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Relationships

A collection of ideas on relationships.

Last updated on: February 17, 2021

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Who do we spend time with across our lifetime?

I recall seeing another simplified version of this split chart with a dog included but I can’t find seem to find it.

Also see: the tail end.

Let me just run you by a timeline:

  • Teens spend a lot of time with friends, parents, siblings and extended family.
  • As we enter our 20s that time drops off quickly as we spend more time with partners and children.
  • 20s, 30s, 40s see this continue as we spend time with partners, children, and co-workers.
  • 60+ co-workers drop-off, displaced partly by more time with partners.

The different groups of people you spend your time with:

  • Alone
  • Partner
  • Family
  • Children
  • Friends
  • Coworkers

Alone

I’m good at being alone. I’ve spent most of my life being alone. Until further notice I enjoy being alone over being in groups. Groups are largely intolerable.

I don’t want to say I spend too much time alone, but it’s probably true.

I don’t need to learn how to be alone and don’t want to pat myself on the back for being able to. So for now I’ll just leave it at this: seek introspection.

Partner

I don’t remember where I saw this but the idea stuck with me. Relationships are hard and often get harder with time. Pick someone early and live it out. Play the game early and you beat the game early. In my case, that meant finding somebody in high school and then stop caring about finding anybody else. Now, obviously this doesn’t work for everybody. But it’s my plan.

And I give weight to this right now because if you’re looking at alternatives, alternatives will appear, and you fall down the want curve.

I came up with this idea of the want curve in my late teens; spurred on by new perspectives of the world starting from AP Psychology. The following is something I wrote then.

We all know the want curve.

  • We want things when we can’t have them.
  • We don’t want things once we obtain them.
  • We want things when we lose them without something better in its place.

What’s important is the middle step. Once we feel that we have something, we stop paying attention to it until we lose it. We understand that if you don’t use an ability, you lose that ability. But we need to realize that the optimal strategy is to appreciate what we already have and pay attention to it as it grows.

Every now and then I revel in something younger me did. Now, “curve” isn’t the best descriptor here, but this idea still has credence with me. In the context of relationships, this means we tend to devalue our current partner—alongside everything we already have. And the step of not looking for alternatives is extremely important. Because once that starts, we start to want the things we can’t have. And with experience you’ll know that the pain of losing something, anything at all, is more than we thought it would be. There’s the phrase, “people say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it.”

Also, with almost near certainty, you will fail at first. I did. And you need to fail to get that experience. I’m extremely grateful for mine. But even if I tell you now, you won’t expect it to fail—I didn’t.

you cannot appreciate the destination without knowing the starting point; you cannot revel in the simplicity unless you remember the alternatives. (Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives)

There’s some mix of values that I hold to be optimal that I am currently incapable of making explicit, but hopefully future me can. A mix that, when paired with time, is optimal.

It takes time to get used to another person being so active in your life. And you both need to have the strength to handle each other at your worst, or at least the strength to acknowledge each others fuck ups and work to make the extremes less extreme.

So best piece of advice: acknowledge each others messes and work to be better together.

Now, some people are helpless, hopeless, trashy, disgusting, and vile. But, odds are that’s not you or your partner.

I don’t have much to say on sustaining relationships past the point of getting used to each other. But my inklings tell me it’s some blend of planning and surprises.

I’ll work on this more—promise love.

Marry someone you admire and are always learning from, who admires and learns from you. Help each other grow and share values, plans, experience, laughs, and time together. (Charley Ellis)

Family

Family is charted on a steep decline until the late 20s before making the slightest rebound around 40. So, see you then.

Children

Everything below is advice for my future self.

Don’t prevent children from falling down. Be there for them when they fall and help them get back on their feet if they choose to accept.

Your role is to support, not to control.

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

Apparently that’s from a book: The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin.

I came across it from A Learning a Day.

Now for a hodgepodge list of things I find important that I would strive for enrollment under:

  • Rights
  • Authority
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Activities (sports)
  • Making, creating, building, art
  • Technology (hardware, software)
  • Learn what people tend to regret

Again, advice for my future self. I’ll see you then.

Friends

Friends start falling after 18. Somber.

Crucial to making close friends:

  1. proximity;
  2. repeated, unplanned interactions;
  3. and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.

School, while not so good at what it claims to be, is good at the first two; the third is on the culture. Same for neighborhoods.

For the most part, all you can control are the first two. One piece of advice: show up. Opportunities don’t visit caves.

And I’m speaking from experience. I viscerally felt that drop at 18; I’m not one to show up at parties. I’m lucky to have grown up in a neighborhood with a group of guys that became my band of brothers. But, at the time of writing, they’re not an active part of my life, and I’m not an active part of theirs. All of my friendships are dormant. That’s largely how I’ve always been; I’ve only ever actively confided in my partner. But, we got a lot of years to go, we’ll see how this goes—as of writing I’m only 20.

In college? College Info Geek’s Guide on How to Make Friends in College:

  • Campus Events
  • Campus Organizations
  • Classes
  • Your Dorm
  • Informal Hangouts
  • Around Campus
  • Online
  • Internships and Research Assistantships
  • Campus Jobs

Psyche’s How to make friends as an adult:

Ask people to meet for food or coffee. No, seriously, just ask when you want something.

A few ideas for my future self:

  • Get together with a dedicated friend once a week to talk through your struggles and challenges that week.
  • Have multiple hosts invite their friends to one party. So for every guest, two thirds of the other guests would be people they didn’t know but would probably like.
  • Have dinners for a group of friends every thursday night—plus you get to learn how to cook for groups.
  • Just call/text “[NAME]” whenever you feel like it.
  • Face fear together

What do you do after you show up?

If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere. (Zig Ziglar)

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. (Dale Carnegie)

Above 40, people spend an increasing amount of time alone. Time spent alone increases with age because this is when health typically deteriorates and people lose relatives and friends.

In terms of the diversity of interactions, this chart suggests that the number of people with whom we interact is highest around 40, but then things change substantially after that. And this is perhaps the most conspicuous trend in the chart: above 40, people spend an increasing amount of time alone.

Coworkers

Yeah, I have no idea. I’ll see you then.