Friday, August 14, 2009

Food for thought (to be chewed with our mouths closed)

I saw this months and months ago, but it keeps coming back to mind, so I thought I'd share it here.

This is Dan Savage, presumably at a forum or workshop somewhere, answering relationship questions from the audience:

This answer of his clarified something I've observed over the years, in both my own and friends' romantic relationships: that in dealing with the inevitable bumps in the road, it can be useful -- critical, even -- to distinguish between "roommate" issues and "relationship" issues.

Roommate issues include differences of opinion on what constitutes ideal summer and winter room temperature; who leaves too much stuff lying around; when the garage is going to be cleaned out; who squeezes the toothpaste tube where; whether it's OK to bring the car home running on fumes and not mention it to the other person who needs to drive it; whether a single hall light can be left on throughout the evening or whether every single bulb in the house must be extinguished if there isn't a sentient being doing something productive directly beneath it; and whether the cucumber turning to mush in the crisper is just a cucumber that didn't make it this week, or an indicator of an unacceptable and shameful pattern of food waste in the household. Just some examples, you know, from thin air.

Relationship issues are the tougher ones -- questions of trust, power, sex, communication, philosophies of life, personalities, and tons more. I'm not nearly so fluent in any of that, because I Don't Want To Talk About It. In many ways, I'm ill-suited to being half of a pair; it can be very hard for me to get into any of this, even when something's fairly begging to be discussed.

And sure, there's overlap between these broad categories. I've just noticed that the distinction can be helpful, as "roommate" stuff can easily obscure "relationship" stuff. Sometimes what seems to be the problem is immaterial, and the problem itself is buried somewhere underneath aggravation over the way the dishwasher's being loaded, or whatever.

ANYway. I think "the price of admission" is a great concept -- such a helpful way to think about those roommate issues that can annoy us to death, or not, as ultimately we choose. It's a nice mental box to put that stuff in, clearing room to think about the hard stuff, which is where there's relationship paydirt to be hit in bringing out each other's best self, or, as Dan says, in willfully ignoring that that person doesn't really exist.


  1. That was great. Thanks for posting it. Definitely something to think about.

  2. this is really great. i was thinking about that with my recent cohabitation with J. My roommate issue is when he nicks the walls and says "I can touch that up" and then he doesn't. (throwing an old phone charger towards the trashcan in the bedroom and having it hit the wall and make a hole and dark mark. Me=mad roommate.

  3. I like Dan Savage a lot. He is common sense mixed with kind of a fey charm.

  4. I like it. Roommate vs. relationship. Now, if only the roommate stressors could be easily resolved! Ah, well, I guess dirty socks every where is better than not trusting the offender.