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Relationship Theory

This is a real conversation.

Katara: tell me about relationship theory :)
Elliot: there was an email list called ARR. autonomy respecting relationships. it's dead now. no traffic.
Elliot: ARR says that if you want to be monogamous, you have to make sure you won't break up. you have to make sure you don't learn/grow in different directions and drift apart. every time one person has a new interest that isn't shared, that's a threat. thus monogamy gets in the way of our learning. this is a problem.
Katara: omg yeah
Elliot: ARR also says that romance (used very broadly) .. at the very least it's bad to see romantic relationships as *the* type of relationship. there should be more diversity of approaches.
Katara: but romance is still good, right?
Elliot: i don't think so. i'm also against love. but on ARR list that is controversial. some people like romance. some people even claim to be anti-romance and pro-love.
Elliot: on ARR the main complaint about monogamy was it limits freedom. like you can't have sex with someone else. but what if you want to?
Elliot: the main complaint about romance and love was that it's not rational enough.
Elliot: one of my complaints about mono is that i don't think promising is rational.
Elliot: suppose i promise that i *will* do X at 3pm 2moro. 3pm comes around. i could now do X or Y.
Elliot: if I think X is the right thing to do, or best, i will do it whether i promised to or not
Elliot: if I think Y is right or best, then i will find my promise says "i will do the wrong thing"
Katara: this is true
Elliot: if you promise to stay with someone forever .. either it will be right to, or it won't. promising won't change that. it will just tempt you to do wrong.
Elliot: also, i think it's bad to make decisions early. we have less information early.
Katara: this is also true
Katara: I like romance because it makes me feel fuzzy and I like fuzzy. I'm sure there's a reason if you're a neuroscientist...
Elliot: i don't think we need to be neuroscientists to explain why many people find that romance feels nice. they believe romance *is* nice. they feel nice when they do things they consider nice.
Katara: maybe...
Elliot: the point of ARR is not to tell people to feel bad. however, if a person changes his mind about what is nice, then he can feel good about the new lifestyle. so i think what we feel nice about today cannot be a strong argument either way.
Katara: I agree
Katara: however, while I find romance nice surely there is nothing wrong with enjoying it?
Elliot: maybe. but what if you break someone's heart? or yours is broken? that won't be nice.
Katara: true
Katara: but that comes with human interaction
Elliot: maybe it doesn't have to
Elliot: one of my complaints about romance is it's too focussed on surface characteristics. eyes, appearance, charm. things you can learn about a person you just met 5 minutes ago.
Elliot: it also is too focussed on feelings. does the sex feel special/good/extraordinary? do you feel mushy when s/he looks at you? nervous/excited when with person?
Elliot: and too much on the future. can you see yourself having kids with this person? loving him for the rest of your life? moving in together? if not, the relationship is deemed not to be going anywhere.

Elliot Temple on June 11, 2006


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