While bad boundaries are certainly the worst issue I see when we’re looking at polyamorous issues, I think poor self-knowledge is also another serious roadblock when you’re trying to have great polyamorous relationships.
My blog, and several others, tend to hammer away at things like being honest about your feelings, learning to communicate well and having the courage to ask for what you want. That’s all awesome, it really is!
But without solid self-knowledge, those steps are pretty much meaningless. Before you can know other people intimately, you need to know yourself intimately. Do you? Are you sure you do?
Let’s look at what happens when your self-knowledge is incomplete.
Without self-knowledge, you can’t ask for what you want.
You can’t ask for what you want when you don’t know what you want. You might answer, “That’s absurd. Of course, I know what I want. How could anyone not know what they want?”
That’s actually an incredibly easy mistake to make. Very often, especially in this day of having advertising and media-driven desires, what we think we want is merely a proxy for the thing we do want. Ever bought a cleaning gadget when what you really want is a clean house? Ever craved a drink when what you really wanted was to calm down and relax? Ever wanted your spouse to stop primping in front of the mirror when what you really wanted was to be on time for an event? We often get things that we think will solve the issue before we’ve dived deep enough to find the issue in the first place, and jump at the means to the end as the end rather than spend the time to think deeply about what it is we really want.
Self-knowledge is crucial to understanding clearly what you want. Once you’ve got that down – what you really want, not only does asking for it become easier, you won’t get distracted by asking for a means as the thing you want rather than the actual thing you want.
Without self-knowledge, you will seek things that are not good for you.
I am a Heinlein fan. Have been since my early teens. I thought I wanted a group marriage – communal living. Wonderful friends all around all the time, mutual support and plenty of hot sex. It would be like a big family Christmas gatherings only all the time.
(Those of you who are or have lived in a group marriage can stop laughing and pointing now, okay?)
The reality, no group marriage, no matter how in love, how great the sex or how well we got along would ever have made me happy in the long term. While not quite a recluse, I’m close. Oh, solitude, sweet solitude, how I love thee… My house is completely silent right now, except for the sound of water trickling into the aquarium and the silence in which to write is bliss beyond measure.
Needing vast wodges of solitude simply isn’t conducive to group living. I wanted the group marriage because I figured with the right mix of people, being social would be pleasant for me, and it would cure me of never really wanting to hang out with people. I thought because I wasn’t shy (I’m not at all) that I couldn’t possibly be a real introvert and it was just that I was stuck around a bunch of irritating cretins, and once I found my real tribe, I’d want to bond.
What I like is visiting my intimates every few months and hanging out with them for a period of time. Those big family Christmas gatherings all the time wouldn’t be fun at all. It’s the rarity value that makes me treasure them.
My imperfect self-knowledge caused a lot of trouble because I went looking for something I didn’t want, didn’t make me happy and made a lot of other people unhappy in the process. Knowing who you are and what makes you happy is utterly crucial to good relationships because you can make better choices about what is good for you or not.
Without self-knowledge, you cannot know who would be a good partner for you.
So, being as reclusive as I am, being married to an extrovert would be a special sort of hell, wouldn’t it?
Not really… Provided that extrovert is happy going out to noisy parties rather than having me throw them, it actually works out rather well. It’s not that simple, by the way, and anyone who takes this as a license to leave an introverted partner home alone to manage the house while going out to have all the fun is bending this example way the hell past your breaking point. Don’t be an asshole.
The point is, it requires full self-knowledge. Does being left out bug you? How do you feel when your partner needs a lot of attention? What is it, really, that makes you happy? When you know these things, good partner selection becomes easier.
Now we know that self-knowledge is really important. Awesome. Next week, we’re going to talk about how to get that self-knowledge. We’ll talk about questions we need to ask ourselves as well as some techniques to use to get to the true heart of the matter.
* Y’all like click-bait titles? Fine. It doesn’t really change the content.