What is a Relationship Cookbook?

(if you’re looking for a practical guide to what’s happening, check the joiner’s guide)

As described in the homepage, the current incarnation of a Relationship Cookbook is:

an embodied, semi-structured conversation about challenging topics; a somewhat different way to communicate in a group, with the help of non-verbal hand signals and time boxing, to allow us to gather and talk intelligently with each other and not at each other.
Facilitated with tools from 
unconferencesOpen Space Technology, Occupy assembly hand signals, and other systems.
Part workshop on how to communicate in a group AS a group, part conversation about the content.

It started trying to collect tips, tricks, techniques and anti-techniques (*) to make relationships, all sort of relationships (including, but not exclusively, non-monogamous relationships), fun, and functional.

The idea was to collect, and share, what are the issues, and what we found out that could work. Or that, against all expectation, doesn’t work, because in the non-monogamous communities I was part of, we would spend
a) a huge amount of time talking about relationships, looking for ways to make them work, and what wouldn’t work
but, at the same time
b) we had the impression lacked practical examples.

(*) known as anti-pattern in engineering, is something that is sure to fail. They are good to know, and I admit I collected a few in my, how to call them, prototypical relationship attempts…

“Everything will be perfect if only people talked to each other” is a great idea, but it lacked somewhat in practical ways of using it.

Because, Hollywood notwithstanding, relationships are a lot of work. Totally, immensely worth it: but hard work.
And sometime it helps sharing with other people struggling in the same way, or, even better, with people that found a way to make it easier, or nicer, or better for them.
And as with food and recipes: there is no single right way. There are many ways.
But there ARE some surefire ways to ruin a meal, and some ways are better than others.

The first time we tried it, in Bologna in 2012, we had some 20 people come to talk.
At the time, I was very surprised when it bombed completely.
(given what I know now about group dynamics, it am totally not surprised)
It got hijacked by people pushing their pet theories. It seemed impossible to keep things practical: we wanted to exchange recipes, the conversation devolved in one way rants and preaching, I got involved and got annoyed…

We managed to share some of the tools we already collected, but not that many. We didn’t really get any new insight

Since then, I’ve been tinkering with the format, collecting resources, finding what works and what doesn’t, and what works in some situations but not in others. I realized that, while humans have a superpower to work together and communicate, that superpower has many kryptonites and ways to fail, and it requires some support to shine.

In this moment in time (July 2019), every Relationship Cookbook needs the following:

  • a meta-topic
  • a focus on the conversation being practical and personal
  • timeboxed blocks of conversation