theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

Marriages used to be about property and politics. Your families decided who’d benefit the most from this family merger, and then you were committed – not because you were happy, nobody really expected happiness, but because betrothal was a glorified business contract. Breaking it brought troubles for everyone. Best to tough it out.

The cultural legacy of that can be seen in the way we overvalue long-term relationships. Watch the way performers work a crowd: they’ll always ask a couple how long they’ve been married, and if the answer is sufficiently long, they’ll always relate that number breathlessly to the crowd: “Twenty-five years!” And the crowd will cheerfully applaud because these two people have been together a long time and long is good.

But stability comes in all forms, and only some of them include love.

Some twenty-five year relationships are the sort where they don’t really like each other, but they’ve learned to sort of slide past each other as much as possible. And if you watch, you’ll see the survival mechanisms for that: the half-listened to conversations, the eye-rolling shrug whenever someone notes something annoying about their partner, the weary willingness to do all of the chores their partner’s too incompetent or disinclined to do.

Some stability involves living almost separate lives, with two different friends groups because these two people want entirely different things. Some stability involves hanging out with each other because they don’t have any other friends, and going to a movie you hate with someone you don’t care for is still theoretically better than being alone.

Some stability involves great gaps in communication, the arguments you never have because if you open up that seal then this relationship is over. So you don’t discuss the kids you wanted, or the sex you wanted, or the life you wanted, because that would destroy this stability. Some stability involves constantly bickering about those unachievable goals, tossing the blame back and forth like a hot potato, a never-ending state of trench warfare.

Some stability involves shaping yourself to the role: breadwinner. Dutiful housewife. Business partner. Maybe you discovered at some point you didn’t want that role, but it’s better to carve off the parts of yourself that don’t fit than potentially rock the boat.

And a lot of stability involves confusing fondness for love. Human beings are hard-wired to form attachments to the things they rely on: soldiers have been known to sentimentally risk their lives in battle to rescue a bomb-defusing robot whose whole function was, literally, to stop them from risking their lives.

If you hang around someone for long enough, you often grow fond of them – maybe their quirks are irritating, but they are known quantities and you have discovered the workarounds. You’d miss them if they left, not necessarily because you like them, but because you’ve come to expect them – kind of like the way your new phone looks weird if you’ve lived with a phone with a crack in the screen for long enough.

But fondness isn’t love. It isn’t an active quantity. Fondness is just something that accretes like a tarnish on a penny, often arriving whether you’ve worked to get it or not. Love is a happy expectation, something that puts a spring in your step – fondness is just sinking back into the couch and realizing it hurts your back in the way that it’s always hurt your back, and the part of you that craves routine is happy for the hurt.

And you’ll see people in long-term relationships going, “I love them.” And while I’m not quite willing to write off fondness as not a form of love, I will say it’s one of the lower grades thereof. They don’t have a lot of love in these kinds of relationships.

What they have is stability. They know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It’s not great, but they’ve learned how to bear it. It’s going to stay this way for as long as they’re willing to stay, and leaving it might mean they get something worse.

And they get applause. People cheer. People are thrilled to meet people who’ve been together for so long because length is good, you’re supposed to stay together, it’s like being thin in that sometimes being thin is because you’re so goddamned sick you can’t eat but hey we all want thinness and we don’t care how we get it.

These people have stability.

They long for happiness.

Unfortunately, for them, in this circumstance, the one is the enemy of the other.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Date: 2017-05-25 02:29 pm (UTC)
arlie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] arlie
Yes - But this reads like special pleading to convince yourself or others that some questionable behaviour or priority really is a good thing.

Also, I think the distinction you are making between fondness and love is utterly forced.

Date: 2017-05-25 03:48 pm (UTC)
klgaffney: a small plotting black cat is sitting between the forepaws of a cheerful looking asian black bear. (w.)
From: [personal profile] klgaffney
I understand the first points, but the last--fondness vs love , is way too arbitrary and ill-defined. It's also not even remotely something I'd lump in with the previous points; is there really anything negative about finding comfort and stability with someone one is deeply fond of? What is the other magical ideal true love option?

Is there an expectation for fireworks/infatuation/emotional stimulation on a constant basis? I get that a lot of long-termers are unhappy, for various reasons, and that sucks. But the implication here is that there's an emotional performance requirement, or the relationship 'based on mutual fondness' is as terrible as the previous. As someone who experiences drastic variations in emotional state, this would be....a suboptimal yardstick to use to determine the validity of any of my relationships, long-term or otherwise.

Disclaimer: I'm not pissed or offended or anything, I'm just trying to figure out where you're coming from. I'm saying this as an aspie who has been married for 18 years, with a spouse by all appearances is still very much in love, whereas my natural tendancy is to be distant-but-fond; I've been thru the infatuation phase and it sucks; strong emotion is actively disruptive and painful to me. Trust and an ability to connect is more a priority for me. I have trust issues. I trust him. I trust he will not knowingly do harm, I trust that he will not misunderstand or even accidently reject my attempts to express affection; and after 18 years he is still absolutely my choice to stand back-to-back with when the zombie apocalypse comes, screw all the rest. This is apparently the form my love takes; I don't think I'm confused, I think my experience and expectations of what love looks like are valid. They're just not necessarily the same as other folks, that's all.

tl;dr: Fondness can be active. Also words are hard, man.
Edited Date: 2017-05-25 03:58 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-25 09:27 pm (UTC)
stripedsocks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] stripedsocks
When my ex and I were in the process of splitting up one of the things he threw at me was that he hadn't loved me since our first anniversary and that if he stuck it out I should too. And I countered that didn't we both deserve to be happy?

That background has helped me be even more appreciative of D because I now understand how rare what we have is. The fact that we still are excited to see each other and spend time together after 12 years of marriage is precious to me.

Date: 2017-05-28 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Do you have a source on that robot thing? I can only find concerns along those lines, not actual incidents

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