Prioritize Me!

A friend asked for my thoughts about polyamory and the aphorism “Don’t prioritize people who don’t prioritize you.” Here is my response.

It really sucks when you get the sense that someone is not prioritizing you in the way you are prioritizing them. It seems to be one of the most frequent problems in all types of relationships not just poly ones. Early on in a relationship, prioritization mismatches seem to loom much larger than later in relationships. I surmise this has a lot to do with lacking a history of connection with the corresponding sense of confidence that the waxing and waning of prioritization isn’t a lack of interest but a natural flow of our complex busy lives. My best relationships (friends or loves) have shared the characteristics of being able to connect deeply, on broader aspects of ourselves, over a sustained period of time. It is easy to miss remember that the mutuality of these connections evolved over time with a typically uneven frequency of connection.


Modern Family: The Progressive Family Structure

S ociologists, historians, anthropologists and economists have all opined on the role of the Nuclear Family in society (especially Western societies).  Not without controversy, the idea that the ideal basic building block of society is one man + one woman + their children has been prevalent since at least the late Nineteenth Century. The main controversy in social history is whether the nuclear family is a response to industrialization or a prime supporting condition for industrial society. The Extended Family (sometimes called Kinship family) structure where multiple adult relatives (e.g., grandparents living with one of their children’s family) live together is the most commonly observed alternative (especially from the historical point of view where the interconnections of tribe and kinship were tightly interwoven across families).

Why is “immediate” family structure so important? Well, the lines that define the family unit also typically define the borders of deep financial entanglement, procreation, primary sources of emotional support and child rearing, etc. Or as sociologist James Henslin (Essentials of Sociology) states, the core functions of the family include “economic production, socialization of children, care of the sick and aged, recreation, sexual control and reproduction.” The nuclear family has been presumed ideal family structure in Western society during the modern era. However, signs of a growing need and willingness to experiment with different family structures are replete in contemporary society (from platonic life partners to a variety of polyamorous families). (more…)

Mo’ Poly, Mo’ Problems

My first several years of poly were a series of false starts and broken hearts.  I’d get involved and emotionally connected and then WHAM!!! the rug gets pulled out one way or another.  It is a hard, bad thing.   I’ve had a partner go mono with new a partner, a partner who was actually cheating and subsequent dissembling of the web of deceit (blowback sucks balls), and a partner who decided she was mono and wanted me to forsake all others for her (and, if I really loved her, of course I would do this… or so went the logic).  Also, a partner who insisted I push all other relationships to the periphery – essentially making those others casual and very tentative – which I refused to do. 

It has been painful.  And, it seemed that I couldn’t manage a full year without one of these issues cropping up.  I was disillusioned and heartbroken.  I wondered why I was doing it so wrong.  Some of these folks were new to poly.  Only dating experienced poly people (the no newb rule) is only partially effective – as it didn’t help me in two of the four cases above.  They were more experienced in poly than I was.  I couldn’t suss out a pattern to help me select more judiciously.

I decided on two things about a year ago and I’ve essentially stuck to them.  The first, and probably most important thing, is that I decided that a broken heart isn’t the thing I’m most afraid of.  I must “love with abandon.”   A broken heart is not desirable but well worth the risk.  So, I need to place my bets on compatibility, chemistry and mutual investment.  Poly is only one element in that complex equation.  (more…)