Evolutionary Blog

Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Monogamy and Polyamory [or Ethical Non-Monogamy] | Is One More Evolved Than the Other?

non-monogamy

[This article requires a general understanding of developmental stages in egoic, emotional, or moral developmental models, distinguished by researchers such as Graves, Kohlberg, Gilligan, etc.]

There is often talk in developmental, transformational, and alternative communities about how polyamorous and/or “open” relationships are more “evolved”. More evolved than…say the conventional forms of monogamy and marriage.

This is an easy trap to fall into, as poly- relationship forms are certainly post-conventional. There was a time when I agreed with this thinking. I used to think polyamory [distinct from what I often see which is “poly-sexual”] was the more "evolved" as is it beyond traditional structures [trans-rational and post-conventional] and by its very nature requires, and often demands advanced communication skills, a solid sense of self, a lack of attachment and more spontaneous and flexible structures than monogamy.

Plainly put—it is more challenging. But that is if it is played clean, which is all well and good on paper...but how often are poly- relationships played clean and played well? Well, not often. In my experience, they are sometimes a morass of jealousy, fear, anger, heartbreak, etc.

Additionally, the truth is, monogamy requires other sets of skill development which while different, are equally as challenging. AND monogamy requires all the aforementioned sets of skills and development if it is to be done well and stay alive and thrive. That is to say, high self-esteem and a solid sense of self, advanced communication skills, and agreements between the parties that allow for play and spontaneity as well as growth and evolution within the relationship itself. So...my thinking has since shifted.

In my experience, we cannot assess depth and evolution, using any developmental stage conception, based on form and be accurate very often. Just using the simple three-stage model I often employ of pre-rational or pre-conventional, rational or conventional, and trans-rational or post-conventional, we can see very quickly that the idea of form does not map across to any stage or level. Here is the crux of my current thinking.

We can all experience monogamy from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. And we can all experience poly- from a pre-rational, rational, or trans-rational place. In other words, form does not map across to stage of evolution with any real predictability of accuracy. Simultaneously, we can all be drawn towards one form or another…or another, as the result of our stage of development, but again, it is no guarantee which form we will be drawn to.

The key is in what the individual motivations are for seeking any particular form.

To briefly and quickly flesh this out with some big picture generalizations: we could be drawn to monogamy out of fear and attachment—a need to “stake my claim”, or out of a need to have the illusion of safety and security a monogamous commitment provides [pre-rational], or out of a desire for a practical partnership and solid family structures for children We want to have [rational], or out of a desire to explore my depths with one person as a spiritual practice for the remainder for my life [trans-rational].

On the other end of the form spectrum, We may choose poly- out of a desire to get laid as much as possible with as many people as possible [pre-rational], or out of an acceptance that We feel more aspects of myself when reflected in intimacy with more people and that better suits me [rational,] or as an expression of being Spirit at play--as an outgrowth of my experience as a spiritual being and out of a desire to explore freedom, spontaneity, and love of all sentient beings in a consensual and limitless way [trans-rational].

So we can not claim anything with respect to form of the relating being more or less evolved. Of course I wish it were simpler, but assessing evolution depends on each individual, how they are experiencing the relating and what their motivations are for being drawn to one form or another to actually assess evolution. Having tried all forms, including marriage, I like all forms for different reasons. But that is just me.

The question to ask is not which form is more evolved, but rather--are you choosing the form consciously? Are you clear about your experience of the relating and the motivations for your desires or draw to the form? Are you evolving consciously in the form of your choosing? These questions we can answer. Unfortunately, the question of which form is “more evolved” than another is a slippery slope that can easily fall into a trap of superiority and ego-centric musing.

And no one wants that…consciously.

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Relationship Post-Mortem | How to Decide When It's Time To Leave

dog-sad-time-to-leave-evolutionary-relationships

#RelationshipPostmortem

While most of this section is going to deal with what to do after the breakup - how to process the grief, how to use that period of deep pain for your own development, transformation, and personal evolution, and how to set yourself up for success in the next relationship so you don’t repeat the same mistakes, we’ve all wondered at some point … 

When is it time to leave?

This may be the most difficult question for us to answer for ourselves and there are so many variables - if there are children involved it makes it even more complicated even if the end result is the same.

But one thing we want to be sure of is that we do not stay in the relationship for the wrong reasons.

What are some of the “wrong” reasons?

Let’s start with a few mindsets or orientations to the process before we answer that question. For me personally, these aren’t just mindsets or beliefs, they are convictions; I am willing to assert them as self-evident truths.

First: every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership.  What does fulfilling mean? For me, it means that you're lit up in every way: sexually, lovingly, intellectually, and spiritually. That they are an incredible lover and your best friend. Most important of all:  that you can express yourself - just be you - without being judged or shut down. That you are appreciated, encouraged, loved, and feel a deep connection to this person. That you can communicate through anything.

At the very least, your values need to be aligned enough - and your preferred forms of those values - how they would show up in your relationship need to have enough overlap that the little things don’t matter.

But whatever “fulfilling” means to you, every human is worthy of a loving and of a fulfilling romantic relationship and/or partnership. 

If you are reading this and you are single, you can use the Values and Forms exercise we laid out earlier in the book as a way of determining a greater degree of likelihood for success in your relationship. Values are a far greater determinant of compatibility than any typing system [zodiac, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc] as your level or stage of ego development will have a far greater influence - for instance at a certain stage you may experience differences as problematic, at yet another stage you may begin to see them as more of a benefit - complementary rather than conflicting - and so on. 

If you are reading this and you are in a relationship, you can use the same exercise to gain an understanding and deeper insight into why you are in conflict and … ultimately … whether you are a functional fit or not.

Second:  while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to transform [the relationship].

This is another fundamental truth. If you alter your internal relationship to the person and behave differently - and come at the whole situation fresh and open to possibility, they will respond to that. It may take longer than you desire - but I firmly believe [and this part may not be true but it is still the powerful way to relate to it]  any relationship can be transformed if one person is lovingly but unwaveringly committed to transforming it. You can infuse new life into it at any point. 

The question is not can it be transformed or not, the question is how.  

Not all relationships should be, but I believe all relationships can be transformed.

Lastly - and this makes a good segue to the “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:  

Longevity is not an effective gauge for success. You can be in a relationship that feels dead 20 years and people will congratulate you just based on the amount of time you have been together. Here’s the problem with that:  most humans aren't in a relationship. They're just in a habit.

Having said that, there are a few “wrong” reasons to stay in a relationship:

1. You are afraid to be single or alone. 


If you are afraid to be alone you are very likely in some form of co-dependent relationship and are having to sacrifice your happiness and - at times - your mental or emotional well-being. 

In this case, if you are in a relationship you consider “dysfunctional”, leaving may be the bravest and most powerful and empowering thing you can do - despite (or maybe even because) of how scary it is at first.

2. You don’t think you are good enough to have a more fulfilling relationship.

In my research, I was surprised at how often this came up - that some people didn’t think they were worthy of a more fulfilling relationship - or a higher quality partner.

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | We Do Not Hold Eachother accountable to Agreements We Have Not Made

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Agreement 2:  We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not (explicitly) made

Holding people accountable to agreements they have not made - by punishing them for not being aware of your preferences - is just one aspect of unclean relating. It is also fundamentally unjust.

How do they punish? By withdrawal and withholding.

Intimacy, connection, love, all those things. The things you are there to experience with them.

Sometimes they dress it up as "making sure you understand the impact". Oh, I understand. I understand what they are doing and I see the control game they are attempting to play.

And the degree of attachment and emotional enmeshment one has and external validation one seeks is the degree to which one will be controlled by these gimmicks.

Play a higher game. If your partner will not join you in that cleaner, higher game - will not co-create it with you - choose a new board to play on.

We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not made

What does this mean?  How does this occur? What are the indicators?

We’ve all done this. We’ve all had this done to us. Some more recently than others.

The word “should” is one huge indicator, and all-too-often we punish the ignorant - and for what? For not reading our minds? Fro simply being themselves? Sarcasm aside: how do we punish them? 

Most often by withholding intimacy and connection - while blaming them for that very choice we just made. It’s not pretty.

While there is something to be said for having an overlap in world-views and values as a natural fit, I have known people who grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, and still had different ideas, standards, opinions, and rules about how a relationship, a partnership, or marriage should operate in the day-to-day. While you may begin to intuit your partner's needs and desires, this only comes from a process of educating one another about our preferences.

No “they should have known” or “shoulds” in general. Not in Evolutionary Relating.

As an Evolutionary, we understand the difference between an agreement - or rule that we have both agreed to - an expectation, which is usually an unstated desire, and a standard, and/or a boundary.

To fully understand - and therefore be able to agree to - the 2nd agreement, let’s distinguish the difference among those four.

First, if you are upset by something they did or did not do, ask yourself, “do we have an explicit agreement about this”?  If the answer is no, then you can skip to Agreement 3 and decide if you want to make a request around this particular thing or not. If so, and if they agree - it then essentially binds both of you to a new agreement.

Bear in mind that the more rules you have in your relationships the less freedom of expression both parties will have and the more attention you have to have on those rules and agreements. And the truth is - if you are looking to bind someone to an agreement to limit their behavior in some way because you are uncomfortable with how they are - when no real harm is being done by their behavior - but you want to control them or you fear something happening - then you are trading self-expression and spontaneity (read: fun) for stability and safety. And there is a place you are not free emotionally if you want to control or constrict them in some way.

There is nothing wrong with that - just be aware that is what you are doing - and look deeper for the work you can do to allow yourself more freedom there, which will, in turn, give others the freedom to be.

But even if it hasn’t been communicated we still can’t hold that person accountable. If it has been communicated and the person agrees then it’s a new agreement And they can be held accountable.

But in terms of holding someone accountable to an agreement they have not made - it occurs all the time. So if you do not have an explicit agreement around something and you find yourself cutting them off or punishing them in some way - be it punitive or by simply withholding connection - you can reconnect again and take care of your own needs by simply making a request - and they then do not have to guess what your needs are, you are taken care of, and you can get back to connection and love - which hopefully is the primary purpose of your relating.

Hopefully.

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Guilt, Shame, and Self-Acceptance | How Shame Requires Your Consent

Shame-still-better Jason D McClain on shame

Shame, Guilt, and Shaming

I caused quite a stir a few years ago when shaming and the campaign against shaming was all the rage. And the stir I caused was by simply posting “shame requires your consent” followed by “self-acceptance is the antidote to shame”.

These two concepts are very closely related and let me explain how and why they are both so important - and how much freedom they can provide you if implemented and - through practice - embodied. But first, let’s distinguish a few things. Primarily, what is the difference between guilt and shame - because they are different and the distinction is important and most of us have them collapsed.

Guilt and Shame

“Shame gives guilt a bad name.”  -Mark Michael Lewis

Guilt and Shame. 

For years my good friend Mark Michael Lewis and I debated several concepts. These were spirited yet friendly conversations over the years - sometimes conversations on a single topic would span years. And one of these conversations had centered around guilt and shame and we only came to a resolution on it when we shared the sensations associated with each of them. How did shame feel in the body? How did guilt feel in the body? When we discussed the sensations, we discovered that we actually agreed. It was simply that we had not defined our terms.

For the purposes of our discussion here, guilt is defined as "a realization - an “a-ha” moment if you will - that you violated your own value system - and the feeling you that must make it right". It’s then followed by a bit of an adrenaline rush; you feel more alert and you feel compelled to fix it somehow - through acknowledging the wrong, through making amends somehow, or doing something to restore yourself in your own guidelines. In sum, guilt is the feeling you did a bad thing: a behavior you do not condone for yourself. We have all done something we are not proud of; a wrong we know we must right. Something that keeps bothering us in the back of our minds. Sometimes even years later. It may be something small - something that when we go to the person and attempt to clean it up they may not even remember it happening.

Shame is taking the additional step of thinking you are therefore a bad person. Bad or wrong at your core. It is when we take “I did a bad thing” and then tack on “so I’m a bad person”. Not only is that confusing of logical levels - confusing behavior, or what we do with identity, or who we are - but the heavy, oppressive feelings that can even lead to debilitating feelings where one may not even want to get out of bed - actually slows our progress. We have to move through the shame before we can step into the light and take the actions necessary to right that wrong. It’s an unnecessary step that provides no value.

And, sadly, there are times when people use this sort of self-flagellation for attention and comfort or even love  - and to avoid the shaming that may come from the other who they feel they have wronged. 


And as long as we are on the topic of shaming - let me drop this idea on you that may have a hard landing:  

 

Shame requires your consent

Think about this for a minute.

For someone to shame you effectively - which is them attempting to impose their value system onto you by emotional brute force - meaning for it to actually work, there has to be some part of you that buys into whatever they are judging you for. If you were 100% aligned with your own behavior - if you had 100% self-acceptance of all aspects of your being - it would fall flat. You may even laugh at their attempts to shame you, or at the very least shrug it off.

And it is at this moment that you realize that self-acceptance is the antidote to shame.

Self-acceptance does not mean you are okay with being a horrible person and running rampant over other people. What “self-acceptance” means is two things:

1. Being willing to gaze unflinchingly and without judgment at every aspect of yourself - both positive and negative aspects. To look in the mirror. Or if someone pointed out something you classify a character defect - something you perhaps are currently working with on your own development path that you would simply accept the truth of what they are pointing out. To refuse to be in denial about aspects of yourself.

and

2.“The refusal to be in an adversarial relationship with yourself”, as Dr. Nathaniel Branden put it.

There is tremendous freedom in admitting aspects of yourself and your desires to others as well - tremendous freedom.

It is also where the work begins. Once you acknowledge aspects of yourself that are out of alignment without your own espoused values or principles, then work must begin to bring that part of yourself into alignment or dissolve it altogether. And once you have reclaimed disowned parts of yourself and reintegrated them into the whole, and you lack internal conflict and a fractured self, then you not only can begin to move with greater velocity toward your hopes, desires, dreams, goals, and have the life you secretly long for, but your lack of internal dissent will lead to a glow about you - a true presence and you can be truly present with people.

And this is where we talk about how being shame-free leads to being able to have true presence - which people are naturally drawn to - vs simple charisma, which can be faked.

Some people have questioned “without shame, what would inhibit our behaviors which may harm others? What about having a conscience?” 

Well, that’s what guilt is for.

To be living in shame or using shame as a way to beat up on yourself or on others is to not only miss the point of taking action to right wrongs, but it is to deny the one thing we can all agree on:  universal innocence, and our inherent Divinity. Our oneness with Spirit. Our very connection to the beauty of all that is. Moment to moment.

The Kingdom of heaven is within. Stop obscuring it with the heavy clouds of shame.

--

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships.

 



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Evolutionary Relating | Introduction to the Book

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This is from the introduction to the forthcoming book. You can find additional excerpts here.

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It’s the one thing that universally unites and connects us.


We are not united by national origin, gender, politics, ethnicity, and the like. Not universally. The one thing that unites us universally is this: 

Love

Any poem about love in any language still translates the same experience. Be it Rumi or Pablo Neruda: Love. It does not matter where your lover came from or whether you have the same birth language - or even speak the same language. Or what color they are. We can fall in love with anyone from any place from any religion of cultural background - at any time.

We’ve all experienced some version of it. 

Perhaps, for you, it was the rush of the chemical attraction; they touched your hand and the electricity was… unforgettable. Or maybe - for you - it wasn’t the chemistry.  Maybe it was  the feeling of finally being home. Or maybe it was finally feeling that familiarity - as if you've known someone for years and years even though you just met them.

But then at some point - sometimes sooner, sometimes later - when these feelings (many of which we discover are Illusions and projections) are dispelled, and the person begins to behave in ways that disappoint, confound, or even anger us, and we begin to question the connection that we have with them and - at times - perhaps even our own judgment.

Or, as my mother once quipped: the thing that you used to find cute now annoys you.

Inevitably we come face-to-face with how many assumptions we've made. How we have built our entire relationship and levels of trust as well as our desires about the future on these assumptions. And in our pain and confusion, we often make grave errors that only make matters worse and tragically make our future in that relationship - or the next - even worse than that. 

Ah … the distortions of heartbreak.

--

Most of us do not know how to set ourselves up for success in the beginning - we start dating based on chemistry and attraction or availability - not on aligned values. We do not know how to have the conversations to set a baseline for what we will agree on - what our agreed foundation is - heck, some people wait so long to have these conversations that they are not even sure if they are monogamous or both dating other people … months into dating.


These are conversations that need to be had sooner rather than later. And some people know that, but they don’t know how to have those conversations.

Or when conflict arises that we lack the tools to navigate the situation in a way that feels successful, let alone connective and satisfying to both of you.  

Or when it stalls we don't know how to keep it alive, sexy, and have it continue to inspire and uplift - to bring out the best in us.

Or when it ends we have no constructive way to deal with the grief, the self-doubt, the anger, and no capacity to deal with feelings of betrayal or loss … or .. confusion. 

Some of us at that point in the process immerse ourselves so deeply into the process and into the feelings of loss that we may even think that we are destined to repeat the cycles - and perhaps some of you have that do not work and lock fundamental workability.

This book strives to solve most of the avoidable challenges and problems that arise in all three stages of relationships and provides structures and tools to assist you in working through the unpredictable - and in some cases unforeseeable - problems that arise. 

In the beginning: how to avoid unwarranted bliss and the inevitable crash - disappointment and even, how to avoid mediocrity in the middle or simply being in a habit rather than in a relationship, how to deal with anger fear jealousy all those things that can arise and create conflict in that middle stage. And of course, the confusion, anger, and grief that can arise when it ends if it ends and how to set yourself up for Success without vilifying the other person and how to reclaim your power if you've lost yourself in the relationship. 

As so many of us have friends who want to comfort us. But they rarely challenge us in our pain and while we blame.

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