Friday, October 24, 2014

Give, Essentially

I was reading an article, a movie review actually, but that is not important right now. The writer was making reference to character motivation and said that everyone was seeking the emotional essentials: love, sex, conversation, and compliments. This is an interesting short list. Conversation and compliments?
My first thought was Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Let's dust that off, shall we?
  • Physiological needs (Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion)
  • Safety needs (Security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, or property)
  • Love and belonging (Friendship, family, sexual intimacy)
  • Esteem (Self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others)
  • Self-actualization (Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts)
Emotional essentials are more advanced, so we can skip the first two, physiological and safety. The assumption being that if these first two are not being met then you have no time to ponder your lack of the emotional essentials. Convenient that sex appears as both a base physiological essential and part of the higher need to feel loved and wanted. I guess the point might be that masturbation could satisfy the base physiological need for sex, but not the higher need of feeling love and belonging.
We also can skip self-actualization since that is an intellectual essential, and not emotional. But what about esteem? Is esteem an emotional essential? I say no. Esteem is an individual essential.
Comparing love, sex, conversation, and compliments to love and belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy), I would have to admit that the writer was spot on. Those are the emotional essentials form Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
I did some searching. You know, Google. And from a marriage/relationship site I get the following emotional essentials:
  • Affection
  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Conversation
  • Recreational Companionship
  • Honesty and Openness
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Financial Support
  • Domestic Support
  • Family Commitment
  • Admiration
Straight off we can match the following with the writer's short list: affection, sexual fulfillment, conversation, and admiration.

Recreational Companionship? Someone to do stuff with, right? Emotional? No. Essential? For some, maybe, but not for all, so not essential.
Honesty and Openness? Emotional? No. Essential? For a relationship, yes.
Physical Attractiveness? Whose? The person? Or people in that person's world?
Financial and Domestic Support? At best, these tie back to the base physiological needs.
Family Commitment? What does this even mean? Just having a family? Sacrificing for the good of the family? Who gets to decide what is good?
So. That marriage/relationship site has some advice it wants to convey and included them in a list of emotional essentials. But they do have items that match the writer's short list: love, sex, conversation, and compliments
On a psychology-type site I found the following top ten emotional essentials. One quick look and they already seem more genuine than the list from the marriage site.
  • Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  • Being emotionally connected to others
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Friendship, intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
  • Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of status within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement
  • Having meaning and purpose — which comes from being stretched in what we do and think.
These are the ones that qualify as an emotional need: attention, connected to others, friendship, and intimacy.
Okay. We now have an expanded list of emotional needs:
  • love
  • sexual fulfillment
  • conversation
  • compliments
  • affection
  • admiration
  • attention
  • connected to others
  • friendship
  • intimacy
Although these are considered "needs" I submit to you, I challenge you, that they are actually what you should be giving to others, as appropriate for each relationship, and to your romantic partner, give ALL of them.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Heart and Seek

I used to think "my type" of woman wears her heart on her sleeve. In part because I am not aggressive and it seemed like a good yin/yang kinda thing. I confess I was once not very expressive and so a woman with her heart on her sleeve made it easier on me. Having relationships with only heart-on-their-sleeves women has allowed me to be lazy and kept me from learning much needed relationship skills.
Being in a relationship with a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve is no walk in the park. You learn to read emotional queues that lead up to emotional outbursts, both good and bad. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice. You more easily recognize subtle emotional signs, because quite frankly you've become conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog! This is a valuable skill when you find yourself in a relationship with a more reserved woman. Her emotional expressions will be more subtle, and you will be able to read them.
If like me you tend towards women who wear their hearts on their sleeves, then you may at first find yourself befuddled by a woman who does not. This is where the lazy part comes in. Expressive women do most of the relationship work for you. From the get-go they share, share, share. You know what they are thinking and what they are feeling. You know what they like and don't like. This might put you on the defensive, to slow things down. You take that same approach with a less expressive woman and you will become two ends that never meet.
If you are unable to adapt, if you find yourself courting a less expressive woman and you cannot overcome your relationship laziness, then you are handicapped and limited. Depriving yourself of being more well-rounded and complete. Depriving yourself of becoming a fully actualized emotional being, able to be the yin and/or the yang, as needed.
When you are with a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve then you push back in order to find some common ground in the middle. When you are with a less expressive woman then you pull in order to bring her into the middle common ground. Just don't pull too hard, and you know, be patient.
Here is my thinking on courting a less expressive woman.
  • Patience: things move more slowly. Wait.
  • Prompting: you are going to have start conversations. You will have to lead at times.
  • Sharing as a prompt: do not always just ask questions, this becomes an interrogation. Share and express yourself, and give her the opportunity to reciprocate.
  • Know what you want: you cannot be fickle and inconsistent.
  • Determination: prompting and sharing may not result in good communication. Stick with it.
  • Acceptance: you are operating from your expectations, but the end result will be different.
  • Be vulnerable: the risk is worth it. Put yourself out there.
  • Give her some space: show interest without being demanding.
No agenda. No timeline.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Share. Relate. Connect.

“We're a pack of strays, don't you get it?” So says Steve Zissou himself in the movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Wes Anderson movies are routinely populated with strays and misfits. And in every instance they seek the same thing: connection. This is no less true for the three brothers in The Darjeerling Limited. Francis, Jack, and Peter reunite a year after the death of their father, and they seek connection with each other and their parents, including the dead one.

Then end result of this post is that I will talk about one component of my relationship philosophy by sharing what I once used to include in my online dating profiles (back when I was participating), which is:  Share. Relate Connect.

How have I arrived at this post? Let’s take a look.

I was watching The Darjeerling Limited. The three brothers seek to re-connect, or perhaps to truly connect for the first time. Their parents are remote and distant, even when they are physically near (I am jumping to conclusions on the father). This reminded me in some ways of my own family, which made me sad.

I thought, “I am going to breakdown this movie, find all the themes related to connection and blog something.” But what I wrote was dry and impersonal. Then there were several iterations, none of which felt satisfactory. Contrast and compare different Wes Anderson movies. Get into my family history. Reveal to much nitty-gritty of my own history.

After watching the movie The Skeleton Twins with my son I was reminded of something I have previously told my kids (numerous times, I thought), and hoped he would remember. He did not. I asked, “if you have to define in one word what “relationship” means, what word would you choose?” The answer is: Sharing.

Then I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, which does not follow the common themes of most Wes Anderson movies. But, as in just about any movie or story ever, there are elements of connection. But it got me thinking about it in a more general way. Finally, I was driving to work and I thought about the old online dating tagline: Share. Relate. Connect.

A relationship is simply sharing. You share your time, share your thoughts, share your feelings, and in a romantic relationship you share your body, too. Relationships begin and continue to thrive because both participants share. Relationships fail simply because one, or both, cease to share.

The crux of any lasting relationship is shared experiences. You can share information and feelings all you want, but true meaning derives from spending time together and doing things together. And so, at some point in the past while mulling over what to put into an online dating profile I thought up:  Share. Relate. Connect.

Share yourself and do things together.
Relate to what the other shares and does.
Connect because you both enjoy.

So, let us return to the beginning. The Darjeerling Limited. As the brothers reunite they agree to go on a spiritual journey together, to accompany their train ride across India. Yet, they continue to keep secrets, and to play one brother off the other. They are not sharing. They continue on together, doing activities together. The secrets are exposed. They settle conflicts and disagreements. They stick together. Through mutual hardships and experiences the brothers finally begin to share. They relate. They connect.