Monday, March 11, 2013

Putting In The Work

I was sitting in the car hammering our this blog post on my iPad, thinking about how comfort, security, and safety is found in polyamorous relationships. They're inherently unstable.

Let me describe a little what I mean. I use the word 'unstable' to describe a state of emotional contentment. Balancing your life across three, four, five, or more partners forces compromise and sacrifice: it's assured that not everyone will get their expectations and needs met at all times; not all people will be perfectly happy; you can't make everyone happy at all times. 

In monogamy, you can concentrate all of your energy on a single person. Everything you do can reinforce a singe person's needs, diminishing fear and reinforcing confidence. 

Meanwhile, under polyamory, if I extend more time to a partner, I take away time for my wife; if my wife spends more time with her partner, she takes away time from me; if my partner dates another person, that removes energy from me - all of which potentially gives rise to fear, jealousy, and resentment. 

At first glance, polyamory appears idyllic with happy people coexisting in happy relationships with little strife. Yet my instincts tell me this is rare in polyamory. I think creating such a dynamic takes constant practice with a learned skill: negotiating out of abundance.

Stability (read: emotional contentment) in polyamorous relationships can't really be met unless there's negotiation for mutual benefit ... everyone is looking out for everyone else's needs ... everyone is willing to negotiate and compromise. Transparency, honesty, cooperation. A learned pattern of negotiating out of abundance rather than scarcity.

Instability (read: emotional discontent) in polyamorous relationships would be manifested between individuals negotiating for exclusive, individual benefit ... everyone is looking out for their own needs ... everyone is willing to compromise only on whim or advantageous trade. Concealment, deceit, selfishness. It's a learned pattern of negotiating out of scarcity rather than abundance.

If you're operating within a polyamorous framework, what's your intention? Ultimately, do you want healthy, stable relationship models or unhealthy, unstable ones? If your intention is to create stability, then there must be a willingness to put the requisite work in. 

And if you're to somehow argue that stability isn't your responsibility (but the responsibility of others) and your contribution isn't necessary, then you're in fact sewing instability. Absenteeism, deflection, avoidance, or ignorance isn't a license to avoid putting in the work.

But in the end, it might just come down to personalities, friendships, and outlooks on life - a spark of a special something between everyone that facilitates (lubricates? :) ) the connection, and if that isn't there - or diametrically opposed - it might be possible that the work alone won't cut it. And therein might lie a very tragic and frustrating ordeal for those who're putting in the work, making the sacrifices, attempting to compromise, and not being at all acknowledged or appreciated.



lynelle said...

mush resonance here ~ thank you!

i LOVE this point: "And if you're to somehow argue that stability isn't your responsibility (but the responsibility of others) and your contribution isn't necessary, then you're in fact sewing instability. Absenteeism, deflection, avoidance, or ignorance isn't a license to avoid putting in the work."

that makes *so* much sense to me. those things detract not just from time together, but also in presence, so connections seem likely to erode over time if people are using those strategies often.
i might quibble with the concept of poly relationships being inherently unstable. i'm not sure they are, any more than any other relationship, yet more people to fit into our lives, whether it's platonic friends, kids, or other loves does result in balancing time and resources more. yet a poly couple or triad might not inherently be more unstable than a monogamous couple with three kids, and also balancing two jobs and college night courses and kid sports events. hell, the monogamous couple might *gain* some stability if they were poly and found more loves to grow in ways that help share with the family logistics...?

it might just be semantics though... the more people, the more it seems that balancing becomes necessary, and ack of balancing or spreading yourselves too thin can create instability. i see instability as one possible result, not as an inherent fact of polyamory.

mathematically, the concept of time going from one person to another might be family specific. if we live together, being home might be a natural default when we don't have other plans. yet in polyamory or monogamy, being under the same roof doesn't necessarily mean we're spending that time together.

being with someone else may take away an *opportunity* for time overlap...? and that overlap might or might not be spent together. it still matters that time away is less opportunity for overlap. so the distinction may be subtle enough not to matter.

for me matters because it becomes my own internal "test... would i mind if the time overlap opportunity wasn't available because my love was at a college course, or out with co-workers after their workday, or playing golf with people i don't know, or flying RC planes, or watching a movie with a platonic girl friend? if i'd be fine about losing the opportunity of time overlap in any of those cases, but i feel upset if the time overlap isn't available to/with me because he'd be with his other love, then the discomfort is something i want to work on internally and/or with his hugs and reassurance.

it seems like it's mine, and instead of asking him to accommodate my discomfort, i'll try to walk through it to the other side.

feeling stable matters, yet maybe this is where it circles back to your wise words: "If your intention is to create stability, then there must be a willingness to put the requisite work in."

Polyfulcrum said...

There are times where it can be frustrating to put aside my desire of the moment for the goal of the future, but it pays dividends that help me further my personal position in the network, and build trust and goodwill with my partners and metamours.

When I have an actual need, there is much more willingness to bend and give on the part of my network because I contribute to the pot in ways that are beneficial to others on a regular basis. Not just my partners, but my metamours. Fortunately, I have great partners, and metamours that are all looking out for MY health and happiness as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reading, Lynelle -

I was trying to work around "unstable" in this post for a while before I completed it. I still came back to the term, even though I did try to define unstable as an emotional state.

I know it's a challenge for me to meet the needs of multiple partners: I'm not ever going to make everyone totally happy and happiness for all is a set of compromises.

I do believe it was easier for me to meet the needs of a single monogamous partner; less compromising. Still, I do see your point with large family and lifestyle commitments.

Thanks for reading!

lynelle said...

"I was trying to work around "unstable" in this post for a while before I completed it. I still came back to the term, even though I did try to define unstable as an emotional state."

i see your point, it *is* a tricky concept! to me, i think emotional vulnerability resonates more ~ i might feel like my relationships are stable, and yet, there are still times of emotional vulnerability, where hugs, reassurance, or other support can be hugely helpful.
for me, the "meeting needs" term has always been ambivalent. i understand the intent, yet in a pretty significant way, i don't think i can "make" anyone happy.

a lot might connect to whether i've found a good fit with our partner(s). There's some wiggle room here, but for me, it's critical to identify that what we each want to give and share with each other mostly fits what the other also wants to give and share; where beyond some basic compromises, most things are what we would each do anyway, or can pretty easily accommodate; where mostly our relationships are mutually-enriching just by being who we are. (Because twisting into pretzels to try to fit each other will eventually break somebody?)

When we've effectively screened for a mutual good fit, feeling safe and loved and cherished might not be about trusting a partner to fit me and meet my needs, as much as just *knowing* that who he is and what he does to fit himself mostly *already* fits me.

that said, time and some other resources are generally finite, so compromises matter, as well as knowing how thin we can stretch effectively.(knowing our poly saturation point?)

and while i can't make anyone be happy, how i behave can contribute to loved ones feeling *receptive* to feeling loved, valued, cherished, safe or feeling unloved, unvalued, uncherished, unsafe.

In either direction, this quote might apply: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt. Extending that concept... no one can make you feel unloved OR loved, unvalued OR valued, unsafe OR safe without your consent. Be careful what directions and things you consent to. And be careful who you give permissions to. Does your partner fly your soul? Is your partner worthy of your permissions?

when i think about those things, it can be easier for me to ground myself in knowing and feeling the love, even when some resources or logistics might not fit my preferences sometimes. so it feels like i'm not expecting partner(s) to meet my need to feel happiness. their love of me, and their fitting with me enables a positive happy foundation at the core.

and then for the details, there are some compromises, and reassurances, yet the core connection already includes confirmation that the general level of time and other resources we have to share with each other already fits the level of relationship i'm wanting.

from there, if some logistics and resources occasionally don't feel good to me, i know it's a temporary thing and balances out, until/unless a partner wants a lower level connection in general than i do. yet that's a different problem than "just" resource allocation and balancing to meet my needs.

others' mileage will obviously vary. ; )

Meditative Running said...

Having just discovered this blog, I know full well many of the feelings and words posted. Even though we are new to this(2012), all has been working out well for us too with a happy future ahead filled with joy and love. Thanks for the delightful blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi there MR -

Thank you for reading our blog! Very kind words thank you ...