Saturday, April 17, 2010

a theory on relationships

Okay I've got a new theory on relationships:

The key to any relationship -- romantic, workplace, relationships between citizens, etc. -- is that both parties share the same platonic ideal of what that relationship should look like.

If you think the platonic ideal of a romantic relationship is a white picket fence with two kids and a dog -- and your partner thinks the platonic ideal of a romantic relationship is a life of vagabond travel with occassional bursts of polyamory -- that relationship just ain't ever gonna work.

By the same token, if your platonic ideal workplace is a vision of collaboration, communication, and democratic decision making -- and your boss's platonic ideal is a workplace where employees know their place and speak when spoken to -- it ain't gonna work.

And nationally, when one political party's vision of the platonic ideal of the nation-state is a European-style multicultural democracy with a vibrant public sector and a sturdy safety net, and the other party dreams of a Milton Friedman/Ayn Rand inspired White Somalia with no regulations governed by theocratic misogynistic Old Testament (Christian Sharia) law -- well, needless to say, the political debates are gonna be difficult. 

This post is really just the flip side of the coin to the argument I made in my earlier post on mutuality. It just seems to me that before any two parties (in ANY relationship -- romantic, workplace, citizen to citizen, etc.) get into a conversation about any specific area of disagreement, we should first have a conversation about what our platonic ideal is of how we think things ought to look (and why).  And furthermore, only through a  continual dialogue regarding the platonic ideal (the form, process, and goal -- the telos of the relationship) can we ever hope to see any sort of shift in our platonic ideals so that we might eventually come to some sort of consensus about how things ought to be.  


Anne said...

Totally agree... I think this is important groundwork to do in new relationships. I was working on my own theory of equality in relationships... when there are uneven feelings of attraction or being into the relationship, that seems to be an issue. But if both parties know that and are okay with it, maybe it doesn't matter as much as the shared vision. I like this!!! :)

RFK Action Front said...

Thanks for the comment Anne! Yeah I think it would help enormously to have this conversation early early in any relationship. In fact I think it should be a first date question and a job interview question: what is your ideal as far as how this relationship should look? And if there is not a match, then no harm done, everyone can save themselves a lot of agony by just moving on.

Unmatched intensity feels like a part of this question about the platonic ideal and also something unique unto itself perhaps? Maybe one party (in a romantic relationship) thinks an ideal relationship is characterized by unrelenting white hot intensity. But the other party may assume that all relationships are characterized by ebb and flow and that such variability is good and normal. And then, even if there is a lot that is working well in the relationship -- the underlying different assumptions about how the relationship should look will cause a lot of pain. But as you point out, the more the deep underlying values and assumptions are explored and shared, the better it's gonna be for everyone.

I'm not really sure what to do about wildly mismatched platonic ideals in the body politic. Political separation often seems to involve civil war and such. But I do think acknowledging the wildly different hymnals the various sides are singing from is helpful -- and provides a slim chance of finding a higher synthesis.