FA 052 Commitment versus Autonomy

Feral  Attraction
Episode 052 - Commitment vs Autonomy 01/04

Introduction topic

  • "Self-Control Is Just Empathy With Your Future Self”

    • https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/12/self-control-is-just-empathy-with-a-future-you/509726/?utm_source=feed

    • Press your right index finger to the top of your right ear, where it meets your head. Now move up an inch and back an inch. You’re now pointing at your right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ). This area has long been linked to empathy and selflessness. But Soutschek, by using magnetic fields to briefly shut down the rTPJ, has shown that it’s also involved in self-control.

    • Empathy depends on your ability to overcome your own perspective, appreciate someone else’s, and step into their shoes. Self-control is essentially the same skill, except that those other shoes belong to your future self—a removed and hypothetical entity who might as well be a different person. So think of self-control as a kind of temporal selflessness. It’s Present You taking a hit to help out Future You.

    • Impulsivity and selfishness are just two halves of the same coin, as are their opposites restraint and empathy. Perhaps this is why people who show dark traits like psychopathy and sadism score low on empathy but high on impulsivity. Perhaps it’s why impulsivity correlates with slips among recovering addicts, while empathy correlates with longer bouts of abstinence. These qualities represent our successes and failures at escaping our own egocentric bubbles, and understanding the lives of others—even when those others wear our own older faces.


What is commitment?

  • Often has a different meaning in the context of closed monogamous and open/non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships

    • What is Commitment? A polyamorous perspective on love, sex, and relationships    By Cascade Spring Cook

      • http://aphroweb.net/stories/commitment.htm

    • In monogamy, commitment is often wrapped up with the idea of sexual and emotional exclusivity, as well as a commitment to be together for the rest of their lives

    • In open and polyamorous relationships, it is possible to be committed without being sexually exclusive, without being emotionally exclusive, or both

      • Commitment may be to the emotional wellbeing, safety, and happiness of a partner or partners

      • Commitment can be towards a document that specifically lays out the terms of the relationship

        • More common in polyamorous and D/s relationships

      • There still may be a component of committing to be together for the rest of the partners’ lives, but this is less common in non-traditional relationships

        • This component may be present for one or multiple primary partnerships, for example, but not secondary mates; secondary mates may be committed in a different, less intense way

    • Higher levels of commitment are associated with cohabitation and financial interdependence

    • In short-term or age difference relationships, the commitment may be to mutual emotional, sexual, and/or spiritual growth, rather than to each other

      • Following Dan Savage’s campsite rule, aka leaving each other in better condition than you found each other

    • Commitment also involves a commitment to “weather the storm”

      • “In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad”

      • Commitment to work past problems and conflicts and not give up when things get tough or hard work or compromise is involved

        • Commitment to forgive mistakes compassionately and to empathize with your partner

    • Escalating levels of commitment tends to be associated with greater levels of trust and intimacy

      • Maintaining trust and intimacy while lowering commitment levels in certain ways is often a struggle for closed relationships that are in the process of opening up

      • This can become pathological

        • In the extreme, commitment can become co-dependency

What is autonomy?

  • Autonomy is the ability to act as a sole individual, without needing to consult the opinions of others; it is freedom from control and influence

    • It often is connotated with acting in your own best interest

  • When people enter into relationships, some degree of autonomy is often lost, particularly once relationships become committed

    • This may not be the case for certain relationship styles, such as entirely open polyamorous relationships and relationships involving relationship anarchists

  • Autonomy may mean different things to different people

    • Ask what it means for them

      • What aspects are important?

        • Privacy vs. Secrecy

        • Initiative

          • Sexual Initiative

          • Relationship Initiative

        • Financial self-determination

        • Relationship self-determination

How to balance commitment and autonomy in your relationship(s)

  • Be honest to yourself about your own needs and wants

    • It’s very easy to lie to yourself and tell yourself you want a committed relationship, because society tells you that is what you should want

    • It’s also easy to become afraid of commitment, particularly when opportunities for casual sex and relationships abound (fur cons!)

      • It can sometimes be difficult to remember the value of a committed partner until you are home alone in bed at night, sick in the hospital, suddenly unemployed, etc.

  • Communicate your needs for commitment and autonomy to your partner, and negotiate and compromise where possible

    • See if your partner will ask you to do things rather than telling you, as this can avoid resentment and provides you agency to say no

  • Autonomy levels need not necessarily be correlated with commitment levels in certain circumstances

    • An increase in autonomy does not necessarily require a decrease in commitment; however, for this to be successful, trust in the relationship must be very high

  • Autonomy and commitment can be asymmetrical within a relationship

    • Refer to our Fairness vs. Equality episode

      • Trust levels and boundaries will vary, so autonomy and commitment levels can vary to match, so long as everyone is aware and consents to the relationship as it stands

  • Autonomy and commitment are fluid, and will vary with circumstances

    • Emotional connection

      • Commitment is easy and autonomy feels unimportant during NRE

    • Time constraints

      • Too much time might result in cabin fever, or being stircrazy, and need for autonomy may go up

      • Too little time can render commitment impossible

        • Know your emotional bandwidth

    • Geographic location

      • Long-distance relationships tend to have higher autonomy and lower commitment

    • Relationship style

      • D/s relationships tend towards extreme inequality in commitment and autonomy, although the relationships are highly committed in terms of strictness of protocol

  • Common problem areas

    • Degree of sexual openness

    • Number and type of symbolic actions kept sacred to the relationship   

      • Only we sleep in this bed

      • Only we go to this restaurant

      • Only we have anal or vaginal intercourse

      • Only we go bare with each other

      • Only we kiss

    • Pre-disclosure vs post-disclosure for sexual encounters with new partners

    • Compromising your commitment levels versus compromising your emotional boundaries

    • Spending money

    • Sleeping arrangements

      • Fur cons

    • Travel

      • Fur cons

    • Furry participation



  • I've got a bit of a perplexing one. I think it has a cause rooted in my past so here's some backstory. Growing up, I was straight as an arrow. Girls were all I wanted. Around the start of high school, I started to feel slightly differently. Due to the stigmas surrounding it, I suppressed these feelings and even resented them. Looking back, you could say I was somewhat homophobic. Well, fast-forward to college and, thanks to the support of friends, family, and the furry community, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was not straight. I knew I wasn't fully gay since I still was attracted to women, so I reasoned that I must just be bisexual. This was all well and good for a year until I finally got into my first gay relationship. After a couple weeks of it, we finally took it all the way and I just froze. We had kissed, cuddled, and even done oral before, but when it was time to put the pole in the hole, I simply couldn't do it. I excused myself from the situation and the relationship fell apart after this. The thing is, I was more than able to do the same with women, but men... it just doesn't work. Maybe it was due to scraps of my homophobic past popping up and triggering my brain to reject it? I've had this same thing happen now a few times and I've all but given up on gay physical relations, specifically anal. Now here comes the perplexing part. Up to this point, I'd just say that maybe I'm bi leaning towards women right? Well when it comes to romantic relationships, I find that I can get into much deeper, more meaningful ones with men than women! Most of my relationships with women have no problem on the physical level, but I just can't connect emotionally. This has caused me to end up accidentally being "an asshole who only used them for sex." Of course, if I told them that I just trying to test if anything has changed as far as developing an emotional relationship, that'd only make it worse, so now I've got a bit of a reputation. So I've almost given up on straight emotional relations. So this all puts me in a strange situation where I'm almost heterosexual and homoromantic. I'm not really sure what to do here. It's preventing me from building a lasting relationship because I can't fulfill the full spectrum of what a relationship needs. Any light you can shed or advice you can give would be great.


  • Next week’s topic: Puppy Love! (The Crush Episode)

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Metriko Oni

Metriko Oni is a former government environmental disaster mitigations expert with a focus on outreach, education, and policy writing. He now works with computers. He has been active in the fandom since 2013 and has been an advocate for transparent lines of communication. His interests include philosophy, media, futurism, and speculative fiction.