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Rewriting the Rules of Relationships

Current state of romantic relationships and responses to these, in relation to monogamy in particular.

Meg John Barker

on 9 March 2015

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Transcript of Rewriting the Rules of Relationships

Rewriting the Rules: Non/monogamies
Relationship uncertainty
Despairing at being abandoned to their own wits and feeling easily disposable, yearning for the security of togetherness and for a helping hand to count on in a moment of trouble, and so desperate to 'relate'; yet wary of the state of 'being related' and particularly of being related 'for good', not to mention forever – since they fear that such a state may bring burdens and cause strains they neither feel able nor are willing to bear, and so may severely limit the freedom they need – yes, your guess is right – to relate... (Bauman, 2003, viii)
A time of uncertainty regarding relationships
'People have always loved a love story. But for most of our past our ancesters didn't try to live in one' (Coontz, 2005, p.10)
'Love is becoming a blank that lovers must fill in themselves' (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 1995, p.5)
Existential tension between freedom and belonging playing out in romantic relationships.
Grasp old rules
Grasp new rules
Self-help industry preaches overwhelmingly hetero- and mono-normative 'old rules'
‘The purpose of The Rules is to make Mr. Right obsessed with having you as his by making yourself seem unattainable. In plain language, we’re talking about playing hard to get! Follow The Rules, and he will not just marry you, but feel crazy about you, forever!’ (Fein & Schneider, 1995)
The Rules Girls
The Game Boys
Kino (verb): to touch or be touched, generally with suggestive intent or the purpose of arousal, such as hair-stroking, hand-holding or hip-grabbing; precedes actual sexual contact.
Neg (noun): an ambiguous statement or seemingly accidental insult delivered to a beautiful woman a pickup artist has just met, with the intent of actively demonstrating to her (or to her friends) a lack of interest in her.
Peacock (verb): to dress in loud clothing or with flashy accoutrements in order to get attention from women.
Sarge (verb): to pick up women, or to go out to try and meet women.
Target (noun): the woman in the group who the pickup artist desires and is running game on
Not working very well - cheating, breakup
Rooted in gender inequality
Treats others as possessions / belonging
The idea of 'the one' – part of craving culture (consumerism)
Problems: polynormativity
Old rules easily come back in
Heteronormativity remains
Privileging of couple
Love/sex split
Rigid rules/contracts
Grasping new rules – creates craving – due to precarious position
Search for poly grail - lack of self/other care
Further exclusions
Problems: mononormativity
open relationships
Challenging heteronormative power dynamics
Autonomy & communication
Creativity of language
Opening up new affective possibilities
Explicit political motivations
Embracing uncertainty
Let’s imagine that I am holding an object made of gold. It is so precious and it is mine – I feel I must hold onto it. I grasp it, curling my fingers so as not to drop it, so that nobody can take it away from me. What happens after a while? Not only do my hand and arm get cramp but I cannot use my hand for anything else. When you grip something, you create tension and limit yourself.
Dropping the golden object is not the solution. Non-attachment means learning to relax to uncurl the fingers and gently open the hand. When my hand is wide open and there is no tension, the precious object can rest lightly on my palm. I can still value the object and take care of it; I can put it down and pick it up; I can use my hand for doing something else. (Batchelor, 2001, p. 96)
Other ways of conceptualising relationships (beyond monogamy/nonmonogamy binary)
Multiplicities of non/monogamies
Klesse (2008): multiple ways of understanding and doing non-monogamy
Creative research reveals diversities of experience
Multiplicities of non/monogamies
Multiple continua
Emotional closeness
One close intimate relationship. No close relationships outside this.
Multiple close relationships.
No sexual/physical contact outside the relationship.
Multiple sexual encounters.
Multiple loves rather than multiple lovers
Not 'anything goes: Ethics of relationships. 'While the nomad knows, deeply and profoundly, that she can go anywhere...she does not have to go everywhere' (Heckert, 2010, p.260)
Freedom from contract
Relationship anarchy/polytical movement
Barker, M. (2012). Rewriting the rules: An integrative guide to love, sex and relationships. London: Routledge.
Barker, M. & Langdridge, D. (2010). Whatever happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory. Sexualities, 13 (6), 748-772.
Barker, M. (2011). Monogamies and non-monogamies: A response to: 'the challenge of monogamy: Bringing it out of the closet and into the treatment room' by Marianne Brandon. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 26 (3), 281-287.
Barker, M. & Langdridge, D. (Eds.) (2010). Understanding non-monogamies. New York: Routledge.
Barker, M. (forthcoming, 2013). Mindful Counselling & Psychotherapy: Practising Mindfully Across Approaches and Issues. London: Sage.
Beyond monogamy / nonmonogamy
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