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Author Topic: Group work and friendship/intimate relationship  (Read 2495 times)
Jenett
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Religion: Priestess in initiatory religious witchcraft tradition
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« Reply #3: March 07, 2009, 10:25:34 pm »

Many people start a coven/circle/other spiritual/religious group with their friends or partners, some people become friends or lovers through a spiritual/religious group, but the relationship between the friends or partners could be different than the relationship between their roles in the group...

There's several different pieces here, I think. My current covenmate is someone I've known for over 7 years now. She's a dear friend, one of my closest. And yes, we want to add additional people to the group, and we've done a lot of thinking about this, because trust me, saying "Wait, I know you too well! We can't do this!" is totally unappealing.

 There's a couple of things we've chosen to do.

1) We're pretty clear ourselves about 'our social time' vs. 'group work time' vs 'ritual time'.
The latter two start with some general chat about what's going on in our lives - but it's not the focus, and it's not unduly intimate (or, if there were other people around, we'd just avoid those bits - or do them before anyone else got there, or whatever.)

2) We're really clear that we don't expect a new potential member to be our good friend right away.
There's two reasons for this: deep friendships take time - but more importantly, a new member of our group is, in almost all cases, also going to be a student - and it's hard to be someone's teacher *and* nurture a new friendship at the same time. So our focus is on building the mentor/student relationship - and over the course of their dedicant year, building the foundation for a friendship as part of that work (assuming everything goes well.)

3) I think that existing relationships within a group have to pay extra careful attention to relationships with others.
I think it's really important in a close group work setting that partners spend time independently with different people in the group - go out for coffee, go to something that's a specific shared interest not shared by others in the group, whatever - often enough to build independent relationships.

There are group size considerations here - my goal with my coven is to have some significant one-on-one time (a couple of hours) with everyone else in the group every 1-2 months. There's only so many nights that're going to be possible for that, once you add in seeing other friends, the herb class I'm taking, and the downtime I need for my own sanity. But in a group of 5-8, it's a whole lot more feasible than in a group of 10, or 15.

Larger groups, of course - say, 15+ - have fewer of these issues, because even if there are close friends or romantic partners in the group, the closer relationships tend to be less of an issue for the dynamics - either the pair (or whatever) socialises together outside the group, or they spread out more, and both seem to work as long as the people involved are thoughtful about it.

But in the case like Waldfrau describes - we are committed to doing our best to avoid that - for example, if R is my student, L will still set up time with R without me at some points - so they can talk independently, as well as the shared group time we'd have in rituals, etc. I also think it's really important for L and I to have regular time together (and for group leaders to have time together without students - both to deepen their own work, and to talk about teaching-related issues.)

It's imperfect, and it takes some time (you're not going to start seeing real connections happening until about 6 months in, even with this kind of attention, probably), but it's worked in other settings we've both been in, and we think it's a good balance to aim for.

4) There are some real potential issues for power problems or favoritism issues.
It's really tempting to let the person you know will do a competent job just do it - it's often quicker and easier and simpler than training someone new in. Or, if it's someone's partner - will you have difficulties at home because of saying "Hey, do this differently" in the group work?

My coven's done a couple of things we hope will make this easier to deal with - first, we've got a clear idea of what jobs someone can actually take on at different points (that are linked to the degree system, their own skills, and the general places they should be looking at focusing on at that point in their commitments/training.) [1]

But we're also trying to be really clear - with ourselves, and as we have conversations with potential members - that we *do* have a heirarchy (and I'm at the top, and my covenmate is just fine with this and prefers it that way) and that part of that heirarchy is trusting me to be reasonably sensible about managing workload (in all sorts of ways.) Part of *my* job in that is making sure I have sanity checks from other people outside the group (as well as inside it: one of the reason L and I work together so well is that she's great on calling me on stuff I'm glossing over.)

Am I going to hand L some tasks? Yes. But as we hopefully develop students, and they stick around, and we grow, we'll both start handing over things gradually over time. And as that happens, I'm really committed to telling people what outcome we need ("By 2pm, the altar needs to be set up like this...") and then letting them do it in the way that makes sense to them.

[1] One thing I've thought about a lot is that I - like many people - have tended to take on additional work as a way to connect with others - and sometimes to duck my own internal work. So one reason we've got some careful structure in what we'll hand over as tasks when is that we want to make sure someone's not using "Let me be helpful!" as a cover for avoiding dealing with something else.

You want to show up and help move furniture before ritual? Cool. But I'm not going to ask someone who's a Dedicant to host ritual, or to take on a task that would require staying late, or missing post-ritual discussion, because they need to be able to have time to process the ritual, ask questions, or head home if they need to think.


This is part of why I've developed my theory of haptocracy (hapto is one of the Greek verbs for 'work') - the theory that the people who are doing the greatest work to do something get the most say in it. So, for example, my covenmate and good friend is doing a lot of work in the group, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. She will therefore get a lot of say in how that work gets done.

If, as we add new people, they eventually take over some parts of what both of us are doing now, then *they* will get a say in how that's done. (We're careful about how this is structured in relationship to degree/training in specific skills/etc. But that way, it's not "Oh, L is my best friend, she does that.", but rather "You'd like to do things A, B, and C? Great! Here's some stuff you need to know about that. Ok. Here's what I need when. Come ask questions when you need to."

How do you think does this affect the group work?

How could it affect other people in the group?

Would you wish for some sort of formality and professional distance in group work? For separation of 'friendship/partnership meeting' and 'group work meeting'?

What's your experience with this issue?

***

I've recently left a group of two people who have been working together for a long time and have a very deep friendship. I felt not able to integrate into the group and would like to have a more formal and professional group setting. Some things just went too personal too quickly for my taste (I admit that part of it was my own fault because I tried to integrate too hard into the group) and now I'm wondering if more professional distance in the group work would bring more respect to everyone, make it less likely for personal problems to destruct the group work and also easier for seekers to integrate into a new group. But maybe I'm just dreaming of pink clouds here.  Huh
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