Monday, April 23, 2018

Fun Relationship/Social Facts and Psychology

As readers have probably gleaned, and as those who know me personally are aware, relationships/friendship/connections between people, are some of my favorite topics.  Finding myself perpetually fascinated with, engaged by, and within the ever continued pursuit of learning about these incredibly relevant life topics. 

It seems like stating the obvious, but people who are well versed in, as well as those who continue to pursue growth and learning with regards to relationships in their lives, are usually significantly healthier, happier, and more generally successful than those who do not do this.  Thus, these topics do in fact make or break the kind of life you will have.  Maybe a harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.  Whether or not you pursue growth and learning with regards to relationships will majorly determine whether ones life ends up being a truly fulfilling, satisfying, joyous, socially connected one, or more of a lonely, vaguely dissatisfied, sad, and empty one.

So the point being with this quote, not just having relationships and roles in our lives as mere placeholders.  "Mom," "Dad," "Brother or Sister," "Friend," "Romantic Partner," but to truly embody what those things mean to one another.  To have active connections full of movement and life with the people to whom you are close, which are full of growth, energy, support, and vibrancy.

So, lets get talking about relationships.  And no, I am not referring solely to romantic ones.  These informationals and observations refer to all sorts of relationships, including romantic, friendship, familial, colleagues, acquaintances, etc.  Thus, without further ado:

--In my socializing and observing people over the course of life thus far, as well as in my wide ranging reading, and own life experiences, I have noticed that many people have a skewed concept of intimacy...of what constitutes as true closeness between people...what it means to really know someone well.  That a lot of people actually have perceptions that seem confused with regards to understanding what these concepts look like.  Its not a rare phenomenon for people who, mere hours after meeting, to make claims along the lines of, "Oh my gosh, we are such great friends now.  We just clicked.  Its like I have known her/him forever.  This is going to be the best friendship."  Or, mere weeks after meeting a romantic prospect, to hear someone wax romantic sentiments such as, "Oh man, he/she is amazing.  I have never met anyone like them.  They are incredible.  I am so head over heels for them."
When really, both of these situations are people who in actuality, do not know each other at all.

Interesting example of another kind of disconnect.  These two characters who claimed to be the "best of friends" routinely, equally stabbed each other in the back, treated one another pretty horribly, and actually dont even like each other much of the time.

So, about how long does it take to truly have a legit grasp on someones general character?  And to be able to claim with authenticity and concrete reality to actually knowing them pretty well?

According to a study done by Dr. Jeffrey Hall, PhD which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, it takes about 40-60 hours spent with a person to become casual friends, 80-100 hours to become a solid/well know friend to one another, and finally, over 200 hours are needed to have a friendship that would have developed the intimacy, knowledge and depth to potentially be on par by that point as what one might classify as a best friend.

--Next topic: Boundaries.  Many, many people do not know what these are, nor why they are incredibly important to the health and success of our closest relationships.  In fact, people with weak or underdeveloped boundaries often have quite a bit of trouble with relationships, both romantic and non. 

So what are boundaries?

A personal boundary distinguishes what is your emotional or personal property, if you will.  You cannot see your own boundary, nor other peoples.  However, you can tell when someone has crossed your boundaries.  You feel it.  When another person tries to control you, to get too close to you, asks you to do something that doesn’t feel right, or may be manipulating you, you should feel senses of protest.  Your boundary has been crossed.

Boundaries serve two important purposes.  The first is that they define us.  They show us what we are, and are not.  What we agree with, and on what we disagree.  What we love, as opposed to what we hate.  What feels good, healthy and true to us, as opposed to what feels icky, unhealthy, or wrong.  The second purpose of boundaries are that they protect us.  Boundaries keep good things in, and bad things out.  When we do not have clear or strong limits, this is when we can expose ourselves to unhealthy or destructive influences, situations and/or people.

Some examples of boundaries:

·         Words: telling someone no, expressing your needs or expectations, your comfort or discomfort, and being honest about the discrepancy/disagreement.

·         The truth: bringing reality to a problem or concern, even when its difficult.

·         Distance: allowing time or physical space between two people to protect, or as a consequence for irresponsible behavior.

·         Other people: enlisting supportive friends or loved ones to help you maintain a limit.

When we have healthy boundaries, we are more drawn to healthy, growing people.  We are clear and strong about what we will tolerate and what we love.  Good boundaries keep toxic, hurtful and harmful influences at bay.  Good boundaries attract people who are healthy, responsible, good, and will result in positive relationships.  When our boundaries are unclear, weak, or undeveloped though, this is when we run the high risk of allowing people inside who shouldn’t be there.
And yes, important note...good people, even people we love, still can, will, and do cross our boundaries.  Well meaning or not, that isn't the point, because both can and will occur.  When a boundary is violated, one must have the strength and clarity to speak up, to draw a line, to let the person know this violation is unacceptable and if repeated, will have consequences. 

Making ones boundaries clear, both with loved ones as well as others, is the only way to protect oneself from damaging outside influences, situations, words and moments.  

(One quick but relevant note: just because someone to whom you are close is telling you something, a truth, that might be difficult or hurtful to hear?  This is not necessarily a boundary violation.  All things unpleasant/challenging/hurtful are not always boundary violations.  The key question to determine this: is the person being cruel, manipulative, dishonest, unethical, any of these.  This consideration will help you determine whether or not something unpleasant is a boundary violation as opposed to a loving but difficult truth.  You will generally know/feel the difference between someone whom you know truly has your best interests at heart, is honest and non-manipulative, versus someone who is directly violating a boundary of yours).  

-- Next topic: Nowadays, there is an endless march of provocative and even explicit photos and media, ever available, to anyone and everyone.  Being pushed in our faces and touted as the norm.  This has become normal nowadays, and even a competition of sorts for who can post the most shocking, sexually explicit, "hot" photos.  Ultimately, we live in a sea of self-generated porn.  From Instagram to scantily clad Facebook photos, to Snapchat nudes, the list going on.  This is depersonalizing, and objectifying.  At its worst, it weakens the perception of value between people.  It makes one into an object to be used for one’s sexual pleasure, and not much else.  Removing from said person any sense of personhood and instead, generally just using them for sexual pleasure.  So many of us are cheapening, depersonalizing, and throwing ourselves towards almost anyone who merely looks our way, and with nearly reckless abandon.

Sex on screens (via the explosion of things like Tinder, Snapchat, Instagram, etc, when used for strongly sexualized imagery sharing and as paving the way for easy access between people for sex) depersonalizes relationships, and people.  It leads to objectification, and very often, disconnection.  Despite our being "more connected" than ever before via social media and electronics, we are more disconnected emotionally than ever. 

Psychologist John Chirban believes that sex via screens makes boys more likely to objectify girls, and to see them in much the same way they view women in porn.  “Girls are more often driven to develop relationships and personal connections, and boys don’t quite get that as early as girls,” Chirban maintains.  “Boys might get interested in the pleasure of a sexual orgasm, and thus
are more likely to see the girl on the other side of the screen as a means to that end, than the girl would be likely to see the boy that way.  If boys are also watching porn, they’re used to the idea that images of women on a screen are there to use as an excitement towards having an orgasm.

Another danger of so much of our romantic and sexual relationships having taken to the screen?  People can now bypass the messiness, the complications, and the complexity of human interaction.  Which is often stressful, laden with unknowns and ambiguity.  So they do so.  But at what cost?  It seems to be, very often, that we may just be trading in depth and closer connections for something shallower, and ultimately less satisfying.
Further, the seeming perception that there is an ever abundance of options via internet sex and online dating, at the ready at ones fingertips, seems to be contributing towards a devaluing of dating, a disinterest and lack of imperative towards investment, and a decrease in the formation of connections between people.  When there is the perception that something is readily available, easily obtained, an endless amount of something for the taking, this reduces its perceived value and makes people less likely to feel an imperative towards it.
So, to wrap on this topic, some examples of our highly sexualized, degrading, rigid gender role infested culture and media can be seen below...
The sexualization of children, though especially young girls.  A frequent issue and what should be a major cause for concern in our culture nowadays.

Ah yes, high fashion glamourizing gang rape and women being dominated by men.

Blatant insinuations of women servicing men sexually, as well as being dominated/overpowered/harmed by men being portrayed as sexy.

Women in a variety of poses that make clear, their primary value and commodity?  Their beauty and bodies.  That's about it.

--Another important relational topic, but to switch gears a bit.  Many people, whether consciously or unconsciously, are ruled by their sense of aloneness and not being able to cope with such.  This can cause them problems in the relationships they choose.  What we so often forget as humans, and instead think its unique to us personally, is that aloneness and loneliness are central, unavoidable, key components of human existence.  All of us, whether single or coupled up, battle with a sense of going through the world, to some degree, alone.  The problem is when you are ruled by your sense and fear of aloneness, this often leads to settling in relationships.  To a giving up of boundaries for fear of being alone. 

Some examples of this can include:

·         Putting up with bad/disrespectful behavior.  Minimizing it, letting it slide.

·         Giving in to/letting things go that are not in accordance with your values

·         Settling for less than you know you really deserve and/or need

·         Staying in a relationship that you know has passed its deadline

·         Going back to a relationship that, in your heart, you know should truly be done

·         Getting into a relationship that you know is not the right fit

·         Smothering the person you are dating with excessive needs or control

Those are just a few, but the point is that, when dating while being ruled by ones avoidance of being alone, this frequently leads to getting involved in relationships that aren’t the best fits.  It also prevents one from being alone long enough to grow into a person who does not have to be in a relationship in order to be happy.  This is extremely important because, to be happy in a relationship, and to pick the kind of relationship that is going to be the kind you desire, you must be able to be happy without one.

--With regards to body image and presentation of such in the media...
“Beautiful,” “gorgeous,” and “sexy” have become conventional responses to selfies in the culture of social media, responses many girls seek as they spend minutes, and for many even hours, preparing themselves to be photographed or photographing themselves to the best advantage.
For many girls and women, the pressure to be considered “hot” is felt on a nearly constant basis, both offline and online.  With regards to online though, when girls post photos on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, they know they will be judged for their “hotness,” and in a quantifiable way, by numbers of likes.  Social media, which seems to produce a never ending explosion of selfies, appears to encourage an excessive focus on appearance for everyone, though especially for girls.  This focus is already having serious consequences.  There has been a significant decrease in empathy seen currently among youth, 40% to be exact, along with increased outward narcissism.

We are swimming in an endless sea, a pornography of sorts, of anorexic bodies via fashion and glamour magazines, and runway models.  All being touted as the end of the yellow brick road, pot of gold, ultimate ideal.  All this really is though, is disease.  A sense of disease being normalized, even glamourized, and seen as the end goal.

Additionally, within the thrall of the athletic, industrial complex, the male body has been fetishized as well, portrayed as super human and as the ultimate ideal of how a man should look.  Men are also under this insidious press towards their appearance, though nowhere near have they undergone the scrutiny and bar none precedent of their value being entirely weighted upon their physical appearance that women have, but man too have come to join the pressurized ranks of our ever narrowing ideal of what it means to be beautiful.  An ideal that, of course, the overwhelming majority of human population will never come close to because it isn’t even a real ideal.  Most of these images either: based on a diseased mindset, or, the result of endless hours of airbrushing, primping and editing just so.

Lastly, I am certainly not advocating being unhealthy, nor throwing any and all cares with regards to health or appearance out the window.  Instead, what I am pointing out is that our cultures view with regards to both, what is beautiful, as well as regarding what makes for an attractive body type, is an incredibly and ever narrowing one.

Two videos very worthy of a watch, if you choose to make the time and have interest.

-- Last important topic for today.  Our culture has adapted and held tight to many relational ideals that actually run contrary and often directly contradictory to what having a truly healthy, happy, and emotionally close relationship entail.  To name a smattering of examples: our culture has made an art of “playing it cool,” being stoic, playing ones cards close to the chest, acting aloof, not being the one to “care more.”  Vulnerability has been made into a weakness and shame, instead of the beautiful, bridge building, brave act it actually is.  
We give away access to our bodies, ourselves, so often and with the merest click of a button, instead of guarding our bodies and our souls like the treasure they are until the right person comes along.  Expressing ones needs in a relationship is often seen as being “needy.”  Men who actually respect and cherish their girlfriends are “pussywhipped.”  Women are taught to be in perpetual competition with one another for the attention of men.  The merest hinting of challenge or less than ideal in your relationship?  It must no longer be a good thing.  So toss it all out and find a better one.  Because isn’t that our one of our cultures central messages of the moment right now anyway?  There is always a younger, hotter, “better” person out there for you if this one doesn’t work out.  
Another fallacy: conflict in relationships is bad.  This is of course incorrect.  The accuracy being that it depends on the nature of the conflict and how its expressed.  Some conflict is toxic, pointless drama, harmful, and incredibly unhealthy.  While other conflict is incredibly constructive, indicative of growth, and a great thing, indicating openness and emotional closeness between the couple.  In fact, couples who never argue and wear such as a badge with pride?  This can quite often indicate a lack of openness between the couple.  That instead of expressing upsets or concerns they experience when they occur (which happen in every and all close relationships), and working through them openly together, they stifle, ignore, and stuff them down.  
And finally, a common mindset that leads to many an ending where they might not have needed to be one at all: every relationship starts out in a phase of infatuation.  During said phase, one is enamored with their partner.  This person is the ultimate, everything they do is amazing and awe inducing.  One may find themselves thinking things like, wow, I never thought I would find someone so incredible, my partner is the best, they have so many good qualities, etc etc.  Much of this probably has truth to it, but what’s being ignored is that every single human being also contains a plethora of negative and challenging qualities as well.  And all of these will come to light eventually. 

When this happens, many people feel disillusioned and disappointed.  Wondering, what happened to the “perfect” person they fell in love with over the last 6 months?  That maybe, it isn’t really love after all.  
People forget that actually, infatuation isn’t love.  Real love is slowly growing in closeness with one another, getting to know the other person over time and via numerous differing experiences with them, learning about their fantastic traits, as well as their challenging and negative ones.  And then deciding that still you adore them.  This, my friends, is love. 
The question is not: uh oh, does my partner have bad traits?  Because they most certainly do.  A whole mess of them. 

The real question is: are their challenging/negative traits things I am generally ok with and can handle/aren't a big deal?  Are they still a healthy and good person, in spite of their difficult traits?  Or, are their negative traits unhealthy or even potentially toxic ones, and/or just generally deal breakers that I personally cannot live with?  

That, my friends, is the real question.  Basically, which category of negative traits does my partner have?  Ones I can handle, that may be annoying/frustrating/a bit challenging at times but ultimate, not bad stuff.  OR, are their negative traits actually deal breakers?
That's the conclusion of a brief cataloging of some significant misperceptions and misguided values that our culture holds as truth about romantic relationships, which tend towards getting us into a lot of trouble and resulting in not small amounts of heartbreak.

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