"Harem Management" … a Lose/Lose Proposition?

The topic of “harem management” is very triggering for me (meaning, it triggers a lot of anger and sadness) … it seems to be a phrase that is seething with disrespect for women. Of course, I don’t shy away from provocative topics on this blog … and I feel compelled to explore this concept to get to the bottom of my intense feelings about it. I welcome input from my readers.

Anger is a fascinating emotion. Marshall Rosenberg has written much about it. Here is a little snippet from an interview with him:

KRYDER: Let’s talk, for a moment, about anger. You devote an entire chapter in your book to expressing anger fully. We have heard that anger should not stay bottled up. How do you let it out in an appropriate way?

ROSENBERG: When you are angry, shut up, until you come back to life. You come back to life when you are conscious that you are not angry at what the other person did. You are angry because of the thinking that is racing through your head. We show people how to identify that thinking and then quickly translate it into the truth: the need that is not being met. When you are in touch with your needs, you cannot be angry. You will have strong feelings: fear, frustration, sadness, but not anger. Then, you are connected to life. Then, when you open your mouth, you are fully expressing what is going on in you.

INGLES: There are so many applications to what you are just describing. I found the example of the environmental activists, in your book, channeling their anger into empathy and specific requests, as an interesting example. This might also have application to political discourse, as well. It sounds like you’re saying that a lot of the anger expressed openly at politicians, or companies, doesn’t have much of a chance of getting an activist’s needs met, really, if it’s just expressed in anger.

ROSENBERG: We show people involved in social change that, if you really want to create change, we have to get rid of enemy images that make us angry. Realize that all of those enemy images are tragic representations of our needs. The idea is not to go out and punish bad guys. If we really are scared about what is happening, let us go and trust that these people have the same needs that we do. Let us show them other ways of getting everybody’s needs met that are more effective and less costly.

We learn in non-violent communication (NVC) that anger is usually a cover-up for other emotions, typically hurt feelings, frustration, sadness, etc. This is why frequently when I use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) on my own or someone else’s anger, once the anger dissolves, the next emotion that comes up is profound sadness.

So what is it about “harem management” that makes me angry and sad?

Fundamentally, it is my concern that what “harem management” really boils down to is a man meeting his needs at the expense of the needs of the women with whom he is involved. Which ultimately won’t really be satisfying for him, either, because win/lose will eventually turn into lose/lose.

It makes me wonder if the only form of polyamory that I truly endorse is platonic polyamory.

Here is a passage from Patricia Allen that has always resonated with me very deeply:

A sensitive woman whose goal is a committed relationship is usually intuitively aware of the possible mistake of “going all the way” with a man whose agenda is unknown to her, and she will be reluctant to have casual sex without knowing why she feels that way. If she overrides her natural apprehension and “goes for it,” she soon finds herself in the pain of a relationship that is not fulfilling.

I helped [a client] to realize that the loss of a man who leaves when you say no to casual sex or other requests to “perform” can be painful but not hurtful. What is hurtful is for a woman to give of herself totally and find out that it is still not enough.

A man is a man. … He must be required to blend both [his human side and his animal instincts] by a woman who is so confident and in sync with herself that she will refuse him sex until she can be certain of his commitment. For it is that sense of security and safety that allows her to surrender to the man who shows her he wants her so much that he is willing to voluntarily give up his drive to have sexual relations with many women.

James Dobson talks about this in his book too.

As long as [a man] is permitted to be “torn between two lovers,” he can postpone a commitment and play one [girl] against the other. That shatters everyone involved.

Thus, Dr. Dobson advises:

[M]ake it clear to [a man] that he can’t have you and a harem too, and that he must make a choice between his lust and his love.

I see and hear the other perspectives on this issue, and yet I seem to keep gravitating back to this one.

My friend Czech Girl and I talked about this last night. We see women in these situations who seem happy at first but end up on a painful rollercoaster ride and never feel true peace, security, and contentment.

I don’t like the idea of “possessing” anyone, but I do like the idea of commitment. I think of how many things in our lives wouldn’t work if we didn’t have the ability to commit … things as basic as owning a car or a home (which is a commitment to take care of it) or having a pet (which is also a commitment to take care of it). These sorts of commitments are not burdensome to me. They are deeply rewarding. They provide the foundation for longer lasting relationships (and, yes, I do consider my relationships with inanimate objects and animals to be important relationships — how we treat anything is how we treat everything).

So … despite my fascination with the topic, I’ve started to wonder if polyamory is yet another excuse we use to avoid true intimacy. After all, it’s much more convenient to turn to another person than it is to stay in connection and resolve issues where they are … I know a married man who has kept his extremely painful and dysfunctional marriage “alive” by doing exactly that, over and over again, at the expense of many people’s happiness, including his own.

It would be great to hear other people’s perspectives on this … help me reconcile my very mixed feelings …

About the Author:

Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening

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  1. Anonymous 9:24 am,

    (Same Anonymous as on the other post, presumably)

    Actually, no I don’t see. And, actually, no I’m not judging you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Calling someone a bigot is essentially judging them for judging”

    And now you are judging me for judging someone for them judging.

    See how stupid this no-ego no-judgment stuff is when taken to the extreme?

  3. Phoenix River says:

    Hey guys,

    Very interesting subject. I’ve been wandering along the plains of relationships for a bit, trying out different things. I have to say, for me, the concept of ‘building a harem’ turns out a bit weird. It’s all good that when I’m single I see different women and all of them know that nothing is carved in stone yet and that they can expect me to be scouting around when I’m not

  4. Anonymous 8:51 am,

    I don’t agree with all of Dr. Dobson’s views, but I find much of what he says helpful — and I don’t see other people offering what he offers.

    Calling someone a bigot is essentially judging them for judging … So I prefer to take what’s helpful and leave the rest.

  5. Poetry of Flesh says:

    Re-reading this post a few times, I’m beginning to wonder if my idea of “harem management” is not accurate to that of the pick-up community.

    I’m a woman. I’m incredibly emotionally monogamous. I give myself fully when in a relationship.

    But I do keep what I call a “stable” of lovers when I’m single. (You’ll also catch me referring to them as “rentals” when I’m feeling

  6. Anonymous says:

    –The topic of “harem management” is very triggering for me (meaning, it triggers a lot of anger and sadness) … it seems to be a phrase that is seething with disrespect for women. —

    It’s also a total joke snake oil peddled by fat losers like Frank B. Kermit, Johnny Soporno, and David X. I don’t even want to IMAGINE what those harems look like.

    Do you really take

  7. Scarface says:

    Thank you for the reply Erika. Yeah I see that the most common problem is for women when it comes to this.
    First they don’t know exactly what they do want, and what they absolutely don’t want. And if you don’t know what you exactly want, how can one be strong? I don’t know how one can be. I think in general men are a bit better in knowing what they exactly want, probably because they are

  8. hi Scarface,

    I agree about not blaming. This blog is about all the things you’re mentioning: honesty, matching expectations, live and let live. I see a lot of people “glamorizing” the idea of a harem, without being fully aware of its drawbacks.

    Also, I wish more women were standing up for themselves instead of going along with what a guy wants and then being unhappy about

  9. Scarface says:

    My view is. A man either wants to commit himself to a woman or not. I think before getting involved it’s good to know what he wants at that moment/point. And then the woman can decide wether she is willing to go with what he wants at that moment. Same count for the man.
    Problems do in my view only arise, when one doesn’t accept what the other wants and tries to change/manipulate the other in

  10. Well…

    the man who has multiple wives is also committed to them and the family,

    and so is the man with multiple lovers maybe…

    So commitment isn’t the issue here, commitment to me sounds like an euphemism.

    I’m looking for the feeling that FEELS TRUE… not for commitment in its million forms.

  11. commitment and exclusivity are different things. remember the car and pet analogy you made? you can commit to or love two pets surely? love has no limits. the only limit on commitment is time.
    the hurt and upset seems to come from worry and doubt due to sociaties conditioning that only exclusive monogamy is real love and commitment. this leaves a space for fear and anxieties.
    ‘how can

  12. Daria,

    Thanks. You made my evening, both with your description of True Love and with your comment on the “stupid attacking comments.”

    I do receive a lot of comments on this blog from people who are communicating in a way that is not likely to get their needs met. I shudder a bit to think what their real-life relationships are like because I remember well what my

  13. BTW I feel a little annoyed by the “women are indecisive.”

    I would like to humurously add that men are overgeneralizing absolutists who make stupid attacking comments because they don’t know how to communicate without personal attacks.

    BTW I can be VERY decisive. Like when I decide I’m not going to have sex with someone.

    On the other hand, I also used to make

  14. To me, polyamory doesn’t seem to serve much in terms of Love.

    Maybe in terms of satisfying security… such as I imagine where wealthy men take more than one wife.

    Maybe in terms of satifying sexuality… I can see how it would feel interesting to explore, as I too am interested in exploring this (uncommitted sex) as a woman.

    As far as True Love (which is what

  15. Benedict Smith says:

    i paid a heavy price when my infidelity was discovered. both girls were very, very hurt. i stayed with one, but the emotional damage is lasting and very real.

  16. Careful with the assumptions, love.

    The quotation comes from Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough, and not from an article. I quoted it and used brackets to indicate the only change that I made. This is commonly accepted use of quotations and brackets. To me, it doesn’t change the meaning.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Dobson quote was from an article on Mel Gibon’s betrayal of his wife.

    What Dobson actually said was,
    What you can do is make it clear to your husband that he can’t have you and a harem too, and that he must make a choice between his lust and his love.Your change twisted its original meaning quite a bit.

    And plenty of women can have sex with multiple

  18. Hey Anonymous,

    You’re definitely right that women lose respect for men who bend to their will … they also lose trust in men who don’t take their emotional needs into account. So I guess it’s a fine balance.

    Best I can come up with so far, though it sounds somewhat humorous, is to teach men how to seduce and teach women how to resist seduction. Then there is no choice but

  19. Anonymous says:

    First of all Erika, you should know that women are indecisive.They don’t know what they want. It is a lose/ lose stuation depending on the guy depending on his lifestyle and the woman’s lifestyle. Depending on both of their emotional availability. Relationships are meant to be a positive thing in one’s life. If a guy knows he’s going to cheat and he knows he’s not a relationship kind of person

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