So, everyone who has been in the plural/multiple/more-than-one communities for a while has probably spotted there are some systems who are…best avoided. Of course this is the same in any community; everyone from furries to model plane enthusiasts have their drama queens, manipulators, and abusers. Over the years I’ve noticed some specific red flags that come up again and again when it comes to the plural community, though, and I thought why not collate them into a handy-dandy list of Warning Signs that may help others avoid some of the pitfalls we or our friends have landed in.
Please remember these warning signs are observational; that is, I don’t claim that they’re foolproof predictors of behavior, only commonalities that I’ve spotted over time. They’re also in my opinion best taken as cumulative. A system with a single warning sign might be perfectly cool, but if they showed all seven I would personally run screaming in the other direction. I just hope this list helps someone to dodge a bullet in their life.
1. They claim to be able to travel between systems. This is a red flag because what often comes next is claims they have traveled to your system, and now know what’s going on in it better than you do. Regardless of your belief about the possibility of system travel, be wary that this can be used as a manipulative tactic. Remember: always verify what someone is saying about your system internally! Don’t just take their word for it because they said they ‘visited’ you.
2. They change their name(s) often and without warning, present completely different system histories or identities in different spaces, or generally muddle up their identity so there’s a level of confusion about who they are. These tactics can be used to dodge any sort of collective responsibility for system member’s actions…or simply to vanish from one plural social space and pop up in another as “new” people without having to carry the baggage of their previous behavior.
3. They demand paradoxical loyalty; that is, they rapidly change fronters or system members while expecting their friends/partners to both respect their individuality and carry on their relationships as if nothing has changed. An example: Joe of the Joe & Tina System is replaced at front by Tina; now, Tina gets upset both if Joe’s friends are more distant with her or if they slip up and forget she doesn’t like the same food as Joe did. It is a demand that affection, friendship, etc. is perfectly transferable between individual system members - “you love one of us, you love all of us”. In essence, this is a specific plural variant of Geek Social Fallacy #4 (read all of these, guys, they’re endemic in the plural community).
4. They speak ponderously and mysteriously about their Extremely Powerful System Members. Note that this isn’t the same as simple having a system member who may seem to fall in the 'Extremely Powerful’ category - it’s an attitude of coy mystery about the Power Levelz of their system members, vague attributions of magical/godly powers that extend beyond their system, and a general sense that they think you should be gaping in awe at their headmate, the Grand Destroyer of Worlds. People who expect your awe generally don’t want to be your friends; they want to exert power over you.
5. Especially for systems with fictive members: they repeatedly and rapidly gain new headmates that always seem to match yours, either in a way that’s almost one-upmanship (“Superman is in your system? Well, guess what, now the ENTIRE JUSTICE LEAGUE is in ours!”) or in a way that demands the attention of your system (“hey Superman, we just had Wonder Woman arrive and she REALLY needs to talk to you, no it CAN’T wait or she might DIE”, or perhaps “hey Superman, we just had Batman arrive and guess what?? He’s in LOVE with you!”). Admittedly, 'matching’ fictives are relatively common among plural friends, but watch out if everyone starts to match, or if you notice that one-upmanship or demands for attention. These are ways to shift your focus back onto them at all costs.
6. They are obsessed with (generally romantic) relationships; they want constant intimacy, want everybody to be 'matched up’ with partner(s), and generally push for an ostentatious display of commitment–everything from marriage to having children together to swearing an eternal soul pledge–at the first signs of romantic or queerplatonic chemistry. Friendship is minimized and dismissed as less important, and “taking it slow” might as well be a slap in their face - they want Love and they want it now.
7. If you’ve both suffered, they’ve always suffered worse than you, and whenever you bring up your pain they pull out a trump card. If you were neglected, they were horribly abused; if you once broke your arm in a fall, they once had both their legs broken by thugs; if your partner left you, theirs set off an atom bomb in their system otherworld; if you split due to trauma, they polyfragmented into a million shards due to the worst trauma ever. And they never let you forget it.
That’s it so far. There were a few more I removed because they weren’t specific enough, and probably could be found on any list of 'avoid this person’ warning signs. Questions, comments and commiserations gratefully received.