Living with humans.

Living with people is hard. Even harder when you are introverted, not highly emotive, and overly practical about how to run your life. Even harder when your lifestyle is markedly alternative. But living with people can be handled.

As briefly mentioned last week, we were thinking of moving in with relatives and it fell through. And one of the reasons for it was quite simply that we felt we could not live with them at all. Their lifestyle clashed with ours, but there was a requirement that we merge our lives. And every pressure was put on us to change our own behaviours and accept the behaviours of the people we were moving in with. Which I suppose is fair enough, as they were there first. But neither Jon nor I are ready to change our lives so dramatically for anything or anyone. And the levels of drama were, quite frankly, massively above what we can tolerate, which, incidentally, is “as close to zero as possible”. So why try at all? Quite simply, we didn’t actually expect to have to change so much.

You see, we comfortably “live” with a couple we’re friends with semi regularly. We’ve had sleepovers, shared hotels, and our last holiday involved a solid week of houseshare. And although even arranging a single visit or day with the relatives was a nightmare, somehow living for a week with our friends was easy. We could do basic housework, arrange meals together, go places and even schedule my work and medical emergencies and shopping, all without a single falling out. So what gives? Why can we do that with them, but not our own family?

The core difference actually comes down to independence versus agreeability. Jon and I both have a strong desire to be independent, both as individuals and as a couple. So we aim to do as much as we can on our own. We also would rather things got done than did not, so we’re both agreeable as long as the work that needs to get done is getting done, but not at all agreeable when delays occur. And our friends are very much the same. They want to do their own thing and they want to do it in peace. So even though we were living together and doing things together, ultimately we were still operating as individuals and we were agreeable so as to enable all of us to continue operating as individuals.

Meanwhile, the main sources of conflict with the family were based around dependence and a need for agreeability beyond comfort. They were demanding to be informed of every aspect of our lives, insisting on helping us rather than letting us hire someone to do work, and getting upset whenever we chose to do something on our own. They were essentially demanding a merge of lives, a loss of independence to us. Share the dogs, let them take care of XYZ, put their needs first. And being highly emotive people, whenever we sought independence over communialism, they became upset. So rather than focusing on a problem, such as the dog needing somewhere to stay but them being unable to keep up their promises, or the solution, such as finding someone else to take care of her, we were expected to first and foremost focus on how we hurt their feelings throughout the situation. In other words, we were expected to be dependent on them and to be agreeable towards them. It was the complete opposite of our relationship with our friends.

I’m sure many people are happy to live with people who they are dependent on and agreeable towards. But ultimately, to avoid drama, you and the people you live with need to agree on your levels of interdependence and agreeability. Whether you want to lead completely isolated lives under the same roof or whether one of you will be completely dependent, you need to agree on that. And whether you want to handle everything bluntly or whether you need people to be sensitive to your emotions, you need to agree on that.

People can live together when they lead completely different lives. They cannot live together when their socializing patterns are completely different.

Let that be a lesson to all: before living with people, discuss dependence levels and how agreeable you need to be to each other. Because drama doesn’t come from disagreements, conflicting beliefs or busy lives. Drama comes from differing neediness.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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Bait, Bid, and Bite, everyday affections.

The flip-side to last week’s post about giving time and space, I would like to take the time this week to address the “bait and bite” of comfort-seeking behaviour in relationships.

In CBT this behaviour is referred to simply as “validation”, although it’s not exactly what we think of when we generally hear the term. In relationship psychology it’s called a “bid”. And it goes a little like this.

One member of the couple experiences something.

They feel an urge to share it with their partner.

Their partner acknowledges the vocalization and the experience.

It seems simple, and it is, but it makes an enormous difference.

When we reach out like that, regardless of whether we are pointing out a cute dog, explaining what went wrong with our work day, discussing something we read or looking for confirmation that what we witnessed did, indeed, happen, we are comfort testing our partners. We are saying “this is my life experience, and I want you to also experience it”. We are saying “please see what I have seen and tell me it is valid to you as well”. We are saying “this is what matters to me right now”.

And all we need is for our partner to acknowledge what we said and acknowledge our experience. That’s it. They don’t need to agree with us, to share our emotions, to continue the conversation. All they need to do, in essence, is say “yes, I can see the dog”, “I’m sorry your work day was bad”, “that book sounds interesting/not my thing”, or “I saw it too”. It’s that simple.

We “bait” our partners with actions that are designed to captivate attention and words to draw their attention to things around us. If they “bite” and acknowledge the bait, however minorly or however personal or weird their reaction is, we feel acknowledged, wanted, respected and loved. If they ignore us and react passively or dismissively, we feel insecure. It’s the ultimate comfort test and all humans do it, introvert or extrovert, male or female. It also directly correlates with relationship longevity.

Example of positive, comforting “bait and bites”:

Him: “Wow, look at that truck.” “Look there.” “Truck ahead.”

Her: “Pretty cool.” “It’s red.” “Is that a toyota?” “Not my thing.” “Where?” (Typically with some emotion in voice or on face, turning to look at what he is pointing out.]

All acknowledge what he has seen, what he is saying and establish some sort of personal connection. On the other hand, a negative, worrying “bait and bite”:

Him: “Wow, look at that truck.” “Look there.” “Truck ahead.”

Her: “Huh.” #silence# “Wait one moment.” “I’m busy.” “Sure.” (Typically in a flat tone, whatever is said, without turning her head to the truck.]

None acknowledge what he has seen, all refuse to share the moment or indulge in a personal moment, all focus entirely on her.

It isn’t about talking more, or forcing yourselves to talk about your day or to do things together. It’s more about the responsiveness percentage when you share information with each other. The more bait goes unbitten, the more detached a couple become. The more bait we bite, the longer the relationship lasts. So skip the candlelit dinner or the relationship adviser if you want to revive the spark. Perhaps first try and look at your partner, respond to their comments, and invite them back into your world.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How often would you say you make a bid of your partner? How often to they bite the bait? How often do you respond to their bids? If you’re not sure, try and keep a “bid diary” for a bit and tally up how much you share each other’s world.

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Burnout and Productive Laziness.

A recent post at ROK got me thinking about how easy it is to push yourself beyond healthy limits. We all have our reasons for doing it. Right now the nesting instincts are starting to kick in and seem to be merging with my money-saving drives, so I’m quite happily working in the garden until I realise I’m starting to feel a bit sick, or getting unnecessarily stressed about boxes in the hallway, or trying to put my sewing before paid work. I’m pretty sure the weird bug I had last week was down to overwork. But there are countless other reasons: the urge to impress, the thought that work is somehow sacred, the desire for the rewards, etc. We all have the capacity to overwork ourselves.

On the other hand, we are naturally lazy animals. All living beings are naturally lazy, in that we will do the bare minimum to fulfil our basic biological needs. Even our metabolisms are designed to do the most with the fewest calories possible, to complete processes sooner, to stay in stasis as long as possible.

And, although slothfulness is definitely a bad thing, I can’t help but feel that this gentle laziness is actually pretty positive. Unlike true sloth, where you sacrifice productivity and activity for rest, laziness is simply the desire to get things out of the way so you can rest. In short: you can be productive and lazy. Which is really what humans have been doing since the beginning of time. We have agriculture, electricity, mechanization and AI, all because we wanted to get work done sooner so we could get home and put our feet up. Every innovation, every great solution, every burst of creativity is born from an urge to not be doing what you are currently doing.

So don’t fear laziness. Harness it. Work out the path of least resistance to solve your problems and take it. Be productive, but not a beast of burden. And enjoy your rest.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Can We Both ‘Marry Up’?

It is a common assumption made by most dating resources and, indeed, most people, that relationships are a zero-sum game: that someone has to be better for having the other, and that for that to happen, the other must therefore be worse, having made a sacrifice to improve their partner. But I have already discussed why this is not necessarily the case.

What I’m getting to today, thanks to an interesting post by IB last week, is the mentality that brings about this assumption. Because there actually seems to be a step in between “I observe that most relationships are unbalanced” and “therefore there has to be a loser”. And that step is “everyone wants to marry up”.

In and of itself, the statement is innoccuous: of course everyone wants to marry up. We want the genetically fittest partner we can get, as well as a compatible one, so we look out for one who is generally an improvement on us. Sexier, richer, younger, more mature, more famous, brighter, etc. Thus, we look for something better. But the implication is that for someone to be better than us, they must be “hyper”, or “above” us. Thus, we win and they lose.

But the reality is that we also seek compatibility in our genetic fitness. The masculine seek the feminine, the feminine seek the masculine. The creative seek the scientific, the scientific seek the creative. The doctors seek the nurses or the patients. The artists seeks the muse, the model an artist. We want someone who can do what we cannot, what we either do not have the time or the energy or the skills to do. If it had a term, it would be “paideiagamy”: the pursuit of someone who rounds us out, who makes us a complete unit of society.

And this is where we find that middle ground of “marrying up”.

You see, there are two ways of marrying up.

The first is when partner A is clearly beneath partner B. Not just in one aspect, but as a sum total of their desirable qualities. In these cases, only two results are possible. Either partner B becomes idle, and lets slide the characteristics that made them better, causing an evenly married couple where partner A resents partner B for “bait and switch” and partner B resents partner A for “ruining B’s life”. Or partner B continues to work on improvement, or at least maintenance and grows distant, causing partner A to become insecure about the quality gap, causing anger on both sides. In short, you cannot just “marry up” and rest on your laurels.

But there is another kind of marrying up. This is where the partners are either equal or equivalent. Equal in that they are approximately the same in all desirable qualities. Or equivalent in that, despite specific differences, their sum total of desirability is even. However both partners are focused on improving themselves and extend that efford to each other. In working to improve each other, they end up with a continually better partner: one who gives them better access to that which they desire. But they are also improving, incentivizing their partner to also invest in them. Through this process, each member of a couple will appear to have benefitted greatly from the relationship. Their friends and family will compliment the quality of their partner for “fixing” them. But in reality both have improved.

Of course, the second kind of marrying up is all an illusion. Neither married someone objectively better than themselves. You’ve just married your approximate equal and both encouraged each other to improve, giving the impression to everyone but yourselves that one of you struck gold. But “true” marrying up is as much a recipe for failure as marrying down, or being lazy in a relationship are.

So the answer is: Not really. You can’t both marry someone better than you, not in absolute terms. But being unable to both “marry up” does not lead to “zero-sum game”. You can just as easily marry an equivalent, a slight superior or a slight inferior and end up both vastly better off for it. Which may make others assume you married up after all!

Ultimately, you can only win at the game when you play it together.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your perspective on improvement through relationships? And what would your paideiagamy look like: focus on complementarity, on similarity, on contrasts, on better qualities..? Do you think there are any more steps to the disillusion->marry-up->zero-sum-game mentality?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

You don’t “deserve” to escape cubicle hell.

The other day I was watching a few videos about why people left their previous jobs. And it struck me as odd how many people will quit a job because:

-they’re not allowed to compete with their company in their spare time

-they don’t have enough time for their creative, yet underpaid online work, ie blogging or videos

-the work environment had standards and targets they were expected to meet

Of course, some of those are the very reasons I chose to work for myself. Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand the desire to escape cubicle hell, to either never set foot in it or to leave it. But the way so many people of my generation approach this dilemma is entitled, pure and simple.

We’re not talking about people pushing through with work and aspiring to make better of themselves one day, or people quitting their dead-end jobs and pouring out sweat as they get a business started. We’re talking about people moving back in with their parents, going on welfare and begging for blogger handouts because they would rather be parasites than drudges.

And all I can think is: this is not pursuing your dreams. This is believing you have a god-given right to avoid cubicle hell. This is believing you are somehow better than generation upon generation of people who fried chips, scrubbed toilets, swept floors and typed copies, who toiled in mindless jobs to keep food on the table.

It’s all well and good to aspire to leave that environment, or to avoid it. By all means, if you can: do. But you don’t “deserve” to avoid cubicle hell any more than any other person out there. You aren’t special. And if you can’t cut the mustard, then back to the cubicle it is.

Sorry…

…but not really.

In a related note, apparently at some point I was added to the RationalWiki list of secular doormats, probably by the very same special snowflakes who believe they deserve charity to live and blog on. 😛 I take it as an award.

blog

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

The Future of Socialites is Grey Gardens.

I seriously never realized these were real people until the other day. Grey Gardens documents the lives of an elderly, divorced, ex-socialite mother and her middle-aged, single, live-in-carer daughter. They lived the way the average girl of my generation is living. And this is a good example of where it ends up.

What are your thoughts on Grey Gardens and the futures of professional socialites?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

It’s easy to be a defeatist.

It really is. Anyone can choose to be a defeatist. Our world is not an easy one to live in.

We’re surrounded by others, yet it’s not easy to cultivate the relationships we aspire to.

We’re surrounded by money and the wealthy, yet it’s not easy to get your slice of the pie.

We’re surrounded by amazing technology, yet we’re still suffering ill health, old age and sometimes we even have to unclog a toilet.

Boo hoo.

Sorry, but life is loads easier than it used to be. Do you think making and keeping friends was easier when we had to write letters as soon as someone lived out of town? Do you think that a young man aspiring to have a harem had to work less at it when the most viable mode of transport was the horse? Do you think married couples had less relationship maintenance to do when their options were between two suitors chosen by their parents and marriage was a lifelong, enforceable contract?

Do you think it was easy to “make it” when the average person died by 50, when taxes were decided only by the rich and when you had no access to education whatsoever? Do you think it was easy to become rich when your land and house and everything in it was officially owned by a Lord? Do you think it was easier to be healthy when we were hungry, thirsty, plagued with dysentery and leprosy and died of the flu?

We’ve got it good. We’ve got it really good.

That isn’t to say all failure is your own fault. We started out under worse stars than Paris Hilton or Donald Trump. But to pretend the modern world is some magically evil Unfairland is just the easy way out.

It’s easy to join the Church of Euthanasia, to call liberal democracy the “end of history”, to enjoy the decline, to call gender and race a social construct, to blame the Government and the aliens and the Patriarchy and Satan. It’s easy to be defeatist.

I’m not saying you can’t, or shouldn’t feel that way. Just that, as far as decisions go, you’re not being radical or amazing or transformative by saying “welp, there’s nothing I can do” and sitting back on your butt and never doing anything again.

You’re just being kind of emo.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.