The M3 inbox is known for being the stupidest inbox in the blogosphere. While it holds that title every Friday Follies, there are quite a large number of very intelligent emails which arrive everyday. One such email sparked the following.
What is unreasonable?”
There are many things unreasonable in our lives, however, this particular question was about expectations. The remainder of the email admitted the relationship was not a marriage, but had the appearance of more than friendship. In all honesty, it makes no difference. The same standard applies to all types of relationship except Parent/Child.
We talked about bondage before, but these bonds are not exactly the same thing. These are the bonds we seek with others. We are social animals who seek out companionship. When the bonds form naturally, we grow comfortable in the relationship and begin to expect. These expectations have the opportunity to become unreasonable.
Whether a friendship begins virtually or starts with a handshake, privacy is an issue. Until we get to know one another, neither of us is likely to be forthcoming with all of the vulnerable details of our existence. Over the course of time, we will peel back the armor to expose the softer portions of ourselves.
This becomes a tit-for-tat scenario, even if we do not go into the exercise with the intent. For example, you meet Quaint on a social media website. Over a few months, you share with one another such details as past relationships, names of progeny and/or family, places lived, rough job history and social desires. As conversations go, a you show me yours and I’ll show you mine develops.
What happens when Quaint is not willing to share?
Trust is always a two-way street. Despite pessimism, we want to believe Quaint is trustworthy. We tend to begin relationships with a guarded trust, if you will, an attitude of I will trust you until you give me reason not to do so.
As the bonds form, the attitude grows more confident and the guard falls away. The first time Quaint is not willing to share, the trust takes a blow. Why? You trusted Quaint enough to show yours, yet reciprocity is lacking.
Is your first instinct…
- Never reveal anything else?
- Demand information?
- Ask what the privacy issue is?
The first is self-preservation. When we feel as though we have been slighted, we are less likely to extend the opportunity to be hurt again. We return to the guarded attitude, but often do it with the hopefulness Quaint will reveal something to return to the road of discovery. Never revealing anything else is unreasonable. Revealing items which are less personal is reasonable.*
The second is absurdly bad behavior and thoroughly unreasonable. Each of us has a different level of privacy. Some people are overtly modest. They are unwilling (sometimes, unable) to reveal certain items because they feel too vulnerable when the information is known. Some people are overtly immodest. They do not feel threatened at revealing any portion of themselves. Neither of them are in a position to decide what is appropriate for the other. (Refer to bondage.)
The third is the most reasonable reaction. Relationships where information exchange is unequal inevitably causes a lack of trust. Knowing why someone needs to keep a secret can mitigate the lacking, which is most often perceived as a breach of trust.
Where do we draw the line for self-preservation? When we are discussing very personal items, such as emotional reactions like grief, we need to take into account where Quaint is in the emotional evolution. For instance, the subject at hand is failure. You reveal a time when you were fired from a job for failing to complete your duties at standard. Quaint becomes a clam. What you do not know without asking is where Quaint is with dealing with failure…
Quaint was on a job where others’ lives were at stake. Failing to meet standard cost the life of a person. Quaint may not be at a place where discussing the failure is appropriate without unraveling the incomplete healing.
To have hurt feelings because you feel Quaint being unduly secretive (in your opinion) is unreasonable. Your level of comfort with revealing does not extend to anyone else.
However, there are critical items which should not be withheld. They are neatly bundled into one word: Identity.
As you look at the answers, you will see these are the building blocks we use to build our images of people. They are the qualifiers which make us understand others. They help us know what to expect, choose what to keep secret, where to seek camaraderie, how to engage, when to trust, if the relationship is worthwhile.
Danger, Will Robinson!
When identity is withheld, two predominant categories emerge:
Liar: This person is not attempting a relationship for the sake of bonds. This relationship has an ulterior motive which could be anything from fraud to get money to satisfaction at destroying someone else’s life. You already know how you feel about someone lying to you.
Confused: This person carries baggage in hand, on a cart, in the trunk, in a moving van and likely has three matched sets of luggage in a storage facility. This relationship requires intervention.
While you may be convinced you can help the confused Quaint, before you dive in and talk about all the changes and healing which need to take place, consider the following questions:
- What qualifies you to assess another’s mental state and the pace at which Quaint should heal?
- Do you know what has slowed or stopped Quaint’s healing?
- Does Quaint want to heal?
You may have a doctorate from an Ivy League university. If the answer to the last question is “no”, save your breath. It is unreasonable for you to attempt to affect change in the life of a person who is content in their dysfunction.
You have heard the adage You cannot help those who do not want help. Have you ever been in a relationship where Quaint needed help? Where did you draw the line? How do relationships function once one finds out the other has withheld identity? (Please withhold names.)
(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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