People ≠ Commodities

April 5, 2011

So this idea of setting an expectation different than the natural result of a duty or action can and will be devastating to our own well-being and to the object of our expectation.

This idea becomes especially important when the object of our unnatural expectation is another person.  I’ve been thinking a little bit about the reasons we enter relationships, romantic or otherwise.  It seems that our culture is beginning to treat other people as goods, as commodities.  We look at how entering a relationship with another person will affect us positively.  We weigh the cost and we weigh the benefit.  Whichever one is more will determine whether or not we will buy into the relationship.  We do this with cars, televisions, computers, cellphones, and every other product, why not do it with people?  A recent article in the New York Times reported that, a group of psychologists found that the happiest marriages are the ones that individuals put their own “self-expansion” first and foremost in the relationship.

I find this extremely hard to believe!

Now I do think that being in a relationship is beneficial and necessary to a person, but the natural connection of being in a relationship is not that you get things (i.e. self-expansion) but that you get the other person!  I think that the researchers saw a side-effect of being in a meaningful relationship and then hypothesized that the person was a means to and end, with the end being positive added attributes to an individual’s personality or skills or happiness and so forth instead of an end in and of themselves.

This begs the question, then, how often am I simply using people to get things from them.  Am I doing a cost/benefit analysis each time before entering a relationship?

I think that when we begin to look at other people as, well, people, we will begin to see that our relationships are much less about what we can get from other people, but what we can give them.

Next time we’ll discuss when this goes even deeper (somehow).


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