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Everyone's favorite source of poly wisdom, BadAss McProblemsolver, is back to take on a complicated question: "How do I handle a broken relationship agreement without Drama?"

The answer, as it turns out, can be found in Star Wars. Don't do what Luke Skywalker did in The Empire Strikes Back.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Part one.
Foreword: It is not my intention to attack. I use some strong language in here that could easily make someone feel attacked, defensive and otherwise create feelings that do not contribute to coming to a mutual understanding. My opinion in this ultimately means nothing, but if a complaint voiced is worth ten complaints unvoiced…. I cannot be the only person seeing this and deeply troubled by it.

This is a long post, not completely concerned with the words of Mr. Problem-Solver but also concerned with a larger piece of poly rhetoric I have been noticing. So please keep that in mind.

There is a theme I see rising really strongly in poly rhetoric is a theme of victim blaming. Clearly, the person with the problem IS the problem and must be addressed/changed/dealt with. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes this allows people who have little respect of other’s boundaries and a good understanding of communication and verbal intelligence to behave quite abusively in the goal of never having to change their actions. Because obviously, they are not the person with the problem. So how could they be the problem? We are responsible for our own feelings and reactions right?

Yes. We are. But we are also responsible to act ethically. The key to acting ethically is understanding and to me, it does not prime a hoarde of people who consider themselves Advanced Emotional Theorists to address understanding if you gloss over the idea of a misunderstanding in lieu of what Mr. ProblemSolver focused on.

“You misunderstood what was a reasonable request." ... wait what? Why this first?

How does Badass McProblem-Solver know that a person feeling upset about a broken agreement misunderstood anything for certain or was the only misunderstander? Regardless of how much they know the person did not intend to hurt them if that is the case. Intention does not excuse people from outcomes. Why did the misunderstanding happen? Where was the breakdown in communication or respect that had need confused with want? What language was used that meant one thing to one party and entirely another to the other party?

If Badass McProblemSolver is pursuing PhD level emotional rhetoric, is addressing how a misunderstanding is created Emotional Atmospheric Climatology?

"Only make arrangements that are realistic."

Unrealistic agreements are not the only reason that agreements are broken. And to suggest so is so terribly wrong I feel it borders on unethical to perpetuate this simplistic idea.

No matter how realistic YOU believe your agreement to be, your partner might not actually understand where your realism ends if you cannot communicate it (and here is the important part) in a way they understand.

Human comprehension is shaped by our perception. Our perception is shaped by our experience. Our experiences are unique to us.

When we communicate, we first have to get what we are trying to say out to the other person, through our own communication skills and frame of reality. It is then understood by the person we are trying to communicate with. Our issue may not be understood as we communicate it because it is understood through their frame of reality that was created by their unique experience.

Then they have to give you a response; which is predicated upon their understanding of the issue as you have communicated it, expressed with their own communicative skills through their frame of reality so that you can witness the response to the thing you have tried to communicate.

And understand THAT through your frame of perception.

Is it any wonder we aren’t flinging our poo at each other more often?

Misunderstandings happen because REALITY IS NOT THE SAME FOR EVERYONE. And what is a reasonable request for one person might not be reasonable for another. So what to do about this?

Popular poly rhetoric seems to tell me that I must be a master of how I want to be treated, I must be in charge of my expectations and able to meet my own needs. If I’m not happy, change my expectations. Or be prepared to change my situation. It seems very simple.

Aug. 10th, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
Part two.
But my problem with popular poly rhetoric is that it addresses a deeply complex issue in a way that reifies and obscures how complex it is, and appears to use victim blaming and silencing to keep things seeming simple and digestible. “Have a problem? Clearly you aren’t good enough at poly.” That’s a shaming sentiment and I see it behind a lot of ‘advice’ given to new poly people. This is the worst kind of outreach and I believe it damages us.

I want to be understood. If I have problems, I’d like to be acknowledged and respected. Regardless of the basic truth of what is going on even if I’m being crazy. I strive to do the same to the people I care for even if they are being crazy. Summarizing a complex issue like broken agreements to a basic truth that a broken agreement reflects on a person’s value of you and all you can do is chose to be with them and change your expectations or leave and find your expectations elsewhere… it doesn’t matter if that is true. And that is. I will never disagree with that. But if we are talking about relationships and communication, this approach seems awfully ‘cut and run’ or ‘put up and shut up’. What happened to working through issues and understanding where and why an agreement was broken and not understood? This doesn’t seem like an emotional PhD to me. This sounds like “The Game” of relationships.

We let our simplified concepts rule our discourse at our own peril.

Stagnant social movements silence each other. And silencing is what I see in a lot of poly rhetoric.

As I said to my abusive father when he told me I had to be able to deal with all different kinds of people, and I had to toughen up. Because he wasn’t doing anything wrong when he was behaving aggressively (technically emotional abuse isn’t wrong but it isn’t right either, that’s actually how emotional abuse works): I can deal with all sorts of people kindly and rationally; with distance. But I did not want to have to have distance between me and him. And though I know the intense pain and confusion that caused him to treat us the way he did. It does not excuse his behaviour. Nor does his love for us. Nor does our love for him. It’s a complex situation.

I can work on myself and my expectations until the cows come home. I cannot make someone else understand when they’re wholly committed to the idea that they are perfect and cannot make me feel anything because I’m the one with the problem.

Having been the subject of deep and persistent trauma. Let me tell you: you can be the cause of someone elses’ pain. And your intentions to not cause harm mean nothing. The minute I bring a concern to someone and they get angry with me or defensive about how they didn’t intend hurt and how obviously I am the problem because I’m the one with the problem… that seals their intention. They did intend to hurt. And they are mad that they got caught and are attempting to avoid apologizing and acknowledging my feelings.

It works amazingly well for getting people to not talk to you about their problems with you, and thus never have to change your actions.

I see an intelligent, abusive person’s wildest dreams come true in the flavour of our discourse about how to deal with problems. And that makes me sick. Because the vast majority of us are not reading these words, living these words or attempting to live these words with malice in our hearts.

But someone who does have malice in their heart would have an easy time utilizing our rhetoric abusively. That scares me.

Is it our responsibility to think on whatever makes us excited? Such as the idea that we need to change our expectations to be happy, and ignore the things that take more work… such as the idea that humans can be intensely difficult to communicate with even when we think everything is going perfectly…

This isn’t PhD level rhetoric. It’s the Manhattan Project.

If one’s rhetoric can empower abusers… it just tells me something is wrong. Not complete. We aren’t thinking it through, showing enough complexity or something.

Get better. Improve. Don’t just sit on your laurels and talk about how smart you are because you’re delving into srs shit. It might appeal to the public but you know what else appeals to the public. Fox news. Don’t be the Fox news of Poly.
Aug. 10th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Part two.
But my problem with popular poly rhetoric is that it addresses a deeply complex issue in a way that reifies and obscures how complex it is, and appears to use victim blaming and silencing to keep things seeming simple and digestible. “Have a problem? Clearly you aren’t good enough at poly.” That’s a shaming sentiment and I see it behind a lot of ‘advice’ given to new poly people. This is the worst kind of outreach and I believe it damages us.

I think I might be able to see how you're hearing that in this piece of advice, but it's not actually the intention here. Certainly, we do not want to suggest that if your partner does something to hurt you, you're the one at fault.

Rather, what we're trying to say is it's very dangerous to stay in a relationship in the hopes that you can change your partner.

I don't think this is a new idea; relationship and self-help books have been saying the same thing since at least the time of Shakespeare.

When you make an agreement with a partner who breaks that agreement, whether the agreement is not to leave dirty socks on the coffee table or not to shag random people down at Bob's House o' Clams and Chlamydia, that's not your fault.

But it is, I think, wise to suggest that if your partner breaks agreements, it's either because your partner can't or won't keep them. (Which one isn't really relevant.) So it's time to make a decision. If socks on the coffee table are part of your reality, is it a reality you can accept? Or is it a deal-breaker for your relationship? That's a choice that's up to you. You could try to reiterate the agreement, but if your partner didn't keep it before, why believe she'll keep it now? Fool me once, and all that.

At the end of the day, you can't force your partner to do anything. Either she will keep her agreements or she won't. If she keeps breaking an agreement, then it clearly, IMO, isn't reasonable to expect her to keep it. So rather than keep walking down that road over and over, I think it's wise to evaluate whether the reality--this person isn't likely to do this thing you want her to do--works for you.
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