My entry for Two to Tango at Game of Cards.
For this challenge, I decided to write the first of what will hopefully become a whole series of blog entries to our blog Blibli Blogging
that are different from what you’d normally expect blog posts to be.
These posts will be from the perspective of a person living in the far future, in a society in which power has been completely abolished and the only value is individuality. This first entry will deal with romantic relationships, particularly with the question why those relationships always have to be between two people.
Why always two?
As a historian and lover of human relationships I constantly come across things that seem foreign, strange, even harmful. I wrote about quite a few of these things before on this blog, like gender, the definition of romance and sexual relations.
But this entry will be about a phenomenon that is impossible to miss when one studies the ways in which people perpetuated relationships between human beings, how they saw them. Specifically romantic relationships, which were evidently immensely important to our ancestors.
There are hundreds and thousands of books, articles, films, products in any media imaginable that have as sole subject romantic relationships. And while as I wrote previously, most of these praised relationships seemed to solely be between a woman and a man (due to gender it was far easier to be able to tell who was which without having to reference genitals), there is another phenomenon which they all have in common.
All of those romantic relationships are between two people. Even when it is one of the rare cases in which both participants are of the same sex, it always comes down to two people.
There are quite a few sources in which having a third person in the romantic relationship, especially one of the participants having sex with a third person, is seen as ruining said romantic relationship, as worst crime.
While all of this seems very strange from our viewpoint, the first logical assumption is that in ancient times when procreation had to be achieved through a physical sex act between female and male, those relationships could have served the function of ensuring that a particular couple would produce offspring.
This theory does have some merit, but the problem with it is that after the offspring was born there simply wasn’t any reason for a couple to continue a romantic relationship solely with each other or at all.
Why then did they praise those relationships over everything else? Why did they create so many things that had as sole content relationships like that? And always depicted them simultaneously as the most important thing to strive for and the thing that made the individuals the least happy?
The answer is found in the book on which, as a lot of historians, me included, believe the most prevalent ancient society, that ruled the world as we know it for thousands of years before the shift to what we now know as our current society, was based.
A religious text that cites an all knowing, all powerful being as author and outlines how this being created the world and how it interacted with humans. Now, this again seems very strange from today’s perspective, as I’ve outlined before, but it seemed logical to the humans who lived in those times.
They did not know science so scientific phenomena needed a reasoning and that reasoning was found in supernatural powers.
But this specific book takes one step further. It doesn’t just outline how it would be possible for supernatural powers to be responsible for natural phenomena as other ancient texts did, it demands from the very first pages absolute obedience from all human beings to this one supernatural power.
And also from the very first pages it demands that human beings are in relationships of two people, a male and a female, and it posits the female under the male, as being subservient to the male.
So the answer to the question of why romantic relationships in that society had to consist of two people and had to be pursued even to the detriment of the individual, especially the female individual, leads us back to the common denominator of all those strange and harmful habits the people in that society seemed to have willingly participated in. Power.
Citing the powers of a supernatural being, people believed that they had to live their lives in a certain way. And even after scientific discoveries, after the shedding of those religious beliefs by many, the power structures stayed intact.
And the pursuing of a romantic relationship consisting of solely two people, most notably a female and a male, was one of the main ways in which those power structures were upheld.
Females and males were both told from birth that their sole goal should be procreation and subsequent rearing of offspring inside a romantic relationship. There is overwhelming evidence that this was the main goal of this society.
It very obviously seems impractical and plain harmful and dangerous to force every single person to procreate and rear their offspring themselves from our perspective, but in those times that was the one driving force of society.
Both having a partner in a romantic relationship and having offspring were seen as making someone important in the eyes of society, giving someone status and power, things that were the foundations of that society.
While it was common to leave one romantic relationship and enter another one, the relationships itself nearly always stayed between two people, nearly always between two people who did not even like each other, who had nothing in common, who got into verbal and quite often even physical disagreements all the time.
Why it would be deemed the highest goal in society to pursue a romantic relationship like that, to procreate and rear offspring inside of such a seemingly unhealthy and potentially dangerous relationship is a question that most historians are answering with the perpetuation of power having been the most important.
And while it is clear that it does come down to power and the perpetuation of it having been the most important value in that society and that this was started by and upheld through religion and that the goals were to ensure (reproductive) resources for very few choice individuals, the number two as the most pursued and praised number for a romantic relationship has been subject to fluctuation.
It does remain stable enough to come to the conclusion that it was the most perpetuated throughout that society though. At this stage of my research I would say that this was due to it being the easiest way to maintain power structures in a relationship. While the main goal of those relationship was to produce and rear offspring, those offspring seemed to not have any say in anything, thus were automatically at the bottom of the power structure and not seen as a danger to it.
Other adults on the other hand were. Which is the most likely reason why the surviving sources from those times reference other adults endangering or destroying the relationship with enormous frequency. The other adult might want to free one of the individuals in the depicted romantic relationship from the power dynamics, they might want the individual to be happy, to be free, but in the end they never succeed and going back to the romantic partner, restoring the power structure, is seen as the most important.
Sometimes one partner goes too far and physically assaults the partner inside of the romantic relationship. This is then seen as the only way for the partner on the bottom of the power structure to escape the relationship. But they almost always enter another relationship with the same power structures but less physical assault at the end of the piece.
To summarize, as with nearly everything else during the rule of that society, romantic relationships almost always consisting of two people was very likely due to the perpetuation of power having been the highest value.
It is always astounding in an awful way to uncover another level of dehumanization, oppression and unhappiness the people of that society were subjected to due to the perpetuation of power.
We can only hope that we continue to learn from their mistakes. Power is not a good thing. It can never be a good thing. We know that now and we need to preserve that knowledge.