Why is it that we humans have such a fragile capacity for sustaining relationships? Why is it that a difference in how a toothpaste tube is squeezed can undermine a marriage? Why do we look for the ‘perfect’ partner? Why, indeed, when we ourselves are far from perfect?
But why have we evolved to be so fussy in our social demands? To do and say the right things in company all the time is terribly stressful and demanding. Sure, when at home with our spouse, we let our hair down, and the barriers are lowered. But even then, there are a clear set of rules we must follow, or we suffer negative emotions from our partner.
But what purpose do all these rules achieve?
I suspect that the multiplicity is a consequence of how much we differ. But why should you or I get quite so upset and then alienated by someone, who, for example, says the wrong thing in chat with friends? Or someone who breaks the silence at a meal with an audible fart? Why are we so fussy? Why do we get affected so?
Maybe because the effort to accommodate the diversity of people we meet requires a great effort of flexibility, and that if we see someone else not putting in that effort, we feel hard done by. Much like if we dilligently signal at every junction in our car, or strictly obey the speed limit, only for us to encounter others not hampered by these rules – we feel indignanant the lack of equity.
The divisive matter of toothpaste squeezing is merely a sense of loss of control – we want others to behave as we behave, and for the control we have on our difficult lives not to be compromised every day as it is when someone else squeezes the toothpaste tube in the wrong part. We strive to maximise the way the World goes our way, and minimise the compromises on that, needed to suit social harmony. When it is our nearest and dearest who extends the compromise, then we feel particularly hard done by.
I am merely pondering possibilities here. If you, the reader, have any answers, I would be keen to hear.