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Opposite Sex Friendships

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To briefly summarize the various positions here (be sure to correct me if need be):

Dan follows and encourages a policy of avoiding a kind of interaction with people from which he thinks he is likely to develop romantic feelings for, so as not to interfere with his current romance.

Kendall and others take this a step further and argue that one should avoid people whom one thinks are actually greater values than one's current romance, because in almost every circumstance in today's world (which is lesser-integrated, or where most people have various flaws and inconsistencies), the "greater" value would be so incremental in almost every context that it would not actually be a greater value.

mrocktor and others argue that the principle is to go for the value that is greatest, in every circumstance. If one finds a better romance down the line, it is best to end the current romance and start another. This is contextual as well, and things like time spent together, whether one has children or not, whether the financial strain would be worth it, and so forth, play a part in the decision to leave and start anew.

To me it seems like you guys are arguing for the same things, ie. the greater romantic value, but disagree on what specifics actually constitute "greater."

...

Personally, I cannot imagine falling in love with "parts" of someone. If I do not accept the whole, I do not fall in love. So I would not be comparing my romance to other future romances until I began falling out of love. I imagine I would see that coming, and depending on the context I would either be looking or would have broken the romance off already.

Dan says he has based his essay off of experience, so I'll accept the possibility that I just may have never experienced several options to choose from at once, and do not know what he is talking about. But I cannot see how meeting other people, not with the goal of starting a romance, who turn out to be romance material, is not a win-win scenario. Either you come to understand that your current romance is still best, and stop interacting with the new person in certain ways if need be, or you find someone better, in a great, complicated context. Win-win.

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Dan was assuming that the non-spouse person that you're considering developing an intimate relationship with is NOT more valuable than your spouse. He's saying that your emotions can become entangled if you develop such a relationship, regardless of the fact that they would be incorrect and that your spouse would be the higher value. His advice is to avoid that level of intimacy because your emotions will follow the input you give them, regardless of which person you actually value more.

Thank you for that summary (as I said, I found Dan's original post way too long to read). If that is indeed Dan's argument, then I think it does make sense, but I disagree with the premise that an opposite-sex friendship necessarily gives your emotions the input that you're in love with that friend. I agree that it could give that input, so you have to be careful to avoid it, but it is very possible to avoid if you make an effort to.

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Hello,

I'm very pleased that my article has inspired so much discussion. I've tried to read most of the posts on this and the other thread, but I don't have time to respond to them all.

A brief summary of my thoughts: I disagree with the positions taken by Ifat, Mrocktor, Roland, and Olex (to some degree). I believe that a few of you have misconstrued my position into an advocation of evasion -- it is not. As Inspector indicated, my article assumes that one's long-term romantic partner is his #1 value. If this is not the case for you, if you are not madly in love with a long-term romantic partner, then my advice does not apply.

I note that the vast majority of those arguing against my article (here and elsewhere) are relatively young and are unmarried, while most of those who support the article are older and married. This makes sense because my arguments are primarily inductive, not deductive. I'm pointing to psychological and social phenomena that I have observed, and I have attempted to tie them together under a comprehensible generalization. Those who have observed the same phenomena tend to follow the arguments more easily than those who are not in the position to have experienced them.

Regarding the relative value of a current long-term lover versus another potential lover: A long-term romantic partner becomes more and more of a value the longer one remains in a healthy relationship. As one shares life experiences with another, the two become a part of one another. Over time, one's lover grows more and more into a reflection of everything he values about life. This degree of psychological visibility is immensely valuable, and it cannot be transferred to another woman at whim. (I wrote about this in my Morality of Monogamy article.)

None of us are in the position of God, judging each new person's "absolute value" and ranking them accordingly. The value of a person is not some static, Platonic quantity. Kelly is a much greater value to me that she ever will be to any of you. Does that mean that she is somehow objectively more Valuable than any other woman I will ever meet? The very question is rationalistic. My history with Kelly makes her a greater value to me, and this is a history I do not share with any other woman on the planet.

There's a lot more I could write here, but I just don't have the time.

Thanks,

--Dan Edge

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Therefore it is certainly possible that you'd come to know someone else well enough in far less than another 20 years to judge if she's better for your or not. And certainly since you've said there is nothing wrong with pursuing such a relationship, I'd say you've got a recipe for destabilization instead.

It is certainly possible. In fact, it does happen to people who dont lock themselves in a box. It is not, however, a recipe for hedonism. While the number of "to the death" relationships might be smaller under this principle, the ones that don't last "to the death" are exactly the ones that should not last "to the death" because they nor longer have a basis in reality for one or both of the people involved.

Maybe I'll rephrase. "I'll invest in a life with you, and allow you to do the same, until..." Certainly that investment disappears when you leave someone, no?

No, I don't think it has to disappear. While time and space constraints will certainly change the outcome of this investment, I don't think it has to be an "all or nothing" deal. The idea that all is lost when a relationship is "demoted" is derivate from the same error that leads you to think avoiding good people is a good idea.

if I treat the first 10 years with the first woman as a "sunk cost", as having no value to me, as being discardable, why then, it's 40 vs. 40 and I'm outta there.

Actually, that is the straw man.

As I said before, I'm not suggesting there arent' special contexts where that is tremendously possible, but the idea that this is rational for the general population is really beginning to annoy me.

You are annoyed by the idea that each individual should live his or her life to the fullest, and maintain or change his or her relationships based exclusively on his best judgment of what is a highest value for him in the context of his life. You are not annoyed by replacing this with the "principle" that people should stick to their current relationships no matter what after they promise to. Because that seems like a good idea for most people.

Our annoyance circuits operate on reversed polarity.

As I've said above this is a false alternative, and the fact that you value a past spent with someone so worthlessly

No one said that the value of a past spent with someone is worthless.

Again.

No one said that the value of a past spent with someone is worthless.

Once more, just to be sure.

No one said that the value of a past spent with someone is worthless.

I am saying the past spent with someone has to be constantly valuated and constantly judged in the context of your life. Your decisions have to be made based on this valuation and in the values available to you in other people. My personal opinion is that healthy, honest relationships are stable - though not guaranteed to last forever.

Dan was assuming that the non-spouse person that you're considering developing an intimate relationship with is NOT more valuable than your spouse. He's saying that your emotions can become entangled if you develop such a relationship

Either your values are integrated and the lesser other person presents absolutely no risk to your current relationship or to your emotions, or your values are not integrated and you have bigger problems to deal with. Emotions don't have a mind of their own - they have your mind at their root.

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As Inspector indicated, my article assumes that one's long-term romantic partner is his #1 value. If this is not the case for you, if you are not madly in love with a long-term romantic partner, then my advice does not apply.

But if you're madly in love with her, why worry about a friend suddenly eclipsing her in your heart? To me, "madly in love" means not even thinking of the possibility of falling in love with anyone else.

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Be careful, you're actually flirting with a contradiction to Ifat. If that cause and effect shown above actually exists, then it does say that choices between how much time to spend with one person vs another can impact the level of threat to an established relationship. If in addition to anothers character, the amount of time spent with someone impacts the depth of the relationship and it is that depth that is rightly weighed against one another, then the choice to avoid someone who may have equal character is appropriate since you are consciously making them a threat to your current relationship.

Ok, I don't think I conveyed my idea clearly. The 'threat' is most directly linked to the depth of your current attachment. The depth of your attachment, however, is not necessarily directly related to how much time you spend together. Obviously one could spend a great deal of time with someone they don't particularly like, and it will not necessarily make them like them more. I'm speaking primarily of the potential depth that can be developed by the time spent together, obviously the more time spent together the greater the potential depth of the bond that can be formed. Of course, you can't spend too much time together, lest you are no longer individuals.

You see, in order for Dan's rules of thumb to have no bearing, and Ifat to be right, then character and only character, not time, or any other controllable factor must be the input that determines the level of love. If one could control the level of love felt simply by time spent, then one could control the level of love, without repression, but Ifat says such a thing must necessarily involve repression. As such, any vow of marriage must carry with it a caveat that says the vow lasts until such time as a person of higher character enters the picture.

One could have the most marvelous charachter in the world, but you would not ever know that *unless* you spent time with them. I think Ifat gets too close to emotional whim worshipping here. Unless one has perfectly integrated all values fully, one needs to continually critically examine their emotional responses to things in order to continually put them in line with ones values. I believe such a full integration to be more asymptotic than ever absolute and changing ones emotional responses to things requires, among other things, as Sophia pointed out, habitualizing one's new values into action.

Anything else would involve "repression."

I would think in the early phases of a relationship, one would be likely to come across other people of such quality that they might superscede your developed relationship, since the developed relationship is so limited. In that case choosing not to associate with that new person would be reasonable, but if one adopted the mentality of always pursuing that sort of interest then relationships would migrate toward being of zero time and zero depth, and not particularly conducive to a emotionally and intellectually stimulating bond. Early on someone might consider the potential of a multitude of partners, but at some point you have to make the decision to focus on one in order to see if you can cultivate that bond. I don't think that is any more a 'repression' than giving up playing video games in favor of studying for school is a sacrifice. It's a prioritization of values and the focusing on long term eudaemonic growth. Chasing every emotional whim is hedonistic, adopting mentalities most conducive to an examined, rewarding life is eudaemonic. Having completely integrated the focus on the long term relationship rewards, one's emotions would eventually respond in kind anyway and you probably wouldnt be attracted to that other person, even early on in the relationship.

I see points on both sides here, I think the picture Ifat is painting is that Dan, or whoever, might feel a very strong attraction to this other person, if that attraction is because he recognizes a greater potential relationship with that person, it might be right to pursue it and indeed wrong to repress it. But I would hope a sufficiently integrated set of rational values would make this kind of swerving affection ever less likely in inverse proportion to the depth of the bond developed anyway. I guess one's proper response should depend on how fully one feels they have integrated their values (?)

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I note that the vast majority of those arguing against my article (here and elsewhere) are relatively young and are unmarried, while most of those who support the article are older and married. This makes sense because my arguments are primarily inductive, not deductive.

Not again.

Regarding the relative value of a current long-term lover versus another potential lover: A long-term romantic partner becomes more and more of a value the longer one remains in a healthy relationship.

Yes it does.

As one shares life experiences with another, the two become a part of one another.

No they don't. A part of one another's lives yes, immensely. They remain individuals though.

Does that mean that she is somehow objectively more Valuable than any other woman I will ever meet? The very question is rationalistic.

But if you actually met a woman that made that question pertinent, would you face the question or close your eyes? The policy of closing your eyes preventively is only an extension of this choice.

But if you're madly in love with her, why worry about a friend suddenly eclipsing her in your heart? To me, "madly in love" means not even thinking of the possibility of falling in love with anyone else.

Exactly. This is the fundamental contradiction that folks here are refusing to face. Emotions are not some wild animal that has to be tamed. They have a nature, and that nature is to react automatically based on your values. If you are "madly in love" you won't fall in love with a lesser person.

And even if you do find an equal or greater person, this does not mean that giving up the relationship you have built over the years is a greater value. Even if you do fall in love with this new person, you will not want to give up what you have if it is a greater value (i.e. falling in love with the new person does not mean you "fall out of love" with your current partner and have to restart your life anew).

EDIT:

But I would hope a sufficiently integrated set of rational values would make this kind of swerving affection ever less likely in inverse proportion to the depth of the bond developed anyway.

Precisely!

Edited by mrocktor

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Hmm... I"ll ask the same question I asked Ifat, do you view marriage or some other long term vow as just such a compromise. That is since we have limited lifetime and limited resources that part of an offer of lifetime commitment is a realization that there might be people out there that one might value more than the current spouse, but that the incremental value obtained is foregone for a commitment now. If so, then possible additional intimate relationships are a threat to that commitment since they could be with people that you'd end up valuing more. no?

I definately do not view it as a compromise, but instead the most rational and psychologically beneficial way to achieve the most rewarding intellectually, physically, emotionally relationship possible with another person, and consequently, become the most fulfilled person myself.

I think considering any particular marriage as a compromise held up against a different potentially better marriage sways too close to platonic idealism. At some point you must have a 'go no go' moment, so to speak, and choose to pursue this kind of relationship with one and only one person in order to cultivate the most intense kind of bond eventually. If we were omniscient, it would be a comprimise to not pursue that relationship with the best possible person on earth, but since we are not, it is not a compromise to pursue that with the best possible person we meet in our lifetime, or even preferrably early enough in our lifetime to cultivate that kind of relationship.

Is it a comprimise to foregoing that relationship with a new potential mate after you have developed one with someone else? You have to be pretty damn sure that the new partner is of such over riding value that it is worth ending the current relationship, and to do that you would really have to spend *alot* of time with them. So I guess in that sense, Dan's suggestion is reasonable, but why would anyone want to spend that much time away from their partner unless it is explicitly to discover if this new potential mate has a higher potential? The amount of time and effort spent looking for other mates of higher potential would necessarily limit the time and quality of relationship that could be developed with one's existing mate. So again, functionally, I do not think focusing on developing a great relationship which necessaties a long term interaction is comprimising, but is instead prioritizing values.

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You are pretty much begging the question. You assume that romantic love is exclusive, which is exactly the point in question. Finding someone who you value more does not decrease the value of the first person. Even if you stay strictly monogamous and leave the first person for the second, this does not mean you love the first any less.

I agree with you on this, but it certainly limits the potential of the relationship which can be developed if you are very intimate with multiple people. Your comment seems to imply that once someone is in a state of 'romantic love' it's a pretty steady state there after. A monogomous marriage is a tribute one pays to the quality of the person they choose to being monogomous with and is the start of developing the most profound kind of bond two people can develop (well, at least that's what it ought to be, clearly most marriages are definately not that)

I want to know that each and every day she stays in a relationship with me that is the best possible thing she could do. And for as long as the relationship lasts, be it a lifetime or not, be it exclusive or not, she will know that being in a relationship with her is the best possible thing I could have done.

I think most people here would share the same sentiment, I certainly would not want anyone with me because of any societal obligation. The point I am trying to make here is that agreeing to be exclusive in tribute to each other makes the potential "best possible thing" you could do, even better.

I frankly don't know how it can be otherwise for rational people.

It seems like you are viewing relationships as static quantities where intimacy is only an expression of affection, while that's true and one can certainly healthily have intimate relationships with multiple people, what I think you don't focus enough on is the dynamic and reciprical growth that comes from intimacy, and that the potential of that growth and the bond that develops is related to how much intimacy and quality time you have with someone. The more people you are intimate with the less deep your bond is likely to be.

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I agree with that up to a point. However, certainly you'd agree that the amount of marginal essential information you learn about a person decreases with time. Therefore it is certainly possible that you'd come to know someone else well enough in far less than another 20 years to judge if she's better for your or not. And certainly since you've said there is nothing wrong with pursuing such a relationship, I'd say you've got a recipe for destabilization instead.

I made the same comment essentially that mrocktor made here before I noticed he made it, so I wanted to respond to your comment. Your argument holds if the purpose of a relationship is to discover as much as possible about one's partner, but I wouldn't consider a relationship to be like exploring a new territory. You map it out, take notes, discern the essentials, and you're all good. All the things you do in the interim also build up the quality of your relationship, it's not just learning things about someone, but sharing moments with them and the interaction and bond you have developed over the time of all that intimacy and shared adventures. Also, people change with time, and hopefully both of you, with each other's helps, both progress more toward being what you most want to be, so even while learning essentials, new essentials may evolve to be discovered, or old essentials are refined.

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Your comment seems to imply that once someone is in a state of 'romantic love' it's a pretty steady state there after. A monogomous marriage is a tribute one pays to the quality of the person they choose to being monogomous with and is the start of developing the most profound kind of bond two people can develop

I did not intend that implication. Personal relationships are never "steady states" because people themselves are constantly changing.

I think a monogamous relationship can be a tribute if it is, for both the people involved, the option that maximizes the value in their life. I think it is not such a tribute when either or both the people involved give up a greater value for the sake of monogamy itself.

In other words, monogamy is a consequence of two people being so ideal for each other that any other involvement would necessarily be a loss. This is essentially a matter of time and space limitations as well as the commonality of interests. If both people love doing all the same things to the point where they want to spend all of their time together, no time is left for anything else and consequently the matter of other involvements will never even rise.

Some people here think the previous state of affairs is how it should be, or in other words, that a relationship where the people involved have diverse interests and have reason not to spend all of their time together and thus have the possibility of sharing different parts of their lives with different people is necessarily a lesser value. I don't think that it is necessarily so.

Where monogamy is right, it does not have to be forced and it is not based on a "contract". It is the natural consequence of the context. And there is no basis to hold this state of affairs as inherently better than another in which the people involved are equally fulfilled (and no basis to argue that they can't be equally fulfilled without monogamy).

The point I am trying to make here is that agreeing to be exclusive in tribute to each other makes the potential "best possible thing" you could do, even better.

I disagree. Exclusivity does not add anything to a relationship in itself. As Ifat said before, you are reversing cause and consequence.

The more people you are intimate with the less deep your bond is likely to be.

This is not math. And the "as intimate as possible" standard is questionable in itself. Perhaps someone may value two "7" relationships more than a "10". There is just no basis to hold up exclusivity as the ideal, and much less as an end in itself.

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Regarding the relative value of a current long-term lover versus another potential lover:
Alright! To the good stuff
A long-term romantic partner becomes more and more of a value the longer one remains in a healthy relationship.
Alright, following ya here.
As one shares life experiences with another, the two become a part of one another.
If by this, you mean, get to know each other like the back of each other's hand; then I agree.
Over time, one's lover grows more and more into a reflection of everything he values about life. This degree of psychological visibility is immensely valuable, and it cannot be transferred to another woman at whim.
Who is talking about whims? You went from, "This is why a good relationship grows" to "Thats why one shouldn't follow whims". There is no logical connection that says anything about, "Regarding the relative value of a current long-term lover versus another potential lover:"--unless you make an assumption that it is impossible to find someone of greater value.

Does that mean that she is somehow objectively more Valuable than any other woman I will ever meet? The very question is rationalistic.
Its not rationalistic to ponder the morality of leaving someone for another (especially after marriage).
My history with Kelly makes her a greater value to me, and this is a history I do not share with any other woman on the planet.
This goes for any good friendship/relationship.

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Or, if you make it impossible to find such a person. Capisce?
True. But that would be some serious evasion going on then.

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Ramesh, did you get that example from Dr. Peikoff's lecture? Because if not it's the exact one he uses.

Inspector,

Yes, I was using the same example Dr. Peikoff gave in the Love, Sex and Romance Q & A.

In the tape, Dr. Peikoff does say that though there's nothing wrong with the woman having 2 lovers, she would have to eventually choose which one's her top value, since no 2 individuals are so alike in every respect that they both become one's top value.

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In OPAR, Dr. Peikoff describes friendship as a human relationship, involving mutual knowledge, esteem, and affection, as a result of which, the persons therein take pleasure in each other's company, communicate with a high degree of intimacy, and display mutual benevolence, each sincerely wishing the other well.

The emotions that a (rational) man feels towards his lover are not the same as the ones he feels for a friend, including a female one. Even with respect to common emotions such as affection, the degree of intensity involved is much greater in a love relationship than in a friendship. And the motives related to behavior in the former are not the same as the ones related to behavior in the latter.

In other words, being friendly with someone when one's in love with someone else, will not invariably lead one to value the friend, in the same way and to the same degree that one values one's lover.

So if a (rational) man, who's already romantically attached, is also friendly with another (rational) woman, as long as his behavior towards her (in reality) and the motives (in his own mind) which cause such behavior, are consistent with the essential aspects of a friendship as described in OPAR, how and why would his friendship with her threaten his relationship with his lover?

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Perhaps someone may value two "7" relationships more than a "10".

True. It depends what you value.

Thank you for finally acknowledging that both of them won't ever be 10.

(two of 7 does not add up to intimacy 14... it is still two relationships with a level of 7 - not that you can put a value on it that way but it illustrates the point)

Edited by ~Sophia~

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I can't admire Frogger, no. But I can admire someone who knows what they want, and has the rare pleasure of finding someone closer to their values than I.

LOL! This was a good one.

A brief summary of my thoughts: I disagree with the positions taken by Ifat, Mrocktor, Roland, and Olex (to some degree). I believe that a few of you have misconstrued my position into an advocation of evasion -- it is not. As Inspector indicated, my article assumes that one's long-term romantic partner is his #1 value. If this is not the case for you, if you are not madly in love with a long-term romantic partner, then my advice does not apply.

If your article assumes that "one's long-term romantic partner is his #1 value" why does it offer an advice to stay away from intimate relationships with other people? When someone is my #1 value, the option of spending time with someone else doesn't even come to my mind, so it is not an issue in the first place.

Just as I don't need advice on how to avoid beating up my partner, I view such advice about other intimate relationships as useless.

The fact that you bothered writing an article about it shows that it is an issue for you.

My post was mainly a criticism of your article, not presentation of my own position. So I don't see what position of mine you can disagree with. For a serious discussion, I suggest you quote my/other's words.

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I did not intend that implication. Personal relationships are never "steady states" because people themselves are constantly changing.

Indeed, so the question is can they change in a manner that relates to each other, which actually makes their relationship better and more fulfilling for each? And if so, what facilitates that change? Time spent together, and of course the quality and type of time spent together.

If people can change together in a manner that promulgates a rewarding and fulfilling relationship, then it stands that the best kind of relationship an individual can have is the kind cultivated to the greatest degree with the best possible match over the longest possible time with the best types of interactions.

I think a monogamous relationship can be a tribute if it is, for both the people involved, the option that maximizes the value in their life. I think it is not such a tribute when either or both the people involved give up a greater value for the sake of monogamy itself.

The point of contention is not that they are giving up a greater value, it's that they are making a judgement call between the likely value they will derive from their existing partner, which in most circumstances they will have a much more accurate assessment of, and the likely value they would derive from this new partner who 'may' be of greater value, but you can't really be sure of unless you spent alot of time with them. It takes a significant degree of intimate interaction to have an accurate assessment of that kind of thing. Which is why I make my point that the likelyhood of running into someone who so far outpaces your existing partner is related to the depth of the relationship you have formed with them, which is neccessarily in a large part also dependant on time. Again, you are not sacrificing a value, you are prioritizing a value. You value the real achievement of a maximally fulfilling relationship over the (unachievable) platonic ideal of an absolutely 'perfect' relationship.

In other words, monogamy is a consequence of two people being so ideal for each other that any other involvement would necessarily be a loss. This is essentially a matter of time and space limitations as well as the commonality of interests. If both people love doing all the same things to the point where they want to spend all of their time together, no time is left for anything else and consequently the matter of other involvements will never even rise.

Where monogamy is right, it does not have to be forced and it is not based on a "contract". It is the natural consequence of the context. And there is no basis to hold this state of affairs as inherently better than another in which the people involved are equally fulfilled (and no basis to argue that they can't be equally fulfilled without monogamy).

Again this does not pay proper focus to the bond which is cultivated between two people through a lot of intimate quality interaction. Choosing to be monogomous with a person is a tribute to them, but it is also a selfish thing, it is your judgement call when you say, 'ok, this is a tremendous person and I have a reasonable expectation that the relationship can be developed with this person will also be tremendously rewarding for myself and for them, so I choose to focus on developing that with this person' and not spend time searching perpetually for someone else (again, this is not at all what I think typical marriages are)

I disagree. Exclusivity does not add anything to a relationship in itself. As Ifat said before, you are reversing cause and consequence.

I did not mean to imply that exclusity makes a relationship better automatically, actually I think I have repeatedly said it makes the potential relationship much better. It's up to the individuals to pursue and exploit that potential and actually develop and cultivate the extremely rewarding relationship which choosing to dedicates one's self primarily too will develop. Sitting around and watching TV every night certainly will not cultivate a positive and rewarding relationship, no matter how many decades one spends doing it.

This is not math. And the "as intimate as possible" standard is questionable in itself. Perhaps someone may value two "7" relationships more than a "10". There is just no basis to hold up exclusivity as the ideal, and much less as an end in itself.

This is a qualitative assessment, not a quantitative one. Clearly you can not be as close to 1,000 friends as you can be to 10. The potential level of a eudaemonic relationship is heavily dependant on the time you spend with each other, but of course I must emphasize again that time must be quality time as well. Time alone will not cultivate fulfilling relationships, but time spent doing intimate and mutually rewarding things will.

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Matus, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I don't disagree with anything you wrote there. The crux of the matter is:

Is sticking with your current relationship the right thing to do in principle - to the extent that it is moral to pre-emptively scuttle other valuable relationships to "protect" it, or is sticking to your current relationship the right thing to do because since it is good, other values pale in comparison?

I think the second is the right mindset when dealing with relationships. No need to "program" your emotions or to deprive yourself of the good things you can share with other people. While the first point of view holds exclusive relationships as the ideal, the second view sees them simply as the kind of relationship that is most likely to develop.

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