Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Parallel doesn't mean congruent


So I had an epiphany yesterday. There was a recent situation that came up with a metamour where I realized that we had a very different underlying philosophy about something. The past several years, our actions had been in concert, and my thought (read: assumption) was that, because our actions were running in parallel, that meant our underlying motivations were also congruent. Yeah, I know, it sounds totally common sense when I lay it out there, but I think it's actually a pretty common communications error.

Have you ever been surprised at someone experiencing the same event, but having an entirely different take on what happened? This is why eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. One would think that when in relationship with someone, you'd be in a position to figure out what is going on in their head a little more. Instead, we just fill in the blanks with whatever seems to fit.

When actions look the same, that MUST mean that the motivations are the same too, right? Well, what if this isn't someone that you are even in a direct relationship with? How are you supposed to be able to figure out what's going on in their head? You are pretty well confined to going off of actions, and when they don't fit what you had previously observed, it can be pretty shocking!

Remember the poly law of not expecting your partners to be psychic. Oh yeah, that one! Let's just extend that out so that you aren't expecting yourself to be psychic either. If someone doesn't choose to share information with you, how are you supposed to know any different? You're not. Damn, there goes my Omnipotence Badge...

So, if someones' actions don't necessarily indicate a similar viewpoint, how do you know what they think? Ask them. Back to square one, where we use, and ask others to use, their big girl and big boy words. Aren't there ANY shortcuts here?

The tough part of having this dissonance between what you _thought_ someone believed and what they actually do, is that there could be some retrofitting to do on the relationship. Let's say that you thought that someone also had hierarchical relationship models (believed that use of primary, secondary, and tertiary designations was useful) because they never said any differently and seemed to be cool being a "secondary", right up to the point where suddenly, well, they weren't. So what _do_ they believe? How does that look? Is there any way to fit that in with the existing relationship model, or is there a need to create a whole new way of looking at that connection? See previous paragraph for instructions in this case. ;)

What is useful to take away from this thought is that missing things that happen primarily in other people's head is to be expected. How you move forward from that point is up to the parties involved. Perspectives shift, and sometimes something that was true years ago isn't so today. Enlightening your partners to those changes is helpful to all parties that are connected. There may even come a time where parallel course of action is matched with parallel thoughts.

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