Example of Several Flaws in Courtship

In Hannah Montana: The Movie, Miley and a boy begin to date. He likes her; she likes him. He tries to confess his feelings on their first date, but circumstances intervene. She's busy; she leaves.

Soon he discovers why she left. It had to do with a momentous, life-changing secret of hers, which had nothing whatsoever to do with him. He, on the spot, dumps her for not being honest with him. She pleads with him, and says she can explain, but he says no and leaves. She accepts this as a reasonable reaction on his part, cries, and blames herself.

They get back together a few days later after she makes a large personal gesture and then also a huge change in her life in public as a method of apologizing and asking him for a second chance. The change was something he didn't know her well enough to ask for, there were no indications he actually wanted it and there was no reason for him to want it.

Notice anything wrong with this?

Confessing your feelings is a way of life involving independently creating feelings for each other, instead of gradually creating them together, and then having one conversation that instantly changes everything (possibly for the worse -- it's risky).

Dumping her amounted to giving up on their relationship when facing their very first problem, before trying to solve it. What sort of relationship can be conditional on no unexpected and unwanted problems ever occurring? Why doesn't he want to attempt problem solving?

One moment he's falling in love with her; the next he's ignoring her pleas and leaving her crying. What is his love worth if it's so fickle? What is he worth, if he's at any moment ready to hurt her if she does something he disapproves of too much? Why doesn't it occur to him to react by helping her improve?

They get back together without figuring out how to avoid any of their prior problems first. She doesn't seek any assurance he won't dump her again (without even trying to fix anything). He never apologizes. He doesn't seek any assurance she won't keep secrets again. She doesn't promise not to. She doesn't explain how she learned something new and has changed her mind. She simply concedes the one point he has made their relationship conditional on and he's satisfied; it's closer to extortion than persuasion.

She cries and considers that normal and doesn't seek a way of life without crying and pain, nor think seriously about how to prevent a recurrence.

When he dumps her, she considers it legitimate too. She agrees with the scheme of things where people callously dump their loved one and leave her crying without even giving her a chance to explain what happened.

Both of them blame the victim. She gets dumped and hurt, and she gets blamed for her own pain. He could have prevented it if only he wanted to, but no one blames him for choosing not to prevent her suffering.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Relationships Lack Error Correction

"How can I attract Jill, so she'll agree to be with me?" is a bad question. It assumes it would be good for Jill to be with me. But how do I know that? I don't know her preferences in detail. Maybe I'm wrong for her. And I don't know her in detail. Maybe she's wrong for me.

"Who should I be with?" is a bad question too. It's just like, "Who should rule?" It focusses on making things a particular way and puts all the attention on figuring out which way to choose. Once made that way, the intent is that things stay that way.

A rational question is, "How should we set up a system of Government to best detect and correct mistakes, efficiently and non-violently?" And a rational question is, "How can I organize my personal relationships to best detect and correct mistakes?"

"Should I date John or Harry?" is a who should rule question. It's asking a question with long-lasting consequences, and trying to find the right answer once and for all. A rational approach is accept that we are fallible, and we make mistakes, and look for a way to proceed so that being mistaken won't do harm, or will do minimal harm, and a way forward so that mistakes can be corrected.

"Will you marry me" is a who should rule question. It's asking to permanently entrench a certain lifestyle. It's about committing to something for better or worse, not committing to seek the truth and correct mistakes whatever they may be. Marriage tries to put some things out of the reach of criticism and reason.

One theme of relationships is that they are on or off. People are dating or broken up. There isn't much middle ground. That conflicts with the gradual creation of relationships. Gradualness is important in all fields because it is best suited to detecting and correcting errors. By going one step at a time, and understanding what you're in for next, one can get a better idea of if the next step is indeed wise.

Another theme of relationships is to hide one's feelings until one is sure and has reached a final decision. Reasons are given for this such as fear of rejection. Whatever the reason, it has harmful effects. Hiding feelings means hiding them from criticism which could expose mistakes in them. Hiding feelings means hiding them from discussion by which one might learn something. Hiding feelings hides information that one's partner would find useful to know. And trying to reach a final decision is irrational because decisions shouldn't have finality; instead we should look to live in a way compatible with error detection and correction.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)