When does talking about somebody else cease to be necessary or helpful and become gossip?
In our community, vetting is an essential part of our community safety. If we don’t share some relevant information with each other, that can potentially put others at risk for being harmed or manipulated. But where do we draw the line? I think there are some criteria to consider.
- Would the lack of this information potentially cause harm or distress to the person you’re talking to?
- Are they directly involved in the situation that’s being discussed? Are you directly involved?
- Are they trying to ascertain someone’s safety or trustworthiness, or what the person’s community reputation is, and you have firsthand or other reliable knowledge that would help them make a more accurate decision?
- Is the purpose of the conversation to help someone be informed about things that could directly affect them, or is the goal to unfairly discredit or belittle someone for the speaker’s own personal agenda?
- Is the person upset because someone else has harmed or distressed them, and they are trying to process what happened by talking to a trusted friend?
I think the answers to these questions aren’t always going to be black and white, but I think they may be a good place to start. I think motive and relevance has a lot to do with what makes something gossip versus necessary communication, but it’s sometimes very difficult to judge these motives in others or even in ourselves.
Human communication is pretty screwed up at the best of times. Add in BDSM and LGBTQ issues, mental health complications, emotional responses, past abuse and triggers, and it gets really hard to navigate communication issues.
I think what’s important is to actively try to make our communication methods as helpful and ethical as possible. But, it’s important to note that we are almost certain to disagree with others on what is helpful and ethical and what is not. I think giving each other the benefit of the doubt, while also standing up for ourselves and others when needed, is important too.
I welcome respectful dialogue on this. I’m trying to improve my own communication methods and this topic is something I’d like to be better educated on. What do you think makes something unhelpful and gossip? What kind of shared information is ethical and necessary given the risks and intensity of BDSM involvement?
Compliments that put down other women aren’t the kind that I want to receive.
“You’re not like other girls.” Why is this a good thing? Why are other girls so unworthy of your attention?
“You’re so much prettier than most other girls.” Are you saying they are all ugly? Why should I respect you for that comment?
“I don’t like basic girls, they’re so boring and bad in bed. You’re interesting.” Um…
“Most girls look bad in makeup and wear too much of it, but you make it look good.” Ahhh!!! No!!!
“I’m so glad you’re not like other girls that dress like a (insert “prude” or “immodest worldly woman” comment here).” How a woman dresses does not determine her self-respect, morality, or ability to be good in bed.
Why do we think that putting other girls down is a good way to build up someone else? It’s not, and yet people on both ends of the modesty/body exposure spectrum do it to us all the time. Either we are called prudes for covering up, or we are shamed for showing off our body when we finally overcome our body image issues enough to be proud of how we look.
All women have beauty. All women are worthy of love and respect, no matter what we wear or how pretty we are or how “basic” we are.
So if your compliments involve putting down other women to make your partner feel good, then may I suggest that perhaps there is a level of disrespect and judgment towards women in your mindset? And perhaps, just maybe, it’s ok to compliment the women in your life while still acknowledging the value of other women?
I’d like to hear compliments that DON’T involve comparison. Things like:
“You look so beautiful in that dress, I just want to look at you all day.”
“I love that you are just as beautiful whether you wear makeup or not.”
“I’m amazed by your compassion and intelligence.”
“Your commitment to personal growth is so admirable.”
“You worked really hard today. Thank you.”
“Damn girl, your ass is looking FINE today. I’d tap that. With your consent, of course.”
“I’m so glad that our personal values and interests are compatible. Thank you for being someone I can relate to and confide in.”
Do you see the difference? Instead of putting other girls down for not being like your girl, or for not being a good match for you, why not just focus on what makes her amazing to you personally?
Note: This also applies to other genders, not just women.
Over the past few years of observing dozens of kinds of polyamorous relationships and talking to people about what they’ve also observed in their circles, I’ve come to the conclusion that poly groups (or Relationship Anarchist groups) are only as healthy as the people in them. Unhealthy-minded people tend to be in unhealthy poly groups that are either very dysfunctional or do not last long.
What makes someone a weak poly link? I don’t think it has anything to do with physical strength, self confidence, or even being free from mental or physical illness. I think that “poly weakness” comes down to a person’s inability or refusal to improve their communication skills, and a lack of motivation to learn from their mistakes and change their behavior. It also involves a lack of willingness to compromise and increase their empathy for all the people involved.
Regardless of how connected metamours may or may not be to each other, polyamory is always a team effort. If one partner is wearing out the shared partner with their unhealthy relationship practices that they refuse to change, then the shared partner will not have much energy or time left to be emotionally supportive for their other partners. If one partner is influencing the shared partner to give into bad habits and stop pursuing personal growth, that will always affect the other partners. One unhealthy-minded person, even on the fringes of a poly group, can have devastating effects on the entire group if it’s left unchecked.
Even the most fucked up people in the world can, and do, have wonderful healthy poly relationships. I see it all the time, and it warms my heart to see imperfect people supporting each other and growing as a group. But the thing they all seem to have in common is that they try really hard to communicate effectively, and they strive to learn and grow from each mistake. Those who don’t communicate and don’t learn from their mistakes tend to lose their relationship stability very quickly because poly is intense and complicated, and there’s no place for intentional emotional immaturity.
Poly is hard work, and it requires focused effort from all the participants in order to keep it healthy. Things that people could get away with in monogamy can’t be ignored in polyamory because poly requires such a healthy foundation and teamwork for it to function. Unhealthy relationship practices and mindsets must be dragged out of our dark corners and worked on until they are more compatible with a healthy poly situation. This is brutally uncomfortable sometimes, and I inwardly groan every time I have to face my weaknesses in communication, conflict resolution, and mental health management, but facing these weaknesses is absolutely vital to becoming a healthier poly partner.
The point is that we try, and we never stop trying. We learn and grow as a team, and that’s how we thrive.
Experienced poly people, especially ones who have been doing this for a long time, what tips do you have for people looking to start their own poly groups or improve their existing ones? What pitfalls have you personally observed in poly groups? Do you agree with my thoughts or think I’m way off? Respectful dialogue is welcome. 🙂
Growth is hard. Personal development is often uncomfortable and exhausting. Becoming a better version of myself, and healing from past traumas and hurts, requires constant vigilance and self-reflection. Some days I get frustrated because I see how often I could have done better, while other days make me smile because I see how far I’ve come over the years, especially this past year. I’ve had to analyze myself so much out of necessity that I’ve become painfully aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses. Facing my fears has become a natural part of life for me. And it SUCKS most of the time. Most people don’t really like having to face their demons and closet skeletons, after all.
But it’s ok. It’s good, even. This is life; this is how we grow and change for the better. The important thing is that we are constantly trying to become the best possible versions of ourselves, and to find better ways of handling what life throws at us. I would rather be painfully aware of my weak areas, but also be confident in my ability to slowly remedy them, than to pretend I’m perfect and never make progress in improving myself.
I used to fear traumas and hurtful people. I still do, but now what I fear most is not growing.
Growing is what helps me survive and find happiness again.
Growing is what makes me more capable of handling scary traumas and hurtful people.
Growing is what takes my past traumas and fears and helps to turn them into compassion for others instead of hatred.
Personal growth is the biggest, badass life weapon I’ve got, and I don’t ever want to put it down. It becomes rather addictive after a while; it kinda feels like a superpower. : P
I’ve heard it said that the only person we should want to be better than is the person we were yesterday. I couldn’t agree more.
I hope that 2017 is a year of unprecedented personal growth for all of us. May we all become better, happier versions of ourselves this coming year. : )