Originally Posted by PolyinPractice
I guess I don't understand what an "egalitarian approach" really means. Does it mean I must feel equally about everyone, regardless of how well I know them?
LOL, I don't even know what "feeling equally about" people would look like. Hmm, I thought I explained what an egalitarian approach means to me when I wrote, "Just because I might be married to someone for 20 years doesn't mean I cannot listen to and consider the needs of a newer partner with the same level of respect, kindness, empathy, and affection as anyone else I care about. Having a long, previously established partner should not mean that another, newer partner's time will never, ever come first!"
and ". . . whoever needs me most at the moment gets priority, like triage, not who "outranks" the other in terms of length of time with me."
However, let's see, perhaps I explain myself more clearly...
An egalitarian approach would be quite the opposite of a couple-centric model where two people in a committed relationship are at the center and the others they get involved with are treated like appendages, "extras," or satellites orbiting around them. There would be no OPPs, no rules set by one dyad about how another dyad can conduct their relationship, no reading a metamour's emails or monitoring a partner's communications or activities with their other lovers, all to make sure to hold the #1 place in their priorities, for example. Each person's autonomy and agency are equally respected and honored.
For me, personally, it would mean that I would not automatically and without exception place a long-term partner's needs/wants/desires above a new lover's just because he was there first. It means that I make my own choices about my life, spending my time, etc., without seeking permission from anyone; that the boundaries I abide by are my own personal ones, not arbitrary rules decreed by one partner as a way to make another partner "less than," and it means that none of my partners must defer to any of my others. It means that all of my partners would have the same rights and opportunities with regard to relating to me - ie., to ask for my time, to communicate without reservation, to take part in physical acts without clearing what we do by another lover, and so on.
Yes, there is always a "getting to know you" phase when a new relationship is blossoming. However, that does not automatically mean that a new lover is less important or less worthy of my time and energies than an already-established one. An egalitarian approach just means I would not favor one partner over the other. In other words, an existing lover doesn't get to trump plans I have with a new lover and insist I go with him. Of course, each relationship is managed on its own merits, and each lover is special to me in their own unique way, just not in comparison to whoever or whatever is in my life, and not according to a predetermined pecking order.
This all isn't to say that there can't ever be an ebb and flow of feelings toward one or another, as things like that cannot always be controlled, and life (and one's emotions) has natural ups and downs. It doesn't mean that I could not designate certain times with one person as private and not to be interrupted by another except for emergencies. And it doesn't mean that everything is always equally balanced, but it does mean that I strive to never let anyone I'm involved with ever feel that they've been treated as less important to me than anyone else.
Does that make sense? Here's another take on it from Mya, in an old thread:
Originally Posted by Mya
You know, not all couples are that couple-centric to begin with. You don't necessarily have to downgrade the old relationship for the old and new relationship to become equal. And remember, equal doesn't always mean the same. Equal can mean just equally important and equally considered in life decisions for example. It doesn't mean that the two people will get everything (time, attention, sex etc.) exactly the same amount. It means that no one is higher in the hierarchy than the other when making plans and decisions.
And some more from Rory:
Originally Posted by rory
Being in two relationships, I started with the aim of equality, which I largely (subconsciously) equated with sameness. Not maybe as "everything has to be the same right now" but as "the eventual aim is symmetry". I think this was valuable at the beginning of poly in terms of being open to changes. However, at some point it started to become increasingly clear that the aim of symmetry was not always something that aligned with what the people involved actually wanted. Also, it seemed that the aversion towards hierarchy (plus some internalised relationship-escalator-as-measure-of-serious-relationship assumptions) was something that caused pressure towards equality. So, the aim of equality as symmetry moved aside, and was replaced by more flexible decision making based on what all want.
I think there are some aspects that have been incredibly helpful. Firstly, I don't view my poly life as something separate from other aspects of my life. Secondly, I used to have an autonomous relationship when monogamous, and I have not changed this since becoming poly. These tie in together, and I will try to illustrate.
When monogamous, I would make decisions concerning the ways in which I spend my time autonomously. Obviously, I want to spend some time with my partner, so that fact will be factored into the decision-making, along with any preferences he has expressed in the past. But if I want to see a friend, I will make plans with my friend and let my partner know about it. If he has any wishes, he is free to express them - e.g. "I have Sundays off and would like to see you then" - and I am happy to consider them in the future, but I will not cancel plans with other people once I've made them. When opening up, there is no reason to change this method - i.e. when making plans with another partner, I will not start asking for his permission, or even checking with him in advance, any more than I do when I'm making plans with a friend. He is as free to express his wishes as he's always been, and I am happy to take them into account in the future.
Poly is not separate from life. Romantic relationships are relationships. I will make my own decisions autonomously as I've always done. If my partner expresses wishes, I will consider them based on their reasonability, validity, and my own judgement; not based on some hierarchical status. I would not cancel plans with a friend simply because my partner asked me to, and I will not cancel plans with a newer partner because older partner asked me to. I would not give up a friendship simply because my partner wants me to or doesn't like my friend, nor would I break up with a person for those kind of reasons. You get the picture. None of these situations have ever happened. I doubt any of them will ever happen, because there is a mutual respect for each other's autonomy, which recognises that unreasonable demands don't become any more reasonable in romantic relationships. That is not to say that we are above that - more that we all know ultimatums etc. would not be met with compliance, because, eventually, none of us want the kinds of relationships where they are used.
Egalitarian relationships are a process. We have established a relationship life and routines that work for us. However, there is a need to remain open to change in order to take into consideration potentially changing wishes. That is the key; consideration. Doesn't mean you need to change everything, or accommodate everything your partners want, or compromise everything. It means to take seriously the wants and wishes of all people involved, whatever they are and become.
Schrodinger's Cat wrote this in a different discussion:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat
Yes, I'm married. Yes, we share finances and a household. Yes, that means I have obligations and commitments to him. I also have obligations and commitments to school, to my parents, to my best friend and her son... And if I get into a serious relationship with someone else, I will have obligations and commitments to them. And triage will go thusly: who's having the bigger crisis right now and needs my time and attention most, at this moment?
It does not mean that I have already decided, a priori, that all my future relationships will be "less important." It does not mean that anyone will ever be considered disposable, simply by virtue of not being my spouse. I didn't roll that way when I was single, why would that change now?
. . . I never claimed that primary and secondary relationships were not different. They are very much different. I have explicitly chosen to reject the implications of those differences by deliberately avoiding the labels of primary and secondary.
For example, suppose my "secondary" is having a major crisis like her mom just died, and my "primary" needs to talk about a bad day at work. The "primary/secondary" model implies that my primary's needs come before my secondary's needs, regardless of the severity or immediacy of those needs.
I prefer relationship triage. So: if you come into my hospital, I really don't give a hoot if you've sprained your ankle, Mr. President, I'm going to treat the homeless guy bleeding profusely from his 3" stab wound first.
. . . I like to let every relationship grow in its own way. To me, using a label of "secondary" means that I'm putting limits on the way that relationship is allowed to grow. It's like keeping fish in a small tank: it will limit the size to which they can grow, even though they're biologically capable of growing much larger.
Last edited by nycindie; 02-12-2014 at 07:57 AM.