Relational Sweet Spots

The zone where a connection feels just right as it is.

Have you ever experienced this sweet spot where you’re both as satisfied as you can be with the nature of the relationship? Both of you are in your comfort and boundary zones along the Pareto front where the situation cannot be improved for one without it worsening for the other. In romance, this relationship sweet spot is an ideal where one feels protected and connected: balancing fulfilling intimate connection with free spacetime and independence, sustainably healthy and harmonious for all involved.

With my immense social growth and exploration, I’ve been thinking that it’s time to engage my philosoraptor spirit and flesh out some social theories. What could a generic end goal for social relations look like? Can we provide some compelling structure to guide social explorations?

I began from the romantic relationship angle where we often wish to get it just right. In the same spirit as the adage to play with theories “as simple as possible and no simpler”, shall we co-create relationships “as close as possible and no closer”? The sweet spot idea seems to apply to all social relations. The difference from marriage-like partnerships is that the satisfaction criteria at which there’s a healthy equilibrium may be less clear. If not going all the way to ride or die, how do we know when we’re there?

Two calibration questions I see here are:

  1. Is this the right form of intimacy among us?
  2. Is this the right form of intimacy with me and reality?

The relationship with reality is the most important to fulfill.

In terms of fulfilling needs, people generally need relationships with many beings in order to thrive: even advanced yogis need sun and air. Most people rely on numerous food sources, which rely on soil and whole ecosystems. So many relationships to harmonize! — When this gestalt of life is in a mutually satisfactory, win-win relationship with one, then one is indeed in a pretty sweet spot.

The environment matters and plays into local optima: stranded on a deserted island, the sweetest spot attainable may be quite a bit different than greener grass in idyllic environments: the intimate bond with the only other inhabitant of the island may be maxed out, even if one would scarcely interact with em in a vibrant city setting. An “enthusiastic yes or no” depends on the context. Thus there’s a dynamic dance of navigating and co-creating optimific environments as entering into sweet spot relationships within the current environments.

There’s also a fun dynamic between the personal and cosmic intimacy dances in terms of where to focus. For humans, a small selection of other humans tends to make up a large part of one’s relationship with reality, thus it’s important for these relationships to remain sustainably sweet. Yet over-extending one relationship to try to fulfill all of one’s (relational) needs with reality is a common way to break through boundaries into toxic territories. For mono folk, a large swathe of needs must be met with one special person. The stranded desert island scenario demonstrates that personal sweet spots cannot be considered out of context: our best relationship that works well for us may, in comparison to other options, be underwhelming and heavily spacetime-filling, leaving scant room for deeper, richer bonds to sprout.

Are there fully satisfying connections so good that there will be no need or interest in upgrading them? I imagine this is an ideal with best friends and romantic partners: when people will grow and adapt together in harmony to dynamic life circumstances. I imagine this is the answer to the question of which aspects of human existence could be future-proof to AI and automation: we should not ask which specific functions AI and machinekind can or cannot do, we should ask which aspects of human connection are at fully satisfying sweet spots so good the question of replacing them never arises — auto-sprouts will grow around them, enriching them, being enriched by them.

I see some parallels with the theme of invariants in personal development: sweet spots are relational invariants that all partners are satisfied with (temporarily) reifying, individuating, as playing with the rest of life. Some may be plausibly eternal. As an example, my philosoraptor spirit seems to be a semi-autonomous, self-perpetuating part of my mind/being with a life of its own that is highly appreciated: most likely continuations of Zar will continue to endorse this inner philosoraptor. My style of intellectual exploration is open-ended. So one should expect identity-preserving growth indefinitely. Could relationships among entities be plausibly eternal as well? The further suggestion is that where relationships are not fully satisfying in their current form, one should lighten the bonds to open up room for exploration and the potential for radical transformation with reality.

Due to the breadth of meanings one may align with in life, one expects that relational sweet spots can take many forms suited to the entities involved. Within romantic relationships, people give and receive love differently and can have diverse ways of aligning emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual intimacy for 4-D relationships and beyond. Beyond butt buddies and life partners, we can look to lighter relationships: for me, I-Thou relationships with local bakers feel closer to a sweet spot! I enjoy a stance of warmth when with fellow beings (while honoring each other’s space, which is important in life-dense localities such as cities and jungles). In business, dealing with benefit corporations may be an aspect of one stable attractor in the relationship space where sweet spots can lie: I’ll generally prefer doing business with principled, ethically caring partners. Doing business with questionable entities is probably unstable: I’ll jump ship the moment a better opportunity arises (if not earlier). Sometimes, such as with frenemies, downgrading a relationship might actually be a sweet spot: some people are easier to love at a distance where their contribution to evolutionary exploration is easier to appreciate. I’ve long had the idea that “tennis buddies” could be a sweet spot where people are highly aligned for a common interest and otherwise give each other ample space.

The invitation of this frame is to explore a social life where all of one’s relationships are at their respective sweet spots, dynamically dancing the explore-enjoy balance among personal and cosmic relationships toward greater socially fulfilling, enriching harmony.

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