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Some thoughts on polyamorous relationships

dragonpoly
Recently, I received an email taking exception with something I've written on one of my poly pages to the extent that one of the most important parts of polyamory is to be able to know one's partner's partners. The person emailed me to say that as long as everyone was honest, that was sufficient; a polyamorous relationship in which, say, Alice and Bob are a couple, and Bob had other partners on the condition that Alice never meets, knows, or talks to them, is a perfectly okay arrangement.

My reply:

The thing I find most important about relationship agreements is not the form the agreement takes, but the REASON behind the agreements. This is, in my experience, most especially true with agreements of the form "I do not want to know about _____" or "I do not want to meet _____."

Often, if you ask someone who makes such a rule "Why don't you want to know about X?" the answer you'll get is "I just don't, that's all." To me, that tends to show a lack of communication; people feel the things they feel and want the things they want for a reason.

Now, if a person doesn't want to know about, or doesn't want to know, one of the people involved in a relationship, I think that speaks volumes about his approach to relationship. I've met many such people, of course; it's hard to be active in the poly community without meeting people who have this approach. In every such case in my experience, though, without exception, the *reason* that the person doesn't want to know about or doesn't want to know everyone else always comes down to some unvoiced insecurity, fear, or uncertainty about the relationship.

I've met people who don't want to know a partner's other partner because they believe that keeping this kind of distance will help them preserve their primacy status in enforced, prescriptive primary/secondary relationships. I've met people for whom it is a defensive mechanism; they feel that meeting the other person makes that person more "real," and that triggers insecurities. I've met people for whom it helps create emotional distance that prevents them from having to consider the needs and feelings of that other partner, and who fear that if they have to think about that other partner as a real human being, they will lose their power or status in the relationship.

There are many different forms that a polyamorous relationship can take. But all healthy polyamorous relationships--indeed, all healthy relationships of any kind, polyamorous or monogamous--have certain things in common. Healthy relationships live on open, honest communication; and it is not possible to develop good communication with a person you refuse to be in the same room with.

I can not reconcile "I refuse to meet your other partner, I refuse to know that person, I refuse to talk to that person, and I refuse to be in the same space as that person" with "respect." When person A refuses to speak to person B, it is hard to make a case that A and B have developed good communication, and harder still to argue that A respects B.

I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that as long as everyone talks about their feelings, it's all good. That is a n ecessary first step, but building successful relationships requires more than just talking about how you feel. It also requires understanding those feelings, looking at them critically, figuring out where they come from, figuring out whether or not they are well-founded, determining if the things you feel match reality, figuring out if those feelings are healthy or unhealthy, and in some cases (such as with fear or insecurity) figuring out what you can do to change them. All of these things start with clarity and honesty, but clarity and honesty by themselves are not enough to guarantee success.


I sometimes feel like a heretic in the poly community. One thing I hear repeated often, especially when issues such as jealousy or insecurity arise, is that "all feelings are valid." I do not believe that's true.

I do believe that all feelings feel genuine to the person who feels them, that feelings are inherently irrational, and that telling a person "Oh, you shouldn't feel X, so just get over it already" is insensitive and unhelpful.

But that doesn't mean that all feelings are valid.

As an extreme example, say that a person has a fear of being kidnapped by flying ninjas. Is this fear valid? It might be genuine, but is it valid? I would say "no, it is not," based on the idea that flying ninjas do not (to my knowledge) exist; the actual odds of anyone save datan0de actually being kidnapped by flying ninjas is nil. So the fear is not "valid" in the sense that the thing being feared simply is not going to happen; the fear serves no purpose and does not reflect reality.

People act the way they do for a reason. People feel the way they do for a reason. If Alice refuses to meet Bob's other lovers, there is a reason. "Oh, I just don't want to, that's just the way I feel" is not a genuine response; it is not a reason.

I say that not all feelings are valid. I also say that it is not enough to be honest about your feelings; there is also, if your goal is to build healthy relationships, the additional component of exploring the why of your feelings, and being honest about that.

There is also the component of recognizing that not all feelings are healthy, and not all feelings should necessarily be catered to.

I realize that "all feelings are valid" is a very validating idea; it makes people feel good about themselves regardless of how irrational or destructive their feelings are.

But not all feelings are valid, and not all emotional responses make for healthy, stable foundations for relationship structures. Sometimes, building healthy, functional relationship structures requires examining one's feelings, and, if they are found to be predicated on ideas that are untrue or unhelpful, changing them.

This is extremely difficult, uncomfortable, awkward work, and it can and likely will take you nose to nose with some of your deepest fears and most sensitive, vulnerable areas. It's not fun. But expressing how you feel is not enough.

Comments?

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Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
mama_hogswatch
Aug. 20th, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)
My basic thought is that if I am asked to justify my feelings to a partner in such a way that the person will agree with my feelings, that I would be unlikely to want to keep the relationship. I've had a relationship or two like that and found them very unpleasant after awhile.

That being said, I'm not into the ownership paradigm to a degree that probably makes me a bad poly. I won't consent to a relationship with vetos. I won't even consent to a relationship where consents must be sought to form other relationships. I am far far too proud to want a second of someone's time that is not given willingly, so vetos and consent is counter-productive in what I want. (And yes, I think asking for what you want is a good thing, as I've never known an accurate mind reader).

I also am not much into the whole "I must be buddies with my partners partners" thing. I prefer to choose friendships on my own, not have them picked for my due to a partner's romantic interests. That group hug shit can turn into a straight jacket really easily. Not my kink.
tacit
Aug. 20th, 2006 03:48 pm (UTC)
"My basic thought is that if I am asked to justify my feelings to a partner in such a way that the person will agree with my feelings, that I would be unlikely to want to keep the relationship."

Well, yeah, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I do not think that exploring a feeling and discovering what lies beneath that feeling is the same as "justifying" it. Rather, I think that if a person has a feeling which is rooted in something like fear or insecurity, it benefits everyone--including the person who has that feeling--to root out that underlying fear or insecurity and look at it in the light.

What I'm objecting to are two things: first, the person who makes a declaration ("I will never under any circumstance see, meet, speak to, or be in the same room with any of your other partners") and then will not explore the reasons for the feelings that give rise to that declaration; and second, the attitude which says that all feelings, and by extension all actions made on behalf of those feelings, are always just, right, and good.

In the first case, "because that is how I feel" shuts down communication, imposes restrictions on the behavior of others, and in many cases can conceal potentially damaging insecurities. It has been my experience that insecurities thrive on darkness, when they are suppressed and not discussed; and wither when they are brought out into the light.

In the second case, no, not all feelings reflect reality. Imposing relationship restrictions based on feelings that do not reflect reality--especially if the person who imposes those restrictions refuses top discuss them--is not, in my experience, a healthy approach to relationship.

I also am not much into the whole "I must be buddies with my partners partners" thing. I prefer to choose friendships on my own, not have them picked for my due to a partner's romantic interests. That group hug shit can turn into a straight jacket really easily. Not my kink.

Again, we're talking about two entirely different things. There is a vast difference between "You must be close to all my partners" and "I refuse to see, meet, speak to, or be in the same room with any of your other partners under any circumstances." I do not believe in forced intimacy, but neither do I believe that a relationship whose members refuse to be in the same room together is going to provide a healthy foundation for a stable relationship.
magyarok_saman
Aug. 20th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)
I disagree that feelings, in and of themselves, are not valid. They simply are, and don't fall within the realm of validity or judgment.

The reasons leading to the feelings, however, may or may not be valid. Fearing something which won't happen, as you illustrated, is a case where the fear is, but the reasons for the feelings are what isn't valid.

Glad, mad, sad, afraid, ashamed, hurt - those are the basic feelings, and something one is taught if one goes through certain types of therapy. This is to distinguish feelings from thoughts.

Feelings just ARE. Reasons can be valid or invalid, in that they may or may not stand a chance of occurring.

Just my .02

L
indywind
Aug. 21st, 2006 03:34 pm (UTC)
Seconded.

I would further say, it's important to make a distinction between choosing oneself to pursue self-examination and purposeful changes in one's own emotion-motivated thoughts and behaviors (which I agree with [Bad username: Tacit"] is beneficial possibly to the point of necessity) and trying to convince someone else that they must do that, or being subject to someone else requiring justification & change (which I think is what mama_hogswatch was talking about, and which I think is unhelpful to the point of being counterproductive or worse).


With respect to the specific situation of intimates refusing to meet each other... in my experience, it is often due to 'unhealthy' reasons, frequently insufficiently examined by their owners and frequently unjustified on rational level. But so what? So, it imposes a limiting condition on relationships with those people. If the relationships are rewarding enough otherwise, I will pursue them within those limits, and suggest that the limits might be relaxed if one chooses. If the relationship cannot be satisfying enough to me until/unless the other person(s) improve their awareness/communication/whatever, I back off from those people/relationships. Maybe they're not ready to take on the change, maybe they never will be... But I'll be wasting my energy and feeding my own frustration in trying to change people who don't want to. And by trying to tell them my "right answer" I'd be undermining the growthful process by which they learn to examine for themselves.

In practice this means I don't usually have relationships (or have only scant casual acquaintanceships) with people whose others and I don't get along, or who won't meet me, because that's where my personal line is drawn around "satisfying enough". If interaction is available but limited, I may not think it's optimal, but I can work with it.

I am a flawed mortal also. I hope others will be tolerant of my limits even when they think I am overdue for some personal growth.




indywind
Aug. 21st, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC)
bad username= tacit
saluqi
Aug. 20th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
For me this is a practical matter. If I can't meet the other partner/s, my personal standards for checking that they really are part of a poly relationship can't be met. I don't take people's word for it, I need to have had a conversation with the word poly in it with the partner/s first. This is not the same as seeking permission, something I don't do. It is about checking the territory for myself.

As to feelings and validity, valid is an odd word and while I don't disagree with the general thrust of what you are saying I'm disinclined to use it about emotions:

Well grounded; just: a valid objection.
Producing the desired results; efficacious: valid methods.
Having legal force; effective or binding: a valid title.
Logic: Containing premises from which the conclusion may logically be derived: a valid argument.
Correctly inferred or deduced from a premise: a valid conclusion.
Archaic. Of sound health; robust.
tacit
Aug. 30th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
I think "well grounded" is a reasonable term to use while talking about feelings. :)

When I say that a feeling is not "valid," what I mean by that is the feeling does not reflect reality well. A person who fears, for example, being devoured by werewolves, possesses a fear that does not reflect reality well; the odds of this happening are such that that constructing one's life around this fear hardly seems reasonable.

Now, the fear itself is quite genuine; the feeling of fear is real, even if the thing being feared is not. The fear itself is genuine, and should be treated as such; in that sense, the feeling is "valid." However, the feeling is based on a premise that most certainly is not.

A person who has a feeling, however powerful it may be, still has a choice about how to express that feeling. Even if the feeling is so powerful, so overwhelming, that the person feels helpless in its grip, that person still has a choice--and is still responsible for the consequences of that choice. I think one of the fundamental things separating wisdom from foolishness lies in the habit of examining feelings and determining whether the things those feelings communicate are true, versus assuming that all feelings are valid and therefore the things those feelings relate to are valid--or "well-grounded," if you prefer--as well. Reflexive, analytical observation of emotional responses is one of the qualities I have noticed in common in those people I most admire--including people who are very emotional. (Many people I've known wrongly believe that trying to examine and understand one's emotional response is the same thing as trying to squash those emotions, and decry any suggestion that examining one's feeling might be a positive thing to do as "Oh, you just want everybody to be a soulless, unfeeling robot!"--but I digress.)
tiggerypum
Aug. 20th, 2006 06:15 am (UTC)
Lots of differing things to think/talk about here.

My thoughts - feelings (aside from low blood sugar ones and others due to physical issues) do not generally exist in mental vacuum. They are often triggered by association/memories/thoughts. They're a fast feedback loop for the brain, as it's trying to keep us safe and protect us from bad future experiences. Many therapies demonstrate that by changing the thoughts, the feelings change. These chemistries are closely intertwined - bad moods can trigger more thoughts along those lines, unhappy/uncomfortable thoughts can create the negative feelings.

For the most part, I want to foster feelings in myself and others that help us get where ever we want to go, and the ones that block things up, I like to poke at and see if we can make something shift for the better. Not that I expect 100% happy high energy all the time, but it certainly seems that the more people are getting towards whatever goals they have, the generally happier they feel about things.

Even with the ability to shift some emotional responses, I'm not saying that I must be all lovey with everyone a partner might be with, but I expect that there is a high liklihood that I might run into them someplace. I wouldn't want my partner and this person to say, have to not interact because I might realize I am now meeting a partner of theirs. That could be an uncomfortable surprise, depending on what happens. Much rather meet them and be friendly to whatever level suits that particular relationship.

I also wouldn't ban my partner from talking about them to me - I mean, if my partner can talk about their friends to me, or work, they should be able to mention someone special to them. To some degree, because I care about my partner, I expect some (at least low) level of caring about what is going on with them, even if it is something involving another lover.

Life isn't in neat little compartments. All the different activities and people we encounter ... I don't know how to put this right -- can influence thoughts/reactions/other decisions/schedules/etc. This is not to say I want every little detail about what goes on between my partner and whomever else they are with - they can have space to have their relationship however it works for them! Heck, I don't even want every detail of what goes in the heads of my children, and I have far more responsibility regarding their doings than I will ever have for a partner.

All in all, I think I agree with most of your thoughts tacit. I'm also not sure if I'd actually call emotions valid or not, although clearly the trigger for the emotion might be irrational. Ah, I've rambled, considered enough for now. I always find it interesting to relook at how I'm choosing to handle things in relationships and why. Thanks.
tacit
Aug. 30th, 2006 12:23 am (UTC)
"My thoughts - feelings (aside from low blood sugar ones and others due to physical issues) do not generally exist in mental vacuum. They are often triggered by association/memories/thoughts. They're a fast feedback loop for the brain, as it's trying to keep us safe and protect us from bad future experiences."

Bingo. Feelings are the way the ancient parts of our brains--the parts that do not have language--communicate with us. Feelings are one of the ways we respond to the world, and can be useful warning signs of trouble, or useful indicators that we're on the right track.

The problem is that those parts of our brain which mediate feelings aren't very sophisticated. Our emotional selves have a limited comprehension of the world; they don't understand subtlety; often, they try to reflexively protect us from unpleasant things even if those unpleasant things are our own damn fault. And they're shortsighted, as well--they'll often tell us to avoid short-term pain even when it leads to long-term benefit.
quaryn_dk
Aug. 20th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC)
I'd say the person who mailed you had a kind of ostrich approach to relationships. That will probably come back and bite them in their highly exposed butt later.

I do agree that not all feelings are valid, and when those feelings are destructive or damagine to the relationship(s), it is important to understand what's at the root of those feelings and work through them. I think expressing how you feel if you have those sorts of feelings is a good first step, but asking for patience on the part of your partner(s) while you work through them should be the next step, and that places an obligation on you to make a good-faith effort to work through those feelings.
quaryn_dk
Aug. 20th, 2006 07:20 am (UTC)
Although, on the other paw, if those feelings can't be resolved, they can be a place for either a hard limit or a deal breaker. For example, one of the few fears my husband has had since we confirmed that we were open to poly relationships is that I would become pregnant by another man. This is a fear that strikes pretty squarely at the heart of what our marriage means to us, especially as we're nearly 100% decided that we're not going to have children. My becoming pregnant, particularly by another man, would throw a really huge wrench into the works. Even if his feelings are somewhat irrational, as I have no intention of becoming pregnant by either him or my boyfriend, they are one of the very few irrational fears he has. Therefore, I respect his feelings as a hard limit, practice both hormonal birth control on an ongoing basis, and use condoms as well with my other partner.
sylvar
Aug. 20th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
Well, what do you mean by "valid", and is it the same thing meant by most people who say "all feelings are valid"?

As far as I can tell, when you say "X's feeling is valid", you mean "everyone has an obligation to approve of the way X feels". Or is that putting it too strongly?
tacit
Aug. 20th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell, when you say "X's feeling is valid", you mean "everyone has an obligation to approve of the way X feels". Or is that putting it too strongly?"

I don't think it's necessary to approve of the things someone is feeling; on the contrary, often feelings aren't even much appreciated by the person who feels them!

When I use the word "valid," what I mean by that is that the feelings, and the actions that come from those feelings, are in accordance with the reality of the situation. If a person feels jealous of a partner's behavior, for example, that feeling might be rooted in reasons that are valid or that are invalid, depending on the situation; if the feeling comes from a history of deceit or of previous cheating, and the person has demonstrated a past history of cheating or dishonesty, then the feeling might be valid, whereas if the feeling springs from nothing more than redirected anger at the person's father for cheating on the person's mother forty-seven years ago, and there is no evidence whatsoever to support any suspicion of infidelity on the part of the person's partner, then it is not valid.

That's getting a bit off the main point, though, which is that feelings do not spring from a void; they are rooted in something. A person who says "I do not want X and that's just the way I feel and there is no reason for it and I will not discuss it any more" is shutting down communication, cutting off understanding,and potentially sweeping a harmful fear or insecurity under the rug--it's that which I take objection to.
calmingdragon
Aug. 20th, 2006 02:53 pm (UTC)
My own spin on the Validity issue:
I think that wholesale acceptance of feelings based on their "validity" is a dangerous thing. You are correct in that there are truly wrong feelings within a situation. However, the I would argue that the validity of feelings (and all feelings) comes into play when the feeling is used to discover something for change etc. The feeling is has validity as a tool. The feeling itself may be wrong headed (flying ninjas are not going to abduct anyone) however, there is still a reason for them. As you have said before, going into that closet and dragging out those fears to examine them allows people to overcome them. If the person did not have the feeling then the would not be able to change.

I think what you are striking at is the "all feelings are valid and we should accept them all as being okay" mentality. This is unacceptable because it just hampers people's ability to take those feelings and say "I don't like feeling that. I want to change from feeling that." By taking the wrong feelings and accepting is as correct or valid change instead becomes unacceptable, because if you change then you are "obviously seeing the feelings you have as wrong, and no feeling can be wrong."

Anywho. That is a bit of a ramble. Hope it made sense. I appologise for my rough writing style.
tacit
Aug. 20th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
"I think what you are striking at is the "all feelings are valid and we should accept them all as being okay" mentality."

Bingo. That's exactly it.
indywind
Aug. 21st, 2006 03:48 pm (UTC)
This seems a sticky topic... there's a fine (yet important) line between

a) accepting emotions as natural to the species, not in and of themselves warranting praise or blame (which are reserved for actions), a source of information, useful when considered in conjunction with other data and rational assessment...

and
b) taking emotions as unable to be consciously effected by their 'victim', all praisewrorthy or blameworthy or judeged according to whether they are pleasant or unpleasant to experience ("happy=good, angry=bad" without regard to utility), always the only or most accurate source of information and motivation about the situation that prompts them.

I ascribe to the first veiw, and I think most people who've commented here also do, although there are a variety of ways of expressing it.
springdew
Aug. 20th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)
This is pretty close to where I am. Seems to me that feelings have a valid use; they're status indicators. If there's an unpleasant feeling going on, that means something's wrong, and that wrongness is as likely to be internal as it is external. It's the idiot light on the dashboard that says go check stuff out.
jennasuze
Aug. 20th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
As usual, I agree pretty much 100%.

I've met people for whom it helps create emotional distance that prevents them from having to consider the needs and feelings of that other partner, and who fear that if they have to think about that other partner as a real human being, they will lose their power or status in the relationship.

This is the one I've run into the most. Many of the people I know feel they should have no responsibility to anyone but the person/people they are actively dating. OSOs are "not my problem". While I don't think it's the same level of responsiblity by any means, I think there is some inherent in dating someone with other partners. It's not mandatory in my relationships at the moment for me to meet/get to know the "others", but I strongly prefer it. More knowledge, more understanding, more comfort, more ability to make the whole shebang go smoothly without putting the responsibility for that solely on the shoulders of the person in the middle.
eithnenicole
Aug. 20th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
So what do you do then when your lover takes on people you don't like? You can try, you can communicate, you can be kind and be responsible for your feelings, but if after months and months -- or over a year of really *trying* to own those feelings and they're still unpleasant (maybe more mature, but not exactly oh oh, lets love one another and live in a big house together)... then what do you do?

I've been making the repeated mistake of shouldering those mistakes on my own. As in, it's my fault that I just can't stand the actions of someone else, it's entirely my fault that I'm feeling X, Y, and Z, and now the pendulum is swinging well, the other way.

Right now, I'd appreciate that emotional distance because owning these feelings has been more than enlightening.

jennasuze
Aug. 20th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
Well, it goes both ways. They also need to try, communicate, be kind and responsible, etc. There's a difference between owning your feelings and taking all the blame. IMO, "owning" your stuff doesn't mean that you have to take care of it alone, or that it's your "fault". Owning, to me, means examining and deciding what you can handle and what you can't, what is hurting you too much, what isn't, and what needs to be done, if anything. Then, if something does need to be done, your job is communicating that.

The other people involved have jobs too - to do the same with their feelings, and communicating to you what's needed. It's a cooperative effort kinda deal. Of course it doesn't always work out that everyone does their job perfectly or has the same feelings of responsibility, in fact I'd guess that's pretty rare. But it's the goal, in my head.

I can own my feelings of neglect, for example, take responsibility for them and look at them carefully to see where they're coming from and what would resolve them, but they don't just get fixed like that. I have to then tell my partner, or whoever, "Hey, this is what I'm feeling, and I've worked through it best I can on my own. I think that what I need to feel better is X - can you swing that?" and go from there.
tacit
Aug. 20th, 2006 11:35 pm (UTC)
That's where the "inclusive" model of polyamory comes in handy.

There are people who practice polyamory in what I like to call a "free agent" style. They date whomever they want, and consider each relationship to be something that stands on its own entirely and has no bearing at all on any others; in many cases, when a free agent makes a decision about whether or not to begin a new relationship, that free agent does not stop to think about, or even see a reason to stop and think about, the effect that new relationship may have on existing relationships. In extreme cases, I've known free agents who behave as though they are completely unpartnered, and make all decisions as though they were single, regardless of the situation.

The free agent model of polyamory does not work for me, and free agents do not make good partners for me.

When I make a decision about whether or not to date someone, I do not make that decision in haste. I do not believe in a scarcity of love, and I do not believe that I must start a relationship with every person I meet who I find interesting and available. If a prospective partner does not get along with an existing partner, I simply do not start a relationship with that person, that's all.
cunningminx
Aug. 21st, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
You are a brilliant, brilliant man.

I am comfortable saying that all feelings are valid, but I agree with you that it can't stop there. That is, it's OK to feel them, but for a healthy relationship, you have to get to the why of them.

But you said it a million times better than I could.
tacit
Aug. 30th, 2006 12:24 am (UTC)
Aww...now you're just flattering me. :)
meandering
Aug. 21st, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
The main thrust of your statement agrees with my core principles. I just have a thought on the initial issue.

I currently have three regular lovers, but all of them are hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from me and each other. I have absolutely no issues with my partners meeting each other, it's just fiendisly difficult from a logistical point and none of them have expressed an interest in getting to know the others.

Basically, my quesion is: Do you think it's necessary to request that your partners find out about each other and get to know each other?
tacit
Aug. 30th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
I think it's necessary that the opportunity be there.

Logistics are something I'm quite familiar with; hell, I have a potentially-possibly-maybe romantic relationship with a person who loves on the other side of the continent, and even I have not met her yet, so it wouldn't be reasonable for me to insist that all my partners have met her. :) But the option is there, if they chose to; certainly, she is open to talking with them.

Where I get skeptical is when one person adamantly refuses to meet or know anyone else in the relationship. To me, that indicates a fear or an insecurity that's being protected--in a case where one person will have nothing to do with, or even be in the same room with, a lover's over lovers, there's an emotional response living at the root of that behavior that probably should be examined.
meandering
Aug. 30th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
Yes. I agree. The "refusal" behavior is definitely a sign that something is going on that needs to be worked on.
heldc
Aug. 21st, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
I think a lot hangs on how one is defining valid. To me, saying all emotions are valid means one feels what one feels, and has every right to feel it, and no one else has a right to say one shouldn't feel it. Which doesn't mean that 'well, this is how I feel and that's that' is acceptable as a reason for an action. So I guess I'd say all feelings are valid, but actions need more to support them than just a feeling, they at least need reasonable reasons for that feeling. I dunno, I haven't eaten yet today, that may not make much sense.
kiwitayro
Aug. 21st, 2006 07:46 pm (UTC)
People act the way they do for a reason. People feel the way they do for a reason. If Alice refuses to meet Bob's other lovers, there is a reason. "Oh, I just don't want to, that's just the way I feel" is not a genuine response; it is not a reason. [emphasis mine]

this genuine-ness (genuinity?) of response is what i find imperative in any interactions i have, but especially relationships. people who blow off their own emotions are even worse than people who blow off other people's emotions, and it seems that anyone who does one will do the other. therefore, "danger! danger! run away!"

the hard part, i have found, is when one meets and knows one's lovers' others'... and just doesn't like one of them. what do you do when you just don't connect with, are annoyed by, don't respect someone in your fuck-tree*? i'm not talking about buried relationship problems, or weird possessiveness, or fears, but just regular old "not my kind of person," or "that person is kindof a bitch/asshole and i don't want to hang out with them?"

eh, mr. poly-smartypants? ;)

There is also the component of recognizing that not all feelings are healthy, and not all feelings should necessarily be catered to.

well, i guess this makes both of us poly-heretics because this is one of my tenets of basic poly functioning. i personally could not be poly if i believed this. i have and continue to have fears, insecureties, etc that manifest themselves as that panicky-nauseated-angry feeling some call "jealousy" (which i also refuse to believe exists. yes, i said it. there is no such thing as "jealousy" - it's simply a collection of responses that people slap a label on so they can say "you're just jealous" or "i'm just jealous" and walk away from it.) and if i could have just said "i have all these terrible feelings of fear and insecurity and panic and wazzing out, so you can't be with her" josiah and i would never have been poly in the first place. however, i have had to (and sometimes still have to) push myself through them and develop the skills to dig under the surface feelings. i don't know many people who can do it themselves or let others' push them through it.

most people find it easier to throw out the refrigerator.


*fuck-tree: like a family tree, but with less clothing. not sure where i got this term or if i made it up, but most people seem to grok it.
urockgyrl
Aug. 21st, 2006 08:34 pm (UTC)
Greetings:

Thank you as always for interesting and intellectual threads.

I have met all but one of my other's partners - the one I will not and will always refuse to meet is a bitch who put intimate photos of them and descriptions of what they did ONLINE and then gave keys to the private box away to people one of whom ended up passing the information along to another person who tried to black-mail with me.

I was depressed for 3 weeks that I had been betrayed like this. I had no idea they were doing anything other than a little slap and tickle and to have it flown out to the world before my other thought to trouble himself to tell me was more than I could deal with. His reply when confronted? (1) I thought you knew (2) You didn't give me any time to tell you in the last 47 days (3) It doesn't matter.

Sorry. STDs matter. Fluid-bonding without saying a fucking word matters.

This whole relationship was conceived in wrong-thinking and wrong-action and came very close to ending 18 years of partnership. It still may.

So no. I do not wish to meet her and I doubt if I ever will. Unless it is with a 357 magnum and with her in front of a thick brick wall.
margoeve
Aug. 25th, 2006 12:16 am (UTC)
You know, it sounds like he is as much, if not MORE to blame than she is for keeping you in the dark. You don't know what he's said to her that made it "ok" for her to do any of those things.

I think it's really easy to "blame the other" because we don't want to believe the one we care most about, invested so much time in, could possibly have thought any of this was ok.

But as they say, there are 3 sides to every story...

I'm sorry you went through such a horrible betrayal.
urockgyrl
Aug. 25th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)
I'm not saying he's not responsible for his part. The question was, do you wish to meet the others in your relationship? My answer was, yes all but this one who couldn't keep her bragging little fingers off the keyboard or her photos in the desk drawer where they belonged.

The publicity department is entirely on her side. He had no idea she was going to do it or that she had done it until I got really nasty about them being there. They are still there but supposedly locked up so only she can see them. The joys of the Internet era.
margoeve
Aug. 25th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
Bleh. It sounds like the idiot students who have unlocked pictures on Myspace or Facebook of them drinking beer and smoking out of bongs and then get surprised when they get caught by their RAs and brought up for dicipliary actions.

Of course, even more idiotic is when the bloody Human Subject Review board encourages this moronic behavior because "Even thought the blog is public studies show people think of it as private and so we treat it like it's private and you have to get explicit permission to use public blogs in a study." So, it's like standing outside a bathroom and telling everyone who goes in that you are going to observe their behavior to see whether or not they wash their hands. It taints the data.

Stupid stupid stupid.
Anyway, I digress.

I'll never understand why partners would want to be in relationships with people who have gone out of their way to cause their other partners grief. I mean, helping someone blackmail you? That's a deal breaker.

Were I in your shoes I probably wouldn't want to meet her either lest I wind up in jail. However, I would try to let go of the rage if he wanted to stay in a relationship with her and have a sit down in a public place, without him, and get her "side." I'd probably beat the crap out of couch or tree before the meeting to get it out of my system, but still, it's amazing how elucidating the other side is.

I hope it all works out.
urockgyrl
Aug. 25th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
I tried to get her side by email as we are 2000 miles separate. I got "fuck you if it's not good enough." Since all this happened, he's seen the rabbit hole he fell into and has come back out towards reality. We are in professional psychotherapy. You are right - it was a dealbreaker. The deal I broke is the old way we did things. We have a new way now. If this doesn't work... well, I'll get there when I get there, but I have a personal goal of 12-25-2006 to decide.
margoeve
Aug. 25th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
Best of luck with that goal.

I'm interested in hearing how the old way is different from the new as I'm going through changes in the way I do things with my partner as well.

One of the things that's helping is having "measurable" results. It helps keep me from getting too impatient that change isn't instantanious or getting overwhelmed at little backslides in the face of a long period of progress.

Still working out the kinks in the system though.
urockgyrl
Aug. 25th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
I added you as a friend. Most of my posts are not personal due to my husband and all my close real world acquaintences having keys to it; but if you'd care to read my past, you are welcome to it.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 22nd, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
polyamory
Hello Franklin,
I appreciate your thoughts about emotional experience in relationships. I agree that even if all feelings are normal or genuine, we do not necessarily have to surrender to them and make them our reality.

As we practice radical honesty with ourselves and one another, we'll grow stronger in spirit. We have the strength to choose whether or not to act on a particular feeling, whether it is an emotional response we want to teach to our children, and whether the emotion is appropriate in the reality of trust and security that poly relationships strive for.

I'm talking about polyamory from a spiritual perspective on my blog this week. I welcome your visit.
Best,
Lilly
http://www.possible-world.blogspot.com
margoeve
Aug. 25th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
I realize that "all feelings are valid" is a very validating idea; it makes people feel good about themselves regardless of how irrational or destructive their feelings are.

But not all feelings are valid, and not all emotional responses make for healthy, stable foundations for relationship structures.


You know, about a month or two ago I probably would have agreed with you whole heartedly.
Until I realised that not letting myself validate all things I feel (not act upon, there is a difference which I'll get into below) I am actually sabotaging the process of being honest with myself and my partner.

I think you are possibly confusing the feeling for the reaction to the feeling. I maintain that all feelings ARE valid, but not all behavior derived from said feelings are.

In otherwords, yes, it is ok to -feel- jealous or hurt by something. It is NOT ok to use that jealousy to hurt others, stop communicating with your partner, or be a raging psychopath.

I say this running on the hypothisis that emotion is a biological reaction that is happens before rational thought kicks in. We feel happy, sad, angry, horny, whatever BEFORE we figure out what triggered that feeling.

There is a danger in over rationalizing ever emotion. Often it makes it worse, causes great angst because one says "I shouldn't feel this way" and causes people to ignore their feelings, go ahead with things even though they are not comfortable, and then cause exponential amounts of drama later.

So working from the assumption that emotions have a cause and emotions are caused before we can realize how they got there, all emotions are valid. It's ok to feel them. It is not OK to "act out" because of them. It IS ok to cry. It is ok to honor the feeling and FEEL it. But as the saying goes, "Feel it, honor it, let it go." If the emotion does you no good, why hold on to it? But you have to let yourself feel what is there in order to let it go. (Again, there being a difference between feeling an emotion and acting on it.)

However, often these emotions ARE signposts to greater problems. Why feel jealous? Is there a real or imagined threat that needs to be dealt with? One can't deal with any of it if one refuses to acknowledge that the feeling is there to begin with because it is "not valid."

I think too often we discount our instincts, our emotions, because there is an overemphasis on humans being rational beings. We forget that humans are animals with the capacity for rational thought. When one puts aside emotions for logic just as much misery can result as when one validates all emotion to the exclusion of reason.

I hope I'm making some sense here.


(Anonymous)
Sep. 22nd, 2006 12:12 am (UTC)
Some thoughts on polyamorous relationships
very very well said.......and so true.....thanks for sharing your thoughts

janice
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