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The Purposes of Relationships Revealed (Again)

Updated on March 27, 2012

You are in a Relationship Because...

After some brainstorming and remembering some of my former thought-work I came up with the following possible reasons for being together with a partner. Please note that genders don’t matter to me here but as homosexual relationships make up 10% of the total number I might refer sometimes to heterosexual couples. I try not to, though.

You either are in a relationship because...

  • you are afraid of being alone in this world
  • you want to be acknowledged by society/friends
  • you are distracting yourself from dealing with the outer world
  • you want to make your life easier
  • you want to have safer sex
  • you want to share experiences with someone
  • you want to be intimate with someone

In the following I will explain my point of view.


Through many years relationships took a great deal of my time, either by wanting one or by keeping it going until it was clear it didn’t make any more sense. I have followed a serial monogamy style of relationship until last year when I finally realized - it was obvious years before but just didn’t sink in - that this isn’t how I want to spent my life, and that of others. There have been temptations since to continue this energy-consuming lifestyle but I have resisted successfully. This is an analysis of my experience with relationships and an argumentation of why they are not attractive to me at the moment and most probably for a very long time. This is not saying that your or any one else's relationship is based on any of my theories but you should consider taking this text seriously as soon as it upsets you -and it might- as what touches us emotionally seems to always have some truth in it.



You are Afraid of Being Alone

There are 7 billion human beings on this planet and yet it happens that we feel alone. It is kind of ironic, isn’t it. As this loneliness can not be the consequence of lack of opportunity to get to know just another person it must be more complicated. We do not just want some other but a special other to like us. Studies have shown that we prefer people that in some way or the other are like us or the ones that we grew up with [See chapter 5 of Cialdini’s influence].

Even that shouldn’t be too difficult as although we consider ourselves to be special, we pretty much crave and like the same things. Just look at mass phenomena like sport-events, cars and motorcycles, movies, music and iPhones. Yet it often seems impossible for some of us to find friends, let alone a partner.

Being unaware of the reasons why this is so we feel helpless and left alone by the rest of the world as it must be the others who don’t want to be with us and it seems cynical as there are so many people out there and most of them seem to have friends and family, why not me?

This feeling of loneliness is a valid fear and like most fears should become obsolete as we grow up. It's origins are rarely found in the outer realms of one’s actual existence, it might be worth to take a look on the inside:

I remember only a few situations from my early childhood but one of it is me being 6yo and running around our house at night crying my soul out, looking for my parents who have gone to the neighbours for some social chitterchatter without telling me. That feeling of being left alone comes up everytime I remember this situation, pretty strong for a memory.

Children so much rely on the benefit of others especially of their caretakers that they are afraid of being left alone as this is a survival issue for them. This feeling is such a strong motivator that everyone of us has to deal with it one day during our few years here. As you might have already observed a lot of old people tend to be left alone, too.

I dare to say that this fear never really goes away but can be dealt with if we are conscious about it. Bad new is that there will be no partner strong enough soothing this fear without the side-effect of becoming dependent on him or her, making his or her loss one day even more grave unless we die first.


photo credit: jcoterhals via photopin cc
photo credit: jcoterhals via photopin cc | Source

You want to be Acknowledged

We are social beings, our survival and well-being is strongly depending, hence influenced by our community, even if it is small or not existent. The best examples are families. These seem to play more important roles in societies that are economically weak or have only recently come to wealth like in Southern Italy, many African countries, Russia, Poland or Turkey just to name a few. Even the Mafia is a sort of family with obviously strong survival instinct. Recently I have met a successful 40yo Italian who struggles with his independence from his family. It tears him apart as he would like to live his own life but feels obliged to answer his family’s call home. This should just illustrate the strength of such bindings that we haven’t even chosen ourselves.

A lot of women especially, seem to feel social pressure at some age when they realize that everone around them is having a relationship, getting married or having children. One Polish acquaintance of mine even felt suicidal when she realized that. Luckily she fell asleep drunk on the floor before anything could happen.

We all want to fit in. There is no argument against this. Those who deny have just given up. I was one of those deniers.

Everyone in this world seems to strive for partnerships except those loners that everybody looks down at, so it must be the right thing to do and I need one, too. This is our basic mindset, maybe packed in sweeter words. And there is also a common -mostly culturally influenced- vision of how these partnerships have to look like.

If you are still doubting, please just for a few hours, colour your hair pink or wear a skirt if you are a male and not already doing it regularly, or do anything that makes you stand out and observe your feelings. Then come back and tell me you don’t want to belong to “the family”.

By the way. Many of us find a solution in joining a little group having a few things in common. Ever heard of the most hated family in the US, the Phelps? They do their best to be hated by everybody outside their little artificial family and succeed. But they have found acknowledgement by their fellows and that is making them feel strong enough to even endure the hatred of 6,999.999.000 others.


You are Distracting Yourself

This is a personal point. Especially lately I have been distracting myself by dealing with several more or less romantic relationships at once [no, I am not monogamous by nature, neither am I fixed on polygamy]. It had mainly one effect: diverting my energy [The reasons are manifold and would lead too far away from the main subject]. As soon as I realized that, I became way more productive and efficient and my sexual thrive and interest in potential partners went to normal. Most of this -Freud probably called it- “sexual energy” is now focussed on my project and obviously on writing here. But even if you follow the standard christian or similar oriented protocol and have a non-promiscuous, morally inquestionable relationship it might take a lot of your energy and keep you small, distant from the outside world. Especially mothers are “endangered” here as they still tend to stay at home taking care of the kids. You might say that these are outer conditions that keep them away from the outside but it is the relationship that brought them there.

So far we were only speaking of functioning relationships. Everybody knows how it feels when things go wrong. Ever tried to concentrate on something when you were concerned about something serious? Finishing relationships or at least dealing with related problems is so energy consuming, that the world's troubles seem tiny and unimportant to us. And this is absolutely understandable as our inner peace is strongly relying on the inner circles of our environment. I like to visualize our relation to the world as an onion. It all depends on the core, this is where the new fruit will grow from and every further layer becomes less and less important. That’s why wars that take place at the other end of the world are not concerning us much.
People often argue that they grow when they deal with relationship problems. This surely is true but not automatically. As it isn’t a natural development that we grow wise by just getting old. The problem with conflicts is that we have usually no education about how to make the most out of it. No, that’s not true. We were taught by our parents or those who raised us on how to solve conflicts. Were your parents shouting at each other like mine? Did your mother run away from your father, too, leaving him behind crying out loud? Were they hiding their conflicts from you although you could feel something was wrong? That was part of my education and I did the best to follow my parents’ footsteps for a long time. Lucky for you if you had better idols. There is no blame in these words. They have learned it from their parents and they again from theirs. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken one day.

Back to the initial statement closing it with a final question: What would you do if all the energy going into dealing with unnecessary relationship issues was available to you? I am going to change the world. At least mine and that of my son. It is invigorating. I almost feel like being a teenager again.


Relationships Make Your Life Easier

Apart from Hollywood, a relationship fulfills the function of making one’s life easier. Come on, you share things they become more affordable, like flatmates over here in Germany make it possible to live in nice flats, you can share the household chore, share caretaking of the children, share a car and much more. Even those following a romantic ideal about having a partner share things.

I once slightly broke my right hand and a rip. I couldn’t tie up my shoes. Lucky for me I had a girlfriend then +Thanks Chatthip, I love you+ and a son. But the latter was quite young and didn’t know how to do the lashes himself +laughing+ I would have had to go to the neighbours to ask them to help me getting dressed for work without my partner. That is somewhat of an embarassing imagination. I think there is not much more to talk about at this point.


You Want Safer Sex

Of course, this would rarely be the sole reason of having a serious relationship but it adds up to all the other reasons that I have found. After all we want to trust a partner as it also makes life less threatening and more comfortable for us. Sex with the wrong partner could cost us our lives or even confront us with having to take care of new one. Having a partner you can trust also puts a lot more fun in the old game as we don’t have to worry about STDs or contraception. And sex plays a role in all our lives. I won’t discuss that point of view, although feel free to differ, priest. Why do you think prostitution is the “oldest profession”? [Let’s discuss this in another article, it would blow this one]

We have arrived at the romantic section:


You Want to Share

Although looking at the core of this desire and seeing some of my former points like the fear of being alone and fitting in validated, I will stay on the surface. Romance always takes place on the surface. Beneath the obvious there is no romance to be found, sorry.

What sense does it make to be the luckiest person in the world if there is no one to acknowledge or at least perceive it? Being lucky with oneself is pretty difficult. As we will never find out -there is 7 billion potential viewers- let’s say it is really satisfying to share the good moments in live and soothing to have someone when things go wrong. How could I argue against that?

The remaining question though is, why does this person have to be a single partner? Couldn’t it also be a friend? Friends tend to stay around pretty long, often even longer than partners. So where is the difference here? Well, sure, there is the matter of intimacy but how many experiences in your life are that intimate that you wouldn’t share it with your best friend? And I have seen many couples that rather share intimate moments with their friends than with their partner. Remember that we are not only talking about the nice things. Who would tell his or her partner that the sex last night was the worst in years? Damn, you are cruel. And please don’t pick out only the nice stuff. You would be stealing 50% of the potential energy from your relationship. I told you there is no romance to be found deeper inside.

You Want Intimacy

Intimacy. What is it? I admit having trouble with this point as my schooling and self-education is still going on. Intimacy derives from intimus, meaning the innermost, trusted, the most secret. It is obvious that we wouldn’t like things that are considered intimate to be known to many people out there. That’s why most of us chose our friends wisely or end friendships when the vow of intimacy is broken. This point is strongly related to the last one as it is about sharing secrets, not obvious feelings, thoughts and experiences. It is also strongly related to the effects of confessions. Telling someone our secrets is a relief to most if not all of us. A burden lifted from our shoulders, like Simon of Cyrene took Jesus’ cross on his way to Mount Calvary to lighten his. According to some sources Simon didn’t take the cross out of compassion or generousity what raises the question if your intimacy requires a willing taker or if it is just enough to confess to someone. Staying with the Christians the priest taking a confession is usually not particularly intimate with you -remember I come from secularized Germany- it still relieves those who speak out loud their “sins”. Making place for new ones to commit. -Sorry, that one had to come.

Finale Beyond Reason

You might have found my points of view discomforting and provocative. That is how I felt when I was confronted with those ideas and that is how I still feel when things I think and love to be right are joggled. But be assured there is only slight conscious provocation involved here that requires no reading between the lines. All points are as clear as I could make them at the moment of writing. I hope you value your partner also for many other reasons than the above ones. Maybe you should write those down and let us know.

Off-Comment

A friend of mine and obviously not a member of the hp-community yet commented on this article. Here is what she wrote and my reply next to it:

Dear Friend,
I am not sure if you haven’t misunderstood the main purpose of my article, so let me clarify it a bit. Sorry if I am wrong, but I want to make sure we are on the same line here:
I am not promoting any of the reasons I’ve mentioned. Quite the opposite. Even if the reader doesn’t agree or admit, those points are found in most relationships I know, that’s why I said I am writing about my experience. But I guess that many of us just deny the rational reasons of establishing a relationship for the sake of romance. This leads to the inability to deal with problems that come therefrom as they are not recognized.

Dear Mk,
I find that overall you do a great writing job, with a very provocative attitude, somewhat cocky and “I know it all” kind of a thing. Despite the first paragraph where you explain that his comes from your experience, the whole text just feels a bit like it. Nonetheless, as you say, some things upset me and some things I don’t understand. Dunno if its because the text is not finished yet or if it’s just because I just cant agree with you. I’ve had some spontaneous reactions that I would like to share in my comment.

Mk ad safer sex

I wrote:
After all we want to trust a partner as it also makes life less threatening and more comfortable for us. Sex with the wrong partner could cost us our lives or even confront us with having to take care of new one. Having a partner you can trust also puts a lot more fun in the old game as we don’t have to worry about STDs or contraception.

There is a word missing in my post right after contraception: going wrong. So I understand your resistance. I absolutely agree with you on your point. As I’ve told you, my texts are never really finished. There’s always something that I haven’t seen before. “The feeling of a great ONS” is something that I cannot talk about as I have never had one, but from what I have heard from all the women that left me in the mornings and never returned, ONS are nothing they want to practice on a regular basis. I guess one could compare it to a one time intake of drugs. Reading it again I must admit that I don’t understand your reference to it. Please explain in more detail.


ad safer sex

With reasons you are in a relationship, I agree overall. “You want safer sex” doesn’t hold in my eyes. Safer sex you can have in this world if you have the eyes a bit opened. I don’t believe in ladies saying that they cant be bothered with birthcontrol or condoms. We live in 2012 and EVERYTHING is out there. Sexual education is good and it is something that everyone should think about. Despite that, a lot of people don’t. I find that with sex its something else, in some cases “safer sex“ can also become dangerously monotonous. the adventure character of course lacks in a relationship. The excitement of the unknown, the wild chemistry floods. As much as it is important to have great sex in your relationship I think the feeling of a great one night stand could never be replaced. What I mean when I refer to a one night stand is related to the notion of safer sex in a psychological way. For me the idea of this psychological safer sex at a certain point can get dull and boring. Everyone feels that after a while in a partnership the excitement is gone but not so many people acknowledge it. And this safer sex idea then is not necessarily a turn on for relationships. But hey safer sex is better also than completely bad sex.


Mk ad people alike

You are actually supporting my point of view as intelligent is what you are and therefore you are attracted to those similar to you. Of course similarity does not mean identity in the sense that we are alike in all possible or almost all possible ways. I might have expressed myself a bit unclearly here. Also, I would suppose that your partners always had similarities to your father above the normal accordance with other people that are less involved in your live. “Father” can be anyone that had the role -if there was someone taking it- of dealing with authority and authorities in your family. It is not necessarily your biological father.

ad people alike

As for feeling alone, and acknowledged - totally agreed. But that’s also because the social constructions that we live in tell us that we shouldn’t be alone and we should be acknowledged in a relationship. Sometimes I feel that you can totally feel alone and unacknowledged with a partner. And you still engage in continuing that relationship. The human mind has its weird reasoning, I tell you.

I don’t agree when you say that we prefer people that in some way or the other are like us or the ones that we grew up with. For me personally that would be terrible. I find other things attractive. To me it’s very attractive if my partner is more intelligent and can raise my interest and also learn from him. It’s important that he is different than me because I would probably be emotionally dead in a couple of months with someone like me. Two people too alike can be too much. Just saying.

Mk ad unnecessary issues

What I have emphasized in your comment is a classical fallacy, Friend. I agree that from a certain point of view, namely that we only live around 70-80 years, necessary and unnecessary are relative. If arguments stay on the surface they do not change things for the better. Better here meaning less stress or more respect. If they go deeper and result in insights in our and the significant other’s needs, they are elemental. The fallacy is in saying that something that exists for a very long time must have a certain right to exist or maybe even be good for something. Nationalism exists since the first nation. Male dominance exists since Adam and Eve (don’t nail me to it), air pollution exists since the first volcanos... I could continue for quite some time. Length of existence doesn’t mean anything except that it exists and often even persists or resists change for a long time. It is a side argument for those promoting the bible as well.



ad unnecessary issues

So mainly I understand your points but I think you fail to provide the explanation why you feel that a relationship comes with unnecessary relationship issues. Unnecessary to whom? Just because you explained why they rationally happen that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t exist. They exist since ages ages ages ago.

At some point you mean that all of these points will be satisfied through what you do. Difficult I find. You won’t be able to actively all the time close yourself and resist these temptations, as you very well put it. And also relationships are of different kinds. That’s also something that I think is touched very basically. We have tones of kinds of relationships with the people surrounding us, even if sex in involved or not. I know you were clearly referring to partner relationship but I think its interesting, a few points apply in friendships too. As you said, why not with a friend, he sticks along for a longer time.


Mk ad romance

At some point you mean that all of these points will be satisfied through what you do.
No I don’t mean that. I do not really look for any of these points but they are often inherent, if I like it or not. But they will never be my conscious aim.

One last thing, that I am really curious about. So why is there no romance?
Again, I did not say there is no romance. There is no romance in the depth of things. It is a garment, that makes truth look pretty but it never is found at the base. Truth has no romance in it although I feel beauty in it. But at least you might couch it in beautiful verbal (or non-verbal) robes.

ad romance

One last thing, that I am really curious about. So why is there no romance? You cant just motivate that by saying there is not. I remember reading the text about the mighty oak. You know the mighty oak was at first involved in a story where I am sure there was romance involved. And I would be happy to believe that romance is a part of our lives to some extent. I am pretty pragmatic true, but still not of stone. We are people, not controllable machines. Regarding Romance I feel that there is some, depends on which depth of things we are talking about.You are talking the overly rational perspective here. And even over rationals fall for romance. Sometimes. I reserve my right not to adopt this overly pragmatic perspective. People feel romance sometimes. And yes I know its ideal but the world would look different if there were only rationals out there…

Keep up the writing for all interested and engaged readers out there!

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      Michael Schmitz 5 years ago from Berlin

      Beautifully written comment. The struggle with our (felt or actual) insignificance is an important point and surely should be discussed in more detail. But I fear that it sustains the same fate as all other regular noises: One gets used to it and doesn't notice it anymore. Therefore I absolutely agree with the thought that creative minds are a worthy contribution to anyones worldview as they deliver noise-cancelling headphones to be able to listen to the voices and sounds behind the prevalent white noise.

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      Robert 5 years ago

      Sounds like "terror management theory". We are all afraid and unconscious aware of our own death or our own insignificance - do not forget, the sun will swallow the earth one day and then all suffering was for nothing. According to this theory our main (our only) motivation in life (regardless of the culture we live in) is to comofort ourselves. We try as hard as possible to forget our own death. We can take two major roads: establishing a high self-esteem (not arrogance,but self-accaptence etc.) or we fit best into our peer-group, with a shared world-view and shared values. As long as we live up to these values, we are safe. A partnership is very helpful in the first case (a loving partner can boost our selfesteem and heal the damages our parents made(if they had not enough skills in nurturing and limitsetting parenting)) and in the second case as well, because we might find ourselves living according to our own model. But you can also fit into society if you think that creative minds, writers etc. make a worthy if not the worthiest contribution to your own worldview and values. But at the end of the day - if in partnership or as a teacher or a writer - you want to defeat the fear of your own insignificance. And that is making terrible noise night and day in everyones mind.