Let’s Have A Serious Discussion.

There is a lot of debate on the subject of serious conversation in relationships and how good or bad it can be. So I am weighing in with this revelation: serious discussion is not kryptonite to romance.

There is a social rule that says that when in polite society you don’t discuss religion, politics or air your dirty laundry. And for some reason we have decided that every romantic relationship, from teenage dates, to courtship, to marriage, is the most extreme form of polite society. That you will never get the attention, sex, affection or commitment you desire if you speak about such terrible matters with each other. Keep your opinion on abortion between friends and your religion for your family, but your husband doesn’t need to know. Talk about foreign policy with your brothers and your emotional hangups with your best friend, but don’t let your girlfriend hear a word.

Of course, this is all well and good if you’re starting out in a relationship with a lot of interest in the other person, a specific goal in mind and don’t want to ruin it by having a huge argument about welfare programs a week into knowing them. You want this to work and, of course, until you’ve got to know each other a little, you don’t actually know whether their religion would be a dealbreaker to either of you or whether you are happy to live with their diagnosed mental disorder forever.

But it seems that people hold onto this approach far beyond it’s usefulness. It’s the standard idea that if something has worked for a week or a month, it will still work. And, of course, far more relationships make it into the third month when you see each other once a week, hang out like teenagers and never meet the other’s family or learn their ideologies. So your head does the math and says “Well, it seems we are more successful at keeping people around when we just don’t talk about anything serious.” And you keep doing that. Which is fine if all you want is to go along for the ride and then to step aside when a better prospect moves in.

But if you want something specific or lasting, that approach just isn’t conductive. Your two hundred exes don’t make you a relationship expert who is doing the right thing. They either make you someone who only wants sex and/or brief companionship or someone who is going about romance and relationships all wrong.

Instead, what you should do once you’ve built that basic layer of trust and familiarity is build intimacy. And intimacy is built by showing your emotions and expressing your thoughts, not by keeping up a facade indefinitely. Frank, friendly debate is good for that. It allows you to deal with charged topics in an amoral setting, to discuss things that matter to you without worrying that this discussion will harm the relationship.

Of course, in the modern world where we’ve come to believe everything is a debate platform, it’s also important not to let your discussions turn into cold political shows for any possible onlookers. When you start a debate on abortion in a restaurant, be certain your partner will be more defensive of their point and appearance than loving towards you. This sort of discussion isn’t exactly organic, but it does flow naturally when in a private setting where both of you feel at ease being honest and appreciative. You don’t want them to be on the defensive. You’re not trying to convert or convince each other. You’re just talking in a relaxed, private setting, to get to know each other. In such a setting, not only will the debate become deeper and more varied, but you will learn a lot more about the other person. And learning about someone in a private setting is good for bonding. Even if what you learn isn’t all good, the little details and those shreds of humanity that you pick up on can make you realize whether they, the relationship or your perspective are more important to you.

Not only is it possible to love someone passionately and disagree with their stance on the housing crisis at once, it can also be a source of romance to have that debate, to tickle each other’s brains and establish that playful push and pull that makes you close. If you can create playfulness and intimacy around serious disagreements and still love someone despite believing them to be objectively wrong, it’s also arguably a sign that you’re going to last a long time. After all, if you are able to discuss all sorts of things, find no dealbreakers and understand that everything is less important than you two as a unit, then something is going right. And the longer the relationship is and the more you talk, the more comes to the surface. Meaning being ten years into an honest relationship where you see each other daily puts you on better ground for knowing where it’s headed than being ten years into an uncommunicative relationship where you see each other weekly. If after ten years of talking the butterflies are still there, that is important. If after ten months of never talking the butterflies are still there, that is meaningless.

So whether your relationship started as one of tens of ignorant romantic partnerships or arose from one of tens of close friendships, if you want it to last, a discussion on Faust wont do anything that another two months wouldn’t do anyway.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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Marriage As A Team.

With the advances of no-fault divorce, women usually being secondary or non-earners, staggered alimony and the assumption of female primary caregiving, it makes sense that a lot of men aren’t really all that interested in marriage. From a purely economic perspective, even if the stats actually show your risk of divorce is well under 50%, there’s still a risk. How many people would put their head into a tame lion’s mouth? It’s still a lion.

However, curiously, women have started to question marriage. At least during the years when we are likely to have a more successful marriage, which is 25-35. Which is odd, considering that we risk very little in marrying and stand to gain so much from either a lifelong marriage or divorce. From a purely objective standpoint, women should at least be ambivalent for men’s sake, at worst be callous supporters. But, as a population, we’re not.

The social demonization of marriage that started in the 60s and 70s is catching up with us. The angry, bitter radicals who called marriage slavery out of one corner of their mouths whilst stalking a man across the globe have finally persuaded most of Western society, men and women alike, that marriage is an evil institution. And they have done so by making it a zero-sum-game.

The basic concept of a zero-sum-game is: someone always wins, someone always loses. In the context of partnerships: one of you will be better off than when you were single and one of you will be worse off than when you were single. And the idea that marriage or long term partnerships are zero-sum-games has infiltrated every corner of our society. Feminists will claim that marriage is anywhere from manipulation to slavery for women, so they must seek to control their relationships carefully. PUAs will claim that marriage and long term relationships are shackles to the minds of men who do not dominate their relationships. Your Joe and Joan Average will work their very hardest to evenly split all their work, incomes, chores and time, so as to guarantee a balance. Everyone is convinced that if you aren’t getting more out than your partner, you’d be better off single.

Which is very scary, considering it undermines one of the main functions of marriage: to grow with each other. The purpose of marriage is to create a mini-community. Which, in our fairly empty, disconnected, callous world, is highly needed as many of us don’t have a larger community anyway. It’s meant to bond two people, get them working in sync so that they both have more than when they started, so they can look after their elders and have and raise healthy, happy children. That was the entire point of marriage.

Therefore, when we try and treat it as a zero-sum-game, as an individual vs individual competition where when you aren’t doing better than them, you’re losing, we aren’t in a marriage. You may have the certificates, but all you’re doing is coexisting, or, worse even, competing.

Instead, when you’re in a long term relationship of any kind, you should be looking at the relationship as the whole and yourselves as the halves. You are not factories, but production units in a little factory. And you should be working on everything you can to keep the factory (your relationship) functional and profitable for both of you. And this becomes quite a cycle. For example, how Jon and I work together to give ourselves a better life:

  1. Jon works full time so he can afford to rent this house. +space
  2. I care for the house so he doesn’t have to. Meaning the house is more worth having and leaving us more together time. +time
  3. I can cook him far better, healthier meals than he could cook himself in the time he used to have, saving us money on snacks and supplements. +money
  4. Because the house is so big, I can use the spare bedroom as an office to tutor from. I can also grow our own food in the garden. +money
  5. Because I work as a private tutor, I can earn £10-25/h, rather than minimum wage of £6.50/h not including travel and expenses. +money
  6. Because I work from home, I work on my own hours. +time
  7. Which means I also can arrange my work day to take advantage of discounts, offers, reduced price foods. +money
  8. Which means his disposable income hasn’t actually dropped much from when he lived in a single room. +money
  9. Which means the need for overtime is reduced. +time

If we both worked full time, split the chores when we got home and only had that little remainder together, we’d have less money, less free time and eventually not be able to afford the space we live in, the quality of food we eat or the entertainment we use. In short, if we acted as individuals, our quality of life would go down. So basically, by working together, as a unit, viewing time together as our main free time, and our assets as shared rather than split, we have both improved our quality of life. He has a larger home, better food, more time with me, more time for leisure activities, more flexibility with work and more money in the bank at the end of the month than when single. I have a larger home, better work prospects, more time with him, more time for leisure activities and more money in the bank at the end of the month than if I were single. We’re in a relationship and by viewing the relationship as the unit and ourselves as component parts: we both win.

So no, long term relationships aren’t a zero-sum-game where there has to be a loser and if you can’t spot the loser, the loser is you. They are a team game where you both work together and use your assets to protect each other’s assets, multiplying the rewards for your work. They are an investment in a partner that, if well -calculated, will pay you back. If you can’t spot the loser, but you’re richer, happier, with more free time and a generally higher standard of life than before: you’re not a loser, you’re playing the game right.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What is your view on long term relationships? How does your relationship or marriage work? What do you feel your personal investment gives back to you as a couple? Do share!