Thursday, January 27, 2011
Those who read here regularly have probably figured out I find rules fascinating. I'm a fairly logical person so rules make sense and provide me an anchor point. But because I'm logical, sometimes rules just don't make sense if they are based on emotion.
Recently I was in another one of "those" conversations where rules were being discussed. The originator of the conversation seemed to be taking the position that a lot of relationship rules are created primarily as a means of limiting a partner or of promoting feelings of ownership with a partner. For example, a rule such as "The only person allowed to go down on me is my husband."
At first glance we might assume the husband has an issue that resulted in his creating this rule. Maybe he is worried that his wife will find out he isn't as good at oral sex as she had thought, stemming from an insecurity on his part. Possibly he feels if she finds a partner who is better at it than he is she will prefer the new partner. Or maybe it is an infrequent act for him and his wife finding a new partner who enjoys it regularly would be a threat. Or maybe he simply is a control freak and creating this rule is simply an exercise in control. We could go on and on, coming up with an almost limitless number of reasons for the husband to create this rule.
The problem I see here is that an assumption has been made that the husband created the rule. More specifically, he created it based on what most would consider to be negative needs. What if he didn't?
It is entirely possible the wife made this rule and it could easily be restated as “I feel oral sex is particularly intimate and it is something I only want to share with my husband”. At that point the assumption the rule was created out of ownership or control issues is invalid. The woman has decided what she will and will not do with her own body.
The problem here is not with the rule, it is with the assumption that the rule was created for what some would consider negative reasons and judged as having no value. I have seen a fair number of people who make these types of assumptions and/or judgments then argue that a rule is without value or even try to change the mind of the person with the rule. Some will even refuse a relationship with someone who has other relationship rules they feel are illogical. Things which I believe are patently unfair. (Note: I will refuse a relationship with someone who has pre-existing relationship rules that directly conflict with my needs from a relationship).
But what if the husband really did create the rule based on his need for ownership or control? Does that change the function of the rule from my perspective? Many would feel pity for the woman in this situation and think she was being unfairly limited by her husband. But wait a second, she agreed to the rule! If she hadn't, she wouldn't be in the relationship right? If both parties in the relationship agreed to the rule then they must feel it is fair and reasonable. They must feel the rule has value for their relationship, which I respect completely.
Does that mean a rule that doesn't make sense or isn't logical to me isn't valid? Not in the least. I tend to try and approach pre-existing relationship rules a bit differently. I try to remember that I was not a part of the decision making process that created the rule, or involved in the intimate conversation between a couple from which a rule may be born. I may never know or understand the base reason for the creation of the rule, and that's okay. Whatever the reason for the rule, they have both agreed to it as a means to support their relationship. That is why I accept pre-existing relationship rules at face value. Out of curiosity or to better understand a rule I may ask why it was created, but I'm not going to take issue with the rule simply because it conflicts with my own logic or beliefs.
The flip-side to this is how people approach my pre-existing relationship rules. If they extensively question or attempt to judge the rules in my relationships I will try to answer their questions and defend the rules as best I can. At the same time I will probably be adding the person to my mental "Do Not Touch" list as someone with questionable respect for my pre-existing relationships and rules.
Where do you fit into the rules? Do you accept pre-existing relationship rules without question, or do you evaluate them for logic? Do you reject those with rules you consider unreasonable, or only if they conflict with your relationship needs? And what is the strangest relationship rule you have ever heard? (The strangest I ever heard was a woman that was allowed only to have anal sex with partners other than her Primary).