Oh man someone reading my blog lately might think there's a theme going on or something.
Anyway, I've been perusing the local craigslist personals lately and had some interesting conversations with new and old friends alike based on that. So it got me to thinking about relationships. In no small part because of my own personal struggles, but also because of the mounting number of people I see and hear from, that litter the forums and advice columns, and call in to advice lines and fill the pages of self-help books, all that are struggling along similar lines.
The problem is a lack of effort by their partner toward what should be a common goal. Sounds amorphous doesn't it? Common goal? You mean sex right? Well, not necessarily for a moment I want to take a step back from sex and talk about the things that probably should happen before sex. See people early in life tend to think about the things it takes to get sex; first base, second base, third base, HOME!!! But later in life they want to skip all the niceties and just get to it. Could be lack of sleep, busy schedule, too lazy, you name it. But after a while it can become a problem.
Not only do they want to skip going to first, second, or third, they want to skip running, skip hitting the ball, and skip even stepping up to the batter's box to take a token swing. So basically they want all the benefits without any of the effort. Then maybe sometimes they don't even want that.
Meanwhile the other partner is doing everything they can in anticipation of the play. The pitcher is warmed up and ready to go, the outfields moved back in anticipation of a long fly ball, the basemen are giving a little lead off the bases just to make things sporting. Then the game gets called for time or bad weather or what-have-you and the cycle will have to repeat another day.
This might be fine if it happened only periodically. However, this behavior tends to spread and grow from just a couple of times a week, to multiple weeks to months and then multiple months a year. Creating a scenario where one team is showing up to a game that no one wants to see played, least of all the other team.
My wife and I discussed this scenario in relation to some couples we know. Me being the fixer that I am want to fill in the gaps. Give a buffer for my friends and say "Hey! He doesn't like opera, well I like opera! Let's go to the opera together." "He doesn't like cuddling!? Well I like cuddling, come on over and we can sit and watch a movie together." The only problem my wife had with that is a catch 22. You can't make the offer without the other partner, the non-participating one, seeing it as breaking the sanctity of the marriage.
The problem with this is that the non-participating partner has already broken the marriage vows by being a non-participant. They have broken the social contract of marriage by choosing to not seek their partners happiness and instead allow their partner to languish unfulfilled. If the partner were making some efforts, or the unhappy partner's requests were just insatiable, one could back up the sanctity of marriage concept. However, when one person in the relationship has decided to just put it in park and do nothing, well, it's hard to not tell someone "go find a boy toy" or "you come cuddle with me anytime you need it" or any number of other words of advice.
So how far do you go to protect the sanctity of marriage if it means ignoring someones ongoing suffering? How do you encourage someone to fill in the gaps in their relationship where needed, without supplanting the partner? How do you encourage positive behavior in the non-participating partner? That's the answer I'm still striving for.
My gut says "fuck it" and throw caution to the wind. But reason dictates that people are fragile things that despite best intentions things get misinterpreted, misconstrued, and broken in actual practice. It's a tough balancing act that's tearing at my heart a little more each day.