Sunday, 26 April 2015

Filling the void, with extra void

This is an email I received:

In other news, [name redacted] wants to move in with me.

He just brought it up last night. I told him I hate going to the grocery store everyday but I don't know when I'm going to see him so I can't plan for a couple of nights at a time. He said "what should we do about it?" 

Then he told me that he spends more time at my house than the backpacker so its a waste of money. I told him I agreed. He wants to know how much he should pay to live with me and what my rules are. So far my rules are: 

1.) put the toilet seat down 
2.) Don't scrape your bowl when the food is gone from said bowl 

What other rules should I have? 

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Bear in mind that this is my friend and we've had conversations about similar things before. So, I reminded her that these are the facts.

His: he’s travelling in a new country, he doesn’t speak the host country’s language very well, he’s mid-20s, he has no transferrable skills, he is not a millionaire, he probably doesn’t have a lot of family financial support, he’s a guy, he isn’t experienced with relationships (due to aforementioned age), his psychology is an unknown quantity due to his lack of language skills, and he’s at least 70% romantically involved with you. 

Yours: you have an apartment, you have money, you have a job, you have transferrable skills, you speak the host country’s language, you’re mid-30s, you’re experienced with relationships, but you’re not in a good space psychologically about  relationships, you don’t need family money support, you’re a girl, and you’re at least 75% romantically involved with him. 

These are the facts. Do you want to know what I think, or not? Because I can stop here. 

She said she did, so I continued.

The 70%/75% split was a rhetorical ploy to describe your relationship depth as mutual, but not identical, and from my perspective (which admittedly isn’t entire) the relationship doesn’t appear to be formal and far from 100%. It was the only way I could pictorially and uniquely quantify the type of the relationship I’m seeing. I wouldn’t read too much into the stat. It wasn’t important to the facts, but it was meant to get your attention.
 
Overall, here’s what I think, and again, this is simply what I’m seeing based on what info I have. It’s a story based around a crazy little thing called love.
 
I notice you’ve been desperate for a ‘real’ relationship for a while now. You seem to enjoy being in a relationship and from what I can tell, you’re not very good at being alone. I’m not sure why. Being alone isn’t weird or bad. After a while, your body and mind can get used to being alone. It can get used to anything. But in the meantime - and I’ve seen it before - the body’s natural reaction is usually to attempt to restore the status quo back to what it feels comfortable with. People HATE change and will do anything at all to avoid it, even by convincing themselves that not changing is changing. We're nuts, I already know that.
 
In your case, the status quo is “being in a relationship”. Even if the relationship turns out to be emotionally abusive or otherwise negative, it’s still better to be a part of one (according to your brain) than to not be part of one. Because the alternative is being alone and I don’t think you know how to exist like that or so much want to be. Really though, what you tell others you want isn't nearly as important as what you do.
 
On top of this, I've observed for a while to see if you were comfortable with being in the “middle-ground”. But you aren’t. In fact, the only reason you were in the middle-ground was because it was a place to be while travelling towards another inevitable relationship. You were just passing through. What is the middle-ground? It’s the place where people mix short-term relationships (often fast-tracked by sex) with long periods of zero relationships at all. This mix isn’t structured by patterns recognisable to you and, depending on how attractive you are, can weigh heavily in one or the other direction on the existence spectrum.
 
Now I see you can’t operate in the middle-ground because, in your case, you decided to use Tinder as a relationship app rather than a hook-up app. That’s never what it was meant for. Tinder attracts users who want to be in the middle-ground for perpetuity. Sure, the chemicals in human brains make it difficult to have sex regularly without relationship tingles forming. That’s not necessarily the brain’s fault. We’ve been told ever since we were young that sex MUST accompany a relationship or at least lead to a relationship, otherwise one becomes a slut if he or she doesn’t do sex “properly”. So that weird empty feeling we get when we sleep with someone isn’t actually natural, it’s mostly a result of what how our mothers told us to live so that they could feel powerful and in control of their daughter's sexuality. But I digress…
 
Bring this back to you. So here you are, seeing and sleeping with some really cool guys. You’re enjoying yourself and for the most part, it’s pretty fun. In fact, even better for you, it kinda feels like you’re in a full relationship because each of them offers a small piece of the puzzle without any single guy offering the entire deal. That’s great, but everything eventually comes to an end. Now you’ve moved off Tinder because you needed a break (the whole deal extremely looked tiring to be honest!), and you quickly discovered that only a few people were still around, and even fewer people stayed that you wanted to sleep with. However - and this sucks - almost none of them were “relationship material”, or if they were, the total number of candidates probably never reached more than five. They’ve all gone or moved on to other Tinder matches.

The whole point of Tinder was to tap and gap - so to speak. And that’s all you had for a while, so your reality was built around the app and the people you met on it. Meaning that when it was gone, so were most of them.
 
[name redacted] is one of these people. He’s a nice guy (although I haven’t talked to him longer than a few minutes, so I’m really guessing here) and he clearly is attracted to you. Is he in love with you? Does he want a relationship longer than a year? I don’t know, and I’m guessing (again) that you don’t know either. But you’d be happy to gamble he does because, at bottom, the alternative is being alone and you really have no idea what to do in that scenario. You’re clearly attracted to him, but that’s not the real reason you want him to stick around (and you do want him to stick around, but I’ll get to that later).
 
So, it’s a bit of a mix as to what to do. On the surface you don’t want to manipulate anyone into loving you. Notice how that’s not what your unconscious is thinking. In fact, your unconscious isn’t thinking at all, which is always the problem. It’s just acting on stimuli. And what your unconscious wants, it gets. Especially if you don’t know how to guide or control it. The unconscious you wants to avoid being alone. It may not be that you ever say overt things (although the grocery store thing was a bit obvious) but hints aren’t supposed to be obvious. Even you may not know you’re doing them.
 
And then one day [name redacted] says he wants to live with you. Neither of you talked about getting into a relationship or formalising what you already had. It just sorta…happened. But you knew it was coming. You felt like he might eventually say something like this. You weren’t going to say anything before he did, but you’re certainly glad he eventually did open his mouth and commit.

The truth? You gamed this entire thing right behind your own back. Of course the moving-in thing works for you, because you wanted it all along. And now your conscious has caught up to your unconscious. The only thing that feels weird, hence the question to me, is that it doesn't feel like a 'normal' relationship beginning. But it is. The only thing different was that you were on autopilot the whole time. Is this a harbinger for the rest of the relationship? I don't know, although I can't see it being helpful. The weird thing? Skipping the formalities of relationship building is precisely what someone would do if they’re the kind of people who use Tinder. Don’t worry, I’ll explain myself.

Tinder is a algorithmic sorting machine built to find the people who are willing to forgo tradition and marginal safety in favour of short-term gratification and adrenalin. Sure, it’s mainly about sex, but that’s not the underlying driver for humans. The avoidance of being alone is the main driver for humans, Freud would have sold more books if he figured that out (yes, this has everything to do with fear of death – but this isn’t the time to talk about that). Tinder is only for people who either don’t want traditional relationships but still want sex but kinda maybe want to feel like they’re in a relationship. In other words, Tinder gives us all the trappings of a normal relationship without the substance. It also attracts people who want to use other people for certain selfish ends (why else would it be built as a hook-up app if the eventual hook-up wasn’t the point?). And if you’re willing to use other people to satisfy your sexual needs - which are needs buried deep in our lizard brains - what exactly is stopping that person from using other people for things like movie tickets, food, transport, or even money?
 
And there’s this old saying in advertising: “if you’re seeing it, it’s for you”. I don’t think that’s out of place this time either. If you’re using Tinder, then you are one of those people. You were using the app to feel not-alone - sorry, you were using people to feel not-alone, and Tinder was only a facilitator of this action. Remember how I said Tinder was a very small pool filled with a huge amount of people looking for exactly the same thing? Well, if you weren’t one of those people and neither was [name redacted], then why were you using Tinder? If you’re using it, it’s for you. You don't get to choose who you are, your actions do that for you.
 
I don’t know this guy, really, and no matter what I say next it won’t sound anywhere near as neutral as I want it to sound. But take all the facts I outlined earlier and feed them through the realities of human psychology and I think you have reason to be concerned. Not of him of course – I don’t think he’s anywhere near smart or sneaky enough to trick you into doing anything you don’t want to do. You should be concerned about what your own reasons are for making this choice. In some way, your entire history was leading to this point. Every decision you’ve ever made created the situation you’re now in. Someone who ticks a below-average amount of boxes could be moving in to your apartment for the foreseeable future. Which part of you does this benefit? Does it benefit the self you’d be happy to listen to on a quiet day, or the self you’d rather drown out with wine or loud music? Is fear of being alone driving your decision-making or is this the clear path to relationship bliss for ever you’ve been looking for? I don’t think anyone asks themselves these questions nearly enough, or at all.
 
Can you describe this decision in a way that will make sense to your 40-year-old self? I’m not saying you have to be happy with every decision you make, but you do have to live with them for the rest of your life. I’m sure that’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

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