[Note: Because my philosopher and I are celebrating our third year of marriage this week, I thought it would be fun to talk about philosophers in romantic relationships. I’ve brainstormed and/or collected ideas from readers for a short series of posts this week, dealing with some issues involved with being in a relationship with a philosopher.]
You know that consuming feeling you have when you begin a new relationship—it’s like everything you think or do is about your new fling. You want to be with them all the time. Etc. This is how philosophers feel about ideas. If I’ve not said this outright, I’ve hinted at it before: Philosophers are consumed by ideas.
I can remember one particularly special occasion in the earlier years with my philosopher, an especially intimate one (out on a nice date during the holidays). I was thinking about our future together and all that sweet stuff and he looked especially ponderous, so I asked him what he was thinking about. “I was thinking about how to better teach deductive logic to my next intro class. My previous method just didn’t seem to work . . . [etc].”
Next thing I knew I was reluctantly involved in a two-hour discussion about teaching methods—teaching methods for logic, no less.
Earlier in our relationship when things like this happened, I assumed that I was not interesting enough or that he must not like me all that much. This was false, obviously, and as I came to realize this I developed a mantra that I repeat to myself whenever something like this happens: My philosopher is not only in a relationship with me; my philosopher is also in a relationship with ideas.
Think for a minute about how much time your philosopher spends thinking about ideas, reading about ideas, or talking about ideas with other people? Your philosopher is also likely not just in love with philosophical ideas, but with many other intellectual ideas.
I know some spouses/partners who are so frustrated with sharing a relationship with ideas that they try to require their philosopher to just be a normal person and not think about ideas when they are around. Demanding that your philosopher give up thinking about ideas when you’re around is like asking a cat to give up meat or asking the earth’s core to stop being hot—hello, it’s what they are.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a little time to just talk about something that you want to talk about, too, but demanding this all the time is completely unreasonable. Your philosopher probably doesn’t ask you to always pretend to be a philosopher when they are around (and if they do—shame on them!—now is the time to stand up for yourself and remind them that you are an individual, not a philosophy-book).
So here are some fun methods that you can use to continue to develop a meaningful relationship with your philosopher and her/his ideas, because, frankly, those ideas are just never going to leave:
1. Read a book together.
It doesn’t have to be a particularly deep or philosophical book. Part of developing a relationship with someone is having shared experiences with them. In order to know your philosopher’s ideas and your philosopher, reading a book and discussing it can bring both of them out.
2. Attend a play.
Your philosopher may complain about all of the time it will take, the lack of talent in the theater these days, or the fact that they usually don’t like plays, but ignore all of that. Experiencing a play (particularly more serious ones or tragedies) can be a wealth of conversation topics. You, your philosopher, and her/his ideas might end up having a grand time afterward when you discuss this play over ice cream [going out for dessert or coffee afterward is necessary].
3. Volunteer at a local charity.
Helping those less fortunate can open up a whole slew of interesting discussions about certain ideas, particularly social/political ones. Not only will you be able to share an experience and discuss some interesting ideas, but you’re also helping out other people a bit, which is something that we all like to approve of but rarely do.
4. Invite another couple over and play Trivial Pursuit.
Make sure you find yourself on a team with your philosopher, because you two are going to totally dominate the game. Philosophers are excellent at whipping out of the knowledge they’ve accrued for tight situations (survival techniques: when they present papers or teach classes, they have to be able to defend positions immediately). Your philosopher’s ideas-knowledge can be supremely useful for games like this. My philosopher and I are a particularly dynamic team, so watch out [Note: When my philosopher and I played Trivial Pursuit against each other, I did win, but probably because I made more intuitive choices rather than his method of approaching the questions as if the game makers were trying to pull a GRE question on him—i.e. trying to fool him]. This can be a particularly exciting game with another philosopher + non-philosopher couple like you.
So go out there and get to know the other lover in your philosopher’s life. You will have a much more rewarding relationship if you learn how to use it and enjoy it, not to constantly fight it.
Please feel free to add your own suggestions or stories in the comments. I love hearing your philosopher-stories.
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