On Human Relations

I have always tried to find logical and reason-based explanations for natural phenomena as well as the not-so-observable phenomena for about all my philosophically conscious life time. The former has been relatively easy to find answers to. How a rainbow grows after rain, or how Sun’s atmosphere works can be explained easily by the laws of physic. Hard sciences, as they are called, are great tools to bring concrete and logical explanations about nature and the universe. Then there’s the latter, what I, at the beginning of the paragraph, called the not-so-observable phenomena. These are what would be described as soft sciences and/or philosophical inquiries, which investigate or question things that exist, and have an impact on the physical universe but that aren’t as easily observable, or cannot be tested rigorously as in the case of natural sciences. The reason for this never-ending search for things was because I was a very curious kid questioning everything, if I saw something, I only wondered how it came to be, how things worked, and so on.

The beginning of such questionings dates back to my middle school years when I genuinely wondered about the most basic thing in the universe, what was the most basic part of everything? How was life possible at all? This question was answered by the first physic lessons that I got, and as it turned out, matter was made up of atoms, and sub-atomic particles, and known life was theorized to have formed out of it. But the question remained for the rest of things that we observe in our lives. After all, you do not question the atoms in your body all day, every day. You question, however, human behavior, human conscious, human feelings, human language. Pretty much anything human. This human-centered approach that I got bore me the strong humanistic worldview that I now possess with great prudence.

One of these things that I asked the same question about was human relations. What constitutes the basics of a human relation? Why do humans bond and become emotionally interdependent? What is the reason behind all this? These questions were in no way answerable within a short of breath but experience in life would help accumulate a number of answers. And it did. My basic understanding for any human relation, whether it be romantic, acquaintance, friendship, or even parent-child relations, was that relationships worked in a beneficiary manner, not in the real ‘transactional’  sense, though. So, according to my understanding, any human relationship was give and take. Just like in trade, or on foreign exchange. You would give something and take something else in return. Say, you’re meeting a friend because she feels depressed, in turn, you’d expect for her to show up in a similar manner. But the reason why you’re meeting her in the first place is because you know that this dude will be there for you, too, some day. And to be honest, I’d theorized this with one of my best friends. She’d agree to my point and in our understanding, friendship was just like any business deal. If you failed to stand for your friend, then you also failed the friendship. So for any relationship, I’d argue, there’s a mutual pact agreed on by both parties. If you befriend someone or get involved in a romantic relationship with someone, you would both agree on this often not discussed pact. And any problems that occurred in the relationship was basically due to some party not holding up with the parts of the pact.  All this was not, however, conscious decisions. Were it so, then it’d be what’s described as transactional relations where you’d benefit from the relationship pragmatically.

The overall picture of this definition of human relationships seems obscure, and there’s only a narrow line between my reason-based understanding and a normal transactional relationship. And the difference is rightly so, because I came to say that my understanding also derives heavily from the transactional relationships. So, what is the basis of a human relationship, if not this one that I contemplated?

This summer was somewhat unusual for me. First, even before summer came around, I hardly followed up my first intentions that I had had for the first year of my Master’s. For the first time ever in my university life, I failed to deliver an assignment on time and I asked my professor for an extension and hence I had to stay in Izmir till mid-July. Even though I spent the summer emotionally stable, I got to question how I saw human relationships for a new start. This questioning was initiated out of a few conversations that I had with one of my best friends, and also self-observations from my own dating life. And throughout the course of August and September, I chatted with several friends over this topic.

All this was enabled when I was confronted by a very close friend who got to know about my so-called basic understanding. He simply said, “You cannot downgrade human relations just like that,” and added, “there’s more to it”. And there was. The first time around, I insisted that my basic understanding for human relations was logic-based and totally differed from a transactional relationship as I vaguely described above. In doing so, I insisted that human relations were no different than any other physical activity, there was nothing too vague about them. You could track why someone was having problems in their relationship by simply observing if both parties stick to their so-called relationship agreement. But after giving thought to my own relationships, I saw that actually nothing works as I thought. For one thing, I love cooking but I love cooking for my friends more. Whenever I get the chance, I always invite someone to share my meal and on several occasions, I also invite people to dinner at my place. Making food for someone that I care about is something I love to do. Do I do this in order for others to cook for me? Or do I do this in order to fulfill my desire to cook for other people? Well, the short answer to both questions is no. I don’t really cook for my friends so that they will cook for me at some point. Actually, I would probably never want a small amount of my friends to cook in the first place since these pals aren’t so good at it. That is, of course, unless they strongly suggested that they want to do it. And when it comes to the second question regarding self-satisfaction (I don’t really know what else to call it), again, I don’t really focus on satisfying my need to cook for other people or to get the dopamine that my brain might release after cooking for someone. The dinner might turn out really bad, we can have an argument and any satisfaction whatsoever might not be met. If such a thing occurred, I’d not say, “oh, shit, I didn’t get the dopamine this time around,”.

If human relationships do not work like this, how do they work? Why do I cook for someone and deeply enjoy the experience? Well, the first answer is quite the answer. We are social animals and we love socializing. It is part of our nature but our decisions when we want to socialize with others do not depend on a quid pro quo basis. I cannot answer for every one but for me, I just love my friends. I love sharing my time with people that I care about. It might sound like a romanticist approach but maybe, being logical and trying to find rationale in everything we do, might not be the most rational way to do things. Maybe every relationship is so unique that a generalization will only diminish its meaning.

A few friends have expressed that relationships actually work this way, that every human relationship is basically like a business agreement and you get what you give. A friend even suggested that a mother enjoys milking her baby because it is biologically beneficial for her. Another friend expressed his views on the topic and said roughly, “I always thought about this and I assume people always think what they are going to get out of a relationship, always,”. This thinking is not totally baseless, there are, after all, many people who approach human relationships in a transactional manner. And regarding the baby-mother example, this one is not exactly a full-grown human relationship. One party cannot meet its needs on its own and dependent on its mom, and there’s more to it in our evolutionary history than how we see and think about parental relationships.

Human relationships are complex even though one could possibly find rationale for his or her own relationships and try to generalize his or her hypothesis for every human relationship as I once did. After all, if human relationships were so simple and typical, most people would not seek advice from many different councilors to solve their problems. And emotionally stable, sane people would only excel at human relationships, but again, neither is the case. Humans are so unique. Our relationships are so unique. Everything about us is so unique. What’s not unique is, however, my obsession with science and reason. Most people share that obsession in twenty-first century.

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