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 …

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