so lets think about this is a ‘couple’ context – you and your romantic partner (though yes this could apply to any relational system)
what are some of the variables that might make a whole greater than simply sum of the two parts? (being you and your partner)
With the creation of a system, abstractions are created such as: love, happiness, satisfaction, passion, excitement, courage, safety, nurturance, and wellness… or hate, depression, dis-satisfaction, boredom, resentment and disease.
to break this down a bit, what is the potential for love outside of the context of relationships? Without relation their would be no love… so then the existence of two partners who join into a system creates the potential for love (and therefor the sum is greater than the parts as we now have: partner 1 + partner 2 = two people and love)
now where are we going here and how can this practically help you in your relationship?
I am trying to offer the idea that the simple act of looking at your relationship with your partner as a system… as a whole… can be beneficial to your relationship. This is because what you do to and for your partner will directly effect you (as you are the whole and the part)… the health of the system is a barometer for your own health.
“Why should I do something, go somewhere, learn something, try something, meet someone etc. if I don’t want to?” this question is very commonly postulated in our minds… and we have been somewhat indoctrinated into the dichotomous dogma of “If I do something, go somewhere, learn something, try something, meet someone because my partner wants to, but I don’t, then I am oppressing my freedom… I am oppressing my right to be me!”
wow – seems like the conclusion that we unintentionally accepted is that doing things for another when there isn’t an obvious benefit for the self is wrong… past wrong = a violation of freewill and liberty!
individualistic utilitarianism is the result of a strict adherence to this method of perceiving reality.
We have been taught that you should not do something for your partner if you don’t want to. (to be clear I am not talking about doing something that would be a violation to your sense of self and dignity)
Research in couples satisfaction has actually found the exact opposite to be true… couples that think of themselves as a system and make decisions for the sole benefit of the whole, through intentionally acting in the best interest of their partner, experience significantly more relational and life satisfaction. why?
lets look at a car… why should the tires care about the well being of the shocks or the breaks?
There are two answers: The obvious answer is that the tires will last longer and work better if their health is supported by the complimentary functionality of the breaks and shocks (this is the individualistic utilitarian answer).
The more illusive answer is that the car will work better and that tire is the car. There is no car without tires – in this way a car (like a relationship) is greater than the sum of its parts – when you put all the parts together you have a car – when you remove some of the pieces it turns back into a conglomerate of parts alone.
So now we arrive at an interesting conclusion
you are your relationship… the health of your relationship is the health of you
So doing things for the other part (almost was able to use a pun there – part-ner) is an act of doing something for the relationship… which is you
So what’s the big conclusion?
When we have no compelling reason for avoiding a behavior which would benefit our partner we ought to go ahead and do it!
If they wanna walk – go for a walk, if they wanna talk – have a talk, if they want to try some strange new cuisine – try away, If they want some romance – enjoy it.
Waiting for you and your partner to want the exact same thing at the exact same time leads many relationships into a really boring unfulfilling rut… lots of TV watching and other forms of inactivity seem to manifest or a lot of parallel lives are formed where there are too people, but its hard to say that a system exists.
If one partner is indifferent or apathetic and the other partner is enthusiastic and excited… it might be best to jump on your inspired partner’s metaphorical surf board and ride that wave for a bit.
that way you get to connect, embellish your whole, and engage in life!