Edge of Everywhere

Archive for November 2009

In my last post, I theorized that relationships rely on one of two things: proximity and work (which could also be called effort, or commitment). So what happens when two people who became friends at school or work or through some other activity lose that proximity? In what situations do we work to maintain the relationship, and in which do we abandon it?

When relationships work/when we work at them:
1. We both find the relationship fulfilling (as DJ said in the comments on my last post) and feel a special connection that we feel has a meaningful place in our lives.
2. We each feel invested in the other person’s life and automatically feel compelled to keep in touch and support the other person through whatever they’re going through.
3. We feel that spending time together is worth prioritizing above at least some of the myriad ways we could each be spending our time.
4. We have activities that it’s important for us to do together as opposed to with other people or alone.

When relationships don’t work/when we don’t work at them:

1. Both people get lazy and don’t make time to contact the other person, even though we always enjoy the time we spend together.
2. Only one person makes the effort to stay in touch and make plans, until the lack of reciprocity leads them to give up.
3. There’s no specific motivation to contact each other or do a particular activity together, or to prioritize seeing each other above the myriad other ways we could each be spending our time.

Maintaining a strong relationship doesn’t feel like work. However, if I’m the only one putting in the effort, or neither of us is, it does feel like work. In these cases, I feel like the fate of the relationship is in my hands, and I need to remember and decide to contact people and try to make plans with them. My motivation here is different than in the examples up top; I am working to keep in touch because I feel that the relationship has potential and I should nurture it–and that if I do, I can help it grow into something meaningful and self-sustaining. This isn’t nearly as strong a motivator as the reasons above, and most of the time it does not actually motivate me to take action.

In my next post, I will discuss online friend-dating, which has produced most of the relationships of this variety–ones that did not develop naturally through a shared environment, activity, or group of friends, and that require a conscious effort on the part of both people in order to survive and progress.