A study by the University of Utah was conducted to find out what the pros and cons were for someone to leave their current relationship.
They found that among the positive reasons were the amount of investment in the relationship, intimacy and the obligation they felt to stay. Among the cons were their partner’s personality, a lack of trust and partner withdrawal.
It is interesting that despite two personalities not getting along and a lack of trust, one would still feel obligated to stay. Maybe it is because of the level of investment in the relationship, but it is still somewhat illogical.
But that’s just it. It’s largely an emotional decision, not so much a logical one. We want to be happy in our romantic relationships but we are unable to determine whether to leave a situation or to stay.
Is the grass greener on the other side? Will there be grass at all? And how does postmodernism factor into this anyway?
Let’s do some brief history.
Due to the various issues and unreliable nature of religion and faith, the Enlightenment happened and people gravitated towards reason, science and experimentation. Basically, the idea was that if we could understand how life truly worked instead of relying on gods and belief systems, we could live better lives.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past century or so, you have seen where science really has challenged faith and religion for supremacy in how people live their lives. There are more non-believers and less superstition. Science and technology became the new normal. This was modernism.
However, there would be a new challenger that would enter the fray: postmodernism.
Postmodernism asserts that there is no way for us to figure out how life truly works; there is no way to arrive at objective truth. The art and literature of the modernist movement could be interpreted in various ways. The values that one society cherishes are ridiculed or even despised in another.
Therefore, instead of finding the universal truths, postmodernists challenge the assertion that a universal truth even exists in the first place. Moreover, everyone thinks they have the truth according to their own culture.
So what are the implications of these schools of thought with regards to love?
Well, some of us are still quite religious and we believe whatever our religion tells us to believe about romantic or sexual relationships. Perhaps it should be one man to one woman. Perhaps the woman should be subservient to the man. Perhaps it should be one man to many women.
Those who subscribe to a modernist view of the world use reason and logic to get into romantic/sexual relationships and to maintain them. But as the study above illustrated, reason and logic are being used in an emotional minefield.
I believe most of us still operate from a modernist perspective when it comes to love and romance.
When you are having problems with your partner, there is a sense of frustration with regards to their personality. You question why they do what they do, without realizing that logic and reason have nothing to do with why they do what they do.
And they question you just as much as you question them.
If you cannot trust them, again, we use logic and reason to try and figure them out and to find “the truth.” If I had a dime for the amount of minutes spent trying to figure out why someone did what they did, I would have embarrassingly large bank accounts right now.
We then take our experiences of men or women and make theories about the nature of these sexes or genders. Why? In order to possess truth. Because if we have truth, we can then navigate through life easier and live a better life.
The postmodernist begs to differ. In this perspective, truth is relative. While this is a dangerous sentiment in the minds and mouths of people who want to deceive others, let’s keep it in the realm of sincerity and romantic love.
Since truth is relative and no one can claim that they have objective truth, the arguments that couples often find themselves in are easily squashed. Why? Because there is no competition about my truth versus your truth.
The postmodernist isn’t going to argue on whether or not another’s personality is right or wrong because there are various perspectives that can be used to gauge this and not one of those perspectives is more right than any other.
If you as a postmodernist cannot trust your partner, you wouldn’t dig for the truth. Your truth is self-evident because you feel a lack of trust. Your partner may have their own truth and while you can acknowledge it, you may not be able to adopt it.
One argument says that your untrustworthy partner grew up in an environment that forced them to lie to keep safe and their lying has run amok. Another perspective says that they are an adult, they need to see the virtue in telling the truth and that you should leave. Yet another perspective says that it’s not okay for them to lie but you need to give them a chance to get better.
If you’ve been in a situation like this where you have a proliferation of ideas and theories about why someone is the way they are, I don’t need to tell you how exhausting or maddening this is.
Modernist thinking works well in hard sciences, not so much in social sciences much less matters of the heart. But science and reason became our gods that overstepped their territory, like Aphrodite trying to govern commerce.
We live a relative world. I only know left from right based on where I am in space because it’s all relative. For someone else, their right is my left. We have this spatial issue all the time in our lives but we don’t debate about it. We often laugh about it.
Similarly, when it comes to relationships, too often our goal is to be right. Imagine wanting superiority for righteousness over your spouse! What an epic yet cheap way to completely destroy your marriage.
Of course holding a postmodernist view will not guarantee that your relationship will survive. But it will be helpful in minimizing self-imposed suffering that is caused by you demanding to know the truth.
But again, and I cannot stress this enough, modernism isn’t dead. It is still necessary due to the brilliance of the scientific method.
While it is this same scientific method that has created some of the curses (and gifts!) the world has ever known, it has unearthed and supported attachment theory and Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. As a matter of fact, it is why the University of Utah was able to conduct the study that is being cited in this article.
But I offer the postmodernist view as an addition to a multi-layered solution for the qualms that couples the world over are struggling with.
We assume our partner is in the relationship for the same reasons we are and that we have the same exact goals. We assume we are moving to some grand absolute truth in a relative world. We continue to assert these assumptions in the face of the opposite.
I suggest we acknowledge that there are differences and link up with those who can acknowledge our truth as we acknowledge theirs. Anything else is madness.