Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Flexibility, Commitment, Love? Wha?

I’m usually pretty emo and reflective after date parties. Today is no different. But, this is more important, I think, than talking about the happenings of a date party. But, perhaps these thoughts are motivated by the happenings of the evening. I suppose.

Lately, I’ve been coming to appreciate my parents, and their marriage, more. They didn’t have the most admirable marriage that I I’ve ever seen, in fact when I was growing up, I was afraid that they were going to divorce. They fought terribly. They used terrible words. I heard it. I saw it. I hold to this day that my witnessing of their interactions has been the most significant influence of my thoughts about relationships. I never wanted to be like them.

But, I’m starting to appreciate the deeper, nuanced qualities of their relationships. In retrospect, maybe their fighting wasn’t as negative as I once thought.

They are flexible with eachother. They allow eachother to be their worst, and their words show their disgust, but implicitly, the fact that they argue and disagree shows their flexibility. If you are sticking around and taking the time to argue, that’s flexibility. Getting pissed when you could be disengaging is a sign of love, at least minimally.

My two lovely friends, Laura and Jeff sleeping below me, call that—being flexible—love.

I think they’re right. At least in part.

But there’s something more subtle that has to be at play in partner-relationships. There are many others that know each other intently and have flexibility. Those people aren’t necessarily partners.

Actually, I don’t think that conclusion is right. I think that relationships need not have some special subtlety over “friends”. We add value to the relationships that we want to. Almost as if we peg our relationships to some other standard, like floating currency markets depending on what they mean to us or what we want them to be. We peg our friendships to one value system, we peg our romantic interests to another, but to begin with they still have something quite the same bout them, I think. In other words, we just view them differently, even if they’re the same.

So it seems as if that pegging is expressed as commitment. If you add some layers of commitment to a given relationships, you start to define the perceptions and preferences that dictate the role of that relationship.

So, different types and quantities of commitment seem to be the culprit of why relationships are different. So, a friend relationship and a partner relationship could be quite similar, or even the same in terms of “knowing someone” or “having fun”, but the type and amount of commitment you want to throw down is what defines it from being a partner/friend relationship.

I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that strong relationships have the same qualities despite on what their levels of commitment are. It seems that these days, with rising divorce rates above 50%, it’s not a problem of marriages to have commitment, but that it’s the more fundamental problem of “knowing someone” or “having trust” or “negotiating conflight”. It doesn’t seem like that many people have problems committing, but rather meaningful relationships fail because they have weak foundations to build their relationships on in the first place, that love and commitment are being confused for some sort of a strong bond.

Kind of scary?

Flexibility is important. Now the really important question is…how do you use flexibility to get from “weak” relationship to one that is strong like a marriage, or life partnership.

God, this topic is so complicated.