Adult Relating: a Cookbook (part 1)

[Note: this is taking a long time, so I am trying to post it in parts]

On Monday, the 15th of February, we held a Cookbook about Adult Relating. These are are my notes from the event, idiosyncratic, personal, but now full my own opinions.
Actually, my own opinions are often missing, because I take notes when other people are talking, not when I am taking myself.
All in all: the best way to know what it is about, is participating. It is a group process.

Here you can find more about what is the Cookbook.

This topic has been on my mind for a while. The Cookbook started as an (open) Relationship Cookbook, years ago, when we were looking for models, tools, techniques.
In the last few years, I started realizing more and more that, well, it’s complicated.
I started wondering what part of what I used to consider grown up relating was actually a childish fantasy. I still don’t know.
Given the tone of the conversation, many of us are still wondering.

Please note: if you want to join next events, please follow the Cookbook on Facebook[I]join the group, and/or sign up for the newsletter (that at the moment is non-existent, sorry). I am considering starting to use eventbrite too, since Facebook is not being very helpful in reminding people about the start of the event.

This was the introduction on the event page:

What is an adult relationship? What is adult relating? Is it the same thing? How does it work? Do we have any idea?

In the last few months, I’ve been saying that I am interested in
ethical consensual committed adult relationships
something that mostly shows that I am bad at marketing/finding cool, snappy names.

But I have been recently told that it is an immature ideal, that adult relationships mean accepting that the other person(s) will not care about you (unless asked, and even then), will not treat you the way they want to be treated, won’t be loyal, trustworthy, honest, be there for you when you need them, and keep their word.
Adulting is accepting that relationships are like that.

So I guess I really have no idea.
It is a start.

Let’s meet and share.We will of course find answers for all of this, and more, and solve all problems of humanity.
(I may be overselling this)
This time, I really, really promise I will not preach anyone.

Of course it was oversold: we mostly shared our doubts and confusion.
It was very tender and gentle.
I loved it, but it is very hard to share about it. (I have been stuck for weeks)

I will do my best.

A note about the preaching

Someone felt the need to reach out to tell me that, if I need help with not preaching, I could have someone facilitate with me.
While I am always happy to co-facilitate, the part about not preaching a bit of a joke.
Yes, I have ideas. Yes, sometime I have things to share that I think can help others.
But if I want to tell people what I know, I will either write it, offer a workshop, or give a speech.
The whole point of the Cookbook is that we share with each other, and sometimes not knowing is a huge gift we can offer.

What we talked about

If you have never been to a Cookbook: we propose the topics during the event, then, after some warming up, we present them, and we vote to decide together which ones to actually cover. I would generally want to discuss them all, but we tend to have time for three to four topics.

The topics ended up being:

As a warm up, we started with
As an intro round: What is adult for me, why are we here?
Something I discovered, or learned, or changed my mind about, about adult relating during the last year.

The most voted proposed topics where:
How to figure out when we’re not being truthful to ourselves, projecting, hiding ourselves, or other accidental inauthenticities?
What does commitment mean?
(Romantic) relationships as a therapeutic process

In general

It is hard to share the feeling of the whole group: the intro round helped, but it is some sort of felt sense.
The way I perceived it, general attitude was along the lines of “we are adults in paper, we do a lot of adult things, and we are not sure we know how do/have an adult relationship, or even what that is”.
Many of us stated “I have nothing clear to say, I guess I will mostly listen”. It was beautiful when many of the same people ended up talking, sharing, realizing they had something to say, to share.
It is something I appreciate again and again in these events: we often need to hear other people to realize what we actually think, that we either agree, disagree, or partially agree.
And again: attending helps. When reading this, you can end up thinking “oh, this makes sense” or “this triggers me” or anything in between, but you cannot raise your hand and share it to the group [I]feel welcome to share it with me, or on the FB Group of course, you cannot start a dialogue, a conversation.
Again and again: something I love about the Cookbook is that we can be confused together, and that already helps. Usually, one of the following happens:

  • we realize it is complicated, but we are not alone, it is not a personal failure, I am not personally broken (or, if I am, it is a common issue). Humans are complicated, being one does not make it any easier
  • we discover something from others that we can use, and that could help (we will know only after a while)
  • we end up realizing we DO know more than we thought, and we end up having some clarity to share. It feels good, trust me on this.
    Often all of the above, and something else that is different.

We touched commitment. Again. We had a whole Cookbook on it, and we will have more. It is not like we solved it.
I sometime wonder if I should ask not to cover what has already been touched recently, let’s say in the last 2-3 months, but I end up realizing that the people are different, and if the group wants to talk about a topic, it is good to go for it.
After all, having had an in depth conversation about it recently allows me to offer some clarity, at times.
And the people joining are mostly different every time. Or feel that the topic needs to be explored some more.
After all, I don’t expect we’re getting to the bottom of this “how to live life”. It’s done. Next problem, please.

Open questions we proposed included:

  • what happens after the in-love phase? Not after the first 6 months of crazy hormones, but after 2-3 years when things really settle?
  • how do we relate to each other when going through tough times?
  • how to respect a partner’s right to do something stupid? Should we?
  • “have I been naive?” about relationships?
  • non-monogamy and kids. This topic will be a complete Cookbook sometime
  • commitment, relationships, community: how to be context aware, how to keep in mind how we affect others
  • “I used to know what I was supposed to do in an adult relationship, it didn’t work, I’ve been searching since then”
  • adapting too much vs. not having enough compassion
  • how do balance our freedom? How much we should say no to something in favor of a project in the future?

Now, these were from the quick introductions. Food for thought.
Consider that some of the people present were married planning children, some emerged from relationships that lasted almost a decade, and some have not been in a committed relationship in ages but are doing everything else right and grown up in their lives. And other possibilities in-between.

[as noted above, I am going to split the content on the discussion in more than one post. I will update the list here]


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