Love is difficult. Relationships are difficult. Maintaining more than one relationship is exponentially difficult, but perhaps it has joys that offset the difficulties therein. That is the idea behind polyamory–or at least one of them, anyway.
It is difficult to maintain a relationship with two people when one is struggling with one of them. The insecurities, fears, and other emotions and considerations which cause tension in relationships are compounded by the problem of another person being involved. It can quickly look like the other is an escape for the problems of the one relationship, which can often become true.
Poly people often talk about the multiplied relationships; the relationship between one and their primary, one and their secondary, the primary and the secondary, etc. But what is, perhaps, overlooked is an aspect of this complexity that applies to monogamous circumstances as well; the relationship between our various selves and with others.
We all, from time to time due to circumstances of profession, play, and intimacy wear different hats. There are aspects of ourselves which are subdued or expressed due to their needs, and we have to maintain a relationship between these facades in our lives in much the same way that we have to maintain relationships with others. And sometimes these different parts of ourselves don’t play nice, and conflict will emerge in much the same way as they do with polyamorous relationships or even in monogamous situations where friends and family influence the relationships (often through manipulation, but not always).
In short, I think that their are skills and lessons to be shared between the fields of psychology, relationships, and polyamorous wisdom.
I, for example, am usually seen by people that do not know me well as even-tempered, quiet, and perhaps even sweet. Anyone who knows me well is probably already laughing or shaking their head slightly in disbelief at the description. But the truth is that there is a large part of me that is temperate, reticent, and charming even. But under that partial-facade is a passionate and opinionated individual with ideas that don’t conform well to much of contemporary culture. That is, I’m not always a firebrand, but a firebrand I certainly am at times.
These parts of myself do not play well together. And when the passionate storm inside meets the other, there is internal conflict over how to proceed behaviorally. It is much like the argument in atheist circles about the tone of approaching religious folks–the passion of the so-called “new atheist” and the attempted respect of the “accommodationist” meet in a swarm of disagreement where the issues are not so much about substance as style–although substance is a factor as well.
I’ll apologize in advance for all the Babylon 5 references to come, but to those with ears, hear;
There is order and chaos here. Vorlons and Shadows live within this shell of a body, and the battle between harmony and conflict give rise to the conflict between them which, in turn, spawns beauty.
Perhaps it is a mistake to give too much exercise to the quieter and orderly aspects of me, because this side of me allows the other side to surprise people too much. But it is not pretend, it is just not the whole story. The part of me that is passionate enjoys a good argument, passion, and conflict. I believe in these times we tap into something inside us that contains truths that are not as raw when calm, and this is why we will tend to be harsherand say things we would not otherwise say. And when relationships survive these obstacles they only grow stronger where weaker ones are left dead. And despite the feelings of loss at such times, we learn and grow because we ultimately become stronger as a result of the culling that the Shadows of our soul inflict. The truth, as the Vorlons say, points to itself. Who are you? What do you want? These are questions which create conflict as well as provide us with perfect moments of beauty.
For me this is beautiful. After all, truth is beauty, and beauty truth, right? But truth cannot come only through orderly living–one needs to get under the skin to prompt chaos to create its own patterns of revelation for us. It’s why there is so much to be learned from tragedy.
But this is not seen as beautiful to many, and so this aspect of my personality is not seen for what it is for me, inside–in my “soul” if you would permit the antiquated term. I long for those that can see my soul for what it is. Perhaps I need practice with it to show it in full color all at once. It can be blinding, after all, when only seen occasionally or at times of uncertainty.
In conclusion, I need to find a way–and I think this is applicable to others as well–to show the passionate side of my self in a way that is not so contrasting to the other parts of me, so that they don’t seem so bright and surprising when they surface. Also, so that they are not so bright when they are let out of their common darkness due to starvation for air. A starved beast is much more dangerous when left unattended, after all.
We must love our selves before we can love others. Harmony in self before harmony in our relationships. There is always work to be done.