Applied Table Theory – Putting It All on the Table

Okay, okay – so now that I’ve gone through all work to set up my crazy metaphor about how functional, productive, romantic relationships are like a table with four legs, how do we actually apply this metaphor?

Well, alright. See, most normal, dare I even say well-adjusted people, when they’re in a relationship, focus on the issues that occur during the relationship. Short-term goals and such, right? This could be anything:

  1. Buying a couch
  2. Deciding whether to watch Predator or the Notebook
  3. Who takes out the trash on odd weeks?
  4. Buying a pet
  5. Paying bills
  6. Dealing with a family death
  7. Dealing with a fictional superhero’s death (Robin! NOOOOOOOOO!!!)
  8. Girl has period. Playstation, or talking about feelings? (Playstation!)

And, you know, at first glance, that’s pretty much all a relationship is – a series of “problems” (even tiny ones like taking out the trash) unfolding between two people over the course of time, only the best of which end up on TV and go to trial. Right?

But let’s apply Table Theory. Where do these problems du jour fit in? They’re not any of the legs – proximity, mutual independence, non-conflicting life goals, and chemistry – so what are they?

Well, we have a table. And we have all these things have we’re not sure where to put. Easy! Imagine that all those day-to-day relationship issues are things that you stack on the table. You can think of them as bills, packages, leftover dishes, illicit drugs, or the like.

“But Vichet,” you ask, cautiously, because I’m holding a knife – a big one. “What if we stack so many things on the table that they all kind of tip over?”

Good question – ever see the show, “Hoarders?” If you don’t fix the daily problems of your relationship, eventually you run out of room to put things. What you’d then be referring to is what I call a non-functional romantic relationship. These exist in frightening quantity. You know that couple you’re friends with, but are really hoping they don’t get married? Yeah. That’s them. Don’t even act like you don’t know at least three of these couples. Shoot, you’ve probably BEEN in one of these. You were that guy! Or girl.

This relationship is the drama-filled kind where neither party is really paying attention to either the issues on top of the table, or the legs underneath, which are getting progressively more rickety because of the inordinate amount of bullshit being piled on top. The table breaks eventually, and if this has happened to either you or your friends, you know that someone will be crying while other people are tired of the crier’s drama and wish that he or she would just get over it, because really, f*ck that person’s ex and his or her hoarding.

Granted, stronger legs can handle more things stacked on top, but for any table, there ALWAYS a exists a load that will break it. Whether that load is likely to appear as a catastrophic event (500 lb package from Fed Ex that you decided to put on the table), or something more gradual (500 individual 1 lb packages from UPS), doesn’t matter.

In conclusion, the day-to-day work of maintaining a relationship is to keep the tabletop as clear as possible, to strategically mitigate the effect any catastrophes (death in the family, having to move away for 6 months for work, the DVD for predator got lost/destroyed) might have on the tabletop.

If you remember one thing – leave room on the table for the issues that are really important. Clear the other things away.

But wait! I used all that time to explain that the legs of the table were proximity, mutual independence, non-conflicting life goals, and chemistry. All that just to tell you guys to keep your tabletop clear? Hogwash!

Oh, internet. Don’t you know by now that my chops are un-bustable? Think about it.

You take for granted that a table has four legs, and will thus stand.

What if one of those legs was really rickety? Say, you find out that your woman has to move away for work, halfway around the world, and she’s not going to be coming back? Well, bye bye proximity leg. Try to put a 2 lb roast on that table, and BAM. Done. Roast all over the floor, with only your tears to season it. Actually, that sounds kinda cool in an experimental cuisine kind of way – remember that Vichet suggested it first! “Cooking with Tears – Pork Roast and Heartbreak” sounds like an awesome start for my next project.

The underlying wisdom here is that if you forget about the legs of your relationship table, it will fail even in the absence of day-to-day issues.

You’ll see this most in high-school or college relationships that don’t translate well to real life, because, well, relationships are easy in college. In most cases, your parents are paying the bills (holding up mutual independence), there’s lots of proximity, conflicting life goals haven’t appeared yet (everyone’s life goal in college is to get out of college), and there was lots of free time to deal with tabletop issues. But then – gasp – you get to the real world. Suddenly you’re not sure if you’ll both be working in the same city. One of you doesn’t even have a job yet. And, uh oh, you’ve started putting your personal issues that don’t strictly have to do with the relationship itself on the relationship table!

That shit gon’ break, son.

Anyways, is this a story that’s familiar to you? Look at it again through the lens of Table Theory, and tell me what you think.

2 Responses to Applied Table Theory – Putting It All on the Table

  1. One thing that would be an interesting concept to discuss is the shape of the table.

    You have these 4 legs:
    1) Proximity
    2) Mutual independence
    3) Non-conflicting life goals
    4) Chemistry

    And the typical person is going to imagine a square table with 4 legs. However, that is almost NEVER the case. No one has a 4 legged square table. Your typical table is some unsymetric four sided (using your ruleset) polygon where a subset of the legs are holding the majority of the weight.

    If you take away the Proximity leg (I could not), some peoples tables are going to come crashing down because of the weight distribution. However, some peoples tables, depending on the weight distribution, will be *almost* just as strong.

    We can connect on the evolution of your theory to include these dynamic components.

    Cheers!

    • itsmevichet says:

      You make a good point – I unintentionally never specified the shape of the table.

      But, building a relationship, like building a table, is up to the two (or more) people involved. If they decide to put less emphasis on this leg or that or do whatever with changing the design, it’s their prerogative – but I think you a I both know that there are some dynamics in the inexact science of human interaction that are pretty much constant. Those constants are what I designated as legs. And you take away certain strengths that build up the overall quality and strength of a relationship – sure it might stand… but how does it look? And what happens when the weight redistributes? That’s not something we can control.

      In short, my theory is my particular way of viewing a particular type of relationship. One where each partner is bringing strength to the table, versus trying to strategically place loads.

      And if you were to ask me what kind of table I’d build, it’d be a square one with a leg at each corner. If your relationship requires all sorts of crazy workarounds and duct-tape solutions, do you really want to be in it? I know your answer already, but we don’t need to confuse other readers, do we?

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