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Zoethe

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The limits to "unconditional" love [Jun. 28th, 2010|09:23 am]
Zoethe
A while back I wrote about having our movie marathon but no energy for cleaning the house prior to the arrival of our friends. The general response to that can be summed up as, "if they are real friends, they won't care what your house looks like." And that's true.

Up to a certain point.

At about the same time, Ferrett wrote about how caring people change their behavior to avoid hurting their loved ones simply because they don't want to cause pain. And that's true.

Up to a certain point.

Because in both situations, there is an unspoken and ill-defined social compact: both sides are making a unspoken compromises, and there will come a point where the party that is accepting the mess or changing their behavior will stop feeling like a good friend/lover and start feeling like a carpet.

Social compacts of this sort really are a two-way street. The friends who don't judge a dusty mantle or a less-than-spotless kitchen would likely be at least a little put-off if my bathroom reminded them of a backroads gas station restroom they once opted not to use. And while they may not say anything to about it, some part of them would be wondering about either my self-respect or my respect for them, if not both.

Likewise, the person who is willing to curb a habit because it bothers a loved one will begin to chafe if it seems like they are the only one ever making accommodations.

So I - and many others - clean up in anticipation of company, and the company protests that it's not necessary and we meet a comfortable middle ground of social decency. That middle ground is not always identical - my friend Karla's idea of a messy house pretty much corresponds with my idea of a spotless one - but they fall within some normative level: I'm not going to inspect for bathtub rings, but the one time I was invited to someone's house and cockroaches were wandering about? I dodged future invitations.

And while Ferrett and I have both asked each other to refrain from behaviors we found annoying, we have also both accepted - and grown fond of - other things about each other that at first seemed weird or incomprehensible or - worst - designed to make the other one crazy.

Your friends love you and not your housekeeping, yes. And your loved ones try to respect your needs, true. Just always remember that it's not a license to ignore the needs of others. Do for them what you want them to do for you and don't abuse the notion of unconditional love.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: walkertxkitty
2010-06-28 01:31 pm (UTC)
Until recently, I had to make do. We made sure that there was no moldy food in the fridge, nothing nasty on the sink or stove, and nothing gross on the carpet. That I'd made an effort mattered to them and they'd often help finish little jobs they knew I couldn't do.

In return, I always had a good meal ready and clean beds for those who needed them. I'm lucky enough to have friends who could see that I'd tried for their sake and who appreciated the giving back.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 01:45 pm (UTC)
Trying matters. As I said, acceptable varies.
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[User Picture]From: evaleastaristev
2010-06-28 01:35 pm (UTC)
I completely agree that my friends do not come over because of my clean house, but because of me. But I ran into a problem that I'm not letting happen again now that I've moved into a new home. That problem being, the mess left by my friends when they came over.

You see, I would clean the house for my frequent Friday night sleep over guests. And I would have to do a full clean again, the same amount of effort, on Sunday. My guests just weren't picking things up or throwing there garbage away. I was making sure they had blankets to sleep under, even for the guests that would crash on the floor, and they would wake up and just leave them there.

I managed to keep up that schedule for about six months, before I just gave up cleaning the house before my guests arrived. What was the point? Why should I make my house spotless, cleaning up my "lived in" mess when they didn't respect that by cleaning up after themselves? Obviously, or so my at that point depressed mind thought, they didn't respect my efforts, so why should I bother? I wasn't their mother, or their maid, so why was I even picking up their mess?

It's a pact that must be made on both sides of the relationship. I clean up my house before they arrive, and they do their best to keep it clean, minimizing my job come Sunday when it's time to clean up again. Otherwise, the relationship breaks down, and I might not even want to hang out with these friends outside of my home. If they don't respect my home, then they obviously don't respect me.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 01:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, definitely. Particularly guests who are regular stayovers should be considerate. That just sucks. You should have spoken up, though. Making a mess like that is behavior that should have been trained out of them by their mothers!
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-06-28 01:39 pm (UTC)
I really agree with this in so many ways. And it goes far beyond the clean/messy differences. But it also involves communicating and negotiating, both in marriage and friendship and other relationships. Finding the balance is like standing on a ball, but finding the balance without communication is like standing on a ball blindfolded.

However, don't come south. Down here, even the cleanest of housekeepers can't get completely rid of the giant cockroaches known variously as water bugs and palmetto bugs--they come in from outside, not so much for food as for water...
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2010-06-28 01:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was me.
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[User Picture]From: funwithrage
2010-06-28 01:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, this. The whole "friends accept me exactly as I am, by which I mean exactly as I am at my most slobbish and inconsiderate" fallacy makes me want to punch people.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 01:52 pm (UTC)
And the "if you don't put up with all my shit, you aren't really a friend" approach makes me run the other way.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 01:56 pm (UTC)
I agree. In "I will always love you" there is the unspoken, "provided you do not become a complete asshole."

But not everyone understands that the unspoken clause is there, particularly when it applies to themselves.

Edited at 2010-06-28 01:57 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lawchicky
2010-06-28 02:04 pm (UTC)
It takes you back to the timeless addage to do onto others as you would want done onto you. I wouldn't subject even my clostest friends to skeevy disgusting bathroom conditions because I'd be very unhappy to find those kind of conditions in someone else's home. Likewise, I have no qualm about leaving a big "shoe pile" near the entranceway because who really cares about a pile of shoes?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 02:05 pm (UTC)
It does, but most people aren't very good at thinking in those terms.
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[User Picture]From: fallconsmate
2010-06-28 02:16 pm (UTC)
i pretty much think that unconditional love is for kids. as in, we love our children no matter what, and sometimes really hate their actions.

you know, al and i just celebrated our half-anniversary. yep, we do some things that annoy each other. yep, we can say calmly, "please dont do that, you're tapdancing on my last nerve."

friends should understand that sort of thing, too. GREAT and timely post!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 02:27 pm (UTC)
It's always an adjustment being with someone. I feel lucky that Ferrett is understanding, and he feels the same way about me!
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[User Picture]From: horizonchaser
2010-06-28 02:21 pm (UTC)
Well said!

"Cleaning the house while the kids are still growing
Is like shoveling the walk while it is still snowing" -- Phyllis Diller.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 02:28 pm (UTC)
LOL! It's true, but it's also true that if you don't shovel intermittently you can end up so swamped that digging yourself out will give you a heart attack!
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[User Picture]From: sageautumn
2010-06-28 02:46 pm (UTC)
I do think it's very situational.

For instance, you inviting someone over is one thing. Someone inviting themselves over, even when it is TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE*, is another. Having one person or a few people meeting at your house before heading to another venue is one thing... having people at your house for a night of cards/movies/something is another.

I'm not great at the clean house thing, but it's messy not dirty. And I will/do forwarn people, "Sure you can come, but right now I'm defining clean as clear couch and an empty bathroom trashcan."

*and I do firmly believe there are people/times when it's pretty acceptable for them to invite themselves over
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 03:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, it is decidedly situational. But if the clearing was moldy, bug-infested leftovers that you expected the drop-ins to carry to the kitchen themselves, that is probably outside any realm of acceptable.
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[User Picture]From: bethzebra
2010-06-28 03:46 pm (UTC)
I don't really get the concept of unconditional love. If you're capable of loving someone unconditionally, why not just pick someone at random?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 03:56 pm (UTC)
Because it would be kind of creepy?

Then again, the unconditional love thing can get creepy in some relationships.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-06-28 04:00 pm (UTC)
If they're real friends, they know the difference between you taking them for granted (i.e., you not being a real friend) and you being too exhausted to clean to your normal level on this particular occasion.

Caring people change their behavior to avoid hurting their loved ones, including hurting them by making them change their behavior in order to avoid hurting you.

I suppose I'm just restating what you're saying, but my point is that you can't look at either person in the relationship as a fixed point.

BTW, is there some reason this post doesn't show up on the "recent entries" screen?

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 05:27 pm (UTC)
My point is that you have to be careful and stay within certain bounds. There will come a point when it's too much.

And it shows up fine for me....
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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2010-06-28 05:57 pm (UTC)
So, so true.

a comfortable middle ground of social decency

THIS. As a young person, I never understood etiquette. It just seemed arbitrary and antiquated to me. Then I had it explained to me that etiquette is really all about *not making other people uncomfortable.*

I still don't get why elbows on the table are bad, or why it's wrong to cut all your meat into cubes before eating it, but it's not about ME. If I'm with my friends, I do both these things. But when I'm with grandmother's friends, I use the right fork and sit up straight, etc., because I know that it will make them uncomfortable and bring shame to her if I behave like I was raised by wolves.

It's the same with cleaning the house or anything else. We do these things because we care about the feelings of others. This is the basis for civilization. Your friends aren't bothered by dust and clutter, but as you say, filth would make them uncomfortable, and making people uncomfortable deliberately is the opposite of love. Jesus had it right when he posited the Golden Rule.

In relationships, I may not understand why my husband is bothered when I leave the wet sponge in the sink, but it doesn't have to make sense to me. I just have to know that it makes him uncomfortable, and because I love him, squeeze the damn thing and put it on the ledge.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-28 07:49 pm (UTC)
As long as the number of "drives me crazy" things stays sane, that's the right approach. I am more driven crazy by clutter than Ferrett, and he is wonderful about picking up, but I have also relaxed a bit.
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[User Picture]From: miintikwa
2010-06-28 11:28 pm (UTC)
I love this. I believe in unconditional love between my friends and I, but it's also based on years of knowledge and familiarity and comfort, and the knowledge I would do anything for them, and vice-versa.

So, if my house isn't perfectly spotless I don't stress, but I do try to maintain some semblance of order for my friends. I'm not going to slob out-- except for the two that have lived with me! :)
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[User Picture]From: butterandjelly
2010-06-29 12:20 am (UTC)
:-D

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-29 01:00 am (UTC)
There ya go! I should just buy another house on this street and keep it as my company house.

You know, once I win the lottery.
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[User Picture]From: sttatus_quo
2010-06-29 06:01 am (UTC)
I don't love *me* right if the housekeeping isn't up to scratch. I don't mind a little clutter but I am most comfortable at "drop-in ready".
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-29 11:45 am (UTC)
That's a really good point.
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[User Picture]From: fitfool
2010-06-30 12:51 pm (UTC)
and even if you go dragging in deities, their unconditional love is unconditional up to a point -- and then it's hellfire and brimstone for you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2010-06-30 02:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you really can't walk on anyone too long without expecting a backlash.
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