WoDG Postcard

coffee cup
Contracting Love

Author: Maven Blue
Column: Behind the Bar
Date: 2013-12-23 14:49:13

Relationships. I see the beginnings and endings of them right here from my perch behind the bar. Sometimes they start with a suave pick up line and sometimes they end with the police hauling someone out in cuffs. All is fair in love and war, but what interests me is the unfolding of the relationship - the expectations and structure that we place on them.

I used to think that relationships developed organically; that there was a flow from start to end that was natural, a progression of events. But recently, my barflies, I saw something different develop - a relationship negotiated like a formal contract. All expectations laid out on the initial meeting. This made me wonder about the relationships we find ourselves in. While I think the organic process is important, maybe there is something to having a little bit of formality to our encounters.

The start of a relationship is typically a frenzy of nerves and questions. Will John like me? How should I act? Should I kiss him after the date? If I like him how early is it to have sex? Third date? Fifth date? When should I meet his friends? Questions. Questions that turn many into a nervous wreck. In an organic process you would just wait and see how things turn out - move from the first date into a second, if things work out, and then a third date, and so on. You discover the other person. You learn what they like, you get a feel for them, you develop some sort of connection. You make mistakes along the way but hopefully not too many mistakes.

But there is something to be said for this formal process. Maybe not to the point of drawing up some sort of contract, but there are elements that might set the tone of the relationship, answer some of those questions that gnaw at your stomach before they even begin. This especially works when it comes to things like physical contact. Yes, we can hold hands on the first date, but, if I like you, I don't have sex until at least the sixth date. I find it acceptable for a brief kiss at the end of the first date, but no tongue. The bits of formality could even blend into other elements - if I like you you can meet my friends after the forth date, but not before.

It may seem a little constrained and rigid and maybe a little unnatural, but think about the embarrassment saved. A quick conversation on the first date about boundaries and expectations could but both people on the same page and allow for deeper connections and genuine discovery, or it could highlight incompatibility and both part without misunderstandings.

In a way this formality already exists in the social norms we adhere to, but it is wound in complex patterns of expected behaviours. All relationships have expectations and rules of engagement, but they are often left unspoken and only develop after significant communication and relationship development. Think of your friendships - there are unspoken rules, unspoken expectations, and typically they are only brought to light when someone fucks up. What I propose is something a little more upfront.

Laying out boundaries and expectations doesn't mean that things can't change. That's where the organic process begins, that's where discovery leads to. But having something to start from, having some sort of structure to build on just might be the way to move forward. It just may just give the nervous wreck a little more confidence.

And who know, something might come of it.