Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poly by Numbers

In the early NRE days of the relationship with S, PG introduced us to the Defcon System. Since then, I've learned that we did it numerically backwards, but since we started it that way, I think we're stuck with it.

Based on the system the military uses to denote its state of readiness, this was a numerical scale that helped S and I to realize if we were treading towards waters that were far murkier than we had suspected! ;)

Defcon 1= operations as normal, all is well in the world!

Defcon 2 = twinges of unease, but still well within the realm of simple corrective discussions.

Defcon 3= significantly noticeable distress and fear about the direction something was going, need to talk soon.

Defcon 4= anger, shutting down lines of communication, feeling disregarded, must talk NOW!

Defcon 5= I'm out of here!

We actually hit Defcon 4 once, when S and I went house shopping a couple months after we started dating. Nope, I wasn't drunk with NRE, not at all! After that, during this period of the relationship, we'd use the defcon as a check in strategy. "Hi Sweetie! I'm glad you're home so I can go out on a date! Love you! Bye!" Might be met with a "Defcon 3!" and a change in plans for the evening... ;) There was a 3.5 when S and PG's other partner kissed. There is such a thing as too much sharing, even for poly people!

On the flip side, when things were much more consistently in a 1-2 range, it was an indication that the strategies and ideas being implemented were moving things in a useful direction, something that would be more sustainable.

I actually kind of like Defcon 2's as an opportunity to give some attention to something _before_ it hits crisis proportions. These are things like time management, use of resources, finding focus time together, kid stuff, boundary negotiations and looking at blind spots that need illumination.

Standard check-ins are good as well, but we've found additional value in the numerical approach because it presents more simple view of how important something is, both in urgency and in emotional impact. It can make a difference between: "Let's set a time to talk about x this weekend." and "If you do this, I will feel that you don't value me as a partner very much."

This can also work well when someone is feeling triggered to a point where they aren't articulating well, or is experiencing the amorphous "Something isn't right..." feeling. They can start with a number, and not have to worry about specifics right away, while still advising their partner(s) that is is important stuff! When I hear a 3 from someone, I know that this is sensitive material that requires a more cautious approach, and that's good information to have entering a conversation!

Poly by numbers might seem a bit trite on the surface, but it's been a good tool for us, particularly in metamour relations and NRE. "What do you need from me to get to a 1 again?", "What actions are pushing you up to a 3?", "How can we structure this agreement so your baseline doesn't get above a 2?". Find the snapshot that opens up insight into your partners head and heart, and things smooth out at that point.

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