain amount of time has to pass so that the people involved can experience ‘predictability’ and ‘countability’. That’s exactly what it takes time for which I mentioned from the very start. And only when by means of a certain preliminary trust calculable intimate ‘nearness’ and ‘familiarity’ have emerged, a truly resilient relationship has been established. Needless to say that this will be no static result, but a process that must probably be visited again and again (which I already said about the ‘stone‘ as well…)…”

“Good,” my visitor audibly let out air. “But if that’s true, what you’ve told me about Oligoamory so far and featured about this island today, then the Oligoamory guidelines could be applied to any small group of people who feel ‘connected’ in any common sense. Even distance wouldn’t matter – and any common meaningful purpose would suffice as a basis. Oligoamory would then also be applicable e.g. to small aggregations of interest, clubs, flat-share-communities and the like. Even regarding close-knit groups that only know each other via the internet and whose only way to stay in touch is in that matter…”
“Generally, yes. But…” “I knew that there would be a ‘but’ this time, too…!” “But”, I laughed, “it’s not ‘Oligo-utility’ but ‘Oligo-amory‘. Now we have talked so long that you have lost almost the most important thing: We are talking about emotional, intimate relationships here, of people attached to each other in love!
From what I know so far, I would say: If all participants share a deep emotional bond, literally a community of conjoined companions or rather associates emerges, in which it is no longer significant or relevant whether its connections are underlined by physical intimacy or even sexuality. In such a group there would be room for e.g. the 80-year-old grandfather, as well as for asexual or disabled people, also for children of course, for people of all stripes, every gender, of every vocation or aptitude.
I would indeed go so far as to say that if this deep mutual emotional connection is shared and felt, it is possible to do so even over long distances, as long as it is supportive to all those involved in such a connection regarding their happiness to the highest possible extent.
But because of that I believe precisely that this is never representable regarding groups of unlimited size, but that all of it has to do justice to a assessable human dimension, as well as to the ‘common we’, which has to be still recognisable at all times.
In this respect, I leave the final word to Gerald Hüther again:
‘There is no freedom without attachment. But attachment is not dependence. We humans are able to shape our relationships so that we feel attached without being dependent. But to do so, we have to take care of the others, or at least be prepared to share what we have with them. Our food, our habitat, our attention, our strength, our knowledge, our ability, our experience.’
and, I would like to add, our love.”



Thanks to Kyle Glenn on unsplash.com for the image of the Eco-Sphere

Entry 3

The Oligoamorist’s Stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Entry 2

Immediate reply to the archipelago of Polyamory

Dear friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Oligotropos

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



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

Thanks to Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash for the image!

Entry 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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