I tend to ponder over personal relationships, in the general sense, a great deal. My pondering isn’t necessarily over my own personal relationships, though they do come into play in my musings on the subject, but more about how people interact and form relationships in general. So, it wasn’t surprising that earlier this week I got to thinking about relationships again when my timelines on Facebook and Twitter had a great many articles dealing with sociological aspects of the building and maintaining personal relationships.
After reading many of these new articles and their dealings with the trials and tribulations with how things work, or not, within the general population, an article I’d read earlier this year from The Atlantic came to mind: “Master of Love“. The article was rather fascinating, and after my initial reading of it, I had thought about my relationship with Mr. Muse.
We’re by no means any sort of “perfect” couple – we have our ups-and-downs just like any other couple out there in the world. However, there is something that we do quite well – when one of us asks for the attention of the other, it is responded to positively. It’s not unusual for one of us to see something interesting or complete something important that we seek out the other to “come see” whatever was interesting or important to us. Whichever of us was sought drops what we’re doing, or quickly finishes it up, and dons the appropriate footwear to go see the interesting or important thing.
The request for attention is responded to positively, so therefore a trust is built that the partner can be relied upon to respond in the future.
So, as I drove along this week on my commute and pondered, I began to see the correlation between this call-and-response, not just for marriage, but in all relationships. It works no matter the relationship type it is applied to, romantic, parental, friendly, or working.
I thought about the call-and-responses of people with whom I’ve talked to online, and how, say, a reply to a tweet, which in turn has a reply, has generally created a positive call-and-response. The communication is reciprocated and as long as things don’t get offensive, creepy, or too-weird-for-even-the-Internet, a chain of positive call-and-responses is created and a friendship is created.
This works negatively as well. A person who replies to a tweet and receives nothing in response, particularly if the originating tweep is not someone famous by even the most remote standards, has had a negative call-and-response and is most likely to choose to not interact with that original tweeter any further. A reply chain that turns offensive, creepy, or too-weird-for-even-the-Internet, will also generally be considered a negative call-and-response and interaction will cease.
As I thought about all of these things, I thought about relationships I’ve had, and have, both in-person and online, and my feelings on whether I thought of them as successes or failures. Those that are successful, even if I may not interact with those people for months at a stretch, work because when interaction occurs, there is a positive call-and-response. I may email or text someone (or they, me), and weeks or months could go by because, let’s face it: people get busy and we get distracted (raises my hand), but when a reply occurs – that reply goes over what the other person called to attention.
Whatever is interesting or important, from a personal success to a funny anecdote, the person responding focuses attention on that item. The conversation, or chain of responses, continues, with new attention grabbers tacked on, and the cycle continues. Those relationships that fail do so because one or both people fail at responding to the call for attention.
I’ve sent out a “call” to this or that person time-and-again and the response, if there is one, does not focus on the item of attention that was pointed out – but rather brings up something other than what I found was interesting or important. A negative call-and-response, no trust is built (or what was there was broken), and regardless the type of relationship – it ultimately fails.
As I get older, I find it humorous to discover, or be enlightened to, the reasons that events, relationships, or daily living worked out the way it did. When I was younger, I would begrudge things that didn’t work out and in my wrapping of Catholic guilt, would blame myself for the failures. Now, I look at things from a far less emotional view, reflective and open to the knowledge that I’m not solely responsible for every interaction, positive or negative, only the parts I took in them.
So, here is to personal reflection, and growth, and I look forward to a lot more of it.
As you have gotten older, what is a realization you’ve come to about something that has bothered you previously?
Great post. Age has me thinking about all these things much more often. You’re still on the younger side. Once you cross that 50’s threshold your mind thinks differently. The death of a loved one like your sister can also trigger such reflection. It did when my father died way to young 12 years ago. All these life experiences help us to grow, and hopefully get a little bit wiser and kinder. I’ve enjoyed many of your posts lately. Keep them coming.
Why thank you kind Sir. 😀 I’ve always been contemplative, thinking is my favorite thing, but I have to say – recent ponderings have gone deeper and have allowed me to become more comfortable with letting go of people/events/things that no longer are beneficial. As much as it feels like “giving up” or quitting on these people/events/things – I think I’ve gotten just a bit wiser at realizing sooner to cut my losses and move on to the next person/event/thing.
I also ponder my need/interest/benefit of social media relationships. That desire for call and response can be so random.
I look back and see how I’ve got enjoyment out of conversations that came out of tweets or posts that said “Stupid Tuesday”. But then I’ve had well thought out or heartfelt posts I really want someone to acknowledge and nothing. Those moments make me feel like this is the lonliest forum ever.
The difficult balance is for awkward people like me to find those in-person social outlets where I can get that immediate gratification of acknowledgment. Very nice blog.
I can appreciate your feelings on the subject. There are days where we find ourselves lonely and longing for someone, anyone, to just acknowledge we exist because they saw our Facebook post, Tweet, etc., and when we get no response from anyone – that compounds the loneliness. As much as I love being by myself, every so often I find that I really want to have a conversation with another human. A connection that goes beyond “Nice weather we’re having, hmm?”
*gets out soapbox* Now, to be honest, I think far too many people latch on to calling themselves “awkward”, when we’re just either really awful at picking up social cues, etc. Unfortunately for a lot of men who have that issue, there are a host of other men hiding behind the label for behaviors that are intentional, creepy actions they direct towards women. I’m unafraid to call “Bullshit” on those people – though, I don’t believe you are one from what I have seen. 🙂 *gets off of the soapbox*
Social media platforms have enabled me to develop some fantastic, and deeply meaningful relationships with others. I have friends I’ve made from England (and have gone to see), Canada, and across the states. As curmudgeonly as I can be, those with whom I’ve developed these relationships are my Inner Circle people – or at the very least, right at the edge of Inner Circle people – which is a moving target, to be sure. These are the people that I will gladly accept a hug from on sight (or virtually). 😀
And yet, there are others I’ve talked to on various platforms that after a while I see them for who they truly are, which sadly, is often someone I’d rather not associate with any longer. But, this is something that would happen meeting people face-to-face as well, so it’s by no means a slight to the online community. Whether face-to-face or online, we winnow the wheat from the chaff, as it were, to find the keepers. 🙂
I agree with everything you wrote and with the comments as well. Everything except labeling them successes or failures. I can only speak for myself when I say that relationships are neither negative or positive but a means to learn about self and how I choose interact with others. Like being kindergartner in the social sandbox.
Good point. I should have worded it differently because “success or failure” often has connotations of expectations – which, I honestly, seldom have. And, if I catch myself getting them, I mentally slap myself on the wrist to quickly divest myself of them.