Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relationships are not commerce (paca)

First up, llama has an update on his life below where he contemplates the bacteria in his feet. Normally, I'd wait a day to post in such circumstances, but I was already typing this one up when I saw that one appear, so I'm going with it. But please keep reading below this post. (I love my maliciious spin on his post. It's techncally true, but completely misleading as to the true content of what he wrote. I'm ready for negative politics!)


A couple days ago there was a post over at the romance writers and readers blog "Romancing the Blog" from a woman who is always being accused by her family of being brainwashed by romance books to have too great an expectation of men, since she is not already partnered up in a lifelong thing yet. Don't adult children love being bugged about this? I won't tackle her post here, which I agree with 95% of the time -- that this is a silly accusation unless we are also going to accuse people who love mysteries of being brainwashed into wanting to commit murder -- though I do think there's a 5% problem that is being ignored in such reactions. (For instance, we often do think that men can be influenced in their preconceptions of a normal attractive woman by looking at digitized, airbrushed bikini models all day long. ). However, there was one comment (not the original blog post author) that among other things included the following:

"If every woman on earth said: “You men aren’t getting ANYTHING from us (our companionship, love, sex, cuddling, cooking, clean homes, your laundry done, etc.) until the whole lot of you step up and start treating us like the goddesses we ARE,” how long do you think it would take before they straightened up and flew right?"

I completely get what her basic point was; i.e., all people deserve being treated as someone special by their partners. After all, it's the rough plot of Aristophanes' Lysistrata and I love all classical allusions. However, this still struck me the wrong way. Probably, my gut reaction was negative because it seems to declare that all men are currently louts. She's never met me or Sammy or llama or a lot of the even studlier amazing men in the world, but she knows we all suck already. I take that back. There are no hunkier men than the llama and Sammy.

However, I know that's just bad phrasing, and so I tried to figure out if anything more important than a little slap to men was putting me off. And I decided that what's bugging me most is that a love relationship in this view seems to come off as some sort of business transaction, or buying and selling of goods. The woman, in this view, walks among the men of her life and waits to be treated the right way (as a goddess). When someone does treat her this way, and presumably if she likes him too, she will then do his laundry, cook his meals, provide companionship, and offer a lot of hanky panky.

Here's my first problem with that. She is offering to do HIS laundry. In a certain sense, ok, sure, a spouse does the other spouse's laundry. But in a perhaps better sense, a spouse does the laundry for the family. The family is a unit, a single thing, and it generates dirty clothes, which someone must wash. And that someone washes them because they think it's important for the people they love to be clean. The point I am trying to make is that the people in a family must do the chores that are necessary for the family. Now, I admit, that N does 90% of the laundry for us. I happen to cook most meals right now. I don't think that, while standing at the stove frying up some eggs, the thought that I was cooking N's meals for her (but that she deserves it) has ever popped up. Instead I'm cooking the family meal and that means providing food for all three of us.

Of course, our household is not one constant state of domestic bliss. I am sure sometimes N think she's getting the short end of the stick with chores, and sometimes I think that, too. But it's only when things start falling apart that you start complaining to yourself about doing this and that for someone else. When it's all working right, each person is helping to support the family in itself, something greater than any individual person.

I also got the impression from the comment that she is going to give love to a deserving person. Again, in one sense, this is clearly correct. You have to be worthy of love and spend the energy to make your partner happy. In another sense, this feels just wrong. I don't think that someone treats you well and therefore you love them. You simply love being with them. They don't do something and you pay them with friendship. Instead, you love being with your best friend because of what being with them is like.

I am having a really hard time expressing this one.

I kind of feel like the commenter is expressing this notion that one person gives love to another, and then the other person gives love in return, since they now deserve it. This is what feels commercial about it. However, if you are really in love both of you adore being together because the feelings that are created when you are together are amazing. It's like the chore thing, where the partners don't take turns giving things to each other. Instead, they build a house together. With love and friendship, you are not exchanging warm fuzzies; you are creating a loving relationship together. This relationship is not internal to either person, but is something external, that you both participate in and that gives each of you fulfillment if it's a good one. Naturally, both people must contribute to the relationship, but it is how participating in this relationship makes you a better person that is the key. It's not a trade between people who stay separate.

And since she mentioned sex, sex sometimes happens because your loved one did something great, and so you give him a little physical reward. Yeah, I like that. Where's my To Do list again? But that's not usually the best reason to have sex. The best reason is because when the two of you do that TOGETHER, it



That physical contact and its feelings are something you create as a couple, not something you exchange to each individual's pleasure.

Is this where I talk about "one body and one flesh"?


bunnygirl said...

The "relationships as commerce" notion is definitely outdated, although one could make a convincing argument that there was a time when it made a heck of a lot of sense.

Dan and I have a housework philosophy that can be summed up as, "If it bothers you that much, shut up and do it yourself!" It works just fine, but such an attitude would never work if we had kids. Kids change the whole game.

Just as an aside, I don't think I've ever seen such a long word ver as the one I'm supposed to enter to get this posted! :-O

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

Clearly, Paca, your wife is a lucky women.

I mean, I am married to Sammy and all, and "...there are no hunkier men than the llama and Sammy...[,]" so I'm still luckier. But all in all, she's pretty lucky. ;)

pacatrue said...

a-ha!, bunnygirl, I put that verification word in there myself, and now I finally got somebody with it. Yes!

mtaawtb, aka Kr (I forget what names are anonymous now), she'd be even luckier if I lived up to my own rhetoric.

Mamaebeth said...

oh, there is a hunkier man than paca, llama, and sammy...
Phillip! sorry guys, but you LOOSE!

Llama said...

I expect I'm about to reveal my failings in relationships with this post, but...

I've always objected to the idea of treating the woman I love "as a goddess." In my mind, that conjures forth images of some groveling male bringing forth bunches of grapes to be munched on at the pleasure of "she who is most beautiful", and perhaps, just maybe, she'll deign to allow the man to have sex with her. It's the same argument that Paca makes, I think... love should not be about commerce... the man providing, or worshiping, or otherwise just making the woman feel so special that she will repay him with a little nooky.

I think of it as a partnership... I treat the women I'm with as an equal partner, and I expect to be treated the same. Sure, I may buy flowers, or some nice bauble from time to time, but just as a way of showing affection... not as some offering to the goddess.

I think, however, that I generally live in a different world than everyone else....

ril said...

Commerce, though, is a part of a healthy relationship.



1. an interchange of goods or commodities, esp. on a large scale between different countries (foreign commerce) or between different parts of the same country (domestic commerce); trade; business.

2. social relations, esp. the exchange of views, attitudes, etc.

3. sexual intercourse.

4. intellectual or spiritual interchange; communion.

5. (initial capital letter) Also called Commerce Department. Informal. the Department of Commerce.

pacatrue said...

I thought I'd get you, ril, when I talked about exchanging warm fuzzies.

Sammy Jankis said...

Llama, maybe that is the problem? Women don't really go gaga for baubles anymore. That's so D&D/Dark Ages.