I've gotten really sick of having boring, conventional, unfulfilling relationships lately, so I've been putting a lot of thought into what makes them crappy, and how that might be changed. I made a list of things that are common relationship factors, beliefs and behaviors, which I think obstruct our favorable experience of them. The general list are things that apply in all relationships, and then I've made lists of stereotypes for specific relationships, too--romantic, friendships, family and work. I'm not suggesting here that all of us buy all of these stereotypes and beliefs, but they all seem pretty common to me.
This post focuses on the problems, and the next one will focus on some possible solutions.
Please feel free to comment with your own observations--additional problems, disagreements with anything I've written, etc. And if you can think of your own solutions to these problems, post them and I'll work them in to the next post! Especially solutions which you've already successfully implemented in your life.
- belief that we can't choose what we feel, and that we can't deal with unpleasant emotions without someone else's help leads to the belief that we are responsible for someone else's emotion if something we did lead to them feeling that way.
- addiction to what the other provides, whether it be attention, physical pleasure, emotional gratification and understanding, a listening ear, advice, etc.
- Addiction leads to manipulation of the other person so that they feel obligated to give you what you want. Such as, making them feel like you need it and they are the only one who can provide it. This can lead to some guilt on your part, like you owe them gratification of their own desire in return. Thus both parties end up feeling obligated to provide one another with a service. Thus losing freedom to not do those things, or to do other things at the time and place now allotted for mutual addiction-satiation.
- Fear that the other won't like us if we don't do what they want. This basically comes down to addiction as well. If they don't like us, they won't give us what we want.
None of these things are bad to do on occasion, but when they become mandatory obligations, we get ourselves into a trap. These things seem positive, and are when they come from the selfless, sincere heart. When one gives them out of true love, expecting nothing in return. But we don't truly do that very often. It takes a lot of work to be able to experience true, selfless love, and we aren't shown how to do that work, or what true love really is, in this culture. We might try to do these things out of sincere love at first, and then later do them because we decided to previously, and thereby not take the time to search the soul to find out what action--or non action--is most appropriate this time, for the personal growth of all parties involved. This is a particular danger in something like a marriage, in which there's a formal contract binding the partners. Maybe it's possible to be relatively free within restriction, but the formal contract and all of its cultural expectations make that psychologically more difficult.marriage
- There are certain culturally sanctioned expectations, restrictions and obligations that we link to relationships. These are the "acceptable" ways to have our addiction to interpersonal interaction satiated. But they take away our freedom, and the possibility for experience of true love, as much as any other addiction. The following lists are culturally sanctioned expectations for various types of relationships. Many of our traps come from the simple act of believing and following these social standards blindly, without being open to evidence that other ways might be more beneficial and more freeing.
- have sex at least twice a week; the younger the couple is, the more often.
- share property and finances
- spend time in "quality" conversation
- listen to each others' woes and emotional issues
- not express sexual interest in anyone else
- compromise a certain amount to keep each other satisfied with the level of satiation of addiction that they are receiving
- hold the other to be the most important person in one's life
- conduct oneself as if one is the most important person in the other's life, and one is responsible for the other's peace of mind
- have kids
- get angry if obligations aren't met by the other
- not be interested in marrying if the other doesn't show potential to meet obligations
- always be there for one another
- give one another gifts that are especially thoughtful
- remember anniversaries and other special dates, and consider them important
- there are different expectations for women and men...\
- one is expected to get married by the time one is 30
- treat one another as if most important people in each other's lives
- guy is expected to be dominant--treats girl as if special and is always thoughtful of how she's fragile, complements her appearance, pays for her dinner, movie tickets etc.
- girl expects guy to treat her as if special and fragile; if he doesn't, is upset and considers him not thoughtful enough, or questions her own looks and worth.
- sex, after an acceptable time period
- spend time with one another
- validate the other's thoughts and emotional state
- be there for the other person (when one might need time alone, or with another friend, instead)
- remember birthdays
- give each other thoughtful gifts
- hierarchy: supervisors tell employees what to do--employee must listen (even though often employee, after a certain amount of experience, knows how to do the job better than the supervisor)
- people higher up in authority are considered more important, and paid better. (even though every employee's job is equally needed to keep a company running.)
- higher ups are expected to be treated with a certain amount of respect, not with the same familiarity with which one can relate to someone of the same station as oneself.
- respect entails things such as treating higher-up as if they "know" better about many things
- the lower in the hierarchy, the more expendable
- apparently less "skill" in the jobs of those lower in authority
- less skilled workers have less apparent psychological freedom to be themselves than those who are higher
- opinions of lower workers are considered less valid and important, often not at all, even when it comes to their own work
- work supposed to be most important and self-defining aspect of life
- supposed to put work before personal growth, learning and relationships
- making money more important that personal freedom, health, relationships, learning, etc.
- following rules to the letter more important than putting heart into work
- certain jobs considered more important, conventional, giving one higher societal status than other jobs
- there's a finite set of conventional careers that one can consider
- certain jobs apparently won't make one any money