Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Right Stuff

As I go through my daily life, I come into contact with all sorts of folks. Being the type of person that I am, I tend to observe people very closely, and to then ruminate about my observations, either trying to construct a background for people, or making an attempt at determining their various motivations for doing what they do, saying what they say, wearing what they wear, etc., or trying to figure out what the image is that people are trying to portray of themselves.

Lately, I have taken to paying particular attention to couples. Married couples, boyfriend/girlfriend, same sex couples, etc.

I find that I am often surprised at how many different types and degrees of relationships exist between people. I think I started out by viewing everyone else as a slightly different copy of myself, but this was a flawed observation. There are very very few couples that are anything like Elysia and I. We have a relationship that appears to me, at least, to be unique in the entire world. Or, at least unique as compared to other couples that I have observed.

At first, I sort of made these comparisons passively, and as I watched and considered what I was seeing, I became intrigued... which led to even closer observations. Eventually, I began to try to get a sense of what people's relationships were like by listening to what one partner would say about their spouse or significant other, whether or not I had ever met the 'other half'.

While many couples seem to be very happy, and very much in love... it seems to me that many more are simply tolerant of one another, or, in some cases, are downright adversarial. This is somewhat dismaying to me. I suppose I want everyone to be in love and to share what I share with my wife with their own husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, or what-have-you. Of course, this is unrealistic... but, it is still my hypothetical world, of my own creation. If you want a different one, go create your own!

Sometimes, I am slightly disturbed, sometimes saddened... other times I am thrilled, happy, or downright infuriated by what I perceive to be the status quo in many 'loving' relationships. More often, I am baffled, dumbfounded, confused, and befuddled by what I see.... Granted, I am only ever seeing a snapshot of other people's lives, and where on the continuum of 'good-to-bad' that snapshot is taken is beyond my means to ascertain. However, that is one of the limitations of this type of observance, I suppose, so, my resources being limited to what I see with my eyes, what I hear with my ears, and what I translate to all of this to mean with my heart and my mind is a limitation that I have to accept, I suppose.

In order for me to be able to make comparisons, I have to have some type of benchmark against which to compare, so in my mind, I basically have had to come up with a few categories that I rank on some sort of sliding scale. I sort of come up with a score for each category, and, predicated upon those scores, an overall score. I have come up with ten basic categories, as follows: (often, it isn’t possible to make a determination regarding some or many of the categories. In this case, I simply calculate the average score on what I am able to demonstrate).

  1. Trust – How much trust is shown or demonstrated between partners?

  2. Consideration – Do the partners look out for one another? Do they primarily give or take? How considerate are they of one another’s feelings and needs?

  3. Care – Do they look out for one another, and take care of one another?

  4. Mutual Respect – How do they express their overall opinion of one another, how do they treat one another, how do they talk to one another?

  5. Sexual Chemistry – Is there a spark? Are they playful? Do they seem to be attracted to one another? Do they display affection and desire for one another? How do they look at each other? How do they talk about one another?

  6. Compatibility – Do they seem to fit well with each other? Do they make a good couple? Do they seem to compliment one another?

  7. Contentment – Do they appear to be happy with one another and with the relationship? Does either of them appear to be ‘on the prowl’ or ‘shopping around’ or do they seem solid and tight as a couple?

  8. Friendship – Do they like one another’s company? Do they share interests? If they have a triumph or a tragedy, do they feel drawn to the other partner to share the news or situation? Are they ‘buddies’? Do they prefer one another to outside friends? Do they feel privileged to be members of their own private club? Are they fans of one another?

  9. Acceptance – How have they learned to deal with and to tolerate one another’s foibles, quirks, and habits? Do they give one another room to be who they are? Are they judgmental of each other’s thoughts, behavior, opinions, beliefs, or actions? Are they open-minded with one another?

  10. Dependability – Do they ‘have one another’s back’? Do they stand united? Do they step up to handle whatever needs to be done when it is best for them as a unit? Do they put the needs of the both of them over the needs of either one? Can they rely on each other?

There are literally zillions of different attributes and qualities that could be observed and judged. I have simply settled on these… for no particular reason other than that these are what I feel are important qualities in a relationship. I rank them from one to ten with one representing the least degree of a particular quality being demonstrated, and ten being the most degree of a particular quality being represented.

Last night, we went to a local Celtic Festival. It was drizzling, and a Celtic Band was playing in the Village band shell. One of the couples present had four boys. This is what I observed: The man was a youngish looking (early to mid thirties), reasonably attractive guy, dressed in jeans, but very presentable. The woman looked older, haggard, straggly, and unkempt. She was slightly overweight, and looked as though she hadn’t slept well in a great while. He sat contently, with one of the younger boys in his lap, and smoked a cigar while she ran around herding the other boys who were running wild, rolling on the ground, and generally misbehaving. The father never said a word. At one point, he asked her for something, and she got up, rummaged in a bag, and walked over to him, handing the object (whatever it was). When it was time to go, she folded up all of the chairs, packed up all of the bags, and got everything ready for them to leave, while simultaneously trying to keep the boys from killing one another. He sat and placidly smoked and watched her. When everything was ready to go, he stood and took one of the bags, and began walking towards their vehicle with the youngest boy. The wife was left to carry everything else. I’m sure that he viewed the night as enjoyable, relaxing, and interesting. I am equally sure that she was in hell the entire time, and would have just as rather stayed home.

This is how I would rate this couple.

1. Trust – 7 (he trusts her around 9 – she takes care of everything. She most likely doesn’t trust him much at all – 2 -- 7 overall as a couple)
2. Consideration – 2
3. Care – 2
4. Mutual Respect – 1
5. Sexual Chemistry – 0
6. Compatibility – 5
7. Contentment – 1
8. Friendship – 1
9. Acceptance – 8
10. Dependability – 2

So.. the raw score would be 29. Which is divided by 10 to get an average overall score of 2.9. I round this up to a 3. My overall take on them??

He is content because she takes care of all of the unpleasantness, and leaves him to relax and enjoy himself. All of the work is her responsibility. No doubt he feels entitled to this because he has remained fairly fit and attractive, while she has, due to giving birth to four children and running the household single-handedly, let herself slip and become somewhat less attractive, thereby, in his mind, welching on her part of the inferred bargain. She should feel lucky that he has stayed with her, and that he “brings home the bacon” so to speak. She is probably miserable, but loves her family, and also feels that she is unattractive and wouldn’t be wanted by anyone else, so in some sick way, she probably accepts his neglect as her lot in life.

They get a 3.

We went out to dinner with a Peruvian couple not so long ago. During the ride to the restaurant, and during dinner, I had occasion to observe them. Here is my observation for them as a couple:

1. Trust – 10
2. Consideration – 10
3. Care – 9
4. Mutual Respect – 8
5. Sexual Chemistry – 4
6. Compatibility – 10
7. Contentment – 10
8. Friendship – 9
9. Acceptance – 9
10. Dependability – 10

Raw Score – 89. Overall – 8.9 Rounded up to 9.
They get a 9.

Sometimes I rate the couple as a whole, by scoring one partner and applying it to the relationship, if that is all I have to go by, or by scoring each of the partners and averaging the score. Other times, I score each partner separately and see how they compare. If the scores are very different, something isn't right in that relationship, or my observations are flawed. Note that observations on different days and under different circumstances can result in vastly different scores for the same couple. This can be a good way of seeing where you are at in your own relationship... if one or the other is scoring low... it may be time to sit down and talk, or to work things out in some other way. In any case, it is a tool that can be used to monitor what is going on between you and your significant other. How much weight does it hold?? Usual disclaimer applies, individual mileage may vary. I'm not a marriage counsellor, and I don't claim to have all the answers... I'm just sharing my thoughts here, folks...

I give Elysia and myself a 10. (It’s my scoresheet!)

You can take this test and see how you measure up, or you can use it to rate other couples that you see. Mostly, you may want to take notice of the fact that folks like me may be watching you when you are with your wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, and taking notice of how you talk to one another, how you treat one another, and how you get along and look out for one another. In my mind, if other folks wouldn’t give us between a 9 and 10, something is dreadfully wrong!

So… how do You measure up against my test??

No comments: