Needs and Wants: Podcast #76

In this podcast, Kregg quizzes me about my understanding of men’s and women’s needs and wants, today and in the past.

It sounds complicated, but isn’t. If we can’t put ourselves in our potential coupling partner’s head at least a little, and channel them for a while, for what can we hope in any potential couplehood?

Let’s see how well I do.

Conflict

As much as I would like to avoid the discomfort it provides, conflict comes as standard couplehood equipment.

When we go white-water rafting, we risk going over the side into the drink.

If we buy stocks we will probably lose money at some point.

Choosing to be with someone for the duration includes the (extreme) likelihood of disagreement.

What to do? Choose well in the first place. Dating should be about two lists: the stuff we agree on, and the stuff we do not agree on. The latter can probably be further split into two sub-lists, one for disagreements about which I care, and the second for disagreement that mean nothing to me.

Be sure that the last list isn’t likely to change too much over time. Ideas and outlooks have a habit of morphing as we mature, so what didn’t faze you at the beginning might drive you crazy after a while.

And inevitably life will toss conflict at us once we’re married. No matter how intelligent your dating and choice mechanism, you’ll bug me, and I’ll bug you. What’s good about that is the chance we have to sort things out. A challenge met as a couple ups our coupling energy. Sadly, as happens in too many cases, allowing friction to grow will dissipate our strength.

So, do I have a solution? Only that facing the edges life provides is smart and healthy. Honesty begets truth, and truth is a long-lasting adhesive. Creating a space for calm airing of grievances is the best way I can think of. Just as couples should have a regular finance hour (once a week for budget talks and planning) a date night (obviously a good idea) and perhaps even a domestic hour to share some chores, why not a campfire hour?

A campfire hour would be a safe place from which to politely ponder why this and that, did you know you make me feel something else when you do that, and I wish this were otherwise. The key – and this is not easy – is to drain the talk of emotion and recrimination. And always always reach a resolution, if only to state that the conflict has been noted and understood.

Calm. Intelligent. Mature. We can do that, right?

Take the Time

Correct me if I’m wrong, but dating should probably not be an instant gratification exercise.

Actually, I am wrong. Folks can decide for themselves if that’s what they want it to be, and many do. Let’s find someone to whom we are vaguely attracted, make sure they’re minimally compatible and off we go. It’s a simple and fun game. Everyone’s a winner.

Maybe. In your twenties this might work. Maturity changes us in funny ways though, morphing our values and fiddling with our sense of attraction. One day that girl with a pack-a-day habit and a taste for bad-boys fills our dreams and the next she looks like a stinky tramp. That’s the way we work.

Just as learning a useful skill or studying for a qualification takes time and effort, so does learning how to be with people. Judgement, clarity, discernment, understanding and a little detachment require thought and even discipline. And that’s merely to get to know ourselves, the first step.

The difficulty lies with the fact that few people, if any, are around to guide us. My parents sure didn’t say:

You know, it will take a long time to understand yourself, and only if you carefully examine your actions over years. And then you will do well to apply the same kind of calm contemplation to finding the woman you want to be with as your spouse. It’s a serious business…ultimately, the most valuable of your life.

Yeah. That would have been useful.

Man, Civilized

Media

Sexy opinion-making doesn’t concern itself with much other than celebrity, gossip and fashion. By fashion I mean whatever’s fashionable, from clothes to concubines.

You know the blather; who’s with whom, what’s new, someone’s heart is broken, someone’s infidelity is exposed. The back pages of the newspaper have shifted to the front, where being salacious is barely enough to get noticed.

Serious opinion-making – such as we indulge here – is marginalized as boring or irrelevant. As far as the culture is concerned, I figure this reflects the increasing shallowness of our thinking. Our, meaning our community, society. Why take the time to dig a little deeper into the way we work when the excitement lies everywhere at our fingertips?

This plays poorly for better understanding coupling. If you think that getting our intimate interactions right is a starting point for being civilized, ditching the celebrity analysis might be a good start.

Separating Wheat from Chaff

1940s Couple Leaving Home Carrying Luggage --- Image by © H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Corbis

By the way people confidently couple-up, you would think that we were born with an innate understanding of how we’re supposed to do this.

Young ladies and gentlemen move from a few dates to regular sex to shacking up at speeds approaching that of light. Zoooooom. They are then left bereft and wondering at  what happened when a black hole sucks them up. Hey, no-one said space travel was riskless.

I too began adult life with this kind of confidence…until life smashed me in the face with the message I’d been missing all along: I wasn’t doing it well. At all.

The idea of inbuilt relationship skills falls apart under the slightest exam. (Not that we do examine it, which is my point.) Yes, the reproductive part is a functional app after puberty, but even that needs a few “Help” links. Everything else, from how to approach a person of interest to the matter of sorting the flakes from the good ones to how to share a living space requires some thought, or reading or outright instruction.

We are born with as much of an understanding of cordon bleu cookery as we are of how to find, court, meld, discover, be with and ultimately love someone. Easy it is not; straightforward it is not; simple it is not; learned it might just be.

That leaves us with the fatal question: How can I find good role models or books or any kind of resources about doing this better?

I wonder.