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He Laughs At My Jokes... - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
He Laughs At My Jokes...
So, thatwesguy is doing the interview thing on his journal, and the question that he's using on everyone is to name three of the most important attributes of a good long-term romantic relationship.

It got me thinking, and what I'm thinking is that's not the best question to be asking, at least if you're looking for an Answer. There are no magic three things. There are no magic seven things. There isn't a list of nine things that'll make the differnece. I can name you three things that are important to the health of my long-term relationship, I can name you seven things that make my marriage work. If you press me, I can even name you nine things that a good number of good long-term relationships will have. The thing is, if you ask what the N things are you'll get a slightly differnet set of answers from everyone because everyone is different. I think most people expect that to some extent, though they might expect that is mostly has to do with people giving different weight to the N + some Important Attributes. I think its more complicated than that. Different people need different things in a long-term relationship. Not only that, but since there are two people in each relationship you have two sets of variables. What is important and necessary if you're with person X might not be quite the same as what is important with person Y. Each connection between two people is different, and the N most important things are different.

The other problem I have with naming the N most important attributes is that I don't really believe that you can simplify a good long term relationship to N important things. A marriage isn't some equation where you can make a small angle approximation and still come up with a satifying answer. A marriage is much more like ballroom dancing, both partners have to get it right in order for a figure to work and there are thousands of nit-picky little details involved. Sure, I can name you three things that are important attributes for a good dancer (balance, timing, posture), and everyone will agree that these are big important things that a dancer needs, but you can have all these things and still do a lousy natural turn, and even a lousy waltz, tango, foxtrot quickstep and V. waltz. By the same token you can have any three big important attributes in your long term relationship and still screw things up. The thousands of small things really matter, the technical details, the day-to-day stuff. You can rise too much on your spin turn and still dance a really good waltz, and you can have some of the small things not working in your relationship and still have a good relationship -- if the rest of it is good.

Warren laughs at my jokes. He's just about the only person I know who laughs at the majority of my jokes. With most people, at least half the time people don't realize I'm joking, and I'm not sure about the rest of the time. Not only does Warren laugh, but when I commented on it this past weekend he doesn't see how anyone could not get the jokes I make and not think that they're funny. Its not a big important attribute like 'Trust', and I suppse that you could lump it under 'Communication' if you really wanted to, but in my opinion its more than just communication. I'd still love him even if he didn't laugh at my jokes, but it certainly makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. More importantly, when I add it in to all the other little things it seems so much more than any big important attribute I could name you.

I don't believe in the quick fix for dancing, or for relationships. Its the details that matter.

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Current Mood: good good
Current Music: They Can't Take That Away From Me

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thatwesguy From: thatwesguy Date: November 8th, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interestingly, I'm most assuredly not looking for An Answer. On the contrary, I'm asking many people for a distillation of the most important elements because, first, I am betting that most people can name a few, and second, because it tells me important things about the people involved (all of whom are to greater or lesser degree part of my life), and yes, third, because I hope to gain some relationship-wisdom from reading the various responses. This last point is important because implicit in the way I think about it is the idea that having a lot of people dance around the question will start to map out the space more clearly than my solitary introspection can. I can hardly help but learn about relationships from hearing about what others have found to be true for theirs.

Also, these aren't just random people. They're people associated with me, and many of them share important attributes with me.

Finally, the answers sometimes point our attention to things that we forget to take into account. For example, I don't consciously consider a shared sense of humor to be an important part of any relationship I've ever had, but now that I've read your post and thought about, I realize that not only is it an important (and overlooked!) part of many successful relationships I've had, but that it is also, much to my surprise, a really big part of physical attraction! I never would have thought that if you hadn't pointed it out as important to your relationship in specific.

I don't claim that anyone can distill a relationship into an equation, but I strongly suspect that there is wisdom there for the asking. So far, the answers seem to me to support that idea.

thatwesguy From: thatwesguy Date: November 8th, 2004 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh! And thanks for your post, and for directing my attention to it!!!
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 9th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to know you're not looking for an Answer. I wasn't sure. The Wes I knew fifteen years ago might have been. Of course fifteen years ago I probably would have thought there was an Answer to give, so there you go. Experience is good for something if you use it. I've met a lot of people lately who are looking for Answers in dancing and in life and I find it frustrating. That part of the post wasn't really directed at you, you just gave me something that made me think of it and want to put it into words.

Of course there are some big things that do matter a lot. If I did answer your original question, one of my three would be to love the other person enough that you don't want to change them, but instead want to change yourself to be a better person for them.
thatwesguy From: thatwesguy Date: November 9th, 2004 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to know you're not looking for an Answer. I wasn't sure. The Wes I knew fifteen years ago might have been. Of course fifteen years ago I probably would have thought there was an Answer to give, so there you go.

At the risk of stating the obvious: we were teenagers then (were we ever? Strangely, yes!) and now we're much, much wiser. I for one hope one day to become not merely wiser, but actually wise! But I'm not in any great danger of reaching that goal particularly soon. ;-)

If I did answer your original question, one of my three would be to love the other person enough that you don't want to change them, but instead want to change yourself to be a better person for them.

Yeah, THAT'S the stuff. Thanks!
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 9th, 2004 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, we were teenagers then. But at the risk of stating the depressing, I've noticed that there are a whole lot of people in this world who don't get any wiser than they were when they were teenagers, even supposedly smart people. Its gotten to the point that I feel its worthy of comment when someone has gotten noticably wiser than they were before. I hope I still know you well enough that saying "Hey, you're a better person than you were before," is something that you will take as a positive statement.
thatwesguy From: thatwesguy Date: November 9th, 2004 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course; thank you!

That's interesting. I haven't noticed that trend. Quite the opposite, in fact. Hunh.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 9th, 2004 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are a more forgiving and positive person than I am, I imagine this colors our perceptions. A lot of the people I have stayed in contanct with and consider friends have become better people, perhaps I am just noticing the exceptions more.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: November 9th, 2004 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I think there's a difference between wanting to change someone so that you don't have to do the work of changing yourself, and wanting to change someone so that they're a better person. As you mention later, we're better people than we were fifteen years ago. Some of the changes that have made me a better person are due to introspection and more maturity, but other changes are due to the work other people did.

As a current example, I'm happy to say "okay, I need to figure out a better way to not disconcert harrock when I'm pulling the plan out from under him. That's something I can work on, changing my communication style there, rather than wanting him to do all the work of changing to not be disconcerted. But I think when he's driving, he should use the turn signals more often when he's about to pull over to park. I don't want to change to not mind that, I'm trying to get him to change, because I think it's safer and more polite to the drivers behind us.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 9th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a good point. There's a big difference between wanting to change someone because it'll make life easier for you, and wanting them to change a certain habit that's affecting their safety or well-being because you really want them to be safe and well.
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