PQ 4.2 — What do I consider essential, indispensable elements of a relationship?
I used to be a big checklist person when it came to partner selection — it was easy for me to list the elements of a “dream partner.” And I expected others to evaluate me in turn. If I ticked all their boxes, I was their perfect match (whatever that meant). If they didn’t? Well, they were settling. And the connection between us was precarious.
It has taken me a long road to get here, but I no longer think it’s the individual elements of a person that make a relationship what it is. Or even the individual elements of the relationship itself.
Rather, it is the combination of those elements. The compounds that are formed. And even those compounds? Don’t say a lot when taken on their own. Until they are introduced into any given environment, it’s difficult to know how they are going to react.
However, I’ve found a couple of very good ones that really seem to help. I don’t know if I’d call them “indispensable” or “essential” per se, as I have observed relationships that function without them. But I do know that I very much enjoy relationships a helluva lot more that have them.
Empathy Is Boss
The first of these? Empathy. Genuine caring for one another and the ability to really take another person’s perspective? Well, it goes a long way to relationship harmony, especially at times when things are difficult.
Empathy is important in any relationship but especially key in polyamory since it’s been linked to:
- Compersion, that infinitely handy tendency to delight in the joy of others. A great replacement for jealousy and zero sum thinking. Even if it takes some doing to get there, being able to be genuinely happy for other people? It’s pretty great.
- Self-control. Handy for both abiding by your relationship agreements as well as keeping your composure and not causing relatively small disagreements in a relationship web to spiral into drama-splosions. While it’s important to deal with conflict rather than forever pushing things under the rug, there are times when the blowup from something can become more damaging than the actual issue.
Self-Honesty, the Most Important Honesty of Them All
The other one? It’s radical self-honesty.
When a person is radically honest with themselves? There follows a tendency to be quite honest with others. Lying is more difficult, cognitively, to accomplish. It’s stressful.
But only when a person knows what they’re saying to be untrue.
In fact, if a person lacks self-honesty, it makes it very difficult for them to be honest with others. Their lack of accurate self-evaluation makes it difficult for them to accurately evaluate what is going on outside of themselves.
I also see this a lot with people who are running from painful truths within themselves.
But yeah. Open, honest communication? That staple of relationships? It begins with you.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.