Floating For-ness: Under a Firm Mantle of Function, Molten Motives Churn

You’re in love, or so you think. You certainly feel in love, but now that you’ve been run through the mill a few times, you wonder what the feeling really means.

You love being loved. But think about it, why does this person love you? What’s the motivation? When someone says, “I love you,” what does it represent? That you’re perfectly matched? That it turns out you’re a god after all? Is it just some kind of hormonal certainty driving this person? Lust, neediness - a pathological hunger? What’s their angle?

Why do you want to know? After all, what difference does it make what motivates someone to love you? Don’t question love. Love works in mysterious ways. Trust the process.

Trust the process to do what? To lead to happily ever after - or to run you through the mill again?

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Sure, at some level you’re open to anything. Que sera sera. But you live mainly on a lower level where you don’t welcome all possibilities with equal enthusiasm. You’d really prefer not to be run through the mill again.

You care what this “I love you” really represents because you want the partnership to be functional for the long haul rather than blowing up in your face, covering you with disappointment again.

What a behavior functions for - its “for-ness” - is what the relationship represents. We look to such for-ness or representation as a cue to function, to whether the relationship is viable. If the love is “true” - that is, for, or representative of, healthy desires, then you surmise that the love will be functional into the future.

In all relationships we monitor motives - what behaviors represent - because we believe they indicate functionality. Dysfunctional relationships are ones in which the partners’ representations of each other are unhealthy. “Ulterior motives,” the sketchy things that love and kindness can represent, are considered bad signs when it comes to assessing a relationship’s prospects for long-term functionality.

Funny thing is, relationships can stay functional even if what they represent changes over time. Most long-term partnerships, romantic or otherwise, come to represent different things over their course.

Maybe that couple celebrating their 25th anniversary first fell in love because they each represented sex, affirmation, or status to the other when they were young and restless. Now that they’ve been together for a quarter century, the relationship represents other things - security, the children, companionship. Continuous functionality sustained it even as representation changed.

It’s natural for us to think of function and representation as intrinsically linked. But if a continually functional relationship can represent different things over time, then the link between representation and function must not be a simple one-to-one lock-step correspondence. And of course this must be so; otherwise the uses and meanings of things - what they represent - would never change. Next week I’ll discuss how in all evolution, from life forms to language, things can remain functional even as what they function for changes.

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