Lazy Luddite Log


Odd Notions

Tonight I will discuss some notions relating to the conduct of intimate personal relationships that I happen to find odd. Some will agree with me while others will disagree. What we consider peculiar is very much a product of ever-changing personal experience. As a child I considered the concept of sex rather peculiar. You know how you can utter a familiar word over and over till it seems nonsensical? Well I can still find the concept of sex to be a peculiar thing if I contemplate it with a particular mindset. Most of the time it is anything but odd.

We are introduced to concept after concept in life in a staggered progression. As one thing becomes normalized another comes along that challenges us. Queer identity? Okay. Polyamory? Sure. The more we are exposed to matter-of-fact instances of something the more we understand them as part of our human environment rather than as abstractions that exist only as descriptions that are beyond our ken.

Then there are the things that you have been exposed to all your life which continue to seem odd and it is to a few of those that I now turn. I want to stress that these odd notions transcend orientation and relationship model. I think they can be embraced or resisted by anyone. And I think discussing them can more effectively allow us to decide what we truly think of them...

Subsuming The Self For A Relationship

Nobody is an island. Everyone is co-dependent with many others. I need the person who sells me my iced coffees and the person who drives the bus taking me to work. Conversely they need me to help ensure demand for what they do. These may seem trivial but society is constructed on such connections. With that in mind it is nonsensical to suggest that I can ever be "a complete person" if your criteria was that I can survive as a hermit. But let us assume participation in society as a given and move onto the notion of needing a relationship status to be complete - this one is surprisingly common and rather concerning.

A relationship can bring joy and purpose and fulfilment but to tether sense-of-self utterly to having a relationship has got to limit self-development. I suppose if you had a relationship that you could be assured of (or the ability to always find more) then limiting self-development would be okay. Possibly I only say this because of having spent a lot of time between relationships. But I suspect that to be 'well-rounded' is beneficial whatever your circumstances (I also have a hunch that a developed sense-of-self is also an attractive characteristic).

Some may think I am arguing for the need to be a more self-centred or even self-serving person. I think it is a matter of degrees. The test is impact on your own life and that of others. I feel that we can be committed to the happiness of others while still serving our own happiness. I think these can be complimentary aims in life. And possibly if you are good to yourself you can be good to others too.

Friends - Lovers - Exes

The notion that friends and partners are wholly separate things has been odd to me for as long as I have both had the former and contemplated having the latter. Both good friends and good lovers have much in common - they can be companions in shared activities, allies in challenging times, confidents for your more private reflections. I and many of my friends know from personal experience that one can become the other (and vice-versa). And yet in much of society there is the dichotomy saying that the two are discrete, so much so that many would rather look for a lover from among strangers than among friends. I can only imagine this produces all sorts of frustration and difficulty. It also drives an industry of singles nights and speed dating so I suppose it is good for the economy. However all those romantic cul-de-sacs stranger-dating produces allows me to discuss another matter - whatever shall we do with exes?

I will admit that if every relationship conducted was with a stranger drawn from an anonymous crowd then the challenge of interacting with exes may never be faced (well assuming you never run into them at the shops). However life is rarely that modular. Chances are some of your friends will have become their friends. Will you ask them to choose? This happens and can produce schisms in friendship groups. My experience tends to be of groups in which it is accepted that friends can become lovers and that exes can still be friends. It can be difficult and takes more work to manage the necessary transition with appropriate distancing. But it can also be nice in the long-run. Why did you become interested in them anyway? Surely some of the things that attracted you also make someone a candidate for friendship. I suppose that depends on your own criteria for attraction. Possibly having partners who are cute but shallow is okay as long as you have dedicated friends to turn to for D&Ms once those partners become exes.

I would rather partners be more friend-like and if some friends also happen to be attractive then so be it. Nobody has to act on every attraction but what if you did? Well one way of managing this challenge would be to keep well away from anyone attractive except for those you can quickly negotiate a relationship with. Seems like a formula for a lot of awkwardness to me.

If it ends then it was never worth it

The ends of relationships can be excruciating experiences (I sometimes feel the same of the starts but that may just be me). Some relationships are conducted in such a way that feelings of resentment or mistrust make sense. In such cases I understand that the legacy of the ended relationship can then forever be tarnished. However there are only so many cases like this. In other cases the exes simply wanted different things or changed and drifted apart. In those instances I am sometimes surprised by the degree of negative feeling that persists over time towards past relationships. In many cases I have gotten worthwhile experiences that have enhanced my life. They exist as more than memory because they can also alter who you are, even for the better, getting back to that 'well-rounded' thing.

Here is my take on relationships that were "good while they lasted". Yes you have lost something in it ending and are poorer for it afterwards. But remember that before the relationship you were also poorer for its absence. Okay so you never knew what you were missing then but I refer you to the enhancing experiences you have now had. Possibly I am unusual in that I live in a fuzzy personal present that incorporates much of my memory and imagination and that allows me to be more philosophical than someone who more fully lives in the moment.

* * * * *

The odd notions I have touched on here are common in society and everything from movies to magazines promulgates them. If I am a product of my society why then do I find them odd, as I have done all my adult life? Well, the scenes I move in tend to look on them critically and allow everyone to freely choose the extent to which they accept or reject them. Even the most conventional among us still have our own independent personas and can therefore mix confidently with assorted friends and even count exes among them. Many surveys report that respondents say they trust family and friends far more than media and politicians to provide them with information. It should hardly be surprising then that it is my own human environment that impacts on me more than the more distant one of wider society.

There is another possibility - that while I see my own sets of friends and wider society I will miss the existence of all the many many other scenes others experience that I never will. It may well be that the closer you look the more you will find that the odd notions I describe here are odd for many others. Also if I think more honestly about that much-derided popular culture I will notice that it exhibits both trends and counter-trends (for instance there was rather a lot of cross-dating happening among the key characters in the long-running TV show Friends). Possibly we all do freely choose the extent to which we incorporate these notions into our lives. I hope so. But if you find yourself accepting the sense of all of them at once then I suggest you take a closer look at them and whether they do in fact make sense to you.

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  • I'm copying and pasting comments to this same post from LiveJournal (complete with messy formatting text). See below...

    From: taiba
    Date: April 10th, 2013 11:00 pm (local)
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    Some thoughts on your entry!

    I also don't understand the things that you don't understand. While I would be utterly devestated if my current relationship ended, I have enough friendships and hobbies that I wouldn't be "lost" without him. I'd feel like a huge part of my world was crumbling (and indeed, my entire vision of my future would need to be adjusted for this change), but I wouldn't I still see myself as separate from him and so wouldn't be crippled in the way you are talking about.

    I'm happy to report that I had four exes at my wedding (all the romantic relationships that lasted more than a few weeks), because we still friends. The short-term ones weren't there for other reasons, though I'm still on friendly terms (at a minimum) with them as well.

    I think all relationships (friendship or otherwise) are worth-while, even if they end, because they help you learn things about yourself, your world, and other people.
    (Reply) (Thread)

    From: originaluddite
    Date: April 14th, 2013 03:09 pm (local)
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    Those sort of events can be fun and even amusing as anecdotes. It can be challenging too. Relations with exes... with the partners of exes... with the exes of partners... with the partners of partners... all can take work. But then if we think back then interactions with anyone we are interested in were once incredibly difficult and once we have some relationship experience we get better at that.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

    From: hel_yoshi
    Date: April 27th, 2013 04:44 pm (local)
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    I agree with your sentiments regarding exs. It's always been a mystery to me how people who once loved each other and shared so much, could now think so badly of each other. However, I have recently learnt how difficult it can be to be friends with exs, and sometimes even find myself wishing the relationships had never happened so I wouldn't have to cope with having exs around. It's not because I thinking badly of them, but more the opposite. Knowing why relationships had to end doesn't take the sadness away, and trying to have a lesser form of relationship with a loved one can be extremely challenging. So this is an additional reason why some exs are not friends.
    (Reply) (Thread)

    From: originaluddite
    Date: April 28th, 2013 11:55 pm (local)
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    I agree that a continuing presence can be difficult. I find the reverse challenging too - a sudden and complete lack of contact can be galling. I suppose that I why I refer to some kind of "appropriate distancing" in the hope that there can be some kind of happy medium. How to find that given that every person is unique is something I cannot answer.

    As I told you in person I am helped by the notion that "good things scale" such that a good friend (of whatever kind) I only see occasionally is still a degree of good that I value having. What becomes difficult it a change in that degree. It takes time to adjust and find a new equilibrium.
    (Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

    By Blogger Daniel, At 09 May, 2017  

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