The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'relationships'
The ascent up the Maslow hierarchy of needs might have a dark side; a US psychologist claims that the ideal of self-actualisation has created a world in which romantic relationships are more likely to fail. Eli Finkel of Northwestern University posits the “suffocation” model of marriage, asserts that, as the needs we have of a partner have changed from shared survival in a hostile environment, through romantic love and onto mutual self-discovery, and the time these couples spend with one another decreases due to external time constraints, it is harder for any actual relationship with another human being (especially one who also wishes to discover themselves) to fit the bill:
"People used to marry for basic things like food and shelter. In the 1800s, you didn't have to have profound insight into your partner's core essence to tend to the chickens or build a sound physical structure against the snow," Finkel said. "Back then, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous."
"In 2014, you are really hoping that your partner can help you on a voyage of discovery and personal growth, but your partner cannot do that unless he or she really knows who you are, and really understands your core essence. That requires much greater investment of time and psychological resources," he said.
A Spanish mathematician has created a mathematical model of how marriages and relationships break down. Termed "sentimental dynamics", José-Manuel Rey's theory is based on the second law of thermodynamics, and posits an optimum amount of "energy" which needs to be fed into a relationship to sustain it:
The results of the mathematical analysis showed when both members of union are similar emotionally they have an “optimal effort policy,” which results in a happy, long-lasting relationship. The policy can break down if there is a tendency to reduce the effort because maintaining it causes discomfort, or because a lower degree of effort results in instability. Paradoxically, according to the second law model, a union everyone hopes will last forever is likely break up, a feature Rey calls the “failure paradox”.The paper may be found here. (Aside: note the use of the Unicode ♥ character in the equations; I wonder how common unusual Unicode symbols are in mathematical or scientific papers these days.)
A study at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University has claimed that watching romantic comedies can damage relationships, by inculcating unrealistic expectations:
They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner. Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.
Kimberly Johnson, who also worked on the study, said: "Films do capture the excitement of new relationships but they also wrongly suggest that trust and committed love exist from the moment people meet, whereas these are qualities that normally take years to develop."
Concerned about its young citizens being too busy working hard to find partners, the government of Singapore (perhaps one of the most efficiently managed societies in history) has begun offering lessons in seduction. Not that type of seduction, though, of course, but something altogether more wholesome and befitting of a place described as "Disneyland with the death penalty":
Students at two polytechnics can earn two credits towards their final degree by choosing the love elective. Activities include watching romantic films, holding hands and "love song analysis".(They need a course with credits for holding hands? Good grief. Has all spontaneity really been disciplined out of the Singaporean spirit to the point where they need to be directed on how to fall in love?)
But it is not so easy to put Singaporean youth in the mood for love. Another student who did the course, Kamal Prakash, said: "I'm not really looking for a girlfriend now as I want to concentrate on my studies."
The Irish Independent has a piece on how social networking websites are changing relationships, and in particular, how they end and what happens afterward:
I started getting clues that I might be about to become a free man when my girlfriend's friends posted messages to her that read: "Good luck with tonight -- it's for the best."
First came the announcement online of my new 'Single' status. Deftly inserted into Facebook's running newsfeed, it informed everyone that both she and I knew that I had been dumped, in much the same way that Reuters proclaims the engagement of a minor member of the British royal family. There was no way of deleting it, so it sat there haunting me.
But then her status updates started to tell a story. Just three days after we broke up, she changed hers to: "2008, new job (check), new flat (check), new man (working on it)."
Your ex's blog may only be read by five and half people, but you still don't really want them telling complete strangers how you were unable to put the loo seat down and never really gave the choosing of shelves the attention it deserved, and how these things were symptomatic of your lack of commitment to the relationship.
It makes me think that our grandparents had an easier time. If one of their relationships went bad they could always go to sea -- or at least the next village -- and never see the other person again.The whole issue of relationship breakups in the age of the internet recently hit the spotlight spectacularly with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales' breakup with his girlfriend, FoxNews journalist Rachel Marsden. Wales apparently dumped her on Wikipedia, and she retaliated by releasing transcripts of their online chats, the major upshot of which was a revelation that these lofty public figures were, scandalously, quite into having sex with each other while they were going out.
It'll be interesting to see how the standards of socially acceptable conduct evolve once it is literally impossible to dissociate oneself from an ex without becoming a hermit. Will slagging off one's exes and their failings in public blogs become taboo, or restricted to some acceptable bounds of fair play? Or will people get used to the fact that anyone in the dating marketplace probably has several scathingly negative references from their various exes? (Perhaps there is a niche for a site which aggregates exes' references, along with reputation scores for the referers?) Will things like Rachel Marsden's release of the chat transcripts become unacceptable, the social equivalent of a nuclear first strike?
Various famous singletons write in the Independent about the joys of being single:
There are great advantages to being single - last night I stayed up all night playing computer games with a mate (and I had no girlfriend to come in and complain), and I know I always have the option of sitting around and eating biscuits all day. I've been single now for a couple of years and the best thing about it is that there are no rules to my life.
Having said that, last year I went on 120 dates as research for one of my shows, and I really enjoyed it. It was crazy but huge fun, and I discovered a love of dating. Even though I emerged from the whole experience still single, I have a far better "single" life now. I think people in Britain don't date properly - we are too scared of dating, and it should be separated from the notion of partner-hunting. It's more fun that way - and an even bigger surprise when you find someone who is right for you.
Today is Hallmark Day, um, Valentine's Day, but tomorrow is the as yet mercifully uncommercialised Singles Awareness Day, for the snarkyalone in all of us.
The goal of Singles Awareness Day is to let singles have celebrations, get-togethers, etc. and to exchange gifts with their single friends. The awareness day was established by single people who were just sick of feeling left out on Valentine's Day, and support of the day is growing every year.
Suggested activities for this day are sending yourself flowers, planning parties for other singles to mix and meet and to participate in some sort of single's event. This is especially recommended if you don't WANT to be single. Of course, for those who kind of like being single it's a blessing and a reason to have some fun!
Originally, most singles referred to February 14 as Single's Awareness Day (acronym: SAD) until it just became too depressing! Choosing the next day allowed single people a chance to turn this into a celebration rather than a festival of self-pity or whatever they were doing before. It seems like a refreshing change of pace to know that you can survive Valentine's Day and move on to YOUR day, doesn't it?(Not to be confused with Shingles Awareness Day.)
Apparently, next week is National Singles Week, an event to highlight the growing proportion of the population that is uncoupled, dispel myths about all singletons being desperately unhappy, and push for the government to reform laws that penalise people for being single. (Note: this is the British government; the Australian government firmly believes in the absolute supremacy of the nuclear family and is as likely to look favourably on alternatives as it is to sign the Kyoto protocol or start inviting controversial art-house filmmakers to screen their wares on its relaxed and comfortable shores.)
About 48 per cent of the adult population is now single, and by 2010 more than 40 per cent of households are expected to be occupied by single people.
(Is this one-person households? Being uncoupled I can understand, though I can't imagine 40% of households in Britain being occupied by people who can afford to live alone. Not unless they redefine bedrooms as separate households or somesuch.)
The survey, timed to coincide with National Singles Week, which begins on Monday, found that 82 per cent of those questioned said that being single gave them "an opportunity to try new life experiences" and 89 per cent said that travelling alone "boosted their confidence" and allowed them to be more spontaneous and adventurous.
"There are disadvantages to being single. Apart from some financial ones, there are social ones as some couples think of single people as predatory and many older single people are lonely," Ms Knowles said.
Social psychologists in the UK have enumerated the nine types of (romantic) love. These include a "grown-up version" that involves mutual trust, recognition and support, the "Cupid's dart" variety, "hedonistic love" and "dyadic partnership love" (where two people become a single unit, presumably delegating cognitive tasks to each other), as well as various transitional forms.
In the US, it seems you can patent anything, including the secrets of successful relationships. And given that Australia has just committed itself to implementing a US-style patent system, and Europe is adopting US-style software patents, this sort of thing looks likely to be the case for all of McWorld soon. And then it will be legally impossible for anyone to do anything without the backing of a multinational corporation with a patent portfolio and cross-licensing agreements with other patentholders. (via Techdirt)
It looks like antidepressants are wreaking havoc with the human courtship/mating/bonding instincts, doing everything from dampening sexual desire and disrupting the positive feedback mechanisms that lead to emotional bonding to preventing those affected from recognising bad relationships or feeling any desire to seek good ones: (via FmH)
Serotonin enhancers can also dampen the sex drive of men and even their ability to ejaculate. These men naturally shy away from bedding women, leading to increased loneliness, setting up a vicious cycle of depression. Also, without frequent orgasms, men and women dont have the flood of oxytocin and vasopressin that promote relationship bonding. Men might enjoy a womans company, but never fall head over heels for her. Semen may also be critical in retaining a womans interest, as recent studies indicate that men may alter womens emotional states through chemicals transmitted through semen.
One guy on SSRIs would look at a beautiful woman and recognise that intellectually, but he said there was no oomph. He described being on the drugs as if the lenses in his glasses somehow had been changed. He wanted off the drugs. Even if he couldnt chase women because he was a married man, he still wanted to enjoy looking.
Thomson also worries that some women could suffer a double whammy where antidepressants hinder their natural judgment to leave a bad relationship and also blunt their ability to spot healthy, desirable new mates. Indeed, he recalls that one patient wasnt healthily distressed when an abusive ex-boyfriend with a history of stalking showed up at her door.
Though I'm sure that humanity, a technological species, will adapt. Perhaps we'll become a species of solitary cube-dwellers, choosing breeding partners by some market-based mechanism or computerised matching system, and future generations will find it incredible that, once upon a time, people relied on wild, atavistic passions to select their breeding mates?
Just in time for Valentine's Day: virtual girlfriends for sale on eBay; i.e., for a fee, someone will pretend to be your absentee girlfriend, and hopefully make you look and/or feel like less of a pathetic loser. (Because, as everybody knows: having a girlfriend/boyfriend is essential to being a valid human being.) (via TechDirt)
New research shows that men who get married are more likely to suffer mental health problems, whilst men who remain single are most likely to suffer depression, with simply shacking up with a partner being the optimum solution. For men, that is; for women, unmarried cohabitation is, according to the Queen Mary University study, the worst of all options, with celibacy being best, followed by marriage. More ammunition for the claim that heterosexuality is an inherently adversarial zero-sum proposition.
Next time you buy the mandatory diamond ring for your beloved, spare a thought for the child soldiers who valiantly fought to get it for you, or the civilians in Sierra Leone whose limbs they hacked off:
Over the course of the decade-long war, the rebels have mutilated some 20,000 people, hacking off their arms, legs, lips, and ears with machetes and axes. This campaign was the RUF's grotesquely ironic response to Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's 1996 plea for citizens to "join hands for peace." Another 50,000 to 75,000 have been killed. The RUF's goal was to terrorize the population and enjoy uncontested dominion over the diamond fields.
The Powers That Be assure us they're reforming the process to ensure eliminate the perception of such inequity; however, without much success.
Unfortunately, neither action is halting the lucrative trade: "Efforts to end the trade in conflict diamonds ran into a major obstacle in the Bush administration, which has been reluctant to impede business in any way or have its hands tied by any international agreements, even when the U.S. diamond industry has called for it," says Akwei.
(Does that mean that Halliburton, the Carlyle Group or some other band of highly-connected kleptocrats have a stake in the diamond trade, or are the Bush administration just being recalcitrant out of principle?) (via Adbusting)
As more and more people look for love online, a new industry has arisen: online dating consultants. For a fee, they'll spruce up your profile (or write you a new one guaranteed to make your boring, unimaginative self look dazzlingly witty and original), and/or furnish you with a digital portrait guaranteed to reel 'em in. (via Techdirt)
A Los Angeles-based firm's site, www.e-cyrano.com, offers a choice of packages, ranging from a 40-dollar "bronze" service that provides basic profile editing to a 200-dollar "platinum" option where a personal consultant writes a profile from scratch and follows up with a 30-minute phone consultation.
Yes, Los Angeles sounds like the place for that kind of thing.
Despite the increasing popularity of online dating, Stricke says she often has to counsel people who are worried about the "loser" stigma that still sticks to the idea. "Some people are like, 'OK, I'm going to a photographer. Am I weird for doing that?' And I say, look, it's totally cool, everyone deserves a good photograph," she said.
So if you hire a consultant to write your online dating profile and pay a special photographer to give you that killer portrait people might think you're a bit desperate or insecure? Whyever so?
(Though, perhaps as increasing mobility and "labor-market flexibility" (read: longer and/or more unusual work hours) and the tendency to postpone marriage until long after leaving school/university take their toll on the traditional theatres of courtship, perhaps soon everyone will be looking for their next partners online; and thanks to the Red Queen Effect, the only way to not be a loser will be to hire the most cutting-edge dating consultants, armed with the latest techniques, to put yourself ahead of the competition who are using all of last week's hottest profile tips.)
Anti-virus consultancy Sophos Plc has released a profile of virus writers: they are male, obsessed with computers, 14-34, and chronically lacking a girlfriend. (via Techdirt)
(It also looks like another instance of the assumption that anyone who isn't usually in a sexual relationship is some sort of sociopathic freak. Soon not having a girlfriend will be probable cause for search and seizure. Hey, the 9/11 hijackers didn't have girlfriends either.)
(And shouldn't that be "chronically lacking a girlfriend or an interest in comic books/record collecting/trainspotting"?)
As more and more Americans (and other westerners, to an extent) spend more and more of their lives on medication, from childhood ritalin to adolescent MDMA to adult Prozac, the question arises of what proportion of personal relationships are mediated by medication: (via Follow Me Here)
But according to Dr. Amy Banks, a psychiatrist at the Stone Center for the Study of Relationships at Wellesley College: ''There are two categories of medicated couples. There are those in which the medication allows the rightful relationship to emerge, and then there are those in which medication serves as a screen to cover up real issues. How can you tell them apart?''
"I saw a woman ... with 7-year-old twins. She came to me because she felt she needed to be less mean in her relationship. But she has 7-year-old twins while her husband gets to kick back, sleep late. She resented the hell out of him. I told her: 'You know what? Drugs won't fix this. I don't want to take away your anger.'" What Banks is saying makes a lot of sense, but there's also something a tad condescending to it. I mean, if the woman doesn't want anger, why impose it on her? Maybe, for her, the best thing is to mellow out. There is something to be said for living a less honest life, the edges softer, peace in place of confrontation.
(This piece reminded me of a scifiesque story idea I once had, about chemical marriage counselling, in which troubled couples are given drugs (acting much like phenylethylamine, the "falling-in-love" neurotransmitter) to make them fall in love all over again. I never figured out, however, whether such a programme would be a roaring success or a catastrophic failure.
New on the market: Relationship management the Behaviourist way, aka the Boyfriend Training Kit.
Gold stars are given for good behaviour, while a relationship can be "terminated" with the single red sticker contained in the kit.
A British divorce law firm has stirred up controversy by advertising its services on posters in lavatories at trendy bars. The posters in womens' toilets read "All men are Bastards!", whereas the ones in mens' toilets bear the old anti-Thatcherite election slogan "Ditch the bitch".
Valentine's Day is nigh upon us; the Hallmark event when florists mark up their prices steeply and rake in the cash, those who are in sexual relationships are obliged to give money to multinational corporations to prove their love for their partner, and those not in relationships are considered less than complete members of human society. Mind you, if you're a cynic, there are still cards made for you, courtesy of Meg. And if you actually want to send a card, rather than look at pictures, here are some more.
How will I be celebrating this hallowed day? In the traditional manner: by listening to all my Smiths records. I might throw in some Leonard Cohen as well, just for fun.
New Scientist on mate copying, or the scientific reasons why single people are considered less sexually attractive than the non-single.
`Nerverts' redux: The complex interplay between the hacker/geek culture and non-traditional sexuality: (Salon)
[Richard Stallman] says he has never had a monogamous sexual relationship, and he's also observed that programmers tend to favor polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships more than people in other jobs... he recognizes that the unconventional choices he has made as a software engineer are analogous to the choices he's made in his romantic life as well. "I believe in love, but not monogamy," he says plainly.
Deirdre Saoirse, a former employee of Linuxcare and founder of a Bay Area users group for people who use the Python scripting language, feels strongly that people involved in open source can be just as conservative and closed-minded as any other part of the population. "Some of my female and/or queer and/or transgendered friends have felt very out of place in the Linux community," she says emphatically. "I've seen a lot of sexism and not a lot of openness to alternative lifestyles among the community as a whole, even in the Bay Area."
Sounds like the Slashdot locker-room where "gay" is a pejorative they sling at Microsoft. --acb
"Geeks are introverts, we read a lot of science fiction, and we have bizarre socialization," says Muffy Barkocy, a non-monogamous bisexual working with Apache and Perl at Egreetings.com. She believes that a geek's stereotypical lack of socialization encourages a more experimental sexual life. "Because of our lack of socialization, we don't learn about the monogamous imperative. It just doesn't occur to us."