So, if you’ve been following this, we’ve got definitions for love and intimacy, as well as a method of integrating them into our understanding of our relationships with individuals. Which I think is pretty cool, but is it practical? How does it help us understand things we didn’t do before, and what can we do with the process to help it improve our lives? Those seem to be pretty important questions for any method, and I want to take some time today to address them a bit more than I did on Wednesday.
One of the most obvious uses for this is working with a partner to better understand the nature of the relationship you have, and the kind of relationship you’d like. This can apply to romantic relationships, but can do so just as easily to relationships with people in your workplace or family. It can help each of you get a sense of how you see the relationship, which can be used as a stepping stone to addressing issues in perceived differences.
Similarly, the chart can be used by a single person as an aid for introspection. Writing down the reasons why certain thresholds are where they are can help us understand ourselves and what we think is important in our relationships, which can help us better fulfill our goals. Filling out the chart on a few occasions over a set period of time can help us map our feelings about the relationship over time, which can let us check on how well we’re working to achieve our goals, and could lead us to re-evaluating them as well. These slices of time can be a resource for how we saw things before, and more importantly, why we saw them in the way which we did.
One critique of the model which could be put forward is the essential elimination of love from discourse on relationships. There isn’t any room in the model for it, even though it was the first thing I defined. One could make an argument that love is something integral to a relationship, presenting it perhaps as a continuum on which we could measure the point at which we would cease placing our partner’s interests ahead of our own. However, it seems to me that unlike trust and intimacy, the degree of love can fluctuate very rapidly, and mapping it for one specific moment would not only be useless, it could actually be to the detriment of a relationship. When someone does something kind for us, we might love them a little more, but as the day goes on and our mood shifts, so might our love. I say that it could be to the detriment of the relationship because it involves attempting to quantify into a point something which isn’t hard and fast. As our attitudes change, and as we are tested by our circumstances, our devotion to one and other can shift accordingly, and stating that point X is the extent to which we love someone will likely effect how they feel about us. I defined love because I needed to demonstrate its independence from intimacy, and to show that intimacy and trust are the elements which really matter, with love as sort of a nice companion which, while it’s good to keep in mind, isn’t necessary for the model.
A more robust objection would be an argument about reality. All the chart can show us is what we see about a relationship, which may or may not represent the reality of our situation. For example someone who feels their trust was damaged by their partner skipping out on them for another event might not be aware of the existence of an explanation of them getting stood up which is totally reasonable. Perhaps their partner had to stop a person from drowning kittens, and paused to nurse them back to health, and that would constitute a good reason for standing them up. Their feelings and the reality of their situation would be different, and the model would reflect that, rather than some state of affairs which was actually true of the relationship as a whole.
This is a considerable objection, and one that comes up in philosophy a lot. In this case, the answer is that how a person perceives the relationship is of central importance here. If I believe that a person is deceiving me about their intentions, then it is true that I believe that, and that I will act accordingly. Demonstrating these discrepancies between the perceptions of partners in a relationship creates an opportunity to address them, and is the central goal of the model. Often what we see is not what is actually the case, but it remains true that it is what we see, and this model gives people the chance to lay out and discuss what they see and why they see that and not some other thing.
This concludes our two week journey through love, intimacy, and charts I made in paint. I really hope it was helpful. I find that intellectualizing emotions and states of affairs isn’t just the best way to understand how we relate to each other, but the best way to make how we relate to each other explainable to other people. We already conduct this kind of analysis when we have doubts or concerns about our relationships (which often come from questions about trust, intimacy, or love), this model simply gives us an easy way of representing it to other people. What questions does it make you want to ask?