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"Demoting" a Relationship

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I have already expressed what I disagree or have questions about regarding Objectivism in several other more relevant threads. If you want, feel free to look it up. I don't really want to go off on a tangent explaining my personal view of Objectivism every single time I post.

Just take as a given that I believe in rationality, and I conduct and interpret my personal experiences as such.

Moebius, I think i missed your answer to Megan's question. This board is for people who want to learn the application of Objectivism to their lives or those who want to understand Objectivism. If you still disagree with some fundamental aspects of Objectivism, then ought you not be trying to understand them first before ANSWERING questions from people who are (essentially) asking about the application of Objectivism in their lives? [There are other boards on the net for people who believe in rationality without necessarily accepting Objectivism, so why choose the one which accepts both as the podium for your ideas?]

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Dan Edge: (I'll do this in steps): The "position" of wife is higher than that of girlfriend, right? Can you ever "demote" your woman from a position of wife to a position of girlfriend/fiance?

It would be extremely difficult to demote a relationship from a marriage to a casual relationship. This would only be possible when a clean break is made, followed by a period of friendship. I know of many examples where divorcees have become good friends. I'm sure there have been situations where a couple married, divorced, then got reengaged and remarried, but that is not a normal situation.

It is extremely difficult to transition directly from a marriage to a casual romance, even more difficult than transitioning directly from a casual romance to a friendship. That is why I advised a period of non-contact.

In any case, I'm not sure where you are going with this. I know it is possible to remain friends with former lovers, and even former spouses. If you have a complete argument, blurt it out! No need to go in steps. I'm a big boy. :D

--Dan Edge

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The "menage a trois" issue was just the topic Peikoff was dealing with when he brought up the issue of "Demoting" a relationship. I included the context for anyone who was trying to find his comments on the tape.

Well, yes, but I've found a lot that when Objectivist intellectuals are talking about a topic, you have to take their more colloquial language in context. What Peikoff meant when he said demoting a relationship and what you took him to mean may be completely different things.

After all, you said yourself that you have a different sort of friendship with your ex's than with other women.

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I'm sure there have been situations where a couple married, divorced, then got reengaged and remarried, but that is not a normal situation.

One of my uncles married and divorced the same woman twice :D

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What always fascinates me is when I hear something that Ayn Rand or Dr. Peikoff said (on a controversial issue) that I've always actually believed in my life. This normally leads me to defend them aggressively (and makes me look like a "Randroid"!) On further integration, my conclusion now is that I probably agree with these two philosophers completely on the subject of sex and romance.

I have always believed you can't demote a relationship, and this has also been the belief of almost all my male friends (most of whom don't really know anything about Objectivism). The last thing we want to hear from a girl who is breaking up with you is, "can we still be friends?" Gosh, no! We won't be enemies, but we won't be friends either. We'll have no relationship at all even though we'll still be able to talk when we meet and so on. Just because I can talk to someone (amicably) does not mean there is any relationship between us. The ex properly belongs to the "no relationship" stage.

I agree with Blackdiamond.

You can't "unlearn" or forget what someone is like on a physical level, and that kind of level isn't part of a friendship. Trying to be friends with an ex would mean just trying to ignore that physical awareness of each other that you will always have.

Like he says: its better to just be "amicable" than to try to be friends.

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One of my uncles married and divorced the same woman twice <_<

I can beat that. One of my uncles got divorced because he read some book that said it was a hold on him by the state (something to do with taxes). Hes still living with her, just like husband and wife but not.

I also know another guy who married one woman, had a child, divorced her and married her mother!

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Jennifer (jenbryn) and Black Diamond,

Neither of you have argued that it is better not to remain friends with former lovers. I would be open to such an argument. Instead, you claim that it is impossible. I know this is not the case, because I have remained good friends with several former lovers. For instance, I dated Melanie for 2 years, and we lived together for over a year, and we are still good friends. We are not merely amicable when we run into each other. We actively seek each other out, stay in touch, and spend time maintaining a friendship. I know several other people who have done this also. One of my friends dated the same guy for 8 years before they called it quits. Now they date other people, but remain close friends.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you two, but it seems that you are making a claim that is flatly contradicted by my first-hand experience.

--Dan Edge

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In any case, I'm not sure where you are going with this. I know it is possible to remain friends with former lovers, and even former spouses. If you have a complete argument, blurt it out! No need to go in steps. I'm a big boy. <_<

Alright, big boy.

What I said was that it is impossible to demote a relationship. I'll explain the sense in which I use the word impossible. I could say, for example, that it is impossible for a man to love his dog romantically. And you could tell me how you know someone who has decided to have sexual relations with his pet and he has very strong feelings for his dog, and so on. What can I say to that? I can only say it is not a real thing; I can say one is attempting the impossible and one can indeed even convince oneself that one has achieved it. Another example, which I wanted to avoid because I do not want to reopen a very huge can of very long worms, is that one cannot have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex, but some can say that they have achieved it. We can only argue on principles and definitions.

But that's not an argument; that just explains what I mean by impossible.

You see, a romantic or sexual relationship is a very different kind of relationship from a mere friendship. It is not just a "next step", it is a total change in kind. It is even closer than blood family. If the relationship of brotherhood ends between you and your brother, it necessarily means you can't even be friends, no matter how much you appreciate each other's "qualities".

And now for the argument.

This has to start with our premises. If you and I have very different premises and attitudes on this issue, we are unlikely to ever agree. So, I will state mine.

I take a romantic relationship very, very seriously. For me, finding a romantic (sexual) partner is as serious as finding my career in life. Consequently, this means I take "divorce" (before or after actual marriage) very, very, very seriously. This means it is unlikely for me to divorce someone because they don't want to have children. Why? Because if it was so important for me, I would never find myself in a romantic relationship with them in the first place.

You know, it's like quitting your career once you decide to settle on one. How many things can cause you to leave that career? Depending on how seriously (and rationally) you took the process of deciding on that career, it is very few things that could subsequently lead you to a change of career (from a doctor to a policeman, for example). That's how seriously I take the decision to start a romantic relationship with someone, and consequently, the decision to end it.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, it simply means that whatever will lead me to end a romantic relationship with someone has to be something so serious that friendship between us is also impossible. In short, it would have to be something that would lead even mere friends to be friends no longer. Something in the direction of betrayal of trust. Something that would lead even siblings to break off their relationship. (Something like what happened between Fredo and Michael Corleone in the Godfather.)

To know someone at the level of sex is not just a step, it is a completely different relationship that involves one exposing himself at the deepest level of his being to another person. It is to trust someone that much, and to end such a relationship can not involve anything simpler than a betrayal of such trust. This person can not go downwards, to a lower kind of relationship; they can only go away.

So I guess my view flows naturally from my premises (which I've always held). Do you think I take it too seriously?

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Alright, big boy.

Be nice, blackdiamond. Just because you're right doesn't mean you have to be snippy. In fact, it should mean you should be all the more magnanimous; especially since Dan is a good guy.

Dan, it seems to me like he might have a point: When were these relationships of yours? Before you were an Objectivist? How seriously did you take them? How intimate was your connection to these people? (How intimate could it have been if you didn't even know a detail like whether she wanted children?) Were you in love with them, really? Like they were irreplaceable and you would have just about died if you lost them? Did you need her like you need air? Have you ever experienced that emotion?

Peikoff's point, I think, assumes that one holds a certain level of intimacy as connected to sex. Once you are that intimate with someone, you can't undo it (which is by the way one reason I caution strongly against casual relationships... because if you do discover someone you truly love, you will wish you hadn't been so casually involved with others, and you can't undo that... but that is a topic for another day). I think what he means is that someone like that will never be "just a friend" in the same way that a male is your friend. Whether your feelings for them and memories are good or ill, they are there and an intimacy like that is always with you (for good or ill!). Perhaps you over-estimate your ability to repress this (and I think it may be a bit of repression mixed in with just getting rid of feelings that you don't want), or perhaps this process of repression makes you blind to the feelings you have. I suspect, and I hope this doesn't sound presumptuous, that if you fell in love you would realize that those old intimacies were still there, because your romantic existence would be totally re-focused.

In short, I do not believe it is possible for a relationship to be "demoted," if that means return to the level of simple friendship. Things will never be that simple again. This may not be a huge problem for you if you aren't actively in love with someone, though. (in the irreplaceable sense) If you are, however, involved, I think that no matter what sort of remnant the exes have with you, it would feel uncomfortable. Your romance would not tolerate it. So then, you couldn't have the friendship, either.

If, on the other hand, by "demoted" you mean you won't feel for them as you did, then yes this is possible. Very much so. But they will never be just strangers - if nothing else then they will be a reminder of a mistake.

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I just assumed [Peikoff] meant that you could not be friends with someone after a love relationship with her.
I wouldn't think so. Imagine if Francisco said he couldn't be friends with Dagny...

I no longer have romantic feelings for any of my ex-girlfriends. There have been a few instances when an ex expressed a romantic interest in me, and I was not interested... once I reorient my relationship with the woman to a friendship, then it feels like a friendship.
Hmm. I guess I'm quite different - if you have romantic feelings for girls with qualities XYZ, then how (why?) do you just turn off the romantic emotion that XYZ naturally brings in you?

I do understand the idea that this person (with XYZ) does romantically attracts me, but I can't/don't want to have a romantic relationship with them, however.

Merely remaining friends with Francisco is not the demotion of the relationship. They will never have sex again but they will still have what they had, have achieved the relationship that they achieved, because what they experienced was real after all.
That's the way I look at it. Finding a greater love (than d'Anconia) or deciding not to have a romantic relationship with someone you are interested in doesn't strike me as demotion, because your feelings for the person don't change.

Trying to be friends with an ex would mean just trying to ignore that physical awareness of each other that you will always have.
Could you elaborate?

It is unlikely for me to divorce someone because they don't want to have children. Why? Because if it was so important for me, I would never find myself in a romantic relationship with them in the first place.

Whatever will lead me to end a romantic relationship with someone has to be something so serious that friendship between us is also impossible.

But this assumes
  • that what interests you romantically is immutably settled and explicitly known, here and forevermore
  • as are your wife's
  • and that you two assess each other so well that you don't make mistakes

Isn't Peikoff divorced?

Nice Godfather reference <_<

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But this assumes
  • that what interests you romantically is immutably settled and explicitly known, here and forevermore
  • as are your wife's
  • and that you two assess each other so well that you don't make mistakes

I don't follow.

Perhaps you missed the important part of my sentence:

Because if it was so important for me, I would never find myself in a romantic relationship with them in the first place.

You can[/] know the things that are "so important" to you (as your partner should also know for hers) beforehand. What does this have to do with never making mistakes and your other bulleted points?

Isn't Peikoff divorced?

I know nothing about that, and I'm struggling to see its relevance to anything I said.

Nice Godfather reference <_<

(Thanks). That's the only right thing you've said in your whole post, Hunter!

(Gosh, I forgot to add my smiley again). Wait. Here goes ...

:)

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You can know the things that are "so important" to you (as your partner should also know for hers) beforehand. What does this have to do with never making mistakes and your other bulleted points?
Why would treating a relationship seriously and rationally make it impossible to "demote" a relationship? E.g. if your mate converts to Scientology, and this were utterly unacceptable to you, do you then demote the relationship?

Or do you tell yourself that her "betrayal" proves you obviously didn't approach the relationship seriously and rationally enough?

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Why would treating a relationship seriously and rationally make it impossible to "demote" a relationship? E.g. if your mate converts to Scientology, and this were utterly unacceptable to you, do you then demote the relationship?

Or do you tell yourself that her "betrayal" proves you obviously didn't approach the relationship seriously and rationally enough?

Converting to Scientology would be on the level of a betrayal of all of my values(and I assume Blackdiamonds, as well). Also, if I were in a serious relationship with someone who did begin believing that they were inhabited by good and evil aliens that were quadzillions of years old, it would be because I had not done due diligence in making my decision to be involved with her romantically.

Remember BD's initial post.

I can say one is attempting the impossible and one can indeed even convince oneself that one has achieved it.

The fact that one is sleeping with a twit, doesn't qualify it as a "romantic relationship" any more then sleeping with one's pet or house plant would. Well...Okay....maybe a l little more, but not much. <_<

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Why would treating a relationship seriously and rationally make it impossible to "demote" a relationship? E.g. if your mate converts to Scientology, and this were utterly unacceptable to you, do you then demote the relationship?

Or do you tell yourself that her "betrayal" proves you obviously didn't approach the relationship seriously and rationally enough?

Refer to aequalsa's response above. <_<

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Or do you tell yourself that her "betrayal" proves you obviously didn't approach the relationship seriously and rationally enough?

Wait. You don't have to "tell yourself" anything. A betrayal is just a betrayal (with or without the scare quotes). You don't *demote*; you just leave. And why would you want to be friends with her if she has become a Scientologist, anyway?

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Why would treating a relationship seriously and rationally make it impossible to "demote" a relationship?
It depends on what type of demotion one is speaking of. For instance, some divorced couples with kids go from romantic relationship to casual acquaintances. In other words, they go through a huge demotion, if one were to call it that, and it works fine. While one might think of the closeness of human relationships along some kind of scale from acquaintance to lover, there are actually qualitatively distinct zones along such a scale, where other aspects get added in. Even if the borderline is not clear, there a difference between acquaintance and friend and a big difference between friend and "romantic friend".

Given this, slightly metaphorical, scale, I doubt one can demote a relationship within the "romantic friend" category and have it remain "demoted". Implicit in a romantic relationship is an ambition toward closeness, and one has to change the relationship to non-romantic friendship for it to work. This is the kind of change that Dan's original post addressed.

Surely this is possible, and may be more easily to some than to others. Part of the issue is that two people are involved. So, for instance, if both people have decided that they want to end a romance, that's one thing; if one has and the other still has romantic feelings and hopes that makes it more difficult. The way I read Dan's post, he describes a way to end the romantic relationship, to give both people a chance to fully accept that it is over, consciously squelching things that one might still "hang on to".

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It takes a while to get to know someone enough to be sure weather or not you want to share your life with them. I think in order to get to that point you have to be in a romantic relationship with them already (in every aspect of its meaning) and for quiet some time. In order to know how it is like to be in a relationship with them - you have to experience it.

I think there is a progression to romantic relationships - stages of significance/commitment. As you get to know/evaluate someone (and how your lives fit together) - you either pass them to the next step or not. At various stages, relationships fail for many different reasons and not necessarily because of major differences such as not wanting children (those topics are usually covered early from my experience) or betrayal of trust.

Staying friends with your ex is an optional value for most. The possibility of 'demoting' a romantic relationship (how hard it is) depends strongly on the circumstances/reasons for the break up. We have control over our emotions but not over the emotions of others but I have to say that it is not impossible, if you break up with someone (even a spouse who still has strong feelings for you), to do it in such a way that would allow the two of you to stay casual friends (close friends would be little weard for me) even without the non-contact period.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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It depends on what type of demotion one is speaking of. For instance, some divorced couples with kids go from romantic relationship to casual acquaintances.

A mere acquaintance has *no* relationship with you. She's at the same level as an associate (at work). You can talk, even amicably so, and even many times, but that does not imply a relationship.

From wife to acquaintance is therefore not a demotion; it is a "firing"!

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I came up with an analogy here, because what I really see is that there are differences in method to how people approach romantic relationships. Kind of like how people approach going swimming differently.

Dan's method is to jump right in and start swimming around. He may discover after the fact that the water is too cold for him, but hey, at least he got to enjoy an invigorating swim, even if he has to get back out again rather quickly.

Blackdiamond's method is more like the person that likes to paddle around on the shore for a while: get your feet wet, feel things out a bit, maybe wait for the water to warm up some more.

I don't think either method is necessarily more serious or rational than the other: both can achieve the same end (a good swim), it's just that the steps you take along the way are different. With most things in life there are numerous different ways to achieve the same end.

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... because if you do discover someone you truly love, you will wish you hadn't been so casually involved with others, and you can't undo that... but that is a topic for another day.

Why should you wish that you hadn't been "casually" involved with other people because you finally meet someone you really want? And why does having several relationships necessarily mean that they were "casual"?

It's always ridiculous to spend time wishing that you "knew then" what you "know now". In order to become the better, stronger, and more savvy person that you are now, you had to make a bunch of mistakes and go through a great number of learning experiences. Whenever I'm indulging in stupid regrets, I try to remember two things, the first a quote from Hank Rearden (page 788 in my copy):

Then the wreckage will not become a funereal mount above me, but will serve as a height I have climbed to attain a wider field of vision.

The second is the song "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera.

Parents that, out of some benevolent feelings, try to protect their children from the need to struggle only produce children whose minds and muscles are atrophied from disuse. You can read all the books about romance you like, but you will never automatize the methods of interaction you need unless you go out there and practice.

Edited by JMeganSnow
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What I said was that it is impossible to demote a relationship... We can only argue on principles and definitions...

And now for the argument...

Whatever will lead me to end a romantic relationship with someone has to be something so serious that friendship between us is also impossible. It would have to be something that would lead even mere friends to be friends no longer.

If I would end a marriage over my mate's conversion to Christianity, then can't have friendships with Christians???

By what defined principles are you basing the argument of yours?

Converting to Scientology would be on the level of a betrayal of all of my values. If I were in a serious relationship with someone who did begin believing [in Scientology], it would be because I had not done due diligence in making my decision to be involved with her romantically.
Can due diligence on your part prevent your spouse from ever choosing to "betray" you???

If it can't, then what does due diligence in treating a romantic relationship seriously and rationally have to do with the (im)possibility or potential need to demote relationships?

I doubt one can demote a relationship within the "romantic friend" category and have it remain "demoted".
Hmm. I'll have to think about that. If "romantic friend" is an in-between of full-on romance and non-romantic friendship, I think I'll agree.
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Can due diligence on your part prevent your spouse from ever choosing to "betray" you???

If it can't, then what does due diligence in treating a romantic relationship seriously and rationally have to do with the (im)possibility or potential need to demote relationships?

You are mixing the "betray" comment with my comment about scientology. If you "fall in love" with some one who later converts to scientology, then you fell in love with someone who did not have rational leanings and a firm grip on reality in the first place. I would suggest that someone who believes in reality, would not be interested in someone who does not, and would only get involved through ignorance about the soon to be scientologist's poorly integrated mental state.

Betrayal can cover quite a few things, so depending on the item, it's entirely possible that an objectivist could be betrayed by a romantic partner, even with spending enough time. It is however, less likely if you get to know the person well before diving head first into a very serious relationship based only on your sense of life reaction.

Not that you never should. I just wouldn't be real surprised by a betrayal if I barely knew the person I was crazy about.

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