Sam Hartman (hartmans) wrote,
Sam Hartman

Balancing Importance

In planning an event to acknowledge our commitment, Margaret and I are constantly running up against difficult decisions trying to create an accurate perception of the importance of the event and of our relationship. In the last post, I discussed what we were trying to accomplish at a high level. Here, I'd like to muse for a bit about the more specific goals. People need to feel that the event is important enough that they are willing to fly across the country to attend. On the other hand, I want the primary focus of the event to be casual interaction between friends. Over the years, I've found that sort of interaction is how you build and maintain strong communities of caring friends: create a space where people come and can interact with each other in a comfortable setting; provide them a few focuses of commonality; and a community will begin to grow. lasofia was the first person I knew who intentionally did this. I know for me and I think for Margaret that this has been an important
part of how I got to where I am today and how I had the necessary support to try something as risky (and rewarding) as getting involved with Margaret. So, while I realize that people from around the country are not going to develop friendships in an evening, at least as a symbolic component, I want this casual interaction to be an important focus of the event. Of course, one of the most powerful ways of signaling importance is to create formality or ceremony. That creates an apparent although hopefully manageable conflict with casual interaction. Another potentially conflicting goal is the desire for people to walk away thinking that the event meets their expectations; we don't just want people to feel that they have attended a party. Probably I'm looking for something more like, they feel that they have met others who are important to Margaret and me and have helped us celebrate our lives together.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we don't want to give the incorrect impression we're getting
married. However, we don't want to downplay the importance of the event or of our commitment to each other. There are a lot of factors that could create the impression that our relationship is not as important as a marriage. We're not living together or forming a family. However the commitments we do have are as important as a marriage. Finding a way to make this clear has been challenging. That part is hard to explain even to a lot of people from the poly community. My relationship with Margaret seems to follow the typical secondary relationship model on the surface. Besides both of us disliking the term, it typically implies that the secondary relationship is somehow less than a primary relationship. Les can mean things like will be selected against in a resource conflict. The poly community seems to understand the concept of multiple primary relationships although the examples I've seen suggest that's more about a group of people living
together than what Margaret and I are talking about. Of course, there is no recognized lexicon: I've seen a discussion of tertiary relationships today (whatever they are) and definitions of both primary and secondary relationships that fit what Margaret and I are doing.

On top of everything else there is a desire not to over-share or to spend time telling people details they're not interested in or don't want to know. I think all of this is possible to balance in an explanation; I think we can even do it. However it has proven tricky to think about and consider.

Tags: mrw-commitment, poly

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