Quantum of Solace

Thene mentioned this before:

The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. “You’re not married, but I think it’s the same with all relationships between a man and a woman.  They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people.  When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn’t care if the other is alive or dead, then it’s just no good. That particular insult to the ego – worse, to the instinct of self-preservation – can never be forgiven.  I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I’ve seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime.  Incurable disease, blindness, disaster – all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this and I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Quantum of Solace.”

Bond said: “That’s a splendid name for it. It’s certainly impressive enough.  And of course I see what you mean. I should say you’re absolutely right.  Quantum of Solace – the amount of comfort.  Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that.  Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it’s obviously at an end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You’ve got to get away to save yourself.”
It’s become a sort of shorthand, a touchstone, a reminder.
It’s not just a reminder that humanity is a goal, not a guaranteed state of being, it’s also that everyone’s line in the sand is different.
What X defines as being adequate humanity might not make the cut for Y and yet it might be the height of coddling for Z.
The smallest possible unit; the baseline below which if you fall, everything shatters.
I was talking to my cousin the other day, exploring the idea of being in a relationship and when it’s worth it. I finally summed it up for myself thusly:
Assuming that your own baseline while single is either at zero or plus one, adding another person should always raise it to at minimum plus two or three for the relationship to be worth staying in.
I’m not currently looking for a relationship because I’m currently at zero with the needle wavering between plus and negative one.  I’d only want to look when I’m at a solid plus one heading towards a plus two. There has to be something in the tank before you go diving because there’s always going to be something out there that’s going to drain you before buoying you and the latter isn’t guaranteed.
I admit, there’s also a wee bit of man-hating going on right now, so that cynicism isn’t something I want to bring to a new relationship either.  Also, let’s be frank here – no one really heads into a relationship with someone who is knowingly a zero or a negative. It’s not fair to anyone and it’s mostly a waste of time and effort. It could be a learning experience, but seriously, how many of those does any one person need?
No matter what that person brings to the table, no matter what requirements you or they have, no matter any of the standard quantifiable stuff – the real question is “am I happier with this person than I am single”?
If you cannot answer that with a solid “yes”, then it’s time to get the hell out of the relationship.
Something else that took getting out of a relationship to figure out: if you can’t see yourself marrying the person in question, then you need to grow a spine and some guts and break it off.
I didn’t understand that at first and I don’t think my ex really did either.
It’s another line in the sand that I looked at and didn’t see for what it was. He might have known, but either I didn’t understand what he was trying to say, or he didn’t know how to distill his feelings into something that I could comprehend.
It went both ways, which was the funny part. He kept dragging his feet on talking to my parents about getting married and threw a hissy fit in the ring store when I dragged him there and  I told him verbally I didn’t see being able to marry him towards the end. We hurt each other with our reticence, but we were both unwilling to really step back and say “yep, not working” and abort.
If you can’t imagine marrying someone, then something’s wrong there. If there just isn’t that urge to “put a ring on it”, then the emotion just isn’t there. And when the emotion isn’t there, then clearly the two of you together isn’t anywhere near a sufficient positive balance.
That simple. It’s not even math.
Are you really happier with him? Or is it just fear and habit?

2 Responses to “Quantum of Solace”

  1. thene

    well, you knew I’d disagree with that end part…but as you say ,we all draw different lines in the sand. :P I don’t think there’s a teleology to relationships, in general – obv we make our own teleologies. If you DO maintain monogamous & permanent marriage as a long-term goal, your conclusion makes sense. (What’s funny is, you’ve sometimes objected to the idea of elevating some commitments above others, eg. that of ‘best friends’, or of sexual relationships signifying additional moral commitments over and above friendship. What IS a singular marriage if it’s not a different level of commitment?)

  2. kyrias

    Well, I knew you’d disagree with the “ring” part, you know, that whole buying and selling of virgins part…

    I actually wasn’t thinking monogamous and permanent, actually. I don’t think I am at all capable of believing in “forever” at this point. Woo, yet another way in which I’ve been either enlightened or completely damaged.

    I mostly meant that if you cannot see yourself binding yourself to someone formally, then it’s time to really reassess the relationship.

    In a given continuum of willing to marry, I’d be more willing to marry you than I would have been to my ex, which says a damn lot.

    Yes, it is a different level of commitment, but you forget: I come from a culture where we did/do blood oaths and take adopted siblings very, very seriously. I am perfectly happy and capable of taking on blood siblings and elevating them above a “romantic interest”.

    I don’t object to the idea of elevating some commitments. That’s crazy talk. I object to the idea that there can only be one person on any given tier and that it is a strict ladder hierarchy. I can have multiple people who I consider my “best friends”, disregarding the stupidity of the term and the inherent contradiction there. I can value multiple people on the same level, regardless of what they are to me, strictly speaking. Like I said, the only thing I do differently in terms of commitment to someone I’m fucking is that I’m probably only fucking that person in body. Not in spirit, of course. You know me.

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