Originally Posted by Vinccenzo
I feel we are never an "I" when speaking of our relationships no matter how many relationships are going on. Its not even just a poly thing. Its a life thing. I've never had only one relationship even before poly.
I disagree with this. Being an autonomous "I" is a life thing for me. Not just for poly. It applies to my relationships with my parents, my brother, my extended family, my friends, etc. I am a much healthier person, with MUCH healthier relationships, because of it.
I didn't start out this way. I spent most of my life as the kind of person who put others first. I went to college close to home because I knew my family would miss me otherwise. I was always sending cards and gifts to friends who were out of touch with me. I was there for lots of friends in need even when they weren't there for me. That sort of thing.
It took me YEARS of dealing with depression, dropping out of college, surviving two awful & unhealthy relationships, before I figured myself out and arrived at a place where I could be ME. That meant being more autonomous, putting myself first, standing up for myself more, and eventually developing a solo approach to dating (among other things).
Various therapists over the years have been consistent in encouraging this approach. "Where are YOU in all this?" one therapist used to ask me when I talked about issues with my family, my jobs, my friends, etc. "Are you attending to YOUR needs?"
I have multiple commitments that require me to help others and be there for others. Helping out my parents, elder care/relief care for my grandmother, friends who struggle with mental & physical health issues, etc. Not to mention my own responsibilities that aren't pure fun: grad school, two jobs, a high-energy dog (well, she's fun, but a big commitment), etc.
I have to figure out how to divide myself between all these commitments. That means I sometimes have to put boundaries on my friends and tell them I am just too busy to help them on a particular day. I have a set scheduled time to care for my grandmother, which is very important and I am happy to do it, and I would never shirk on that, but I do sometimes have to say no when my aunt asks me for extra help with grandma. (When that happens, I have guilt that I have to talk to my therapist about...but it seems clear that I have to be able to live my own life as much as possible.)
(Meanwhile, my brother lives such a couple-centric life with his wife that he is not even remotely available to help with my grandmother. Nor would my aunt dream of asking him. He's so busy with his wife! But that's a different story. Which I also talk to my therapist about!
Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is, I was a miserable and unappreciated person with unhealthy friendships until I realized that I had lost myself completely, and had to rediscover my own autonomy.
A totally autonomous approach to dating would not be right for everyone. Maybe only for very few people. And for some people, a couple-centric approach to poly works very well, especially in cases where one partner is mono and struggling, or when there are young children to think of, etc. There's nothing wrong with that (as long as any secondaries know what they are getting into).
Meanwhile, the most self-centered people I know are not autonomous about dating. They demand complete devotion from their partner (no poly for the people I am thinking of).
Now I've lost the thread of my point, so I'll stop.