Love and Compassion While Owning Your Own Shit

Posted by on May 1, 2013

A friend pointed out to me that there’s a piece that far too often seems to missing in Poly discussions — the idea that compassion and love are key ingredients.

In many poly forums and communities, we talk a lot about owning your own shit. We can go on for days about taking responsibility for your actions and your own emotions and needs. Knowing to ask, talk and to be the driver of your own future and your state of being and happiness. We sometimes talk about things like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote — “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” We sometimes talk about how self-esteem and self-confidence can you help weather those pesky emotions like jealousy and envy. There are volumes of excellent, well-written work on these subjects.

I tend to work from what I call a non-ownership paradigm. Each person is free to make their own decisions. I try work from taking ownership of and controlling *my* piece of each interaction. This means that rather than a rule saying that you must tell me before you sleep with anyone else — my boundary is that I want to know before you sleep with me if you’ve slept with anyone else. It puts the obligation on where it really is — my choices about my body and my safety rather than focusing on trying to control someone else’s behavior.

“Owning your own shit” and non-ownership are great and dandy. But, they are nothing without compassion. They can be cold and heartless. They can be used to inflict great damage in the name of “You don’t own me” and “Your feelings are your own responsibility” and “I’m only responsible for me so, I’ll just do what I want regardless” and all the other lovely ways to abuse the notion. It’s easy to get this colder version as a take-away when you’re reading about these concepts. After all, it’s about being responsible for your own behavior and not taking away other people’s right to self-determination, right?

Nope. This partly comes about because we seem to assume that everyone knows and understands that this “Polyamory-thing” is about love. But, it turns out that we really need to call this out. And also the idea that even when it’s not about love – there should always be compassion. This is supposed to be about making our lives better and more workable for ourselves. And, an essential component in healthy relationships is compassion.

Most of the time, doing this seems to be about negotiating in good faith and taking your partner(s) into consideration and acting with compassion. When you start getting into metamours (your partner(s)’ other partner(s), this is just as important. Now, there are times when you just can’t make a relationship with a metamour work — they don’t want it and/or you just don’t want it. Even if you can’t wrap your head around the idea that your metamours are people who deserve compassion and respect as well — do it because you love your partner(s). You can still think about your partner(s) place in that relationship with compassion. Do it as an act of compassion and love for them.

Ultimately, for me, it really is about a variation of Wheaton’s Law – “Don’t be a dick.”

Last modified on May 1, 2013

Categories: Relationships

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2 Responses to “Love and Compassion While Owning Your Own Shit”

  1. Bruce Says:

    Love this post.
    This is one of those background things I sometimes forget that non-poly folks don’t see when I talk about owning your own shit. The compassion and love that goes along with it. Thanks

  2. Elisabeth Sheff Says:

    Well said! Your point that owning your own shit and being responsible for your own emotions does not excuse you from the requirement to be humane and compassionate is well taken. This can apply to all relationships, from poly to mono, sibling to friend, lover to child. Thanks for writing this!


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