Applied Table Theory – Proximity: How much is too much?

Proximity.

Most of you know the obvious – in order to have a successful relationship, you need to spend time with your girl.

Simple, right? I mean, what else could proximity mean?

See that? I’m baiting you. Because proximity as a concept means so much more than “spend time with your girl.”

And the reason I’m writing this is that, if I were to generalize, most relationships don’t end from a lack of proximity, but rather too much of it. Some call that situation “lack of boundaries” or “loss of identity” – I choose not to, because that conflates proximity issues with other separate problems.

“Too much proximity? Preposterous!” you say.

Not at all. I’ll say it again: seeing too much of your girl can be a huge problem.

“No way, Vichet, she’s the bees’ knees!”

The bees’ knees she may be, but I guarantee you, spend every spare moment you have with bees’ knees, and you will get sick of ’em.

Or, equally sucky, SHE’LL get sick of YOU.

Here’s an analogous situation for you: ever have a best friend who you could hang out with once or twice a week and be best buds, getting into trouble and farting in each others’ faces?

Then, at some point, you decide you might want to move in with your friend. You bring it up, he’s super excited, you find a place, and next thing you know you’re smoking bud while singing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. But not “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin (not Bob Marley).

It’s great at first. You’re seeing your friend every day, and the good times continue for days, weeks, maybe even months, and it’s awesome.

But, at some point, you will probably start to realize that you’re just doing more and more of the same. You guys come back to the apartment and have nothing to talk about because you see each other all the time. Going out has become routine, and boring. You feel like you’re in a funk, or worse – that you’re ignoring other very important parts of your life.

Grim, huh?

And it’s grim, even if you assume that the roommate in particular has no bad habits that piss you off. People having bad habits that you never have to deal with if you don’t live with them – that’s a very specific boundary we can get into later.

Assuming no annoying habits, the only problem there is that you see too much of each other, and then unconsciously started making “just seeing each other” such a high priority in your life (as a habit) that you start to lose the parts of your life you once enjoyed on your own – the things that made each of you the person you wanted to share with the other.

Where’s the balance?

Well, here’s good news.

Remember how I said each person has to have their own independence, their own non-conflicting life goals, and a good amount of chemistry, all aside from proximity?

Well, all you have to do to keep any relationship fresh is to maintain those three: mutual independence, non-conflicting life goals, and chemistry.

The place where most guys f*ck up is when they decide to give up some of these things so that they can spend another measly hour per day doing nothing with their girl. I know guys who have dropped their favorite sport, or the few hours a week where they catch up with their friends, or some goal they had to travel and see the world (shoot, you can even bring the girl on that one), all so they could spend more time sitting in the same room as their girl.

That’s a big no-no.

One, it makes you less interesting to be around.

Two, if you have nothing new to contribute when you do spend time together, that often begins to feel like a waste of time!

So that this makes more sense, an example of not having such boundaries would be if I quit my job (something I do for me) in favor of trying to spend more time with who I’m going out with.

I know that sounds crazy. That’s because it is. And if you think it doesn’t happen, it does. When it does, it’s a case of bad proximity boundaries.

Trust, me, even if you live with someone, there is a way to continue having your own life, and working on yourself as an individual if you prioritize it properly. Your relationship won’t suffer because you both decide to take some “me-time” to keep yourselves happy as individuals. Honestly, having your own life and things going on outside the relationship makes spending time with each other that much more satisfying.

One of the worst things that can happen to a relationship is complacency fed by proximity – meaning you start to take each other for granted because you assume the person will always be around. As human beings, when you see your couch in the same spot in your house every day, you begin to expect it to stay there. It becomes a part of your mental map.

We view people in our lives kind of the same way. You think, “She’s here now, she’ll be here tomorrow.” And you think that spending time with her gives you some sort of high score based on hours you sit in the same room.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend any time with your woman. I’m saying to spend GOOD time with your woman. Both of you can decide on how often that is, but all those times you spend together should be good times!

I know people who see each other once a week and are perfectly happy, and mad about each other. I know people who live with each other, and spend 80 percent of their waking hours together every day – that’s a LOT of time! But, they wisely spend that other 20 percent being on their own and making sure the needs that they have to provide for themselves (fulfillment, overall life happiness, personal goals, etc) are being met. They stay mutually independent and fulfilled even though they are together all the time. Instead of becoming each others’ crutches, they help each other build higher than they could on their own.

So, before I leave you to ponder what the right balance and boundaries are, here are quick questions you can ask yourself that will help you find that right balance and boundaries.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have things that I MUST get done right now, that I will otherwise be extremely disappointed/unhappy about? Get those things done first! Your problems will become your relationship’s problems if you don’t take care of them.
  2. Are we going to be just sitting in the same room with nothing to talk about, or are we doing something that adds to the relationship? Even something simple like taking a walk adds to your relationship. Make a plan, do an activity, find something that adds value to your time with each other, because time is all we really have.
  3. Do I find myself giving up lots of things, or having her give up lots of things, in order to spend time together? That’s the opposite of balance. Both of you should be very aware of what you’re willing to give up for the relationship. Honestly, if you have to give up anything important at all, that’s kind of weird. Relationships should add to your life, not take away.
  4. Am I excited to see her, or am I doing it out of habit and obligation? If you aren’t excited, that means the quality of your time together is low. Back some of it off and add more value!

Don’t get me wrong – it’s awesome to meet someone who you want to spend all your time with. I mean, that’s what we’re looking for, right?

Thing is, to keep that all fresh, you have to make sure you spend the right kind of time together.

Proximity, people. It’s about balance and boundaries!

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