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April 6, 2010

Brainshower

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:47 pm

I locked myself out of Facebook and OkCupid for the week so that I could concentrate on getting some work done. I am getting some work done. But man, not having Facebook up in the background makes the Internet seem…kinda lonely.

I just found out that my mother is in more than fifty grand of credit card debt. This worries me on a number of levels. Not the least of all being, well, the very, very, very short version of the story is that she spent a lot of money she didn’t have because she believed that a man she met on the Internet was going to pay her bills for her. I believe this person is imaginary.

Unrelatedly, I think I have a date tomorrow with someone who I think is really neat. That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ll talk relationship theory until your ears bleed but, compared to a lot of people I hang out with, I’m pretty circumspect about the actual details of my love life. It occurs to me maybe this isn’t because I’m especially shy or decorous so much as that I’m afraid of jinxing things I’m excited about. ;P However, I can guarantee that this person is not imaginary.

We had an interesting conversation at the Poly MeetUp last night where people were drawing parallels between romantic and non-romantic relationships.

“For example, there’s these three guys who you drink with, and then these four guys you play roleplaying games with, and these five guys you commit crimes with…”

“Is that the natural progression there? Drinking, Gaming, Crime?”

One line of argument being that a more radical way to do romantic relationships would be to build them on more of a friend-style model. I think there’s a lot to be said for that. On the other hand, I’m sure we’ve all had platonic friendships that operate on a more romantic-relationship-style model – I have them with Whitney and Nievie, for example – and those friendships are really valuable to me. Arguably more valuable than my more friend-style romantic/sexual relationships. I suspect a more useful distinction here, rather than between platonic and romantic relationships, would be between contract and non-contract relationships…or committed and non-committed relationships.

The person who brought the question up seemed…stressed out about the fact that when, say, a serious couple breaks up, that’s really destabilizing to the rest of the community, probably because there were certain expectations of that couple that suddenly weren’t being met. His suggested solution seemed to be that if we didn’t have expectations of each other, this wouldn’t happen… But I don’t think that’s realistic in contemporary society. People have to deal, both as individuals and as relationship-units, with concrete logistical concerns about the outside world – and it’s nearly impossible to do that if you can’t have some expectations about what the other people in your life are going to do in the future. And, if you and another person or people have made certain commitments to each other, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being emotionally invested in those commitments – in fact, I think that might be necessary in order to keep them.

I think the crux of the problem here, though, might be in people having expectations of others that aren’t based on commitments those people ever actually made. If Person A and Person B explicitly made a commitment to spend their lives together and then one or both of them reneges on that contract, I think it’s fair for those people to be upset – it would be kind of fucked up if they weren’t. However, unless those two people had made another stay-together-forever commitment, qua unit to, say, a third person or to a community at large, it’s not really fair for other people who weren’t…signers on that contract, essentially…to feel/act personally injured when i.e. a couple breaks up. Of course, they often will – but I suspect this is because they believe there was some unstated contract between themselves and that couple, and that it’s now being dissolved without their input or consideration for their feelings.

Take, for example, children who get upset when their parents divorce. They’re not just sad because their parents’ expectations about marriage are being dashed. They’re hurt because the parents are, in a way, breaking the unstated commitment they had to their children to continue to be a unit.

Perhaps the issue isn’t that people shouldn’t have expectations of each other; the issue is that we need to be more conscientious about a) knowing what we expect from other people (self-honesty), b) expressing those expectations to them (communication), and c) only making commitments we can realistically keep and then keeping the commitments we make.

Low-expectation/low-reliability relationships suit some peoples’ personality types and lifestyles better; high-expectation/high-reliability relationships suit some peoples’ personalities and lifestyles better; and some (probably most) people want and need a variety of different levels and different types in their social universe. What’s unique about a radical relationship paradigm (whether that manifests as polyamory or whatever) is that it encourages us to communicate about expectations in ALL our relationships – including our relationships to groups of people, and the relationships between groups – not just relationships between individuals who are fucking. It also, unlike traditional monogamy, thereby allows us to have more sustainable low-expectation “go-with-the-flow” type relationships even with people we’re fucking.

As unromantic as it might seem to those of us who are seeking deep, empathic, apolitical communion with our loved ones, everyone interacts with everyone else, and with every other group of people, on the basis of some social contract. But radical relating gives us the tools and the power to tweak those contracts in much more detailed and nuanced ways so as to work better for the lives of all the actual people involved. The upshot here is that, without everyone spending a bunch of excess time and energy trying to keep up their commitments to some clunky ill-fitting contract, we can focus that extra energy on building meaningful communion. We can’t get rid of the framework entirely – because human brains, as well as societies, need frameworks to function. But if we’re clever, we can make the framework work for us instead of against us.

Anyway, that was a lot of inarticulate brainstorming that I’d love to clarify into something coherent digestible at some point… But, for the time being, I need to go get some work done – otherwise my Lock Myself Out of Facebook plan will be all for nothing. 😛

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