Friday, October 29, 2010

Giving Up, Letting Go

A post that's way too short for its complicated topic:

"Giving up" on marriage or romantic relationships is often seen as the most pathetic, rock-bottom thing that someone could do in our culture. Depending on the circles in which you socialize, it could be much worse than giving up on your education, career, religion, the pursuit you are most talented at, or pretty much anything else. Isn't that odd? But although it might sound even odder, I think my problem is that I haven't given up enough. Let me explain. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving up on marriage etc., as long as you can feel like this was your choice. But I think it can cause a lot of psychological turmoil when you try to move on, but have nothing to move on to. I learned this very clearly when my term at a certain job ended. I had lofty ideas about "moving on" and going on to better things, but since I actually had no idea what those things were, I ended up extremely frustrated. Actually, the whole concept seems to be a theme in my life. And it's the same thing with marriage etc. When there's no clear alternative to it, it can be hard to give up completely. So you're left in this weird mental netherworld.

As we've seen, I haven't exactly been adept at creating, or even defining, the "alternative relationships" I talk about. But does the alternative need to be a relationship at all? Marriage etc is such a huge pressure that a shadowy, inarticulate goal can't go up against it. I think this is true, but I don't know how to visualize it. At least I know there are others muddling through the same thing with me. I'll muse some more on this, and see if I can come up with anything more useful.


proton donor said...

As far as alternative relationships go, how about close friendships? In my experience asexual relationships tend to be almost indistinguishable from strong friendships anyway. But it probably depends on what purposes of marriage you're trying to replace. Friends could easily provide the emotional benefits of relationships, but friendship does sound pretty underwhelming (or desperate) as a life goal. Possibly because there's much more of a script for building relationships/marriages/families than there is for friendships.

Ily said...

The thing is, it can be hard if friends are your primary relationship, but you're not theirs (which can happen to anyone, asexual or not). I think the vast majority of people want close friends, no matter what other relationships they may want in addition. It would be rough to have a romantic partner and no friends. But with marriage and romantic relationships, you're looking for something "above and beyond" most people's ideas of friendship. Maybe it depends on the nature of the individual friendships.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Difficult, isn't it? Last week I read back through David Jay's old posts and decided to stop using the word 'friend'. I think I've violated that rule several times.

It's like asexual visibility, but harder. Because to make the world better for asexuals, you have to tell everyone what an asexual is (normally using yourself as an example) and make sure they actually understand (not always easy). To prepare the world for non-binary relationships in a meaningful way, you have to get loads of people to understand and validate them. Which is even more difficult.

Mage said...

We do need some good words for what we want if we're interested in dismantling the institution of marriage, and beyond that, the institution of heteronormativity.

Lately I've been talking to my friends in meatspace about relationship hierarchies. Especially, how there is this tendency for sexual relationships to trump all others even if those sexual relationships are not fulfilling in other ways. So yeah, I think it is necessary to dismantle the hierarchy and have relationships based on mutuality (I won't say equality, I reject equality).

I'd love to say, let's all just determine our relationship structures on the fly, case by case...but even "random" is a pattern and we at least need to establish that part of building our relationships is also building our own relationship structures. I think this is why polyamory is helpful, because successful polyamorous relationships require negotiation. Ideally, I think, all healthy relationships should involve negotiation so that everyone gets their needs fulfilled.

Anonymous said...

One of the other problems with friendships is that you really don't get the same kinds of automatic long-term association that is associated with romantic relationships.

For instance, I've got a pretty close circle of friends right now. When we graduate from college in a year or two, it's pretty well understood that we'll be dispersing to a variety of different places for graduate school or jobs where we may or may not be able to spend much time with one another. If I was to declare I would be going to X university for graduate school because of proximity to friends, I'd get met with bemused looks from practically everyone else I know.

So... I don't know, I think straight-up friendship also has the problem in that it gets very, very little cultural or societal support. I almost think making up a new name for a close relationship would be better than just trying to take our current conception of friendship and broadening it.

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all...I'm glad I wasn't wrong and other people are thinking about this stuff :-)

Last week I read back through David Jay's old posts and decided to stop using the word 'friend'.

Although I'm not sure what it would accomplish, I'm intrigued by that idea. So what do you do instead, just call everyone by their name? Then how do respond when people ask, "Who's that?" I vaguely remember David saying that he describes people by the activities he does with them, but how do you keep that concise, especially if it's a close friend?

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Ily: Exactly.

The idea is that the relationship binary harms me and so I should try and give it less strength. The flaw is that 'friend' is such a ubiquitous word.

The Asexualist said...

Submitted for your approval:

Eli said...

PRECISELY. I can't wait to read the rest of your thoughts on this. People think you're scared or feel unattractive if you say "I'll probably never get married and don't feel I need to" and alost never take you at your word that you don't feel unattractive, you feel unattracted.

Ily said...

The Asexualist-- Believe it or not, I've written a post based on that video. It's from September-- check it out :-)

Eli-- I hope I can come up with something useful!

RR said...

This all brings up a bit of an issue I have. I'm generally not 'lonely', don't feel any drive to be in a relationship - none of that. However, there are times I get 'jealous' for lack of a better term. Not because I want any sort of 'relationship' as it's expected and defined, but because I am inevitably secondary.

People get into their relationship with their other people and when it comes time for important things to go on, it is -expected- that person always comes first and, since pairing off is 'normal', this tends to leave me the odd (wo?)man out.

The only obvious solution to this seems to be to pair off as is 'normal', which I don't really have any desire to do.

My own personal catch-22, I guess?

Tomatl said...

I have the most amazing kindred spirt friend(s). At the risk of oversimplification, the problem for me is frankly: They are my priority, they are my most favourite, I love them best, I am committed to them.

And I am their second priority after their partner, I am their second favourite after their partner, they love me second best, they are committed to their partner first.

(hmm, that should have carried a bitterness warning!)

Ily said...

RR, I agree that it's a major catch-22, but it's definitely not your own personal one (if that helps any). It's mine too, and probably a lot of ours.

*pours tea for Tomatl*