Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Well-being and Committed Relationships

David Brooks of the New York Times has a new Op-Ed piece called the The Sandra Bullock Trade where he asks the following philosophic question: "Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?"

As I was reading Brooks' piece I kept thinking that life scenarios aren't always so black and white, or better, what's entirely tragic to one might be a bit of a stumbling block to others. The thing is, people tend to have different views and expectations of commitment and monogamous relationships. However, certain life choices and lifestyles are more conducive to certain levels of commitment in a congealed union.

For example, if one of the partners has to be on the road a lot for work reasons, it would be quite difficult to keep the union strong and organically healthy. Spending quality time with the other party is, after all, what makes a relationship a relationship. However, if one needs to travel a lot and/or needs a lot of alone time to cogitate and do one's work, the best scenario for a person in such a situation would be to be paired up with an equally independent person who doesn't define the intimacy in the relationship by how much time is spent together but rather by how qualitative common time is.

This, I would say, is the mark of a strong union. In our day and age where careers are demanding and much time, focus, and dedication goes to good work ethics one thing will undoubtedly suffer, at least to some degree, and that is the committed relationship, marriage and/or domestic unions as there is only a certain amount of attention to go around, after all.

David Brooks notes:

"Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled."

Again, I would agree with the general sentiment here but not with the extreme degree to which Brooks takes the argument. Marital and/or committed happiness is more important than most things. It, after all, can inform for the better (and, alas, at times for the worse) a person's quotidianity i.e., how the world perceives one's presence when out there. A functioning union is one that facilitates the other things of substance in which the couple is engaged. And is it not all about creating the better version of one's self after all?

Commitments don't always get a lot of praise and they should as in many cases, if not all of them, they do play a pivotal role and are mostly responsible for professional success. I absolutely agree with Brooks when he notes that "worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through." I would also add that one way to secure some measure of good success in both areas is by daily negotiating the allocation of personal attention and what aliquot of attention goes where.

Bottom line, to make anything work in life one would first need to want to do it. Success comes with a lot of sacrifice and a lot of pain. In order to finance all of the pain and suffering, one needs to have genuine commitment and love for the subject at hand.

But, most importantly, success, be is professional or personal, depends on a lot of factors, two of the most important ones being endurance and work, a heck of a lot of work.

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Sra said...

I think the key, as you allude, is making sure the partners are on the same page as far as needs and expectations goes. Any time you don't have that, you are going to have commitment issues.

JJ said...

I agree that commitments, whether of a professional or personal nature, are a lot of work. A sign of adulthood is sacrificing hollow fun, or fun for the sake of fun, for something bigger and of greater value, i.e., relationships outside of one's self.
Thanks for the bit.

Unknown said...

Relationships are a lot of work, especially the truly good ones, but I also feel like they don't always get the kudos they deserve. They help so much else in life.
I also find that I work better and am generally better when I make an effort to to be mindful of them and not take them granted.
Brooks' question is interesting but it does seem to be insanely difficult to keep professional pursuits and personal situations at top notch success rates.

Unknown said...

I also tend to think more along the lines of Schlegel and fragmentation. People have to be comfortable with fragmented roles and multitasking especially in modernity.

Becca said...

Right, getting career and partners on the same book and then eventually on the same page is half the battle.
Dug it.

Dana said...

There seems to be a lack of open discussion about the importance of good relationships when it comes to overall success in life, not only professional success. I don't know why that is but I know for myself that I cannot be the current version of myself had it not been for the relationships that support me. Thx for this....

Anonymous said...

i agree. i think key is when there is not a mentality of "you complete me, you are my other half, etc" I strongly believe a person must first and foremost be and feel a complete and independent individual for a good relationship to be possible. "Needy" people, whether of attention, time, or physical presence, are just a broken relationship waiting to happen.