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What makes a relationship work? How should we choose our spouse?

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Click here to read the short description of FIPP (recommended for better understanding of the below written)

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Fodormik's Integrated Paradigm for Psychology (FIPP)

Miklos Fodor developed a model based on three basic concepts (later highlighted in bold) that can describe human behavior in different fields of life e.g. problem solving, love, religion, sex, co-operation. The essence of the model is that it reinterprets the relationship of the Self and Environment, which to date has been considered as a static relationship. Thus, the model distinguishes

Self-narrowing: when the Self perceives the Environment as bigger than itself e.g. in anxiety, fear, making efforts, close attention.


Self-expanding: when the Self expands into the Environment and perceives it as a part of itself e.g. love, happiness, aha experience, orgasm.


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The change of the two states can be described with a general pattern, in which the turning point is the emergence of new cognitive schemata, being mental constructions organized on different levels, representing the outside world e.g. concepts, theories, shapes, categories.

The emergence of a new cognitive schema results in a need to communicate, which prompts the Self to associate the new schema with others. The Self-expanding is complete only when such communication occurs.

Example: Problem solving

  • Self-narrowing: as we learn more about a problem, finding a solution to it seems to be increasingly hopeless.
  • Self-expanding: when the person is about to give up, a new cognitive schema establishes itself, which in turn provides a solution to the problem.
  • Communicational pressure: regardless of obtaining a solution to the problem, the person does not experience complete Self-expanding until he can share it with others.

A detailed description of the model and of the basic concepts, with further examples, is provided here.

One virtue of this new model is that it integrates our knowledge of human behavior yet does not contradict psychology’s main discoveries. In addition, it harmonizes with statements of world religions and common sense.

1.  The framework - communication model

FIPP can also provide interesting conclusions on the relationships of couples, as was explored in the article on sex. Perhaps one further matter needs to be considered besides FIPP (and this is the key issue of every form of interaction between two people), namely the issue of communication.

During communication, nobody can be sure how the things he says or communicates are represented in the other person’s head. (For example, someone comparing a woman’s leg with that of a fawn, intending to woo her by pointing out the gracefulness and shapeliness of her feet, and the woman thinks that he is joking around with the hairiness of her legs and becomes upset.) During communication, a schema is activated (in the speaker’s head), it is then translated into the speaker’s spoken words, and these words activate schemata in the listener’s head. There is no certainty that the two schema will be the same. To make it happen, the speaker needs (besides the other matters described in the article on sex) to consider, at the moment of translating the schema into the spoken word just what schemata his words may activate in the listener.

1.1  Understanding each other

All these processes are interesting in the discussion of relationships of couples, as these automatic translation processes (from schemata to words and vice versa) build on previous experiences (discovered misunderstandings, common experiences), and become increasingly effective. They may even reach the level where couples (or spouses) who know each other well, will understand each other from a single grimace or look or tone; they do not need words and yet the effectiveness of their communications is excellent.

1.2  Never gets perfect

Excellent, but not perfect. It is possible that communication is far above average, but until the schemata in use are not perfectly the same, nor perfectly connected in exactly the same way, and until they use a perfect language (one which translates their schemata perfectly), it will always be that a word will activate a schema different to that which activated the word. Unfortunately, no matter much they like and understand each other, or how much they try to avoid it, there will always be a certain distance between them which cannot be bridged. The measure of this distance fluctuates. Sometimes it even provides the subjective experience that it seizes (the tool for it is sex, which provides total physical fusion). This fluctuation causes that which Erik Erikson calls hesitation between isolation and intimacy. Spouses may want to get very close to each other, but at the same time they wish to stay away from each other, to preserve their identities. If this fluctuation and distance were not there, couples could merge once and for al. (However, even then their experiences after the merger would establish different schemata in each of them). The relationship of spouses also has an inner life, similar to the relationship of the Self and Environment. Just as in Self-expansion and Self-narrowing, there are also situations in which couples seem to be inseparable, and sometimes where they appear to be on the edge of explosion (divorce).

2.  Dance and rhythms - Adaptation to each other

To understand the establishment of couple relationships, let us adopt dancing as an analogy. We may know people who have no sense of rhythm. We could imagine it as: in order to catch the proper rhythm, we should do something in the next few seconds: 1, 2, 3 etc. (when it is 00:01, 00:02, 00:03 etc. on the clock). Compared with this, people with a faulty sense of rhythm – or none at all – would dance those steps in the wrong time: 1, 1.75, 2.5, 3.25 etc. Even worse is when the differences of time between steps are not constant: 1; 1.8; 2.1; 3.3 etc.

The rhythm of music or drums is there to guide two people into attuning their movements e.g. the drum emits continual sound. What about the people who are regularly late, or too fast, on the step (either contrary to the rhythm or independent of it). The one who keeps to the rhythm of the music will stumble with the other person, or they step on each other’s feet etc. Even those who – theoretically – accorded with the rhythm will not enjoy the common activity (dance). Since we consider both parties as equal (e.g. we see them equal when we do not hear the music but only watch them dancing) we cannot decide which one of them is not following, or cannot follow, the rhythm, but everybody sees that there is no harmony, that their movements are not synchronized and do not flow. There are two possibilities to make their movement harmonize:

  • the one with a poor sense of rhythm has to find the rhythm
  • the one with a good sense of rhythm – or who does not ruin the rhythm – speeds up or slows down to find the other’s rhythm (thus both of them will then dance against the rhythm).

What conclusions can be drawn from this? Someone not following the rhythm does not mean that he does not enjoy dancing. If the partner makes the same mistakes (according to the same pattern), then they both look successful at what they are doing. But to achieve this one needs a partner who:

a.) makes exactly the same mistakes; or b.) has a higher (mistake) tolerance so that he does not sense the time shifts so intensely (so their legs do not stumble over each other).

3.  Domination and submission

Besides, there is another point in dancing: one party dominates, the other (in accordance with the rhythm) lets herself be led. If someone leads the dance exactly the way the other needs (with the proper force and timing), the result will be successful. A good dancer can be recognized from the wide range of movements used in attuning with the partner, of dominating and of being dominated, so that he is much more flexible in adapting to achieve success.

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As we can see, two things count: to be able to dominate (lead) and to accept domination e.g. I give the correct commands at the right moment time to my partner, but if she never follows them on time that would be in vain. So, I must give commands the same amount of time and earlier, as she is (usually) late to make the correct movement happen on time.

Let us return to our bad dancers. If someone has a bad sense of rhythm, will he never enjoy dancing? Far from it. He has to find the dancer who is as late or as early as he is. This is the parallel between dancing and couple relationships: nothing is perfect, yet most of us find a partner.

4.  Virtues and vices - fitting together

Everybody has faults. If I want to say it bluntly, everybody has personality problems. Even more crudely, everybody is sick. There is no perfectly healthy person, just like there is no single truth. One of the reasons is that different situations require different abilities. Similarly, different people require partners who, from different points of view, are tolerant or make different mistakes. An unskilled cook would wish that her husband’s taste buds did not work properly (or that he didn’t have any). There are people who have low sensitivity to the taste of salt (e.g. he has fewer taste buds for salt). This person requires a wife who always adds a lot of salt to their food.

Based on the above, we can say, for example, that a narcissistic person needs a self-sacrificing partner. Perhaps there is nothing interesting in this. However, although we feel sorry for self-sacrificing people, they feel the need to surrender their personalities, so they look for narcissistic people. An extreme example of mutually satisfying needs is the sado-masochistic couple. Everyone feels sad for masochists. The absurdity of the situation is well illustrated with the joke: a masochistic asks the sadist: “Hit me! Hit me!” The sadist smilingly says “Nooo! Nooo!” (meaning that he causes pain by not satisfying the masochist’s need for pain, and derives pleasure from causing that pain.)

5.  Factors of fitting

5.1  Factor 1 - orgasmability

Allow me, with no empirical examination (in tandem with the methodology of Psychology 2.0), based merely upon everyday experiences and stereotypes, to submit a new concept, a new personality trait: orgasmability. As will be seen, the concept does not completely lack a psychological basis, since I established it on the analogy of hypnability. Hypnability is a thoroughly examined property: of people, it is about how fast and how deep one can enter hypnosis. One analogy of this is the concept of orgasmability, which describes how fast someone can achieve an orgasm, and how intense, subjectively, his or her orgasm is. According to my assumption, these two concepts (hypnability and orgasmability) are closely correlated. Both of them are connected with the ability of tuning into the Environment. Orgasmability is linked with the widespread observation of gynecologists that women differ in how much vaginal moisture (lubrication) is produced on the same levels of excitement; men differ in how much they can suppress their sexual interest and how high their libido is.

Returning to everyday observations, we know cold, frigid people at one end of the scale. Yet Latin nations are stereotypically viewed as more emotional and that, consequently, their citizens (partially proved by surveys examining sexual habits) have more passionate sexual lives, and are a good example of the other end of the scale.

I feel it necessary to raise this concept as sexuality is an important part of our lives. Accordingly, orgasmability may be the most conspicuous property of people. The reason why it does not come to the fore is that observing it is not supported culturally: we rarely contemplate the sexual behavior of our president, a criminal judge or the old lady next door. This is partly, that no matter we have fantasies in connection with the manifestation of this parameter, apart from some exceptions (people with great sexual experience of many partners) we can verify our assumptions from a very small sample (e.g. whether a person we see in the street is as active or passive in bed as we think). More often, we test our ideas on the subject upon our circle of friends (in theory), and we usually agree here. However, these friends do not fulfill psychology’s present methodology, or the criteria, of sampling.

The existence of orgasmability is obvious, and unavoidable in cases when someone not only has it, but pushes it into the spotlight in a disturbing way: they are extremely frigid or achieve orgasms easily. In these cases, we can assume that letting other people know that they reach the extreme values (frigid or highly sexual) of orgasmability has a positive effect on their mental balance, and that he/she hopes he/she will profit from the existence of this property (e.g. an attorney or a nun tries to suggest reliability and steadfastness with their low orgasmability, while high orgasmability can be used to signal promiscuity or artistic talent.)

We heed this parameter, even if not necessarily consciously of it, when we are looking for a partner. There is an interval within this trait for everyone, during which other people can be found to be attractive. People within this interval arouse our interest instinctively, especially if they fit some of the basic parameters (e.g. age, gender, physical features).

However, filtering by basic parameters not only precedes, but is also connected with orgasmability: e.g. the importance of orgasmability decreases with age, a certain stature marks the measure of this in themselves (cf. being extremely thin or anorexic has been associated with being frigid, while plump, overweight people are seen as more emotional and physically demonstrative)

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This article, and many others, is now available in print.
The book, 'Self-expansion', contains a generalized version of FIPP not available on psy2.org

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Register and download the e-book for free!

Due to its connection with sexuality, orgasmability also entails strong emotional effects: in cases of a high value it means an affectionate or arbitrary person, in those of a low value, an aloof, distant person. This choice is in connection with the desired measure of our Selves: those who fear their Selves, if they are afraid that something will stick to or penetrate it, will look for a colder person as a partner, who approaches them less intensely. Those ones who see their Selves as too big, as something which grows by itself (like the teeth of rabbits and mice) need a partner who occasionally reduces their confidence and cuts their Selves down a little. People who are incapable of fast Self-expansion, or who need to feel that they can have a strong effect on their Environment, will need someone who expands fast, someone who is strongly orgasmable reaching high levels quickly even from a low level, etc.

5.2  Economy of relationships

Choosing a partner is a market too: the product and the price is written on our faces, even if we don’t see or notice it. If we took a better look at someone, we can ‘see’ the one sentence which describes him (a sort of unconscious self-description: for example, “I want to be approached by a man who is rich and who pays attention to appearances”; or “I consider myself so beautiful that only the most perfect people should dare to talk to me”; or “I’m so lame that I need a strong man/woman next to me or I am lost”, etc.) These sentences, despite being relatively simple, contain the demand and supply at the same time. It is not true that anyone can pick anyone else. Even preparing to be able to be chosen is an active process (when people dress up, indicating that they are ready to be chosen). Although some people seem to choose actively, their unlimited freedom to choose is apparent: they cannot choose from everybody. Firstly, they collect those who let themselves be chosen, and naturally they choose from them. Pop music bands have legendary sexuality. It is said that a member of the Beatles could have any woman. Apparently! Because he had the advantage, compared with an ordinary man, of access to those ladies who loved his music. For example, an old lady with an orientation to classical music hating loud popular music (an example of a person who did not love Beatles music) would have expelled any Beatle from her house as a hooligan. This belief, that there are people who can have anyone, is a typical result of an incorrect methodological conclusion: we examine a sample unrepresentative from the outset, since it was filtered by something. Then we draw a conclusion on a more general subject.

So, orgasmability is a good common denominator of finding partners, if we constantly bear in mind that everybody wants a maximum amount of orgasms, but at a certain level (comfort-zone) of Self-involvement.

Orgasmability is perhaps one of the strongest keys when choosing a partner, but there are also others. Some of these:

  • mental diseases, personality distortions
  • a particular combination of intellectual abilities (good memory with low intelligence; high creativity with bad visual memory etc.)
  • social status.

5.3  Factor 2 - mental illness.

Defining dependency

If we thoroughly examine the introduced FIPP, it turns out that such concepts as dependent personality do not exist. If we wan to use it, we have to consider everybody as a dependent person, which again makes the concept of dependent personality unusable. In clinical psychology, people are termed dependent if they undertake a certain behavior to excess, and escape to it from real life. Dependency is a collective term for drug addicts, heavy smokers, alcoholics, gamblers, pathological shoppers (who shop only for the pleasure of shopping and getting, not for a material need). Different theories explain what happens to control functions (which should normally stop these acts), early mother-child connections were damaged, etc.

Indeed, every person is an addict: we are dependent on Self-expansion. Only our methods are different. Some people combine methods, or use different strategies to achieve Self-expanded states. For example, sometimes using sex, sometimes problem solving, at other times charitable donations. Others do not change their ways. Perhaps we could better consider addicts as good or bad game strategists: some people always bluff, other people always ‘say’ the truth in poker. The winning strategy is the mixed solution: usually saying the truth but occasionally mixing in a few bluffs.

I have some concerns with the use and definition of the phrase dependent personality. Diagnoses accord with the social attractiveness of the result of behavior, and do not focus on the cause: was not Mother Theresa an altruism addict? Is not the obsessed researcher a discovery addict? If everyone looks into himself, he will find which techniques he uses to reach his everyday Self-expansions. These techniques depend on the brain. Results are provided to some people only by drugs, to others through promiscuity or Self-sacrificing maternal care. Amongst these, some cost more, some are more visible to the outside world (more difficult to conceal) and some are considered socially useful, so we welcome them instead of putting them into the same category as the heavy drinker’s alcohol dependency.

Let us examine an obsession which at first seems funny, but it is quite sad: kleptomania (an obsession with stealing). We know that kleptomaniacs do not steal for the value of the objects, but for the excitement of stealing and the pleasure of possession. Let us imagine an old lady affected by this disease. Preparing for stealing (as it requires focusing, planning and it is stressful), and the act itself (it is done under time pressure, high level of adrenaline), is a Self-narrowing process, the gaining of possession causes Self-expansion (the Self became richer with the stolen object). Is it possible that the lady has no other opportunity to obtain Self-expansion? Perhaps her intellectual abilities are incapable of allowing her to enjoy paintings or literary works. Sex may be out of the question as well. But she can still steal. Perhaps her parents forbade her stealing so much, and indoctrinated her so much with the idea of respecting property, that it causes her huge Self-expansion to violate this taboo. Once she tried it, she realized that is what she likes most, so she enforces this strategy. We do not have to search for neurological alterations or a change in neurotransmitter systems, for we need only reduce the measure of the taboo in order for her not to experience such disproportionate Self-expansion. It also shows that prohibition is not the proper remedy, as it only increases the taboo and, indirectly, the Self-expansion.

Mental illness

Let us return to choosing a partner. I deliberately indicated earlier that personality distortions and mental illnesses are of help in choosing a partner. Regardless of what we call it, it seems logical that, if someone has a weakness, he looks for a person with whom he can live his life despite having this weakness. As an extreme example: if my stomach is twice the size of a normal bladder, then I will look for a person who is an excellent cook so that he/she can cook excellent food for me. Or a person with an equally large appetite, so that we can eat together as often – and as much – as we like. I deliberately chose an extreme example: it could have been an example of extreme sexual desire and its toleration, or with being pedantic or easy-going.

If we return to the answer to the question of the dependent personality, we can say that everybody looks for a partner with the same life strategy (someone who seeks Self-expansion via the same methods), or whose life strategies do not cross each others. Further, that they help each other, just any way that leads to Self-expansion. We have to expand our perspective with one more thing: it is not only our own Self-expanding strategies that count when we plan for or dream of a life rich in Self-expansion. A relationship can be compared to (as in symbiosis) giving Self-expansion to each other, as in a barter deal: I like to listen if somebody sings and I am bored with the subject of money. You need money and it means nothing to you to sing all day, so you sing all day long.

A part of the abilities exclude others: for example, we cannot be at once both right- and left-handed. If we were, we would be mediocre at everything. We cannot be a man and a woman at the same time. Also, different techniques of Self-expansion are available for men and women. Probably via a somewhat different route, but for the same reason, Jung reached the concepts of animus and anima.

Animus and anima

Animus and anima are the Latin terms for the male and female spirit. According to Jung’s statement, there is a man in every woman (animus) and there is a woman in every man (anima). In Jung’s opinion, the condition of mental health is the harmony of two spirits in one body: so that the woman accepts that she has masculine thoughts. The man accepts that he can become overtly emotional; tears come to his eyes if he sees a child stroking a dog, or he cannot wait to go to work in his new suit to show it off to his colleagues. To attain and maintain mental health the man has to accept his anima, and the woman her animus.

We can go further than Jung: it is not difficult to notice that there are different techniques for Self-expansion according to different genders – manifested in the animus and the anima – and the cognitive schema which can be accessed and activated by them. In the case of anima it might be music, a child, etc.; in animus, strength, competition; and so forth. In order to be able to produce new Self-expansions, we cannot limit ourselves to our gender’s half of the opportunities. Regardless of how good our techniques are: a.) we may use up all our possibilities after awhile (e.g. someone likes climbing mountains, but cannot afford to travel any farther than the little hill of his village which he can scale blindfolded; that is then a problem) and the technique begins to cause increasingly smaller Self-expansions; b.) we become completely one-sided, and use our techniques to affect every part of our lives (e.g. when someone risks his job or marriage or existence to climb mountains); c.) when the frames are so expanded that it threatens us with annihilation (e.g. when we begin to climb Everest with a bad vascular system simply because we have climbed everything else).

5.4  Factor 3 - intellectual abilities

As a head hunter, I have interviewed many other people for different jobs throughout my life. Flexibility was the declared expectation of many clients, together with creativity. As a classical psychologist, I would have been supposed to take some creativity tests and test – and tire – applicants with them. Questions arise: what exactly do creativity tests measure; and what type of creativity was it that my clients required. Instead, I decided to examine their ability to change viewpoints. Perhaps I might have found a test for this, so what remained was to confront them with spontaneity. During the interview I frequently changed the subject, sometimes to one completely unconnected with the subject of the job. Then, not impolitely, I might get up from the table and do something unusual: walk out of the room, tell jokes, open and shut the window &c. In the meantime, I was curious as to how quickly they adapted to the new situation, and how much what I did confused them. On many occasions the speed, topics and vocabulary of the conversation showed me that there is no possibility of using these tricks. At other times, a funny or jokey association was enough to show that there was no appropriate response to it (a typical “free shot” situation); I was the measuring instrument. If they could follow, or maybe even surprise, me, then I could be sure my clients would then consider the applicants intelligence, flexibility, etc.

A friend spontaneously gave selected women weird presents at university parties; he made flowers out of napkins, or something out of a match. Those who appreciated creativity were worth doing something with.

Why am I relating this, and how do they fit into the topic? In long-term relationships (professional or private), the main point of attuning to each other is to show whether the partners can relax in each other’s company, or their response to each other’s creativity. They can spread the new cognitive schemata established in their Self-expansions, moreover they can build new cognitive schemata on each other’s schemata, which causes Self-expansion for both of them. These new cognitive schemata can be painful puns, dry humor, beautiful rhymes, poetic images or mathematical formulae, new ballet steps or musical tunes. The point is to be able to provide the other with Self-expansion by producing cognitive schemata during their communication. That newly-created cognitive schema has to be new and usable for the partner. It does not matter whether this happens at the workplace during a brainstorming session, or in a dance hall, or between jazz musicians who have spontaneously gathered to improvise.

This is another way of choosing a partner in life.

The other extreme of choosing a partner is when we at least do not have to be afraid that the partner causes, or will cause, us Self-narrowing. A person who hold himself in high esteem, but who has weaker abilities, will be anxious if he is unable to follow his partner whom he also holds in high esteem; say in music, sport or conversation. If I meet Michael Jordan to play 2-on-2 street ball, his being much better than me will not be my only problem. It would make me nervous that perhaps I should not be his partner as I do not know even the most basic techniques. If I make myself believe that I am an excellent physicist and able to talk to Einstein or Hawking, then I will feel small and embarrassed, as I would not be able to understand him (I Self-narrow), and he has to make increasingly lower-level schemata in order not to end the conversation. This will be inconvenient for him, as he does not obtain any Self-expansion. However, if I stand with a person who is more or less on the same level as myself, perhaps what we talk about will not be so inspiring, but at least I do not narrow myself. And I will try to expand my Self in other fields of life.

Advertisement

This article, and many others, is now available in print.
The book, 'Self-expansion', contains a generalized version of FIPP not available on psy2.org

Buy it on Lulu.Review copies are available for academics upon e-mail requestBuy it on Lulu.

Register and download the e-book for free!

The concept of creativity is too inconceivable to be of use (there is visual and acoustic, originality, out-of-the-box-thinking, restructuring). Sometimes, classic creativity is not what the establishment of a new schema requires: to recall a part of a poem which fits a situation requires long-term memory, a strategic game requires thorough planning, music requires good musicality, dancing requires a good sense of rhythm and co-ordination of movement, etc. That is why creativity and intelligence are not the only things which count in choosing a partner or employee, but the compilation of these abilities. Of probably equal importance are personality and communication. A great result can be related with insulting arrogance (bigheadedness), and a huge mistake can be fixed with charming and politeness.

Again, I do not want to describe a recipe, only viewpoints which can be used to help in understanding the whole picture.

5.5  Factor 4 - socio-economic status

There is nothing particularly new in describing the rôle of social status in choosing partners. If a young lady wants to go home from the disco in an expensive car, these days she examines the men, what car they arrived in &c.

But money and wealth are dynamic: having a EUR 40,000 car does not mean I do not have a EUR 60,000 loan. An empty wallet does not mean that I have no money in the bank or a monthly salary of EUR 8,000. As an initial approach, I believe that money in a wallet, and wealth, can be seen at a certain moment as so plastic, that this source of information can satisfy only an extremely short-term thinker.

Economic status is a superior source of information, although for those who believe in the power of money, choosing a partner based on wealth reverts to choosing a partner based on mental illness. Why? Because wealth, in most cases, is important when it is needed for a dependency (dependent shopping or gambling). The other variation is when a wealthy man or woman avoids Self-narrowing by choosing a similarly wealthy partner: so he/she will not be afraid that the merging of their fortunes will make his/her half of their combined wealth considerably smaller than what he/she is used to. This can be uncomfortable in cases of divorce or living up to and beyond those reserves of wealth.

We should confront the question: why economic status would be important in choosing a partner? It is simultaneously important and unimportant. Economic (to be more exact: socio-economic) status is very important as it accompanies cultural fitting. Also, cultural background tells us something of intellectual ability and the similarity of cognitive schemata. If I was raised in a family comparable to that of a potential partner, we will have the same experiences, and I can then provide that partner with Self-expansion when I have reactions similar to hers.

At the same time, it is not important, as most high-level Self-expansion is not dependent upon money. There again, wealth shows its importance in that a lack of money can cause much Self-narrowing (frustration, conflict &c.).