According to the Relation-Ship model, there is a question that further delineates the structure of the Ship. And this question is: Are you in a “committed” relationship?” Well, I have wondered what exactly are the qualifying components of a committed relationship? I found some clues to the answer in the social mind concepts around negotiating for time and attention.
I have learned much from my Beloved these last ten years about my own dance with two of society’s concepts called negotiation and compromise. I believe we could examine some interesting moves on board the Ship, if we observed some typical negotiating for unmonitored time between “committed” partners.
Let’s drop in on our couple Maria and Sidney. Imagine that both partners spend about eight hours a day at their jobs, leaving about six hours of possible open time. As we watch, we see the following scene unfolding:
· Maria says, “ I think I’ll run out to pick up some copy paper for the fax machine before they close.”
· Sidney replies, “ Sounds good!”
So far all is clear and no counter request has been made. Sidney did not redirect anything about the proposed errand. He did not make another suggestion of going later or of needing some fresh air and coming alone. Having successfully negotiated for about forty-five minutes of personal time, Maria now tries for more.
· Maria says, “ While I ‘m out, I’ll go by to see if our film is ready. Then I might check on a pastry for tonight. Oh, and on the way home, I think I’ll stop in at the Fine Arts Museum and catch the new show. I should be home by 8 or so.”
Now comes the verdict. Has the time been won or is some compromise needed? Negotiation of this sort can be risky for several reasons and requires finesse. The chances that Maria will overreach the quota and create resistance in her partner increase with every activity that gets proposed. The longer the proposed time-length away and the more freedom from surveillance that is asked for, the more discomfort is likely to rise for Sidney.
Several questions may come up at this point for many of us. Because the society’s love myth conditions us to feel that it is necessary for the welfare of the Ship to prevent a partner from taking too much freedom, would we continue to opt for patrol of the deck if allowed to experience a wild, refreshing dive overboard? And, in the case of our couple, is Sidney likely to sabotage the plans in some covert way?
One of these ways would be suggest joining Maria. If this happens, negotiation for time will not be the only thing that fails here. Every negotiation for time automatically becomes a secondary negotiation for attention. Maria would now also be faced with continuing to give attention externally, to Sidney. However, the hope was to direct attention internally to the self for a while.
The scenario is similar for a negotiation in which attention rights are primary. Let’s say Sidney wants to meet a friend out for a play and dinner, and since the drive is a very long one, suggests spending the night as well. If Sidney gets a verdict of “ that’s fine”, notice how it can so easily fall into the category of magnanimously letting the partner go that night.
Now, consider the dynamic involved: If you “let” someone, there is an implication of ownership.
Negotiations for time and attention are often very subtle and apparently innocent or under the guise of "being considerate". They appear to be the rule between partners, not the exception. Until we can truthfully identify these subtle coercive shadows in our interactions, we could be falling asleep to the fact that we are, after all, holding and manipulating the sails of the Ship.
What seems paramount to the time and attention issue is the obvious external focus of the partners” interaction. Consider the concepts that we have already examined on the Ship. Can we notice that what actually makes up the form and content of the present relationship model rests on all the beliefs in ownership, scarcity of time, attention and love? Is the dance on the deck not founded on this belief system?
Adherence to this belief system regulates the verdict of “committed”. Commitment is another concept that is deemed essential and positive on the Ship. We are conditioned to actually long for it. And since Relation-Ships, which are necessary for the social standard, are impossible without commitments, we have been well trained to desire them and believe they will ensure our safety.
This is but one more way we are conditioned to externalize responsibility for our happiness and well-being, and project it onto our partners. As these perceptions come into our conscious awareness, might we conclude that “ being true to someone else” can undermine the practice of "being true to the Self”?
Can we entertain our dive off this Ship? What might we experience, if we could be and do exactly what was natural and authentic in the moment, without sacrificing, without negotiating, without compromise? Could we really deceive or jeopardize another in this emotionally honest relationship with ourselves?
This would be a relational landscape without hidden motives or manipulation, without expectations, without assumptions, without dependence on another to feel safe, loved or joyful.
Let’s dream of a love that includes all, and possesses nothing.