I recently had the weirdest encounter with someone very special and of course it didn’t pan out for whatever reasons. Coincidentally, a couple of friends were having some relationship issues too and in general it seems most couples fall apart in about five years. So I got curios. Why aren’t there more happy couples? Why don’t they last? What the hell are people looking for? I asked around, did some reading, wandered in the crooked crevices of my brain … and well … it’s quite funny how simple it all actually is.
Structure of a relationship
Safe to say we are all familiar with the fluttering sense of excitement when we bump into someone rare and special and our fantasies start to run free. But what exactly triggers those fantasies? Let’s leave the chemistry, mirror neurons and emotional connection aside and see if there’s something pragmatical people are searching for. Turns out the depth of a relationship depends on the mutual matching of the differences in personal statuses and the shared good will of the participants. There are many types of love. Good relationships strengthen you. Bad relationships break you. Choose wisely. And woe on thee whom ye can’t speak clearly or have unrealistic expectations.
Relationship = Communication/information-exchange/sharing.
– acquaintance (sharing of humor, information and work opportunities)
– friendship (+ sharing of dreams, experiences and wellbeing, focused on shared situations)
– love (+ sharing of mutual trust, time, attention and caring)
– partnership (+ sharing of mutual future, be it kids, mortgage or a long quest around the world)
– lover (same as friendship, mostly body focused)
– affair aka fling aka hookup (short love fantasy)
– playmates aka friends with benefits aka fuckbuddies (a bit of everything among consenting adults, just for fun, fantasy free, because some people like to wrestle and some people like to wrestle nude, requires accepting oneself and advanced levels in adulthood OR complete secrecy from other friends because social complications and personal identity conflicts, freedom can be scary once you discover your subconscious wishes and fetishes)
Status = Cultural framework. General goals and position in life. Usually something you don’t have enough. Something you miss, dream and have fantasies about and actively search for to make your future more giving and free. We are all pragmatists who want to be more able and willing, even if we don’t dare admit it because of ‘proper upbringing’ or lack of experience or perspective.
– money (material abilities like living space, toys, available time etc)
– power (social abilities like reputation, leadership, respect)
– mind (potential abilities like intelligence and information usage)
– body (physical abilities like health, fitness, voice, eyes, movement, smell etc)
– history (reliability abilities like previous experiences and value system)
– attitude (emotional abilities like humor and interests, point of view towards the world on the axis of physical-practical-self-others, compassion and negotiation skills, understanding of different cultural cliques, personality style etc)
Will = How invested you are to play with whom to get some excitement and joy.
– interesting (you don’t quite understand the game, but you’d like to know more)
– nice (you like the game and you want to play sometimes, but not for long, because you haven’t decided the threshold yet or have more imminent stuff to do)
– cute (you like to play very much, but you want even more because you can’t get it out of your mind, aka ‘obsession’ – the fantastical phase which is triggered by some bigger cultural framework (status) and which will resolve once some kind of certainty considering that framework has been established, basically a status check in limbo)
– dear (you’ve played enough, but you still want it, not because there’s a specific goal, but because you like the game and the players)
Good = in accordance, mutually coherent, thoroughly consistent
These kind of fluid definitions raise troubling conundrums for the mostly Judeo-Christian ‘traditionally prescriptive’ culture that can only handle binary dialectics. Some say ‘love discriminates’. Meaning that it’s such an overwhelming attentive condition it doesn’t leave room for others. Some say this kind of codependency is not healthy and the more people you have in the room the merrier it gets. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Fact is most people get so used with their partners over time they seek something new to make things interesting again. The question is how they choose to do it.
Love is acceptance.
Love means you accept the actions of your partner by default. You find within yourself enough similarity with their past and potential with their future to understand their motivations. You see their likes and desires, wishes and fears, failures and wins, and it’s all okay. Your status goals align. You are like them and you like them and you would like to spend some time with them. In some sense love is like ‘like squared’. As seen how English speakers tend to use the words interchangeably. (Unlike Estonian speakers where the root word for love (‘arm’) means both ‘benevolent attachment’ and ‘scar tissue’ :|)
Of course there will be questions and pokes, smiles and frowns, but it’s always guided towards more understanding and support. This kind of familiarity and acceptance bounds minds together even when the sharing of novelty, information and other practicalities run out. And with matching attitude dynamics it never becomes boring or draining. Instead it helps the partners grow and enjoy life to its fullest, because everything becomes a subject matter to expand your worlds with. So you could be more than the sum of your parts. Completely. Limitless. Free.
Some people like the thrill and ambiguity of slow exploration and the sense of self-sufficient independence it provides, but here’s the trick. There’s a reason why loners are statistically more depressed. Acceptance is not co-dependence. It’s a reinforcement of yourself. It amplifies your existence. A positive feedback loop that makes everything more meaningful and easier.
This means transparency and communication are extremely important. It doesn’t have to happen often and it’s never for the sake of ‘reporting’, but it has to happen in some form until clarity is achieved. You get what you give. With mutual understanding comes stability and trust which makes everything easier in the long run. Especially in long distance relationships. That way you can model the other person in your mind even if they are not there at the moment. So you become the lead roles in a special private adventure story where you can anticipate and share the joys of your lives many times over.
Failure to do so fucks with the integrity of both parties and will ruin the partnership in the long run. People are really bad at filling in the gaps by themselves. They always get the wrong idea. Usually the contradictory signaling is interpreted in the worst possible manner. Misunderstandings weigh down the lightness of shared possibilities. Unresolved issues will bring forth self-censoring and eventually little quirky things become big irritating things. Until in the general atmosphere of dissatisfied mistrust it all breaks apart. So keep it clear from the beginning. Nobody likes maintenance work.
Some things are too big and frail to talk directly. Some people show instead of telling. Some just go with the flow and let the mutual moments become the foundation of further funtime, without ever defining themselves. Some hide even from themselves. Others use hints and symbolic language to address some themes in a roundabout way over a long period. After they’ve grown connected emotionally and established it’s safe enough. And it’s okay too. Fear is really not in the vocabulary of acceptance. But if issues arise (and they always eventually will) there really is no excuse for holding back. Just the act of coming forth is enough to move on. Be it forgiveness or support or a respectful separation. Otherwise it puts the other party into a bind. It’s a real bummer if you see the other person suffering and can’t help. Or if five years into investment you find out the other person wanted something else from the very beginning. People change anyway, so why waste yourself. Better make yourselves clear from the very beginning. Even if you don’t know how exactly. This too is okay. It’s bound to be a bit rough sometimes, but that’s half the fun of it. All exploration is. (If you want to make it smoother, there are books about it. Read them. They don’t exactly teach mindful discussion and clear thinking in schools, but it will come handy in other areas aswell.)
Not communicating means you don’t think about each other. In silence everything dies. Indifference tells more than words. You’re not interesting enough, not important enough, not indicating enough potential to be considered, to be cared, to be worthy of inclusion. It’s not about you. It’s them. They are not for you. Their mainboard is incompatible with your operating system. It never installs. Either because they don’t yet know better or have their minds set to some other dream. Yes, it hurts and it fucks with your integrity, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
So why is it so rare?
Love is rare because of proximity reasons and differences in personalities, chemistry and histories. People are simply too different to begin with. Wrong type, wrong taste, wrong attitude, wrong sense, wrong goals, the list goes on and on. So when they finally meet someone kindof suitable they take chances and go in under wrong premises because the initial fantasy seems sweet enough. Casual convenience. Then they get tired of roleplaying and fears take over. Fear of missing out, fear of losing what works, fear of finding fulfillment, fear of admitting yourself to yourself. So they either cut it cold or hang on and start to compromise.
In about five years the novelties become routines. Once shared interests have evolved their separate paths and the underlying personality differences finally kick out. Instead of confirming decisions in self-speak ‘that this is exactly what I wanted and it’s all awesome’ they get infected with Culture. So instead of turning those routines into mindful rituals they start asking themselves about their own future. What’s next? Where is it going? Why am I doing this? Who do I want to be I in the next five years? Since they didn’t invest openly and completely in the beginning they suddenly find themselves at an impasse. After all, there are other options. Especially if not stuck with kids and mortgages. So they end it and move on.
Personally, I blame the endless stream of instant success stories and partly projected perfection from the social media. It makes everything superficial and devalues time. Seems like people can’t concentrate on the here and now any more. Instead of being in the moment and turning those shared moments into sweet memories they want something else. Be on call, be in the know, be in demand, be affirmed, be verified, be important, be more, be someone else somewhere else.
Friends and lovers. Is there a difference?
Not really. But you don’t sleep with friends!? Ah, but maybe you should …
A lot of people call their acquaintances friends, because they have some kind of shared history, but is it based on happenstance coincidences or deep connection? Is it just fun and games or is it something mutually revealing? Do you actually trust them? Do they get you? Can you count on them? Now you know the amount of friends you have.
It’s very hard for former partners to remain friends. Atleast in the beginning. Friendships are based on similar personalities, common interests and shared trust. Partnerships are based on matching personalities, emotional ideals and shared future. Once the future ends, there’s nothing left to share but broken ideals. Most people have issues with that. It’s easier to look forward than back. Unless you have done everything openly and in good will. Then it becomes a sliding scale. The people you have loved will always be a part of your story. And that story goes on.
Have fun :)