Polyamory, Relationships

I was hoping by now I’d have gotten through a review reading of Amy Gahran’s book, “Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator”, but life and a low-grade level of exhaustion are conspiring against me doing any serious reading of late. I’ve skimmed it, and as polyamoury in-print resources go, so far it looks like a reasonable companion to Veaux & Rickert’s “More than Two”. But even without the book, the metaphor is one I have been familiar with for a very long time (if I recall correctly, the term originated aeons ago with Franklin Veaux’s early poly writings), and using in my client work for as long as I’ve been working with clients exploring or living in non-monogamous relationship structures.

In essence, the relationship escalator metaphor illustrates our traditional-western-culture image of monogamy as a single linear progression of events:

meet => date => sexual bonding => fall in love => engagement => marriage => careers => kids => [umpteen years of monogamous togetherness] => retirement => death do us part

Obviously there are a multitude of variations on this theme, but the gist of it is the idea of that singular straight line from meeting through marriage to the ends of our lives. Just as obviously, this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of relationship styles that we used to believe it was. We’ve been moving steadily into serial monogamy (sequential relationships) with the generally-increased acceptance of divorce and remarriage through the later decades of the 20th century. The rise of the left-and-right-swiping hookup culture made it very clear that commitment on the heels of sexual bonding isn’t even remotely required, and largely not even desired by many any more.

Some still find the current instantiation of the Sexual Revolution disconcerting; morally, many are still jealous of, or outraged by, the idea of their current partners having had lovers before they come along. While this might seem a little ridiculous for relationships forming as second or third marriages, for example, I can confirm that in couples counselling, partners will still struggle with “The Number”, especially if there is any kind of sexual disconnect in the current relationship. Sexual dysfunction and boredom are factors for which the Relationship Escalator fails to account, clearly, but these are factors that definitely impact a relationship very highly–especially if sexual bonding is a key validation point for desirability and connection.

When previously-monogamous couples begin exploring opening up their relationship to others, there are a LOT of potential challenges facing them. The fact that the Relationship Escalator has left us with a deeply indoctrinated set of linear expectations for how relationships work, it’s unsurprising that when we see our partners connecting with other lovers they way they initially connected with us, it triggers a deep fear that we will be replaced in sequence, rather than supplemented in our present place by additional relational factors. Jealousy becomes the #1 issue couples transitioning from closed to open models face; “if you treat $NEWLOVER the way you treated me, how can I trust you’re not just going to replace me with them??”

The short answer is, we don’t. Getting ourselves off the narrow path of that escalator is, if nothing else, a tremendous leap of faith in which we HAVE to trust that things will be okay, that our partner(s) are not choosing replacement but enhancement. Of the many rocks on which our ships will likely flounder, is the sense that love and desire are as finite resources as time and physical energy are. It’s true that adding other partners of any degree of investment requires time, and that no matter how much we wish otherwise, there are still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Therefore if we prioritize more time to a new lover (as is the commonest complaint once New Relationship Energy [NRE] is in the picture), we aren’t spending that time with our existing relationships and commitments. The sudden behavioural shift that reflects prioritization is often interpreted as decreasing interest in the existing relationship. This isn’t always true on core levels, but it is true that NRE tends to eclipse the best intentions of the unwary or unprepared.

Creating relationships beyond the narrow linearity of cultural expectations allows different relationship structures to meet different needs. From a family/relational systems perspective, most observers agree that a two-legged stool (the common monogamous model) is a very unstable structure; a three-legged stool offers a much stronger sense of balance. In Bowenian terms, this is “triangulation”, a process by which introducing a third element to a two-party system allows one or both of the original partners to reduce exclusive focus or dependence on each other, spreading expectations and need-meeting requirements now across a more diverse support system. This is in large part what happens in monogamous infidelity; a dyadic partnership fails to meet the needs of one or more of its constituents, so that need-meeting is sought elsewhere in secret contravention of standing agreements between the original dyad. But at the same time, getting the needs met elsewhere will, at least in the short term, decrease the pressure on the partnership… at least until other issues arise to take the place of whatever was missing initially.

Recognizing that it’s perhaps unrealistic to assume that one person can successfully meet ALL of our needs for ALL of our lives is a common reason why people explore non-monogamy. An additional challenge that can arise from opening up monogamy to other relational formats is dealing with the consequence of that realization. It can hurt, admitting that we’re not the be-all-and-end-all of need-meeting machines for our partners. I blame Disney and a lifetime’s worth of horribly unrealistic romance novels for instilling in us a belief that finding Mr or Ms Right meant that all our troubles were over and we’d live “happily ever after”, for ever and ever, amen.

Rising divorce/remarriage rates and skyrocketing demands for couples/relational counselling suggest quite the opposite, in fact.

And yet, the fantasy persists, often beyond the scope of all rational thought.

That fantasy is what, in my opinion, lies at the base of the Relationship Escalator’s pervasive endurance. We want to believe in the myth of “happily ever after”. Many of my relational clients are struggling with their own sense of failure, or disappointment in their partner’s inability, to meet needs in adequate fashion. They believe that monogamous happiness SHOULD be accessible if I/you/we just work HARDER, or if $PARTNER would just CHANGE into something they’ve clearly never been before, or if we ourselves could just magically meet all of their needs. Non-monogamy, for those who brave those challenging waters, reduces the tension on dyadic pairings by opening up the option of loving partners for who they are in their flawed limitations (and being loved for ours) but NOT requiring them to be everything we need them to be, if they can seek that need elsewhere without destabilizing whatever relationship we choose to maintain.

I won’t lie. Dismounting the escalator’s not an easy path to navigate. Monogamy exists largely to protect the partnership at its core, and in the non-monogamous communities there are deeply-divided camps around how ethical non-monogamy SHOULD work. Transitioning out of monogamy often looks a lot like setting up a rigid system of rules that protect “couple privilege”; at the outset this has the advantage of letting everyone involved believe they can trust in the rules to shape expectations. In truth, NRE and opaque shifts in priority-indicating behaviours mean that all the rules in the world will RARELY actually protect anything in the long run, especially once the deeper feelings that come tied to sexual bonding get involved. So, rules get broken, boundaries get tested or pushed… feelings get hurt. The escalator starts to break down because what we had presumed to be “natural progression” is being challenged or thwarted, and we don’t know what to do.

Again, I come back to something Franklin Veaux wrote years ago, describing jealousy as a “broken refrigerator”:

“Let’s assume your relationship is a refrigerator. One day, a problem arises in your relationship—the refrigerator quits working. You walk into your kitchen, there’s a puddle on the floor, and all your frozen pizzas and ice cream are a gooey mass in the bottom of the freezer. There are a few things you can do at this point, once you’ve mopped up the mess and scraped the remains of last night’s lunch out of the fridge. One solution is to fix the refrigerator; another is to replace it. A third solution is to leave the refrigerator exactly where it is and change your life around the problem—“From this day forward, I will bring no frozen or refrigerated foods into this house.” In the poly community, the last option is the one most people choose. […]

Fixing the refrigerator means doing exactly that. It means saying, “I know that I am feeling jealous. I know that the jealousy is brought about by some other emotion—some emotion that is triggered by the action that makes me jealous. I need to figure out what that other emotion is, and I need to figure out why that action triggers that emotion.”

Until you do that, you are helpless in the face of the jealousy. If you don’t understand it, there is nothing you can do to address it. Trying to understand it isn’t easy; when you’re ass-deep in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial goal was to drain the swamp, and when you’re entirely overwhelmed by gut-wrenching emotions that are tearing you to pieces, it’s easy to forget that these emotions are grounded in some other emotions. In the middle of jealousy, all you want is for the jealousy to stop, and you don’t care how.

So, you confuse the trigger with the cause. You believe, erroneously, that the source of the jealousy is the action that triggers it. You see your partner kiss someone, you feel jealous, you want the jealousy to stop, you pass a rule: “No more kissing.”

Partners stuck in this loop try to force the new additions to the relationship structure to conform to a set of expectations as narrow and linear as the escalator we ourselves are trying to exit, but because we only know one model for building relationships, we’re stuck with that model until we find a way to jettison it. So we enforce excluding aspects of the known escalator: “you can’t do that thing that looks like building a relationship with someone else, because that’s what WE DO TO signify WE are in relationship.” Regardless of which partner role you find yourself in with this kind of situation, that’s a hugely craptastic place to be.

It *can* be done. And the more resources we have available to help navigate these kinds of explorations, and the more commonplace (ethical) non-monogamy becomes, the easier it slowly gets to divest ourselves of the historical fantasy of “till death do us part”. We’ve grown to accept multiple sequential marriages as a fact of life, so the myth is slowly coming apart at the seams. We’re still hung up on sexual experience and discomfort around knowing our partners have even HAD sex with others before us, let alone with others WHILE ALSO with us, and that’s going to remain a moral stumbling block for a long time to come, I suspect, just based solely on the numbers of couples who try to explore non-monogamy within a policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. But so long as we can be both clear and gentle about why we might want to open up these discussions within a monogamous relationship, and as long as both partners in the originating dyad are equally willing to explore these kinds of options (one is not coercing the other), then we have tools and platforms for steering these explorations as far off the rocks as we can, and supporting transitional stages for those looking for options that don’t fit the constrained limitations of that Relationship Escalator.

Relationships

Copyright 2009, 2011 KGrierson

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about choice, especially in how it relates to validation in relationships, which in turn relates to how people self-soothe (or don’t) their anxieties through either self-validation or other-validation. This in turn has lead to examining motivations for selecting relationships, both monogamous and polyamorous. (If you’ve read or are reading David Schnarch, you’ll have a better understanding of terms I’ve only got space and time to define fairly superficially; consider this further incentive to buy or library-loan yourself a copy of Passionate Marriage to learn in more depth what I’m about to go on about.)

David Schnarch’s phrase “emotional terrorism” is a loaded phrase, especially when the lights come on and one realizes it’s a loaded phrase pointing most annoyingly at oneself. Inasmuch as we all generally make some astounding leaps in personal growth as we grow older, we all carry numerous human anxieties that connect at a molecular level to the equally-human need for validation.

Validation, in this sense, means an acknowledgment that one is a “good and worthy person” (as measured by a vague and often indeterminate set of personal values, the impact of which we may or may not be consciously aware). In the clichéd sense that “no individual is an island”, we all seek validation as a means of measuring ourselves in and against the world we inhabit, amidst the people with whom we share common space, be it a family, a workplace, a church, a community theatre company, a marriage or other intimate relationship. Schnarch conveniently illustrates the difference between self-validation and other-validation as the difference between being grounded and centred in a strong sense of Self, or being dependent on others to be mirrors reflecting back at us the things we think we want them to see.
When others don’t show us that we’re as good as we want to believe ourselves to be, other-validated individuals are easily crushed, and the more importance and value placed on the Other in the equation, the greater the despair when the mirror fails us. Self-validated people, however, can stand more easily in the absence of mirrors; they’re less concerned with other people’s reactions to them, ride the waves of social contact more easily, maintain a sense of balance that better weathers the unpredictable, surprising slings and arrows of life’s outrageous fortunes. They don’t need other people’s company or noise to drown out the anxieties in their heads – that doesn’t mean they don’t have anxieties, just that they are far better at self-soothing than people who depend on constant reassurance from others to soothe anxieties.

How does this relate to choice, specifically relationship choice?

Firstly, consider what I mean by “relationship CHOICE”.

Do you pursue specific individuals with a specific intent to create and maintain a particular type of relationships from the outset? Or do you “just fall into” relationships because you get comfortable with a person, and one thing leads to another, and next thing you know there’s a UHaul truck and a moving party and someone else’s toothbrush now lives permanently in your bathroom?

Do you *choose* to have relationships as a conscious decision, or do you decide not to think about them and just let them happen? Do you wonder if your partner(s) chose you to be *with you*, or got into the relationship more to avoid being alone, or to get away from some other form of untenable situation (for example, the White Knight rescues the Damsel in Distress from a Dastardly Family Situation, and she says, “Oh, thank you, Mr Knight, but I have no money, how can I ever repay you??” Cue the “bow-chicka -wow-wow” music, and three weeks’ worth of Gratuitous Gratitude Sex later, you’re both in a relationship because, really, what else is there to do in the country?)

Choice and validation are immutably connected by the simple fact that if you did not consciously *choose* to be with your partner, or one day you start to fear that s/he did not *choose* to be with you, that realization is going to cue a huge sky-rocketing anxiety for most people, especially if it comes after a long-term relationship (marriage or otherwise) has been established. That kind of fearful anxiety can tear relationships apart, because it cuts to the core of our need for validation:

If someone didn’t choose me, is it because I’m not good enough to be chosen?

If I’m not good enough to have been chosen, how can i now trust what my partner has been showing or telling me all this time, if I’m not the person my partner actively chose or chooses?

For almost all of my early significant relationships (2 in high school, 3 university/post, including my first marriage), I did not choose my partners because they themselves were people I wanted to be with. First and foremost, I fell into relationships without thinking about it. If I choose them it was because they could, in one way or another, take care of me. They soothed my anxieties and supported me long before I had a clue how to do so personally, professionally, spiritually, financially… any way you can think of. In one case, the relationship started less because he was someone I wanted to date, and more because we engaged a fantasy first, and he reflected back at me an image of myself I was trying on for size. Turns out, I wasn’t enamoured of that image, but by the time I came to that conclusion, we’d already moved in together and were hitting the rough seas that would eventually send us to our own relationship counseling.

There are a lot of relationships of both open and illicit natures that come about because an individual simply responds unconsciously to another person’s attraction. Sometimes it’s not even an explicitly sexual attraction being offered, yet it provokes a conditioned response, one that people often learn in their teens or early years, to respond to sexually as a means of trying to engage or anchor more of that positive-seeming reflection (“If I sleep with him/her, maybe s/he’ll like me more”). This conditioned response is as equally true for men as for women, in my experience.

In those moments, we don’t choose the person, we choose the image, the validation; it’s a subtle but profoundly-influencing objectification at work in that kind of choice. If the person offering the validation to us changes, we often cannot accept the change, and fight the loss of that validation it avidly. Change means a shift or distortion in the reflection; Other-based validation wavers, becomes inconsistent or absent, and our Other-based sense of self-definition is jeopardized, or evaporates completely. We struggle to change to Other person back to the person who gave us the sense of validation in the first place, often encountering resistance to the change-back message. When we are the ones who are changing, potentially throwing someone else’s Other-dependent source of validation into uncertainty, we hear or experience the “Change Back!” message ourselves. When we hear the cry, “Change Back!” during the process of personal growth or differentiation, what we’re really doing is trying to force the changing Other back into the mirror frame so that the distortion goes away and we can restore normalcy by seeing the reflections of our selves as we expect to see them.

This dependency is emotional fusion at work, the kind of fusion that stifles growth and thwarts healthy development. It engenders and relies on emotional dependency on others to soothe anxieties, and we become emotional terrorists when our mirrors fail to show us what we want to see. This has been the pattern of normal relationships for as long as there have been relationships. Relationships can destabilize frighteningly quickly when specific things in a person’s world feel threatened, and most of us will react with varying degrees of emotional violence to force the quickest course-correction to put things back where we need them to be. That’s what Schnarch means by “emotional terrorist”. It’s not a pretty thing, even when it gets the short-term job done. Often the best we can do is to at least recognize when it’s happening, sometimes even in the moment, sometimes in time to at least make conscious choices about our responses to that attending anxiety. Learning to self-soothe the anxieties before they spike so enormously is a job reminiscent of pushing rope up a steep incline; it can be done, but it’s a lot of painfully-useless-seeming-at-the-time work.

So how does this all relate to developing poly relationships?

In complex systems, two is an inherently unstable configuration; three is more stable because more options provide more options for interaction, and in architectural geometry, the leaning angles of a three- or more-sided figure balance the structure. In short: a two-legged stool is unstable; a two-legged ladder cannot stand on its own. Add a third leg, however…

In Bowenian family systems, adding a third party to a dyadic (two-membered) relationship almost immediately reduces the stress between the two members of the dyad, by providing a third party to focus on (a child, for example, or a sibling, parent, coworker, job, pet, etc.) or to confide in (in the case of an adult family member, friend, or lover). Adultery, in its own way, reduces the stress within a marriage by enabling one partner to meet immediate needs elsewhere, reducing the pressure — in this case, for sex — on the spouse to provide sexual contact. While the adultery example is rife with other problems, it does provide a very clear illustration of how a third party can help bleed away some stressors and pressures within a relationship.

In polyamory, there are multiple intimate relationships present in the relational network, and any one of them can serve as a stabilizer or destabilizer, depending on the relationship skills of those involved, for any other relationship in the intimate network (the “system”). Imagine how this, then, becomes an extremely important factor for Other-validated individuals: now there is not just *one* relational partner from whom one receives back mirrored validation, but potentially *many* partners. The crucially-important stabilizing factor is that if one relational angle then fails to mirror as expected, there will always be an assumed other lover(s) to turn to fill in the gap, thus ensuring that anxieties in such an Other-validated person never spikes so highly as to disrupt the functioning of the system as a whole.

When people talk about “selecting for type” their mates and lovers, often what they have is a certain type of personality they will seek out that best reflects their expected mirrored sense of Self. That’s why people tend to gravitate towards a particular predilection for personality types like “the good girl/the bad boy”, to stereotype a popular few. Those “types” are likely to offer particular views back at us that we expect to see that mesh with our own internalized senses of self. Abused spouses return time and again to abusive partners because the abuser reflects back at the victim the victim’s own sense of self, validating what the victim “knows” about him/herself.

We seek out, consciously or otherwise, lovers and partners who reflect back at us what we think we know about ourselves, as a way of validating ourselves. It’s a form of “confirmational bias” in which we only see what we already believe; seeing anything new about ourselves, and being open to the possibilities of being something other than what we expect, is tremendously, impossibly scary to a lot of people, and the lengths to which people go to avoid seeing themselves in new ways is truly awe-full.

Some people date for breadth, not depth, if you can say so without taking the obvious innuendo-laden tangents. Putting more people in one’s “intimate sphere” means more mirrors, increasing the odds that one can establish a stabilizing-if-superficial exposure when feeling anxious, rather than improving the internal ability to self-soothe. People who do this often won’t let anyone get close enough to become mirrors of things we do not want to see in ourselves, especially if those uncomfortable reflections and perceptions already occur at home in the primary relationship(s).

Lovers became objectified, serving as distractions and diversions from current or ongoing relationship work. Lovers who are too much work, because they threaten stability at home or detract from Self- or relational work we need to be doing elsewhere, are cut loose or held off to cool their heels in long intervals between dates. They are welcome as Other-validation until they became too challenging to an existing, ineffective, impression of the individual’s sense of Self.

Even for lovers who aren’t a lot of work, long intervals also meant a degree of perceived security for some. Lack of frequency is one way we controlled our own emotional investment levels, playing it cool and casual in order to avoid the temptation to “fall in love” or get uncontrolled NRE goo all over my nice clean life. Of course it works… to a point. For myself, the breaking point was realizing that even though I am ostensibly involved with a lot of people, I’m really not “involved” at all. It’s hard to have good, authentic relationships with people you genuinely like through the cocoon of armour and misdirected desires. It’s also impossible to have authentic relationships with people when you let them — nay, when you *rely* on them to — do all the work of managing your anxieties for you.

Honestly… I don’t think this is an uncommon pattern, in or out of the poly community. Seeking validation from others is such an insidious need that permeates so much of our unconscious motivations in relationships that it’s really difficult to peel back the layers of intentional self-misdirection to look at what we’re really doing: in effect, making ineffectual choices that meet a short-term, anxiety-based need, while encouraging our other-dependencies and undifferentiated perceptions of self-in-relation-to-other. For me, the uphill slog to learn the difference between raw emotional content, and the active response to that content has been a necessary part of sorting out my own tools for self-soothing. We all have anxieties; they are huge and well-defined by the number of hidden land mines connected to them. Learning to trust *ourselves* when they go off is, for most of us, a work in progress. But the key lesson to note here is: we CAN learn to trust ourselves instead of relying on partners, say, to change their behaviours in order to soothe our anxieties. Learning to stay present in the moment of those fearful surges is crucial, because when we can’t stay with them and soothe them, the only thing left is to shut them in a box and go distract ourselves with someone or something else. Distraction soothes to an extent, but the raging beast is still awake, and still raging behind a door we now can’t open or even look at, for fear of setting the anxiety surge loose all over again.

People who live like that eventually become nothing but a hallway of doors they cannot open, I think. I don’t want that to be me.

So it all comes back to looking at the choices we make in relationships:

How do I choose partners in the first place? Can I clearly identify whether I am, or am not, responding to a need to see myself validated by them as attractive and desirable? (Trust me, as I ease into my mid-40s and the Realm of the Cougar, this actually becomes the kind of stuff I find I have to think about). Am I expecting a potential lover to validate something that isn’t being validated in my primary relationship? Am I looking for the relationship equivalent of a pacifier or soother? Do I just want someone to be with when my partner is elsewhere so I don’t have to deal with soothing myself alone (often more of a driving motivation for more non-primary relationships than many of us will admit)? How am I behaving when the selected-for-unavailability-lovers actually prove to be as unavailable to me as I fear? What happens when I really *am* alone?

Some things have changed for the better. Schnarch also distinguishes between “genital prime” and “sexual prime”, taking our standard common societal impression of “sexual prime” and transferring that to “genital prime” (when men’s refractory period is fastest, and women’s genital response is also faster and/or more pronounced). Schnarch’s concept of “sexual prime”, however, is all about availability for emotional intimacy that only comes with experience and willing effort to be vulnerable; he uses a lot of language reminiscent of Goleman’s emotional intelligence; the crossover concepts are hard to miss, actually. In Schnarch’s opinion and experience, individuals and couples don’t reach his version of “sexual prime” until they’re old enough to have some profound relationship and self-definition experience under their belts: in their 40s and 50s and beyond.
This gives me some hope for an easier future, at least. the fact that my partner and I have made such a career out of doing the hard work of building a more conscious and authentic relationship (which is not to say we don’t still have Good Days and Bad Days, even recently) makes it easier to take the things that work out into the field of other relationships and make more conscious, functional decisions about how and why I engage those relationships. Mind you, the fact that I have no consistent label that I can apply across the board to the rapidly-decreasing number of people I’m arguably “dating” means I’m pretty much doing the work of treating each relationship as an individual thing from the get-go. That’s perhaps a more effective, consciously-mindful way of approaching the relationships… it’s a bucketload of work though.

Since my corollary relationships aren’t currently ones that cause me any anxiety, the work of self-soothing occurs mostly at home, and mostly at my partner’s expense. The work of the next indeterminate-while involves looking more closely at what anxieties get spiked by what kinds of triggers (some of that work we’ve already done in other situational contexts), and figure out for myself what I can learn to do as effective self-soothing when those fears get out of hand and explode messily, because they’re going to keep happening. These kinds of fears and anxieties are rooted so deeply that they don’t come up with the usual kind of weed-pulling tools. It’s also important to note that self-soothing fear and anxiety isn’t the same as “letting someone off the hook” for his or her part in the anxiety-spiking situation in the first place, but it does help clear space for a more effective manner of communicating that needs to happen in the resolution process. There is a time and place for channeling rage and fury into a situation, and a time and place for… something else. I’d like to be able to keep both as tools selected by choice than to depend solely on one manner of response as the only available, pre-programmed option. I prefer the effects I get when I know I’ve chosen the response consciously.

Also in progress for some time now is a decreasing dependency on others for my validation. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the ego boosts when they happen (who *doesn’t* enjoy positive responses to a flirtation or soul-searching tome of a blog post?), but I don’t *need* them like I used to. I don’t get crushed when my crushes don’t reciprocate interest. I don’t get crushed when lovers don’t make contact for months at a time (though I suspect there’s something complicated going on there that *is* wired to a residual mirrored validation issue, but that’s a tangent for another time). I don’t rely so much any more on other people’s responses to me to shape the space that I can fill; I define my own space more effectively by myself these days. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested in intimate relationships, rather the opposite; but now I pursue relationships because I want to and because I choose to, not because I *need* to in order to feel desired or desirable. Being secure enough in my Self to choose things, rather than being restricted to the limited options of pre-programmed responses, gives me far more… well, choices.

Being (relatively) free of anxiety-driven dependencies doesn’t diminish my interest in those intimate and engaged relationships; quite the contrary. It does increase my opportunities to be something other than an emotional terrorist struggling to keep the mirrors from distorting the limited external-based view of my Self. It also invites me to be “all that *I* can be”, without having to struggle into combat fatigues at the drop of a wrongly-worded comment and write more blog posts before 8am than most people write in a. Not having to be always in my armour and on the defensive against those shifting perspectives and availability of the Other is liberating, a revolution from the inside out.

And those relationships I choose to have for more effective reasons than dependency will, I think, be the stronger for it.