An Interest-Based Relationship Theory

This is a co-written post with my good friend Lauren.

Lauren: I always thought that being self-sufficient was an asset in a romantic relationship—as well as being well-rounded and focusing on the other aspects of life like work, friendships, fitness, and “mindfulness.” That these healthy pursuits made me a better partner. Yet based on my observation and my in-depth curiosity about people’s romantic endeavors, some of the most seemingly flawed and co-dependent couples tend to have the deepest and most profound dedication to one another.

By that observation, the basis for which we assess our romantic success comes into play. However, success feels like a dirty word in this sense of happily ever after. Not to mention, the assessor is compromised. Our romantic relationships are taken through the lens of our personal experiences twisted and distorted only to come out as something resembling the truth, but it is more accurate to say we end up with our truth. If we’re being more honest that truth can bend to our will depending on the fleeting moment’s tank of esteem, ego, and even blood sugar. I get so hangry.

Iva recently shared with me that a guy she was seeing said all romantic relationships are interest based whether people care to admit it or not. He believes each party always has a personal interest in the other—status, money, security, emotional dependency, access, social life, self-esteem, convenient (and consistent) sex, as well as other proclivities. That poses a curious spin on my observation that flawed couples are better couples. True or not, that’s a bleak reality and a hard belief to hold onto while still actively pursuing love. His words  give me vague flashes of Ryan Gosling’s speech in Crazy Stupid Love when he says, “Before I met [new paramour], I used to think people in love belonged in a mental institution.” Or something like that.

There is a less cynical alternative. Maybe couples who work have a deep level of acceptance for their partner. Perhaps the couples who appear flawed are in fact people brave enough to be vulnerable thus allowing their partners to accept them just as they are. Furthermore, the mere idea that any one of us is healthy and “doing all the right things” is the flawed burden we carry blocking love. Being self-sufficient is wonderful yet counter to the concept of coupling. Then again, I could pontificate for a few lifetimes.

Iva, what do you think?

Iva: I, like you, thought that being self-sufficient was an asset in any romantic relationship, as well as being outgoing, bubbly and easy going. In the last three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that my personality traits have been a doubleedged sword in all my romantic relationships.

It is as if most men liked the outgoing, bubbly, cute, kind and caring partner as a pit stop or as an in-between step before finding the partner they want to actually settle down with.

As if a self-sufficient woman is going to steal their thunder and their manhood and could potentially be too much to handle in the long run, so they’d rather settle down with someone they can either control or get into frequent crazy fights with.

It gets even more complicated when you add the macho element to the mix.  Latin men always want to be or feel they are in control.

As you mention interest-based relationships, I was thinking… Why did this guy use the word interest that night when we were talking about romantic relationships? Days later I understood that he was just trying to get rid of me and he thought that perhaps with an introduction to his interest-based relationship theory, I could be somewhat prepared to get dumped.

All the time, my intuition told me that there was something missing from his story. He told me that he was going through a very difficult and stressful time at work. He said he was not in the state of mind to be in a relationship.  Even though I hate to admit it, I was very hurt and sad for a couple of months after the breakup because it was so sudden and surprising to me.

Recently, I learned that he didn’t lie to me. He was indeed having problems at work, but he forgot to mention that he had also met someone who could help him get through that snag. A mutual friend ran into him recently with his new girlfriend/work ally. So there you go. He created his so-called interest theory based on his personal experience.

But that’s not all. He has called me twice in the last two weeks. At first, I thought he wanted to test if I knew about his new romance. After his second call, I don’t know what to think anymore because he wants to get together next week.

I am dying to know what he wants or what he’ll say to me. We have not seen each other for six months or so.

If I do meet up with him, should I confront him and bring up that I know he is/was seeing someone?

I certainly don’t want to get hurt again, but it seems normal to be curious. Even though I am the one in control now, I still need to protect myself and be prepared for anything. The question is:  Am I prepared?

Lauren, what do you think I should do?

Lauren: My general guy advice is always: Make him crawl. That’s more of a personal credo–for better or worse. In this case, I would be upfront and say, «I know you dated someone–maybe you still are. You hurt me when you broke up with me. I’m not sure I want to see you. What would be the purpose of the meeting?»

Before doing anything, I would also figure out what outcome you want or if you care about the outcome at all. Do you want attention since you’re not seeing anyone? If so, meet with him and have fun. Do you want to be friends with him? Are you hoping he’s over his fling and wants to get back together? If so, being upfront may be a better option.