Friday, June 25, 2010

Fair, Equal, or Balanced?

Within every relationship, there is a delicate balance that exists, sometimes consciously, as within a D/s relationship, and sometimes as an undercurrent that motivates behavior, decision making, and how we interact with each other, and within ourselves. There is an (often unspoken) expectation that certain relationships will be a higher or lower priority than others, that some will have official status, as with a marriage, while others will be emotionally important, but not often publicly acknowledged. Some people have an idea that all relationships will be equally weighted, that "fairness" or "equality" are qualities to strive towards. Some of us want a say in the lives and decisions that our partners make, while others view that as controlling and undesirable. Is balance achievable? Is it desirable?

For me, people that are more entwined in my life, those that give of themselves and make my life function well, have a higher priority, more input. Their opinions and requests are given more weight as I consider decisions. I share a higher degree of information, and put more effort into communication. It's probably a reflection of my practical side that I do things this way. It seems eminently "fair" to me that someone who helps me out on a day in and out basis would have more input than someone I date occasionally, even if they are similarly emotionally important.

Equality is a fiction. Within our relationships there is a spectrum of feeling, thought, obligation, action, sexuality, desire, drive, intellect, responsibility, intimacy and much more. Each individual that we connect with is going to inspire a different blend of these qualities. There is no possible way to make relationships equal, particularly since they often grow based on shared experience that is unique to those present. Even with people present in the same space and time, the same event will hold different significance, emotional resonance, and touch them in unique ways. How could there ever be an expectation that someone should feel the same way about different people?

Fair and equal are traps. Any parent that has handed multiple children an identical treat, only to have one insist that the other child has somehow gotten the better choice, would recognize that even when things are precisely equivalent on paper, it's in our nature to wonder if someone is getting it better than we are. For me, the key thought is more related to balance. I cannot make things equal or fair, but I can try to give to each person as much of what they need from me as I have to give. Sometimes what I have to give is limited by other circumstances, like time needed to work, or by other relationships, including familial ones, or by the specific need of a particular partner.

Prioritizing is part of life. If we weren't capable of prioritizing, we'd collapse under the weight of all the choices and options available to us. So why is there so much resistance to prioritizing our relationships? Within the framework of a mono relationship, there isn't as much of a chance that someone will feel "less than" another person, or if that happens, it's a different type of connection, like one with a family member or friend, and we can more easily recognize that difference. Within a poly framework, we are having romantic relationships with more than one person. It's harder to make those differences feel obvious, and that is why we have a tendency to try for the equal and fair model, and why prioritizing can feel like making a better/less than choice, versus giving what is available to each individual based on the unique relationship that is shared.

1 comment:

lynelle said...

this is very thought-provoking to me... as a parent, i share your experience that "equal" isn't possible and is not the equivalent of "fair".

for me, it's been more about balance as well, yet i've also used the word "equitable". to me, equity isn't about having the same thing, or the same quantity of things; it's about each dyad being able to have adequate resources to maintain the level of connection that is sensible for each dyad.

although "sensible" is subjective, for me, it is based on considering what people want, how people feel, and most importantly, considering what is available to give, share, and build with another love, while still maintaining a close best-friends level of connection with my husband and kids, and maintaining my end of the responsibilities of sharing a home, finances, and parenting with my husband. i suppose many people would interpret that as my husband is my priority/primary relationship. for me, i see it as a VERY important relationship, where parenting, house, and finances are already part of the intertwinement i've chosen with my husband. before other-love was even considered, i'd already given priority of those things to my husband and my immediate family, so i don't have the resources to give those things elsewhere.

i totally get that another love might also have existing commitments (i.e. marriage and kids) that he wants/needs to honor, so in some areas, the general interpretation about priority/primary-ness applies to me as well ~ in that context, i'm a "secondary". yet i've had a hard time with hierarchy styles of polyamory where prioritizing results in secondary limits that are pre-established, or announced along the way in flavors that seem to be above-and-beyond taking care of existing commitments and relationships. to me, since each person experiences people, things, places, and connections differently, it seems like we can't have the *same* thing anyway. i can see that if x,y,z are not happening with the primary partner, he/she might want x,y,z, *also*. yet for things, places, activities etc. that a primary partner or relationship already has, and assuming that resources are not fully expended there, and assuming that the other-love person has, and is willing to continue to put in a lot of effort, time, work and entwinement in a relationship and isn't just expecting high status to be handed to them on a silver platter... i have a really hard time with the concept of balancing in ways that safety, primary-ness, priority, or hierarchy involves identifying what someone else shouldn't have.

for me, balance would reflect that feelings matter ~ feelings of the primary partner, and of the other people involved, including the secondary person. and for me, the reason matters ~ if something isn't available because the resources are already committed elsewhere, it makes sense to me ~ some resources are finite, and they can't be given to everyone at once, so no hard feelings if it's not available to/for/with me. yet if it's not available because someone doesn't want me to have x,y,z... well, i don't understand wanting someone else *not* to have things, and that flavor of prioritizing has been much harder for me to see/feel/experience as balance.

that scenario aside... overall, for me, equity reflects balancing the needs and preferences of each dyad, based on considering the resources that are *actually* available, caring about each person's feelings, and assessing actual risks while still caring deeply and helping each other through fears, and creating something different yet fulfilling in each dyad.