Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Non-Ownership Paradigm

Monday, May 6th, 2013

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the concept of ownership of people with in our society and then, subsequently, pondering ownership within my own relationships. I started out my journey by preferring to have very specific rules about my partner’s behaviors while in a relationship with me. I was the rigid person who felt that any form of cheating was a deal-breaker that would end the relationship. I thought that it made my relationships better and safer. I thought that it gave me more security.

But, rules don’t stop a cheater. It doesn’t actually stop the lying or problems or issues. It simply sets up a punishment system. This works better for governments than it does for personal relationships. For me, it was a false sense of security that lulled me into thinking that my relationships were healthier than they were. So, then, why do we all feel the need to have these rules? I truly believed that it was a way to ensure love and to gain security. But, I began to realize that I needed to have that sense of love and security from within myself rather than looking for it externally. It was about self-esteem and being happy with who I am and making better partnership choices from within that place. In the most basic sense, I needed to really own myself and my own happiness and to truly take ownership and control of my own life. Without that, I would never be happy with anyone.

A part of this was also recognizing my partner’s right to the same self-ownership and happiness. And, then, encouraging them to grow and become the person that they want to be rather than the person that I want them to be or think that they should. It was about truly loving someone for who they are and encouraging their growth and happiness. I realized that I don’t want a partner who is with me because they either feel that they have to be or that they don’t really have a choice. I want a partner who is fully engaged in being with me because they want to be there. I don’t want to coerce them or force them or use rules to corral them into the relationship or even into the right behavior. To me, that doesn’t seem very loving.

This can be hard to wrap your head around. But, all the rules in the world really won’t change what a person chooses to do. I do like to agree on one base rule – to try to act out of love and compassion.  But, we tend to forgo the books of detailed ‘rules’ and deal in boundaries and limits. Rules generally attempt to control the behavior of others while boundaries are what you set to help you meet your needs. We talk about those boundaries and limits. Sometimes, we may push those boundaries and limits. But – because we’ve talked about them, we (ideally) have clear ideas on what can be pushed and what will break the relationship and also what is expected in exchange for pushing those boundaries and where those deal-breakers lie.

It also brings up a heavy need for honesty and self-reflection to make sure that each person has the necessary knowledge to make educated decisions about their life. It also requires accepting that your partner is the best expert on themselves and their own needs and not second-guessing their decisions. It’s not my job to stop my partner from having a specific person in their life or taking a certain job or what have you. It is my job to give my opinion and to be honest about it and to help them make an informed decision. But ultimately, I really can’t make those decisions for them. It often brings about a very frank discussion of differences in personal needs and how to accommodate them.

It ends up becoming focused on informed consent, making your own choices and trying to allow time for decisions and consensus to happen.

Love and Compassion While Owning Your Own Shit

Wednesday, May 1st, 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.”