on relationships:

September 3, 2006 at 07:00 | Posted in Musings, Things related to critical theory, Women | 1 Comment

It is neccesary to find relationships–or maintain relationships–wherein the involved individuals are both of equal stature in the give and take. Every relationship can be quantified in how much each person gives, and how much each person takes. The notion of giving and taking is not one that can be comopartmentalized into different qualifications–such as the giving of gifts, the giving of time, the giving of emotional energy, et alii–for the qualities of giving and taking transcend compartmentalizing qualifiers; giving and taking are absolutes that are incorporative of their total existence towards a singular giving, and a singular taking. When we give, all of our modes of giving occupy the singular act of giving, and when we take, all of our modes of taking occupy the singular act of taking.

Every relationship has a finite threshold for giving and taking beyond which the relationship cannot exist; if one person gives beyond their capacity the relationship is pushed beyond its threshold and thus it ends, and the same goes for taking. Because these modes of interaction construct a binary for engagement their performance must constantly be assessed and adjusted; a constant deconstruction and reification takes place allowing a relationship to be maintained. In using the word assessed I am referring to the surveying of how much is being given and taken by each individual, and the subsequent adjustment by the opposite individual. If I am assessing how much I am giving and taking in a relationship then value is established solely in comparison to how much the other person is giving and taking–if we both give to the extent of x, and both take to the extent of y, then everything is equal, however if I give to the extent of 2x, and take tot he extent of y, and the other person gives tot he extent of y, and takes tot he extent of 2x then an imbalance is created. It must be noted that some relationships exist in a neccesary imbalance, that is the imbalance is their balance, from what I can discern these relationships have two possible outcomes: they attain balance, or they attain greater imbalance causing them to cease. I do not suggest that every relationship follows these postulations exactly, rathe that every relationship is subjected tot hese postulations to some degree.

To illustrate with absolutes: those relationships that require constant assessment are facilitated by an exchange of a lesser frequency and intensity; relationships that must constantly be assessed cannot facilitate massive giving and taking, likewise those relationships that require massive giving and taking cannot be constantly assessed; the greater the degree of assessment the lesser the degree of equal exchange.

Because the only way for us to assess relationships is to live them it becomes neccesarily difficult to facilitate those relationships that do not facilitate themselves; two individuals whose giving and taking postures do not accord well upon one another cannot expect to have an easily maintained relationship. However we must also assess the factor of engagement; to what extent does the relationship engage the individuals and cause them to actually live the experience of the relationship, rather than speculate upon it? I do not mean to suggest that those relationsips of massive exchange are neccesarily good, or that those relationships of constant assessment are neccesarily bad, rather my statements point to the ease with which relationships are engaged. Once the notion of engagement is involved, we must consider that relationships cannot be qualified according to standards of good or bad, because engagement–being an absolute and unqualifiable facet of living–supercedes ease; without engagement we have nothing, for as Merleau-Pomty said, “there is no inner man, man is the world, and only in the world does he know himself.”

So then relationships become not what we give, or take–these are only ways through which we can know the relationship–but how we are engaged, and how we read/value this engagement…


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  1. While walking to the post office today and finding that it was closed because of the holiday: Veterans Day, I thought about your postulate relating to the interaction or relationship as you put it between man and woman. I asked myself, what if relationships between men and women are more primal, more primitive, and more basic. Of course it can be looked at from a mathematical point of view, an algebraic equation that attempts to quantify certain variables in order to theorize on what is necessary for a relationship’s continued existence and what will cause it to end or terminate. However, it can also be looked at from an anthropological perspective, using the model of the hunter-gatherer society. In such a society, both strategies are used to obtain the food required to sustain it. Hunter-gatherers obtain most of their food from gathering rather than hunting– up to 80% of the food is obtained by gathering. However, consider that the hunter’s function is to seek out wild game and capture it for the purpose of nourishment, thus satisfying his basic need to eat. The more adept and dexterous the hunter is at capturing his quarry than (so it should follow) the more successful he will be at acquiring that which satisfies his basic need. Similarly, the better the gatherer is at seeking out foods that are most nourishing to his diet the more successful he will be at sustaining himself. In summation and to perhaps round out your postulate once again, relationships are not only about give and take but about sustenance. People enter relationships to sustain needs, wants, desires, expectations, etc. And when that relationship is no longer fulfilling to the needs of one or both parties and/or no longer sustains them, they begin to look elsewhere, for different and alternative sources of “nourishment”.

    American novelist, Tom Robbins once said that “when we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on–series polygamy–until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure [in] every relationship we enter.”

    Thus like in a hunter-gatherer society where the success of sustenance and nutritional fulfillment lies with each hunter and gatherer, man and woman’s ability to find personal fulfillment and happiness in relationships with each other, ironically (or paradoxically even,) lies within themselves.

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