Life architecture

On my walk yesterday, I had a little think about what makes relationships what they are. I realized that there were actually more significant dimensions than I had previously considered and that being aware of them can illuminate hard decisions about them.

I used to think that a relationship involves 1) another person and 2) activities you usually engage in with them: having conversations over coffee, going for bike rides, having phone calls, sitting on the balcony, and so on. And if you enjoy those activities with that person and you want the person in your life, that would be a positive way of looking at the relationship from this two-dimensional perspective: Who, and What.

But there are other significant dimensions as well: 3) In what kinds of spaces, physical places, do you connect with them and 4) at what times of the day, which days, how frequently, how regularly does that happen? So the Where and the When.

Looking at those dimensions together, the Who, What, Where, When, it seems to me that when making choices about relationships, what we are dealing with are questions about a kind of life architecture: a structure that makes it possible for us to do the things we want to do with the people we want in our lives, in spaces that are suitable for that and that are reachable for us, and at times that allow for the right level of continuity and sustainability.

If any of those requirements are not satisfied, the relationship can still exist as an idea, but it may not feel like a functioning relationship in practice. There is a chance that that difference is felt as a kind of dissonance, like something isn’t right. It can even be felt as anxiety. And that dissonance can undermine the idea of the relationship over time. It can undermine the commitment to the relationship as a whole as a part of your life.

And what about 5) the Why? The Why is related to commitment, to love, to my chosen path in life, to who I am as a person, who I want to be. Why spend my life with this person and not just anyone else? Why those activities and not just any? Why here and there and not just anywhere? Why now and then and not just whenever? It’s because that’s what I want in my life. It’s what I can say Yes to.

If I don’t commit to answers to those questions, then I am just floating, flowing, being an observer of circumstances. I would prevent myself from experiencing the satisfaction of feeling like things are right the way they are, and I would likely not be able to recognize opportunities for improvement.

On the flip side, if I commit too strongly to very particular answers, if I measure everything against strict, unadaptable ideas, I may prevent myself from experiencing the enjoyment of the fundamentally unstable flow of what it is to live, to be alive, to live a life in the here and now.

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