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Old 11-13-2013, 02:38 PM
hyperskeptic hyperskeptic is offline
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Okay, this may be a thought from way out in left field, but there seems to be something odd going on with the term, 'relationship' here.

It seems to me that people have "thingified" relationships, maybe as an accident of grammar: "She and I have a relationship," as though the relationship is some fragile thing that two people might bring into existence . . . and which might blink out of existence again at any time, after which there's just nothing at all.

In conventional terms, there are two, off-the-shelf varieties of relationship: romance and friendship, and each is carefully defined in terms of roles and expectations, particular degrees and kinds (and limits) of intimacy and commitment.

A life-long, committed, monogamous romantic relationship is widely supposed to be like the rarest and most precious of gems that two people might have. (I suppose they should keep in a safe-deposit box along with a copy of the deed to their house.)

Doesn't that idea seem just a little bizarre and, when you look closely, kind of offensive? What seems to get lost is that the parties to any given relationships are persons and that, while the ways in which they relate to one another - the scope of what they share and the boundaries they set - may change, sometimes quite drastically and abruptly, they remain two persons who connect to one another in their own way.

For me, part of the delight of becoming poly is the opportunity to examine all my expectations and habits of thought about relationships, and especially unbundle the two, off-the-shelf models of relationship and, above all, to de-thingify them.

It has been helpful to me to think of the possible ways of relating to another person as a wide field of possibilities - or, if you want to get all math geeky about it, an n-dimensional space of possibilities. Off-the-shelf conventional friendship and off-the-shelf conventional romance are tiny little corners of that space.

Any two people can negotiate their own ways of navigating those possibilities together . . . and may renegotiate and renegotiate as they go.

The point is that they do not have a relationship, but that they relate to one another. If one or another or both of them change the terms of the relationship, drastically and abruptly, they are still relating to one another, in a sense, if very differently.

Let me put it this way: When my girlfriend broke up with me, just over a year ago, I didn't see it as an end, as throwing away some thing we once had, leaving nothing.

No, there was still and will always be an opening between us, a connection, even if we are never physically intimate again, even if we see one another only occasionally. Whenever I think of her, it is always with affection.

Too long? Didn't read? Well, here's the upshot: Stop thinking of a relationship as a thing that may blink out of existence; stop pursuing any particular, off-the-shelf model of relationship. Instead, invest in relating to other people, and find with each of them your very own way of being open to one another.

EDIT:
I would add that two people may work out their own trajectory through the n-dimensional relation-space as well. How much misery has been occasioned by the assumption that a relationship, to become a thing worth having, must follow a single clear trajectory toward the tiny little corner labeled "romance"? And how many guys have gotten bent out of shape by finding themselves suddenly diverted over to that other tiny little corner, "the friend zone"? Much of that misery and being-bent-out-of-shape could be avoided by just accepting that two people can carve out their own particular place anywhere in that field of possibilities and take any path to get there . . . and it doesn't even have to be a straight line!

Last edited by hyperskeptic; 11-13-2013 at 04:56 PM.
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