I found (and find) this site to be an oasis from the outside world, where I can be (and have been) accused of being immature, unable to commit, incapable of “real” love, all because of my belief in the possibility of an infinite love, without jealousy or possessiveness. An oasis of [not 100% equal-minded, but at least] people sympathetic to my choice of how to live my love. There is an encouraging interchange of information, advice, expressions of support (and commiseration when things are going screwy), and interesting life-stories that is refreshing after the standard heterosexual, monogamous near-monopoly on views about relationships that one finds in the desert beyond this oasis.
It therefore comes as something of a disillusion and disappointment to see a certain amount of sniping, point-scoring, false assumptions, and hasty jumping to conclusions that goes on in this forum. I have witnessed examples of this aimed at myself and at others... and I don’t like to see either.
[In a way, I prefer to have them aimed at me, because – although I take criticism seriously (An acquaintance once said to me: “I give you 10 out of 10 for really listening to criticism and considering its validity, without rejecting it offhand.”) – I have learned to have a certain faith in myself, a self-security that means that I am not devastated by criticism. (This self-security was hard-earned after a childhood and adolescence plagued by an inferiority complex.) Whereas some other members – especially some who were new to this forum - have obviously been stung by carelessly-worded comments directed at them. Some [of these members] have disappeared completely. And I find that a shame, because they were likely the very people who most needed a feeling of support through their difficult process of adapting to polyamory.]
But perhaps it would be easier to describe what I’m getting at if I cite my first-hand experience. [It doesn’t devastate
me, but it gets me down.] And please don't believe that I think that "I'm being got at!": I notice this sort of thing being aimed at others. I'm just using my 1st-hand experience as an example.
After writing about my viewpoint on certain matters, I’ve had (not often but occasionally) the feeling that I’m being attacked. Sometimes my original words were not chosen with enough care, sometimes after a great
deal of thought (it can take me up to an hour to compose a single posting)... but then were misunderstood anyway, and my motives or judgement were called into question.
There is a big difference between the spirited debate of ideas and slinging personal criticisms around.
On occasion I’ve posted a playful or ironically-meant comment (I’m a semi-professional clown, and something of a joker by nature. IMHO a laugh now and then doesn’t hurt.) I have tried to remember – when I’ve made these playful comments – to make it obvious that that’s what they were, sometimes by the use of smileys
, sometimes by obviously playful phrases (e.g. “... but then, I’m a pervert.” / “Don’t let me tempt you down this path of perversion.” Both in reference to my personal valuing of cuddles and emotional intimacy over “hot sex”.) Often my comments have been accepted in the joking spirit in which they were intended. A few times they appear to have been taken totally seriously – and badly.
Other times I have offered a completely sincere opinion and it has gone down very badly. At times, other members have attempted to belittle me for the views that I hold. [I also think that members should be very careful about using comments like: “Oh, you’re so young!” – or “inexperienced” (implied: “and therefore relatively clueless”). Although this one hasn’t been applied to me on here, I remember - from when I was
young - how little this persuaded me to heed the advice or the comment being given.]
And other difficulties / criticisms have arisen when:
a) I haven’t been conversant with the special polyamory use of language. In polyamory, certain normal (outer-world) words are used, but have a whole new meaning in polyamory use. An obvious example is “unicorn”. This one caused me wonder when I first came across it, but no real grief. But how about “veto”? I’ve just looked it up in a Collins dictionary and found: “1. The power to prevent legislation or action
proposed by others; prohibition [...] 4. To refuse consent to (a proposal, esp. a government bill) 5. to prohibit, ban, or forbid: her parents vetoed her trip
.” On one thread, the OP appeared to me to have used the word in this wider sense. When I commented, also using the word in this sense [asking – in a joking way – a very serious question: “What’s the difference between ‘vetoing’ and ‘setting clear boundaries’?”], I felt under attack, treated like an absolute arsehole
, for messing about, playing with words – the assumption: that I should know perfectly well that ‘veto’ (in polyamory circles) means exclusively
“forbidding your partner to have a relationship with such-and-such a person” (or also, even worse, with anybody
There is a polyamory glossary on this board that is already 5 pages long. It’s very useful, as a reference work, to look up a word of which you’re not certain. I seriously doubt that many of you have read it through from start to finish. Should I have to search through it (because it’s constantly being added to and therefore isn’t in alphabetical order) every time I’m thinking of using a word like “veto” (or “house” or “car”), to make sure that it doesn’t mean something completely different on a polyamory forum? Should I be treated like an arsehole because I didn’t already know the polyamory meaning of every word? How many of you are aware that in Australia, they use the word “spoof” to mean “spunk”, “jism”? (And it’s quite likely that my aged mother only knows one meaning of “spunk”: courage or spirit. [While looking that up in my dictionary, I find that Collins doesn’t even give the sexual connotation of “spud”!])
b) I have been accused of not reading the whole of a thread before making my ill-informed comment. It’s true that I don’t always read the whole thread first when I want to reply to another person’s comment that has caught my eye. Is this forbidden? Is there some rule that we’re not allowed to comment on any particular thread until we’ve read right through it? In that case, I’m either going to have to withdraw from this forum or limit my replies to short new threads and those in which I have a very special – almost obsessive – interest, because my internet time is limited... and some of the threads on here are dozens of pages long. [In actual fact – and ironically – the one time this accusation was made of me was when I had
read through that particular thread with great attention. For some people “ill-informed” is simply synonymous with “disagreeing with my
c) I have been accused of playing around with formatting, of being more interested in formatting than in the matter at hand. I do tend to use underlinings more often than most members. But that’s because the written word carries no inflection of the voice, and I wish to draw attention to a particular word, or let you hear (in your head) that I’m emphasising this
word. This criticism has been made by (among others) one of the moderators. If it really bugs you so much, perhaps you should suggest - in one of your policy meetings – the removal of the formatting option. (Either that or just ignore my formatting...)
d) There are people who just can’t let well-enough alone. If I have been criticised for something, accept the validity of the criticism, and apologise, it’s rather galling that somebody else jumps in to criticise me for what I’ve already apologised for!
Oh, I could go on and on. (A justifiable
criticism of me would be that I do go on for too long.)
In a nutshell: “You want people to listen to what you’re saying? Then be careful how you say it!”
Advice and constructive criticism can be very helpful (and I'd be the first to recognise this)... but not if they're not listened to
because of the tone in which they're spoken (or written).
What I’d like to see is that on this thread – of all places – we were all willing to “walk two moons in each other’s moccasins” before we jump to conclusions about what the other person means... or feels. Perhaps even better, maybe we should all take off our shoes and touch each other, bare foot sole to bare foot sole, in a ritual of mutual acceptance which, in Kurt Vonnegut’s early novel “Cat’s Cradle” was declared by the dictator to be punishable by death.