Friday, April 5, 2013

The Relationship Continuum

This blog was for a long time dedicated to my gay "marriage" and now is going to help me through my gay "divorce." I put quotations just because we were never able to get married legally until the breakup was eminent. I found few role models for a gay marriage but gay divorce is just like any other divorce - it sucks balls. Gay or straight, I have to imagine it is normal to analyze what went wrong. The lesson I learned came at the cost of a four-year relationship. This "relationship continuum" is something I will carry into my next relationship with whomever (or whenever) that might be.

We all have personality traits that can be packaged and sold as benefits, or highlighted as negatives. Someone who thrives on change could be construed as an unreliable flight risk. Being laid back could be viewed as being a lazy ass clown. Being a foodie could be perceived as being a pretentious prick about something commonplace, eating (count your blessing if you don't know an extreme foodie). No matter how you package these personality traits, there is always its opposite and finding the opposite can help position the relationship as a whole. 

Gratuitous kitty shot for those who are only on the internet for such things.

Since it has almost nothing to do with the actual reason my own relationship ended, I'm going to use the example of spirituality to help clarify my point. On one hand we have someone who is religious (neither a positive or negative thing). Let's just think of its opposite: secular athiesm (again no positive or negative value). I know assigning no positive or negative to something may be hard for the religious who read this post. Oh wait, it's hard for anyone - it's kind of what we do as humans. This is where the continuum comes into play; place opposing forces on either side of it. 

Religious - - - - - - - - - - | - - - - - - - - -  Secular

If the religious among you are pissed they are on the left side, quit being a child and imagine it's on the right.

If you happen to end up in a relationship with someone who is at the opposing end of a personality continuum, there is an obvious struggle. Granted, there is probably not going to be a relationship between two people at extremely opposing ends (particularly of this continuum). I imagine someone from Westboro Baptist dating, well, anyone. It's not pretty and not likely to ever even start a relationship. Let's assume though there are two people at opposing ends; there is going to have to be some movement to maintain cohesion between the two partners.

Religious - * - - - - - - - - | - - - - - - - * -  Secular

If both partners refuse to budge from their position at the more extreme end of the continuum, conflict will remain the entire relationship, or will more than likely end in a breakup. 

Religious - - - - - - - - - - - | * - - - - - - * -  Secular
Religious - * - - - - - - - * | - - - - - - - - -  Secular

If one partner refuses to budge from their position at the more extreme end of the continuum, and the other partner moves beyond the meridian, the partner who crosses the meridian has lost themselves to the other person and often sacrifices their own self-concept (i.e. someone becoming Mormon just because their partner will only marry in the Temple).

Religious - - - - - - * - - - | - - - * - - - - -  Secular

The ideal situation would be where both partners are willing to move towards the middle. There may still be the occasional fight, but partners can agree to disagree while still maintaining their self-concept. 

Again, this can be used for any number of personality conflicts: the pretentious foodie versus the unconcerned mac-n-cheese eater, the social butterfly versus the wall flower, the high-strung workaholic versus the gelatinous layabout, the changeling versus old reliable. We all have our foibles and are bound to have some of those foibles be at odds with our partner. I think most often selecting and marrying a partner where these conflicts are 1) not absolutely fundamental and 2) are the exception rather than the rule will make a successful relationship. 

However, when a conflict arises on the relationship continuum (which it almost certainly will), I think the relationship can only continue happily if both partners are willing to move their positions on the continuum. Old reliable is going to have to learn to be a little less structured and the changeling is going to have to settle down a little. The social butterfly is going to have to stay in and watch a movie occasionally and the wallflower is going to have to get down and boogie with new people from time to time. 

None of us is perfect, but if we are willing to move along the continuum, and find a partner who is willing to do the same, we will find a beautiful balance where we can live out our lives in a relationship that means something. I for one think this is a possibility for most of us, excepting of course those in the Westboro Baptist Church. There is no continuum for them, only craziness.