If we think mimicry is a useful shortcut to success, observing successful couples is worth our time.
With the perspective of hindsight, I think I’ve figured out at least one quality that many folks have to keep their relationships moving along nicely. That quality is something akin to collegiality, or camaraderie.
We don’t often talk about the friendship or teamwork part of being with someone. Love – or as I like to call it thesedays “love” – attraction, sex and all those other gooey words take up much of the conversation. However, as two people move from strangers to boyfriend/girlfriend and then marriage, the percentage of time spent on just being together in the daily normalcy of life increases.
What do I mean by camaraderie? Well, it takes has many facets. Sharing the small stuff of life lies at the heart of the matter. Successful couples find a way into a common language. A shared sense of humour. A shortcut way of communicating. Specific signals, such as looks and words. A way to look at it is that they create a room from which they both look out at the world.
I like this way of behaving. Two people coming together to share a life is an entirely unlikely proposition. Until they commit to each other, they have two separate houses, if you like, mental spaces that remain unmeshed. If we want to create a union, manufacturing a space we both inhabit to the exclusion of everyone else is healthy and smart.
Collegiality is also a way of connecting in a way other than sexually. This is the friendship part of a successful relationship, the innocence of which makes it both an antidote to the stresses of being with one person and a simple link to his or her essence.
Living in a world of words beats the alternative. Totally guessing here, but I imagine we developed language to communicate our thoughts to the people around us. That and to make use of the drive-through food ordering option.
The upside of spoken language is connecting with others, whether we’re fulfilling a cheeseburger desire or a desire for something else.
“I’d like a small number six combo with Sprite” isn’t such a long way from “Would you like to meet for a coffee?”
Note, however, the difference of completeness; the food order allows no room for interpretation, which is good because who wants a number four? Simple commercial transactions exemplify almost perfect clarity.
On the other hand, a date request masks a lot. Sure, taken alone the invitation to meet is clear enough, but what lies behind that idea? Is the person saying “I want to have sex with you” or are they saying “I want to talk about your ideas on llama farming”?
Spoken (and therefore written) language can be used to obfuscate as easily as it can be used directly. Masking happens a lot in dating because we’re oftentimes interested in self-protection, and one way to do that is to keep our true motivation hidden behind our tongues.
Logic should triumph emotion.
That only works in a mythical universe, which leaves us figuring out some hybrid way to figure out stuff.
Relationships figure high in the table of arenas in which we need to use both our smarts and our guts, but there are few guides as to how to do this. Relying too heavily on one side or the other likely leads to dissatisfaction, mostly because we need to accommodate the other person’s needs.
Which might be the key. If we know that we’re linearly driven, consciousness of the other person’s, say, more non-linear nature will go a long way towards creating a niche for both of us.
I’m of the music video generation, which is to say that much of my late pubescence and early adulthood is tinged with the memory of music on television.
Australia in the late seventies and early eighties saw the tipping point from English influence to American. Until, say, the end of the Vietnam War, our social organization (note the “Z”) reflected British mores – not a surprise considering the number of Poms around the place, all escaping the nuthouse they’d all created in Europe. From that point our rituals gradually took on a more American tone.
So it is with fondness and regret that I look back on how dating changed accordingly. My home town of Adelaide was defiantly and aspirationally upper-class British, despite the waves of German, Italian and Greek immigrants who added piquancy if not steering input. That meant my generation was raised with some curiously mannered habits. Correct use of English. Standing when a lady entered the room. Assumption that any woman entering the room WAS a lady. A reserved distance mimicking what we thought was civilized behaviour.
This was all nonsense of course, a kind of homage to a cult that had no basis in the way people actually relate to each other, nor the best way to – as they say – get close to someone. It was a case of maintaining a social order for its own end.
And that is the end. The way we think about relationships is so different now, that the modeling of my generation is all but useless, like so much ballast in a yacht. But losing the imprints of one’s early emotional life – including those damned music videos – is difficult, if not impossible.
Still, we work with what we have, right?
Given the choice between comfort and pain, our tendency is toward comfort. It’s natural; why endure suffering, torment or pain when there’s another choice?
Not as natural is the uncomfortable learned truth that effort and discomfort are the ways to somewhere better. We see this all over our history as a species and in individual lives. Someone had to set sail over the horizon to find what lay beyond. We had to dismember human cadavers to learn about our own bodies, and we have to push ourselves in exercise, business and relationships to make them succeed too.
The latter is of interest, because a kind of sluggish fug lies over how to behave in relationships. Weddings appear to signal some kind of end-point, which I believe is the opposite of the truth. Routine and ruts typify many couples who share a life but gradually revert to being individuals without the elastic glue couplehood requires.
Meshing is work. It means facing up to yourself in the light of another’s wellbeing. It often means extending yourself beyond the point at which you thought you might stop. The irony is that if we want comfortable relationships, accepting – or even seeking – the painful recesses of ourselves is the necessary route. No pain, no gain.