Table Theory: A Primer, Featuring Batman
Think of your romantic relationship as a table with four legs. Simple so far, right? Good.
It needs all four legs to stand. You kick away one of the legs, it crashes down.
There are also three-leg (non-romantic functional relationships) tables. We’ll talk about that another time – just remember that you can rarely turn a four leg table into a standing three leg table.
Now – what ARE those legs? Well, according to me – and that’s all that matters right now, because it’s my theory – they are:
- Mutual independence
- Non-conflicting life goals
- Chemistry*** (I will have a LOT to say about this one. Also, this is the unnecessary leg for a three leg table)
So now you’re thinking “Okay, Vichet, I can dig it,” or “Stop touching me, you perv,” or something like that, right? A few more details about each:
Proximity is one of the most important aspects of a relationship, but also one of the most overlooked. This one is pretty self-evident: you need to actually spend time in the same room as the person you’re in a relationship with, if only occasionally. Some people need more contact, others need less. Generally, there is a happy working medium for any couple – whether they actually reach that happy medium before any damage is done is the test of the relationship.
But wait – what about all those people who hook up over the internet without ever meeting up in real life?
Yeah… don’t worry about them. They’re all 15 year old boys with too much time on their hands, or 60 year old men pretending to be 15 year old girls with too much time on their hands.
Just remember that there’s also such a thing as TOO much proximity, which is a problem most people ignore. You CAN spend too much time with your significant other. Both of you have lives (which we’ll detail in the next table leg), and oftentimes spending too much time together is more detrimental to those lives than spending a too little.
Haha, I know what you’re thinking.
“But Vichet! I NEED my man/woman/dog/love fern/LSD!”
Right. Remember that you had a life before you met your significant other. Hoping that it works out well for you, but in the event that your significant other leaves, guess what? You will have a life after him or her, too.
In fact, a big part of what attracted that person to you in the first place was that he or she was probably aware of some of the cool things you did that didn’t involve him or her. If you suddenly (or more likely, gradually) do an about-face on this, and become clingy, needy, and make this other person your entire universe, congratulations! You’re no longer a full person! You’re a child – and if your significant other wants a child, he or she can have one with someone who is much more independent.
This isn’t social security. This isn’t proper healthcare. You don’t need that other particular human being in order to be a functional (and even relatively happy) human being yourself. If neither party is capable of being without the other, they will never be able to tell if they truly want, versus need, the other.
Non-conflicting Life Goals
This one is always confusing when I explain it. I maybe need to change the wording, but hey – it helps ME remember what I’m talking about, so nyahh!
Good for you, it is also the rarest problem – but when it IS a problem, your relationship might well be doomed. You might also superficially lump it in with proximity, because conflicting life goals often create physical distance. I make the distinction below, because sometimes you have proximity, but conflict in life goals.
Anyway, I have a simple example for those who like Batman. If you don’t like Batman, then get out. Even the Joker likes Batman, and he’s awesome!
Anyway, Batman has a simple life-goal: being Batman (a crime fighter, jackass). It takes up a lot of his time, time that he could otherwise spend getting to know the ladies and having a family or whatever it is he would do if he weren’t Batman. In case you’re completely oblivious, Batman shows ZERO signs of giving up his life goal of being Batman.
Where does that leave his possible romantic interests? Think of Catwoman. She and Batman have everything else mentioned – proximity, mutual independence, chemistry (and how). But if you know one thing about Batman and Catwoman, it’s that she’s a criminal and he’s a crime fighter. Their goals are irreconcilable. Unless one of them literally changes the life pursuit that defines them – which effectively is like deciding that you will no longer be you – they will NOT ever be able to work out that difference.
For practical purposes, it’s actually tough to think of situations where leg would even come up, and most examples I can think of are from movies (Casablanca?). Bottom line is that most people don’t have conflicting life goals. But for the 1 percent that do… man, that SUCKS.
“But wait, Vichet – what if I have no life goals?”
I would venture a guess that women aren’t your biggest problem. Also, I would conjecture that any interesting woman wouldn’t date you anyway. Work on that.
Oh come on, you know what this one is. It’s where you put all the hearts and love-notes and sappy pop songs and all the interests that you have in common that really don’t matter, because if you have that certain “je ne sais quoi” (read “intangible quality” if you don’t know what that means), those things you have in common could just as easily be quirky differences that make you feel “ooey gooey” inside (read “boner” if you have a sense of humor) for the other person.
A short list of what chemistry is (things Vichet likes, so that it’s easier to think of examples):
- Eastern European
- Nice legs
- Likes heels
- Not a complete whore
A single sentence that sums up what chemistry is: Chemistry is all of the things you would list as traits for your ideal mate, because you’re an idiot and decided to ignore proximity, mutual independence, and non-conflicting life goals.
Also, everyone has a different list. Some people aren’t even all that picky about exclusiveness (see polyamory), whereas many assume that exclusivity is a requirement of a relationship, and if they were to formulate table theory, would even consider exclusivity one of the legs! Blasphemy, because exclusivity is not one of the legs in itself. It’s grouped in with chemistry here.
So, now you know why chemistry is the one thing that EVERYONE focuses on. The bulk of romantic literature in the English Language – and also pretty much every book I’ve read that has been translated to English, centers around the concept of romantic chemistry. In fact, most romantic literature is specifically about how chemistry is the most important aspect of a romantic relationship (yes, kind of) and renders moot the other three aspects I talked about – in that regard, most romantic literature is unrealistic and misleading. Or at least trashy with lots of euphemisms for penis.
Here’s my list of stories where it was all about chemistry and the couple stayed together in the end:
- Top Gun (I’m talking about Maverick and Iceman)
- Any Disney movie
- Anything based on a Nicholas Sparks novel
- Most pornos
And now, my list of realistic movies, where chemistry was there but one of the other legs was missing, and people ended up alone/dead:
- Top Gun (Maverick and his therapist – conflicting life goals, also proximity)
- Casablanca (proximity, conflicting life goal, also chemistry in that Rick wasn’t into wife-sharing)
- Fatal Attraction (Mutual independence – that bitch just couldn’t stay away!)
- Romeo and Juliet (Mutual independence – if you have to ask, read the play again)
That’s it! Those are the four legs. They hold up the table-top of your relationship.
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We go into the implications of why I bothered to come up with this elaborate metaphor in the article I’m linking right here!