Animals live in a moment-to-moment world of surviving. Right now.
We, on the other hand, mildly live in that world, but we also live in a future world. We can look forward and visualize what we’ll need to survive (and thrive) three days, three weeks and three years from now.
That raises the tricky question of trade-offs. Sometimes we must sacrifice something in the present in order to make a more certain future.
Relationships, – especially marriage – are an example of this. Male nature is to satisfy sexual hunger with less than perfect discrimination. To forgo that drive in the interest of creating something valuable is a choice to trust that higher goals are worthy of giving up short term pleasure.
That choice also pushes back the chaos, the chaos of unrestricted gratification. It also demonstrates faith in our ability to maintain those long-term advantages, but like any investment in the future it requires conscious maintenance. That’s the hard part.
The current fashion for proceeding through life seems to revolve around floating along on a cloud of shared trivia and shiftless experience. We’re completely up-to-date on everyone else and they’re likewise up to speed with us, no matter the depth or value of our experiences.
As someone else (I forgot) said (and I’m paraphrasing), never have lives so unlived been so well recorded.
I think it’s true with coupling, too. Linking with another person is not simply about choosing to link with them, as per online social networks. If we’re to give ourselves a chance of lasting, we need structures, both individually and as a meshed unit. Discipline implies self-control, which leads to being the best we can, which eventually leads to freedom.
By freedom, I mean the kind of joyous interaction rooted in an accurate knowledge of ourselves and our nature. Without the strictures implicit in gaining a solid grip on our place, feckless coupling and its consequences are our destiny, and our children’s, too.
This is what I call personal geolocation; locating our place on biological, intellectual and spiritual planes. Think of it as a kind of 4-D map. (Time is the 4th plane.)
Where are you? Only when we find – and maintain – a known position should we think of co-locating with another. This doesn’t mean our place is fixed. Far from it. Change is inevitable and should always be anticipated and planned for. In life and relationships, those who know how to deal with change put themselves that much closer to success.
One thing I’ve learned this process is that we’ll never precisely share the same space on the planes as another. The best we can work towards is keeping relatively close…which is where the discipline and self-control comes in.
Unless you’re a unicorn and find yourself coupling perfectly, forever, with your first date, you have a relationships history. As we explore ourselves and our meshing skills, some people say we accumulate baggage; others call it experience. Or character. Let’s go with that.
Here’s how Kregg and I look at this murky business.
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It’s the fault of McDonalds. The fast food “restaurant” people taught us that we can have the same food – precisely the same food – no matter where we are and irrespective of the time of day. Everything that comes out of that place will look, feel, smell and taste the same, reliably and at an acceptable cost.
Even the downside of the whole experience doesn’t matter that much. Pink slime, underpaid staff and questionable ice machine cleanliness are realities we all accept because food is only the vehicle for what they sell. Their real game is safety and an anchorage. When everything else is changing, THIS remains the same.
Finding couplehood is at least in part about the same thing. A best friend, a lover, a confidante: the ideal yin to our yang is – or should be – a safe port and refuge from a world where change is unavoidable. We accept some of the downsides of relationships to gain the repose of certainty in at least one person.
Trouble is that unlike your favourite drive-thru burger joint, people do change. Like a ship’s captain sleeping soundly in his or her cabin, content in the knowledge that the anchor is holding firm, we merrily carry on. But what is really happening on the sea floor? Is the anchor hooked tight or one big wave away from slipping?
The question becomes: Can we ever think that we’re in a safe harbour, or will we always be steaming?
We humans are adept at many things – survival, reproduction, losing keys – and not so suave at others. The secret of compound interest escapes most people, as does the futility of casino gambling. We’re not perfect, which makes us completely adorable, right?
In a previous podcast about Authenticity and Sincerity, we canvassed the idea that expressing our every thought directly and completely might not be the path to coupling success. Nor success in any kind of interaction, for that matter, although it might help us find our keys. Social lubrication revolves around masking our unvarnished thoughts.
The mechanics of putting that filtering into practice relies in turn upon a much ignored human skill, that of self-control. Controlling what we communicate includes muting the hurtful, inartful and outright anti-social. And yet it’s so much more.
The picture created in the eyes of others by our verbal and non-verbal communication is mostly within our control. If we choose to project our best self, we actually have to be our best self. For the most part, that means doing some things (honesty, sobriety, diligence, maintaining a positive outlook, flexibility etc) and actively not doing others. That’s the control part of self-control.