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Status-based relationships

Some relationships are based on agreement, some are based on status. For example, parent/child, neighbors, and elementary teacher/student, army/draftee, law enforcement/citizen are status based. Others are completely based on agreement. Landlord/tenant. A lot are a mixture of the two, where the status is agreed on, and some of the obligations of the relationship are agreed, but a lot of the obligations may be assumed based on the status. boyfriend/girlfriend, Employer/employee.

So the trend over the years has been toward obligations being based on agreement. Husband & wife no longer has as many obligations built into the status itself. At one point in time, it was almost completely status based. And the obligations of a child to its parents (and vice versa) based simply on the relationship itself are vastly reduced.

So now I am pondering, in an ideal world, which relationship obligations are appropriately status based. Can we ever get to marriages meaning only that the people involved have agreed to something with nothing about the something assumed?

This thought inspired by a passage in The Emperor of Ocean Park where two lawyers joke about man having eliminated status-based relationships, but God still imposing them on us.

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assassinpandora From: assassinpandora Date: June 11th, 2003 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Can we ever get to marriages meaning only that the people involved have agreed to something with nothing about the something assumed?"

I would like to think so. My own marriage is somewhat unconventional, and when telling people about it I specify that it is a personal agreement between the two of us, and nothing more can be assumed. However, some of the typical assumptions do apply, such as we're in love, we live together, we place a high priority on each other's well-being, that sort of thing.
gkr From: gkr Date: June 11th, 2003 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's the kind of thing I was thinking about. There's no wayin hell people can spend the time to negotiate every little detail of their relationships. So there has to be some measure of obligations assumed. And in relationships like parent/child, some obligation has to be based on status, as children aren't capable of negotiating responsibility. I'm trying to come up with a list in my mind of relationships where the status itself requires obligation without agreement.
assassinpandora From: assassinpandora Date: June 11th, 2003 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I was referring to the typical assumptions that OTHER people can make about us...we actually do discuss in excruciating detail what we expect of each other, and what we mean by everything we say. The first time he told me he loved me, he wrote out in detail exactly what he meant by that, and ever since we call upon each other to explain and reiterate rather than ride on previous assumptions. Even things that had been agreed upon in the past are re-examined every so often.
djxavier13 From: djxavier13 Date: June 11th, 2003 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I also wonder if marraiges were stronger when they were more status-based. I've been thinking about that for a long time now, ever since I was married. Agreements don't last. People's viewpoints change as they grow older, and they might not mesh after 5-10 years.

Funny, I woke up this morning and had planned on writing a lengthy LJ entry about my perspective on nuclear families. Being in a family that has become completely dispersed and autonomous, I see a world that has moved far from its loyalty to status-based relationships.

There was a time when people respected the military, their families, their government, etc. I don't see that at all anymore. Then again, I do know people who are closer with their immediate family than I am.

I see my half-sisters once every year or two. If it weren't for my mother's consistently intrusive phone calls and emails, I might not stay in touch with her as much either. I saw my extended family back in 2001, when my dad died...but they were there for him, not me. I don't know where any of them live.

What permanence do we have these days? What weight does an agreement really have? Obviously, not a whole hell of a lot. I'd like to think that there might be some cultural revolution soon, to reinvent relationship stability and respect. I think we need it.
gkr From: gkr Date: June 11th, 2003 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who says an agreement has to be permanent? That's one of the things that has come to be more and more by agreement. People agree to get married, and they agree to divorce, with little muss or fuss. Many authors have envisioned societies where mating agreements have for specified terms, like sports player contracts. Not "til death do us part" but "for the next year."

And is respect mandated by relationships like that between law enforcement and citizenry? Sure we had respect for years, but that also allowed for blatant corruption. The respect was not always returned. Is it better if the only things automatic between citizen and law enforcement are the things we think important enough to codify into law?
djxavier13 From: djxavier13 Date: June 11th, 2003 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreements aren't permanent. Part of the problem with that, as I've mentioned, is that children suffer for it in broken marraiges. Some single parents do go out of their way to try to fill in the void caused by divorce, but they can only do so much.

Another approach to this could be communal child raising. This is practiced in tribal cultures. Instead of children growing up bonded to specific parents, they're equally raised by other parents in their community. So, if one or both parents die (or leave), it's not as terribly devastating to the child.

However, I'm not sure the communal concept would work in modern society. I especially don't think it would work in a city. It might work in a small town. In a way, I think there is more community involvement in small towns, but not in the manner in which I mean.

This is the biggest strain of agreement-based marraiges. Our future will reflect the way we raise our children. I'm not seeing a healthy outcome from many single-parent children (some parents are doing a great job...but it's rare). Maybe this will change as society matures to the concept of this new way of life?
vulture23 From: vulture23 Date: June 11th, 2003 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the other hand, why are we so convinced that longer-lasting must imply better? Yes, marriages were much more stable 100 years ago. There were also many more people who were miserable in marriages that they'd never think of leaving. Families were more cohesive then, but this often involved children being forced into the family line of work, whether it suited them or not. People respected governments more, but were also oppressed by those same governments and didn't dare to speak up about it.

There's a benefit and a cost to all of these things. We've had thousands of years of relatively rigid social structures where individual choices played a minimal role. Now we're starting to experiment with a society in which individual choices play a primary role. There's definitely some chaos in this, but a lot of that is (I believe) a transition effect. Once people get accustomed to the idea that a transient relationship based on choice can be at least as deep and fulfilling as a long-term relationship based on obligation, a lot of these problems will fade. We need to develop social institutions that allow for and support transience, the way that our current institutions support stability (which could also be seen as stagnation). Until we have that, and have seen how that works, we can't truly judge the direction we're going. If we seem to be going downhill right now, well, we may need to go downhill in order to climb another, higher peak elsewhere.
djxavier13 From: djxavier13 Date: June 11th, 2003 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not against social revolution at all. I think we do need it. The old conventions are antiquated and not very useful these days. The question remains though, what can we do to provide sufficient stability for the sake of children? If nothing else, that's all marraige is good for.
assassinpandora From: assassinpandora Date: June 11th, 2003 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
"what can we do to provide sufficient stability for the sake of children?"

If by "we" you mean anyone other than the specific children's parents, then the answer is "nothing".
djxavier13 From: djxavier13 Date: June 11th, 2003 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)


When it comes down to it, you're right. I'll swap "anyone" with the marraige contract, since that's pretty much what I was referring to. No legal contract will keep parents together. However, it does tend to give the relationship a little glue. :P

I meant that in more of a broader sense, on a cultural level. If we were to redefine our traditions, to improve on things, what would we do? How could we (humanity), make it so we (humanity) could enjoy our (humanity's) new-found freedom to choose in relationships, but provide some sense of stability for our (humanity's) children?
(no subject) - aaminahlefae - Expand
liberpolly From: liberpolly Date: June 11th, 2003 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

and this is because any relationship based on status is essentially degrading. it takes away choice.

fortunately for human race, most of parent/child relationships are based on love, i.e. agreement. status is there, as a last resort, but is masked by elevated level of relationship found in love.

but then again, i am maximalist, don't listen to me.
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