Room To Breathe

None of us think of relationships this way, but the courtesy of allowing room for the other to be who they are forms a lifelong framework, if we so choose.

What does “allowing room” mean?

Well, Hortense, room equates to latitude and understanding. Within the boundaries of law, morality, etiquette and goodwill, women should allow men to be men, and men should allow women to be women. Observing our specific mate’s version of malehood or femalehood is part of learning about them.

What does ” (being) who they are” mean?

Being who they are is the characteristic and integral behavior of each sex. Women and men are different, and understanding them from the perspective of the other can be difficult, and, in extreme cases, fatal for a relationship. Finding a way to rejoice in the differences and to be at one with our opposite is finding peace with who our mate is.

Acceptance; finding a way to want what is mostly for the good is a fine way to progress through life with someone.

Depress Me

Number one on my list of prospective mates to avoid is anyone with any kind of chronic or recurring mental illness.

Sadly, this counts out a lot of women, but counting out a lot of women is the idea of such a list. Mental disorders are rife, and, from what I understand, wholly under-diagnosed. Even if that’s not true, we rarely think of not dating such people for precisely that reason, because we figure that therapy or drugs will mitigate any problems. We overlook this stuff on the way to the bedroom.

Wrong.

I had coffee this morning with a women who is dating (read: shacking up with) a guy who is a depressive. We’re not talking someone who is maudlin or down a lot. He’s capital D Depressed for much of the time.

She is clearly having second thoughts about this dude. As m’colleague Kregg repeatedly says, women are attracted to men with ambition and voice; a man continually in tears living on the couch doesn’t have much of either.

The question I could see bugging her is just why she’s involved with a guy who is failing to live up to her expectations. The best she could come up with was that he “…helps changing the sheets, oh, and does some work around the yard”.

Mismatch, much?

Comforting someone who sobs themselves to sleep might fulfill some need you have, but that’s not a need you should satisfy. There are other ways. We’d all like to help that person, but attempts to do so for misguided ideas of “love” or “being there” are foolish and create two people falling down a well.

Sometimes saving ourselves from mistakes is the best possible outcome.

Sunk Cost

We humans are awful at probability. We’re even worse at logical decision-making for our own benefit.

An example is the power of a sunk cost. A person, A, dates person B for two years and finally figures that the current nature of, and likely future path of, their relationship is unsatisfactory. Person A is much more likely to reason that it’s worth staying together because of the time spent together. This is simply the way we work. That two years is the sunk cost, meaning the investment of time and energy and emotion.

A logical person would say: It matters not a whit what has transpired for me to find myself at this point. Only the future matters. The fact of my having invested time in this joint venture is irrelevant, because it’s not what I want. Now is the time to cease investing time with this person and go find a better candidate.

Instead, because we aren’t logical, we continually justify ongoing efforts to either make the relationship work, or hope that something changes to make it work. Letting go of the sunk cost appears to mean a loss, but it isn’t and never was. That time is necessary to figure out if B is in fact the right one.

To be clear: the process of getting to know someone is all about seeing how we fit together for the rest of our lives. Until we marry, it’s not a sunk cost, it’s just the cost of familiarization, and should be counted only that way.

The Difficulty of Attraction

Solving for x is the reason for algebra, and while relationships aren’t clinical like mathematics, there are some parallels.

One such parallel is the need for one side of an equation to equal the other. As long as we invert the left side as well as the right, we can consider the problem the same. In the squishy world of people, things tend to even out, even if we don’t quite see it that way at the time or when we’re close up.

The matter of attraction is an interesting one. People have a total attraction factor (for fun let’s call it x) that’s made up of the physical, the intellectual and the spiritual. Let’s be smart here and call it the body, the brains and the heart.

In general, B + B + H = x, where x is generally about the same for everyone.

Key to figuring our own personal attraction is understanding how our individual inputs are proportioned, namely, how much B, B or H goes into our own x.

Am I attractive because of my body, my brains or my heart, and in what proportion? Figure that out and you have a strategy for finding your mate.

High Expectations, High Price

Meshing two people into one unit, turning two people into a couple, is a tricky business. With a number of moving parts on a lot of levels resolving in different time frames, we underestimate the process at our peril.

A few of these factors can be de-tangled before we even start, but it requires conscious pre-meditation. Actually, that’s a good word for it; meditation. Out-thinking our instincts and peer influences will stop us from immediately taking a wrong turn and subsequently keep us close to the right path.

One way to begin is to figure out our expectations. The romantic and beastly part of us wants the immediate gratification of all our desires, wants, drives and dreams. Write it down like that and the absurdity stands out. Ideally we’d manage our expectations as we go along: low to begin with because we’re dealing with a stranger, gradually increasing as we get to know this person.

That is easier said than done, but if we’re to protect ourselves, a certain kind of clinical thinking like this might help us navigate the complexity.