16
Jul
10

breaking your own rules

Reader S. D. asks:

I have this friend who says she really doesn’t like being in a committed relationship. She always says she would prefer to just be free, especially sexually, and not tied down so much.  Recently she started seeing one guy, and now she’s calling him her boyfriend, and some of us are a little weirded out by it.  She isn’t really interested in getting married or having kids, so I don’t see why (and I think she sees it this way too) she even needs to be in an exclusive relationship.  I don’t want her to be in a relationship just because he thinks she should be, which I think may be the case. Should I confront her about this?

Dear S.D.:

I’m gonna’ use something from my degree in sociolinguistics to explain my opinion on this. It’s going to be a bit of an analogy, and it explains a lot about my world view as a whole, so hold on to your hats for a bit.

sometimes a BF isn't a bad thing

C'mon, how could she say no? Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In language, there are two types of grammar: the one made of prescriptive rules, taught to you by your kindergarten teacher, and the one made of descriptive rules, which you actually speak. When most people hear the word “grammar”, they think of the the prescriptive rules: “You may not end a sentence with a preposition.” etc. Sociolinguists are far more interested in the descriptive rules: “People who speak English often end sentences with prepositions.” “Pre” means “before”; “de” means “after”. In this sense, prescriptive rules prescribe an ideal world and give an outline on how to get there; descriptive rules describe a natural process.

I apply these terms to life, as well. We have prescriptive rules, usually given to us by society (marriage is good; lying is bad; stealing is bad; exercise is good; etc), but if you look at the lives we actually lead, the descriptive rules sometimes say things very different (marriage isn’t always good; sometimes lying is necessary; sometimes stealing happens; sometimes cheeseburgers trump exercise). The natural flow of our lives doesn’t always fit with the rules we have for an ideal. And this doesn’t mean one is bad and the other is good.

So it sounds to me like what your friend has is a prescriptive set of rules about relationships, or maybe you have a prescriptive set of rules for her. “Free” and “unhitched” are what she’s said she wants, so that’s what you want for her, too.

However, maybe life has worked out differently than her prescribed rules (or your prescribed rules) have stated for her. It’s quite possible she’s come to the conclusion that she and this guy are already in an exclusive relationship, so calling it by its name isn’t really so terrible. Maybe having a boyfriend is a good thing for her right now.

Marriage and children aren’t the only things people get out of exclusive relationships, either. This is another set of prescribed rules I think we accept because society says so, but doesn’t really work all the time. The end goal of a relationship with another person is not necessarily producing offspring or standing in front of a priest and reciting vows. Sometimes it’s just enjoying that person’s company.

So, no, I don’t necessarily think you need to confront your friend about her being in a relationship even if she has sworn up and down in the past that she doesn’t want to be in one. (Didn’t you see “500 Days of Summer”?)

If she starts complaining about this relationship specifically, then that is when you need to talk with her about it. You apparently don’t know for certain that he’s the one pressuring your friend to be different than she wants to be. Her caving in to his pressures about the seriousness of the relationship is a touchy subject, and personally, I wouldn’t touch it unless she brings it up, first. Of course, I don’t think “confront” is the right word for how to react in that case; the word I’d look for here is “support”. Also, the old fashioned “I told you so” isn’t really the best idea, either. If she starts complaining about him, then by all means, encourage her to break the thing off. But only if she starts the convo.

But if she’s enjoying herself with this new fellow, and he’s not cramping her style, and maybe she’s actually happy, no. Let descriptive rules trump prescriptive rules (which they always will, btw), and go with it.

Advertisements

1 Response to “breaking your own rules”


  1. 1 Jayem
    July 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Yeah. It sounds like you just need to Let your friend be happy with the choices she’s making and then be there for her if things go wrong. Stop being so rigid with the rules sista. just go with the flow. Everything will be ok.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


post everyone else likes best

topics i’ve written about

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 195 other followers


%d bloggers like this: