joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Here's a surprisingly effective gaslighting tactic that I find in poly groups that is less likely to be appropriate in monogamous pairings:

First, either find people who want desperately to belong to *a* group or your group specifically, or build a group of people who learn to place belonging to that group as an important part of their identity or goals (i.e. make the relationship more important than the people in it; protect "the marriage" or "the family" at all costs, etc.).

Next, whenever someone does something that you don't like, get the rest of the group to side with you against the other person.

Finally, make the act of disagreement a hinge issue that can affect the other person's inclusion into the group, whether it is or isn't.

This places an additional burden on the person as an "outsider", as someone who could lose, not just this argument or this concession, but their place in the group entirely. Simply by having a disagreement, their position as a member of the group becomes threatened. It's not enough that they have a disagreement with someone they love or that the outcome of the disagreement may mean that they lose something (either the thing they're disagreeing about or the partner in the event of a breakup), but that the very nature of having that disagreement means they *have* lost something - belongingness.

When the importance of belonging to the group is high enough, individuals will backpedal on the issue they disagree about. They will either make a concession for the "greater good" or they will "decide" that the issue isn't all that important anyway. It becomes more important to maintain group cohesion than it does to protect and maintain one's individuality.

Once one's own individuality is less important than the group, one's own needs and rights are less important. This is how you get people to subsume their identities in a relationship. This is how you can coerce a poly person into an abusive relationship even with "multiple sets of eyes" watching.

Riley: I'd like to start dating someone new.

Quinn: The group doesn't agree. Why would you hurt all of us like that? Don't you care about us? Doesn't all our history and our commitments mean anything to you?

Riley: I'm sorry, I won't date anyone new. It wasn't that big of a deal anyway, just an idea I was tossing around.


Jordan: So, things with Sam have been going pretty well lately. I think we could be taking things to the next level.

Alex: Wait a minute, what about us? Your time with us is already stretched thin. Can't you see how much this hurts Shannon? You made a promise to us to put us first. Between this and your school and your part-time job, you don't have enough time for everyone. Besides, what about safer sex? *We* don't feel comfortable with *you* taking on extra risk. That's not a choice that we would make for the group. You're endangering the people you care about. You need to break up with Sam right now.

Jordan: OK, you're right, I'm sorry, I didn't realize how much I was hurting you. I'll end things with Sam.
In both of these examples, the needs of the group were more important than the needs of the individual, and the otherwise good and wonderful quality of compassion within the individual was exploited to get them to give up something of themselves in favor of maintaining the group. Jordan's relationship with Sam wasn't anything done TO the group, but Jordan was convinced that the relationship was a direct, active action to harm the group. Riley hadn't even done anything yet but was convinced that what they wanted to do wasn't really what they wanted to do because Quinn re-framed the argument to be about what Riley once said they wanted before circumstances or feelings had changed (or to rephrase what Riley had once said to make it seem like Riley had said those things).

Both of these examples are things that I either personally witnessed (as in, I saw the arguments in question, I'm not just "believing" someone's personal retelling of a story that I wasn't there for) as an outside observer or was subjected to myself. Both of these examples represent more than one case. Both of these examples flew under my own radar for a while because I thought I knew what abuse would look like based on my own experience with abuse but I didn't. It took extreme scenarios before I could finally connect dots and see that coercion exists in the very foundations of certain poly community "principles" and "values" - namely those fear-based principles that got grandfathered into the poly community by people still carrying around their Monogamous Mindset.

I am *still* a proponent of family-based polyamory. I still greatly prefer the network style of poly that includes close friendships with metamours and a balance of group cohesion with independence. But I rail against couple privilege and polyfi and unicorn hunting because those systems are set up from the beginning to undermine that balance. It is absolutely possible to be part of a close-knit poly group and to compensate for the pressures of the group on the individual. But the key here is that you have to *compensate* for them because they are built into the foundations, between our cultural privileges and our own human tendencies towards tribalism, these are things we have to guard against.

But in poly forums, I see too much protection for these systems and not enough safeguards. This is how abuse runs rampant in our communities.


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