Sunday, April 28, 2013

Feelings Matter

Feelings matter.

The way that somebody feels is a real response to emotional stress.

If you love somebody, shouldn't you be taking their feelings into consideration?

I've witnessed some polyamorous circles dismiss or marginalize feelings by creating a landscape of non-accountability, wherein the culture agrees to a standard for divulging sensitive information about their relationships. They all agree upon the terms of that communication. Then, to that culture, those conditions become an ethical baseline that contributes to a narrative that looks like this:

"Well, based on our agreements, I've done my obligation by telling you that I'm going to be gone tomorrow night. I will have sex with that person."

Whether or not setting a baseline of "moral principles" surrounding communication is ethical can probably be debated - I don't believe treating others like crap is "moral" in any sense of the word, even if it's under the guise of agreed-to expectations - but within this narrative we see two things:

1. A persons' feelings are being summarily dismissed;

2. Accountability for contributing to the feelings of another is being avoided.

In effect, the practice of ethical communication becomes a license to do as they please without fear of accountability or being told no. In effect, the narrative is allowed to continue:

"Your feelings are your own. You're just going to have to deal with it."

In my mind, this is unacceptable behavior. It's not treating the other party in a way that'd be loving or respectful. Nobody should be treated this way. This is a practice of control. It's a practice to get what you want by deflecting feelings behind a shield of self-righteousness - perhaps brought on by a delusion of intellectual or moral superiority.

Get down to basics. Look at a person. Look into their eyes. If they're hurting, and if their feelings matter - and in loving, committed relationships, they should - it's time to embrace your responsibility for her frustration and help change it, rather than dismiss it.


1 comment:

Brooks said...

Personally, I think that framing this as a moral or ethical question is somewhat the wrong framing. There is nothing inherently ethically wrong with informing someone that you are going to do something, and not taking responsibility for dealing with their feelings about that.

This is, after all, what one has to do in a breakup. And those are morally and ethically reasonable things to do.

And therein lies the issue: This is morally and ethically acceptable in vacuo; in the absence of the context. But the context is not absent here; the presumed context is that of a relationship, and probably of a partnership.

And there are the two real issues. The first issue is that relationships and partnerships come with agreements and expectations, and they also come with needs and wants. I'm not going to prescribe what agreements and expectations are appropriate in a relationship -- but unless you've explictly negotiated it, assuming that you can just ignore the emotional pain that your emotions cause your partner is a very dickish move that is likely to be counter to their expectations and detrimental to the health of your relationship with them.

Which is to say: In all the partnerships that I've been in, that sort of thing is not acting like a partner. I didn't choose the "breakup" example arbitrarily; to me, doing this without a really good reason is tantamount to saying, "I am choosing to no longer be your partner," with all the ramifications thereof.

(And, even if there is a good reason, it amounts to "I can't be a good partner for you right now," which has its own ramifications -- often "we'll work through it until you can, then," yes, but still ramifications.)