Simplifying Human Relationships

The Unending Puzzle

When a situation gets complicated, this means that there are many pieces to the puzzle. To understand the situation, you have to become familiar with each puzzle piece, and then put each piece together.

In life, however, this is no ordinary puzzle. You don’t get to see all of the pieces right from the get-go. The puzzle you are creating depends on the pieces you choose to begin with. This means that the number of pieces needed, and each particular piece, depends on the pieces that come before.

Some puzzle pieces lead to the creation of an elephant-sized puzzle. The use of those pieces requires, ultimately, that many other pieces be connected to them. Each set of pieces may even further complicate the puzzle, requiring more and more pieces for its completion.

An example of such complication is programming using classes. In C++ (a programming language), one way of programming using classes is to separate the program into three files. In one file you create the class, in another you define the class, and in the third you use the class. Using the class then requires that you make create and use objects of the class. Using those objects in turn requires that you create and use functions of the class, which also must be spread out across the three files.

If you don’t know what any of that is, the point is that this method creates somewhat of a mess, and it can make programming harder than it needs to be.

In contrast, at least with smaller programs, you can save yourself many lines of code by simply choosing not to use classes, and having the program do all that needs to be done in one file.

If complicating something breaks it into many pieces, simplifying something makes it holistic, compressing it into one big piece.


A Complicated Mess

When you try to look at all of your human relationships at an individual level, you find yourself looking at a complicated mess. Things get even messier when you take the past and future of these relationships into account. Let’s not even get started on adding expectations and social conventions in to the mix.

I find viewing relationships in this way to be difficult and ineffective. it’s hard to be anything but analytical. How should I feel about this person, based on the history of our relationship? What are the things I should say? Is it OK to talk to this person while that person is around? Who is deserving of more of my attention?

Such an analytical stance is the basis of awkwardness. Being awkward is trying to squeeze a lot of puzzle pieces together that don’t fit. Hence, it is difficult for people who feel socially awkward to form meaningful connections with others. Catch my drift?

Over-analysis of relationships also leads to creepiness. It’s fine and well to be enamored with a particular person. However, sometimes this enamoration turns into fixation. You think more and more about where you want your relationship with this particular person to go, and soon enough these thoughts take up most of your attention.

The more you think such thoughts, the more pieces you introduce to the puzzle. Even if you don’t share or act on these thoughts, taking them seriously complicates your relationship with the other person. You start to form a mental list of the things you have to do, the things you ought to say, and the outcomes you want to achieve. When you have a list of outcomes you want to achieve, you have an agenda.

Once you have an agenda for a specific human relationship, you have become needy. Because you fear that talking about your needs will push the other person away, you decide not to talk about your agenda. Failing to communicate that agenda makes you creepy.

Directly sharing your intentions with another person is considerate—whatever those intentions may be. It makes them aware, and by that awareness they can make informed decisions about how to respond to you.

On the other hand, when you withhold your intentions, you further complicate the already-gigantic puzzle. To keep your intentions hidden and to realize those intentions, you have to work with a lot of puzzle pieces. I would tell you how it gets done, but I’ve found the task to be basically impossible. Every time I’ve taken such an approach to a relationship, I either give up, or it ends in flames. Hatred-fueled flames, in fact.

Usually I get so bogged down in considering all of the things I ought to do that I freeze, and most of the time I don’t do anything. When I do take action, I tend to get a highly distorted form of what was originally, prior to all the puzzle-building, a very loving intention. Sadly, though, that intention has since been corrupted through the process of complication. Love has turned into energy-sucking. Energy-sucking is what makes a person creepy.

Altogether, this combination of awkwardness, neediness, paralysis, and secrecy steadily pushes the other person away. When I notice this happening, I get even more hyper-analytical and afraid. Eventually, this fear leads me to take some action or set of actions which proves fatal, and the relationship gets a stake through the heart.

It’s not the action that is a turn-off, so much as the intentions behind it. When things get to this point, my intentions essentially become to control the other person. I must control the other person so I can get energy from them, because all of my positive energy has been lost to incessant fear.

People can smell an energy-vampire from a mile away. The intention to control emits a very dark, stanky energy, which would cause any person- even those with rocks for a brain- to stay the heck away.


The Inevitable End to a Mess

So, what happens here? An analytical approach to relationships makes you think that things should be a certain way. This leads you to be awkward. When you think things should be a certain way, in certain relationships, you start to form certain agendas for certain relationships. This leads you to be needy. When you try to accomplish those agendas while simultaneously keeping them a secret, you further complicate things, and you have to become even more analytical. This leads you to be creepy. When your agenda starts to push the other person away, you add more items to the agenda. Now you have to become even more analytical. This leads you to be afraid. When you are afraid, you live in a state of distrust, and you have to control the other person in order to feel secure. This leads you to kill the relationship.

I’ve wondered if in the end I kill the relationship not out of sheer incompetence, but rather for the sake of relief. I hit a point where putting any amount of attention on the relationship becomes painful. It doesn’t matter if my pursuit of this person began from a place of pure love. Now there’s just fear and suffering. At this point I would rather be relieved of the pain and burden of this conflict. It’s the only thing that can be realistically accomplished anyway.

You can get stuck in this pattern of relating to people for years. You start to feel a certain way about a certain person, you think you have to do certain things because of how you feel, and in the end you kill the relationship to free yourself from conflict and obligation. Your social life stays quiet for a while, until eventually you find a new person. Then it’s rinse and repeat.

Sabotaging the relationship and then letting it end quietly (perhaps with a simple apology) seems like a fairly intelligent move, when the relationship has turned into a war. But, of course, the relationship never had to become a war in the first place. You made it that way.

I know—all of this sounds complicated. That’s because it is. That’s precisely the problem. Complicating human relationships turns them into a game of chess. In the end, no one wins, because everybody goes home miserable.


The Solution: Simplify

The alternative to this mess is to simplify your human relationships. Instead of viewing each relationship individually, and further breaking it down into pieces from there, put all of your relationships into one big piece. Ultimately, you have only one relationship. That is with life itself.

When you view your relationships in this way, you don’t have to concern yourself so much with things like social norms, labels, expectations, obligations, or the past. You don’t have to try so hard to form connections. You’ll feel no need to become fixated on one person. You’ll have no desire for an agenda.

Instead of trying to make any particular relationship work, you can simply consider whether your life works. Instead of trying to get any one person to meet your desires, let life itself meet your desires. It doesn’t matter who in particular you have a quality conversation with, for instance, as long as that you simply do so.

You can simplify even further from there. Rather than hold specific desires, you can simply live by desire itself. Step into the flow of desire. Don’t ask, What do I want, but rather, Where does desire take me now?

Just do what feels good. Do what will help you to feel alive and at peace (not piece). That’s it.

I know—this sounds so simple. That’s because it is.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Simplifying can take a lot of work up-front. In the case of relationships, you have to get yourself used to seeing the world in a certain way. This can take quite a lot of deliberate mental effort.

Maintaining such a perspective can be difficult when you’ve held such a complicated, disempowering perspective for so long. At times, your old friends complication and analysis will seem more comforting to you than simplicity and inspiration. That’s because they’re easy. You’re used to them. However, this makes them no less disempowering. If you hang out with them for long, they’ll suck up your energy like a vampire.

The challenge, when it comes to relationships, is dealing with social conventions. That’s where all of the analysis and fear begins. To keep things simple, social conventions must be dropped. At the very least, they need to take a backseat to genuine desire and inspiration. Keep your clothes on in public, but at the end of the day, exactly what you’re wearing doesn’t matter all that much. It won’t make or break your social life.

The only way around complication, of course, is to simplify. Don’t worry about all the mistakes you made in the past. Don’t worry about making them again in the future. Simplify, and simply focus on the present. Focus your mental effort there. The past and the future will just steal it all away. Simply be present to your one and only relationship. You’ll have to refocus your attention again and again, pulling it back to the present. Again, this requires effort. And it is worth every ounce.


Moving Forward

At this point, this seems like the most intelligent change I can make to the way I relate to other people. Focusing on individual relationships just hasn’t been working. Those relationships will still exist, of course, and they can still exist for a long time, even.

But the timeline of the relationship isn’t the point. Maybe I will have a lot of fun with you today, and tomorrow we will not speak to each other. The success of our relationship is not based on consistency with the past. Instead, it is based on consistency with inspiration. What matters is that we do what feels right to us. Nothing more, nothing less.


Are there any situations in your life that you’ve overcomplicated? How might you make them simpler? What would feel like the inspired, intelligent choice now?

What is your one and only relationship telling you? It’s tellin’ me to post this article. J