I titled this post maturity, but only because I really don’t know how you would classify this point, but here it is.

In our society, we are encouraged to learn to discriminate between our feelings, so that they are then applied properly. For example, angst ridden teens realize that they weren’t in love with their high school sweetheart; they were just compatible in some way, or maybe they just lusted after each other. In the same way, people find out that the guy they always went out for drinks with was better thought of as a co-worker than a trusting friend. People, starting at birth, take raw and amorphous “pro” and “con” feelings toward people and divide them into further subcategories. The pro category might become more varied and so come to include pro in the friend sense, pro in the lover sense, and pro in the colleague sense. The important point is that we discover what different internal states are telling us. We make mistakes when we’re younger, but some people (other people stay immature forever) learn to pay attention to the nuances of their experience.

In other parts of the world (and for other people in the U.S.) there is no discovery. Instead, there is only making. What I’m thinking of is a group of studies indicating that the love a husband and wife feel for each other grows with time in cultures with very conservative marriage regimes (i.e., you might ostracized or even physically harmed if you divorce your spouse, or you might not have a choice of who to marry). Under these sorts of cultures, I think the model of maturity is different. As one ages, one does not learn to distinguish love from friendship and mentorship from authority and then pursue relationships properly — such as marrying the on you love and doing things with friends, rather than marrying your friend and hanging out with the one you love.

In these societies, the order is reversed. One is told what certain relationships are by social structures and then learns to sculpt feelings and emotions to fit. For example, in some traditional cultures, family members and religious figures are endowed with all sorts of cultural symbols that given children clues as to how they are approach them. Love, when it comes to marriage, is irrelevant. People are paired together for marriage, not because they love each other, but because they must build a loving relationship.
The interesting point I think is that though I find traditional cultures constraining and subtly coercive in many ways, the lesson of constructing friendships and marriages are largely lost on our culture, and that is a shame. People think that they will just find a loving partner or a close friend like stumbling on an oasis in the desert, but this seems like a recipe for superficiality. Relationships have to be earned, and so, built over time with effort. Anything else, to my jaded mind, is just a self-help book shortcutting.


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