The efforts in creating a safe space at Penguicon all have one characteristic – they’re about making the unconscious deliberate.
That is also the feature that I appreciate most in relationship advice, whether it be general advice (but for poly folks), relationship anarchy, or navigating relationships that are not on the relationship ladder.
Unlike the “conventional wisdom”, all of these share the characteristic of not being the default, of questioning the default, and really evaluating it if it works for you and whatever kind of relationship(s) you’re in.
That’s an important distinction there: I think these sources of relationship advice are excellent, whether you’re in the most experimental non-traditional relationship structure EVAH or if you have 2.5 kids, a spouse, and a literal white picket fence.
Because where you and your significant other(s) are going to trip up are with your assumptions.
With your defaults.
For your relationships to be successful1, the folks in them don’t have to be on the same sheet of music – but you do have to be aware of the tune everyone else is playing… and if you’re playing the same song, or something completely different.
This is not easy. It’s a lot of work to really examine the assumptions you have. I still get blindsided by my own sometimes.
But at the same time, it doesn’t have to be stressful. If we strive to discuss our feelings, our thoughts, our defaults, and our assumptions without assigning value judgements2, then we can actually work with them… even when we disagree.
So it’s important to question our defaults and our assumptions, both on our own and with those that we’re in relationships with.
By questioning those defaults, by determining where our shared strengths and goals are, we can make our relationships better, stronger, and saner.
1 And I’d argue that’s regardless of how you define “successful”
2 I recommend NVC, or Non-Violent Communication as a good starting point for this.