Daniel Cardoso was kind enough to submit this guest column. Check it out:
So, let me just say this – reading through the new “More than Two” book, by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert had/has/is having the interesting effect of making me think about two things:
- All the stuff I’ve screwed up during the past 10 years, along with all the growing up and changing that it brought about;
- All the stuff that I’ve actually got ‘right’… mostly due to number 1.
But there’s one main thing where I feel like I’ve done a one-eighty: hierarchies and couple privilege. I started out all worried about protecting “the couple” and screwing over some people because of that. And, in hindsight, it was very terribly shitty of me to do so.
Over the years, I’ve also been placed in that other unfortunate position of being the spare part, or disposable somehow, which made me understand more clearly, and more painfully, that other position. And you know what’s worse? It’s when you don’t even know, nor have any reasonable expectation, of being in that position. When everything is going along all nice and dandy, and all of a sudden you see yourself being placed within a non-pre-existing hierarchy, all of a sudden, without communication nor negotiation. (My personal experience tells me that is especially common when the other person and myself have a committed and involved relationship, but not a specifically romantic or “boy/girlfriend”-type thing. YMMV.)
Another thing that I’ve found out over the years is that sometimes you have different levels of attachment, or different wills/needs when it comes to relating to different people. As in, you’re not categorizing person A over person B, but rather you feel feeling X for person A, and feeling Y for person B, or you don’t feel the drive to invest so much into person A as into person B; or you simply do not receive as much investment from person A than from person B and that fits what you need from both relationships… And that is totally different, and feels different, and is not about imposing hierarchies, but about different people finding how they mesh with each other.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re indeed following the second scenario if you shut people out of the communicative processes happening. If you are making decisions that will affect all of your relationships, and even when it makes sense to prioritize person A’s opinion over B’s opinion (imagine that the topic is about moving into another house, and person A cohabits with you, while person B does not and does not want to…), try your damndest to include everybody in the conversation. Even if it’s just a way for you to check out how people are feeling, even if it’s just to give people a way to express themselves rather than presenting them with something post facto.
You know why?
Because when you don’t do it, you’re turning situation two, above, into situation one. You’re using a descriptive separation of proximality or intensity or connection or whathaveyou, into the prescriptive power imbalances that come with inbuilt privileges.
People are… you know… people.
Listening to people you care about should not be an afterthought. Should not be a side note into the decision-making process. Should not be something done out of charity or obligation. Even if your decision is clear and unambiguous, consult with others, ask for feedback, check in with others – because they’re there under the assumption that you care, that you want them there, that there’s meaning in the connection you have with them, regardless of how intense it is or isn’t, in itself or compared to others.
Talk. Do not assume. Do not hide. Do not try to rationalize the power imbalances into oblivion: fight them! Stand up to yourself, to the responsibilities you’ve taken towards other people, and be an active participant in the effort of giving everyone an even voice, even when different positions require the prioritization of some views over others.
The TL;DR version is: fuck hierarchies.
Communication, hierarchies and poly head-aches
© 2014, Daniel Cardoso
Used by permission
Daniel Cardoso is a PhD student in the field of Communication Sciences, at the Social and Human Sciences Faculty of the New University of Lisbon. His Master is in the same field and institution, and deals with Polyamory. He is part of the Portuguese team of the EU Kids Online research group since 2007. He has taken part in several publicly-financed research projects on gender and media as a research assistant. He is part of the editorial board of the Revista (in)visível journal. He teaches at the Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies, and is a feminist and an activist in the area of queer rights, LGBT and polyamory. His personal website is www.danielscardoso.net