Simon Fowler's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Snapshot of American Relational Life

Posted by Simon on February 9, 2012

While considering Americas relational life recently I pulled together the following facts. I wonder what you make of them? If you see a problem, what do you think the essence of the problem is?

Note: of course it’s easy to cherry pick facts or extract them from context to make a point. And I always have questions about research methods and controls and correlation/causation confusion. But on the face of it, the situation looks pretty grim.

Americans have too few relationships About one in four Americans has no one with whom to talk about weighty matters, and nearly half of the population is one close friend or family member away from being socially isolated. (National Conference on Citizenship

Americans have too many relationships The average American has 634 ties in their overall network, and technology users have bigger networks.

Note: in case you wondered if there’s a limit consider “Dunbar’s Number”: according to Robin Dunbar, the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends no matter how sociable we are.

Lenders and borrowers are further apart:

  • geographical distance: local lending institutions no longer make a significant proportion of the loans that are originated.
  • transactional distance: there little direct contact; instead intermediaries such as mortgage brokers, appraisers, insurers, and closing officers, separate the principals.
  • financial distance: many borrowers have no equity (or negative equity) in their homes, and due to the securitization of loans through the secondary mortgage market, few originating lenders retain a stake in the loans they create.

From “The Structural Causes of Mortgage Fraud” James Charles Smith, University of Georgia Law School

More Americans are incarcerated
Adult Correction Populations
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Americans are having fewer encounters (over last quarter of 20th Century)

  • 58% drop attending club meetings
  • 43% drop family dinners
  • 35% drop having friends over
  • 10% more people bowling, but 40% fewer bowling leagues

Couples are committing to each other less, and staying committed less.

  • Since 1970 the number of Americans living together outside of marriage has increased more than 1,000 percent, with such couples now making up about 10% of all couples” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)
  • 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. (NMP, “Evolution of Divorce” Wilcox 2009)
  • Cohabiting couples have a significantly higher dissolution rate than married couples. One recent study found that “children born to cohabiting versus married parents have over five times the risk of experiencing their parents’ separation.” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)

Posted in American Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

rLiving Day 20: Shopping, LinkedIn and Marriage (Purpose)

Posted by Simon on May 20, 2010

Over the 20 days of actively reflecting on relational dimensions of life I’ve come to realize that Purpose/Commonality seems to have primacy over the other dimensions. In other words, dimensions of Directness, Continuity, Multiplexity and Power are constrained or delimited by whatever purpose or identity the two individuals, groups or organizations have in common.

I suspect that a lack of understanding and agreement about what that commonality is – and even, whether it’s wanted or not – contributes to so much of the disharmony we experience in relationships. So know what the purpose is, and knowing that you both know, makes for ease and harmonious relationships. Even if it’s briefly, temporarily, like being on LinkedIn and someone helping me out.

The burglar and the woman and other neighbors in yesterday’s post had a crime as their point of commonality. In that case, Directness (face to face or not), Continuity (did it happen once, quickly, or every day for hours?), Multiplexity (was it just a break-in, or is he stalking also?), and Power (did someone get him back, steal his wallet? is he jailed and powerless now?) all contribute to an understanding of the severity of the crime. Or rather, they explain (and probably predict) the intensity of feeling and entanglement that people have with the criminal and each other.

Marriage is a substantial bond of love and commitment (Purpose/Commonality). Firstly, one hopes that there is common agreement between husband and wife what marriage means (like I say, lack of shared understanding likely explains a LOT of the problems). But even then, marriage has implications or demands for:

  • Directness (nakedness of spirit and body, consummation of the marriage by sexual intercourse, actually BEING there in person),
  • Continuity (shared story of the past, BEING together regularly and for substantial portions of time, anticipating a life together to the very end),
  • Multiplexity (doing chores, making love, going to movies, hanging with friends, hanging with different friends, learning something together or from each other, helping someone together, doing things separately then telling each other about it etc. etc.),
  • Power (mutual respect, mutual submission, mutual support, each using their strengths but not assuming either is better or greater for those strengths).

Marriage, as a sacred bond, confers definite boundaries of fidelity and togetherness. But the details are worked out between the couple! How much, how often and how – these are the privilege and joy and challenge of each couple to work out themselves as they spend a lifetime figuring out “what does it mean to be married?”.

But even within marriage, there are other ‘purposes’. For example, shopping. “Shopping“, when you’re doing it for two or the family, is the particular binding element, the commonality. But you can be better shoppers for each other if you realize:

  • A text message may be perfect for mediating the relationship for this purpose; you don’t have to do it together, and you certainly shouldn’t do it naked!; (Directness)
  • That you remember each other’s preferences; plan for future meals(Continuity)
  • Going together in a street market, at a milliners, at the car showroom (Multiplexity – Knowledge from different contexts)
  • Who sets the menu? Who assumes the other will make the decisions? (Parity)

Well you get the drift, and maybe I’m overdoing it. But each little thing, to the degree that a relationship is formed around the common purpose, a whole bunch of opportunities arise that require different ways of applying the dimensions.

Finally, social networks. I’m on LinkedIn. The ‘relationship’ I have with a lot of people on there is through work, but with some, the only thing we have in common is that we’re on LinkedIn. Since the only purpose, so far, is to simply ‘be connected’, they’re perfectly healthy relationships. Any increase on any of the dimensions would solidify the relationship, making a ‘strong link’, as opposed to a ‘weak link’.

Sp earlier this week I updated my LinkedIn status with that research question. One “weak link” LinkedIn connection, ‘Mick’, responded. We’d only met once ever, briefly. “I’ll have a look”, he said. Thus we found a new common purpose, for a short time, which led to this. Given that purpose the implied and assumed agreement of that purpose enabled us, without even thinking, to select:

  • Appropriateness of media choice (email only; directness),
  • Length and frequency of conversing (twice; continuity),
  • Extent to which we got to know each other (not at all, beyond the nature of my question, which was unambiguous; Multiplexity)
  • Who had the power (equals, but he was better at research; Parity)

It felt a bit of a stretch with ‘shopping’ but actually in the end it still makes sense that Purpose/Commonality is the binding and determining factor. To the degree that there’s shared agreement about it, whether assumed or explicit, it provides the practical analysis and ethical reasoning for the other four dimensions.

Posted in first-follower, Purpose, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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