Chapter 3 Learning Objectives

Upon reading this chapter, the student should be able to:

  • Recognize that all relationships involve 1) emotion aspects (attractions or dislike, in various degree), 2) satisfaction/dissatisfaction aspect, and 3) an ethical aspect (i.e., how good or bad acts are (specifically and in general) for each partner in the relationship.
  • Explain how each of the three relationship aspects listed above vary in degree or strength.

Watch this video or scan the QR code to see better understand why relationships are hard.

Every relationship has the potential to involve (1) emotional aspect or feeling aspects, (2) satisfaction or dissatisfaction aspects, and (3) good or bad (that is, ethical) aspects.

There is an overlap here since satisfactions, to the extent they are pleasurable sensations, are both feelings and good things; dissatisfactions are feelings and bad things. But I want to make and use these distinctions because I want to be able to talk about the ethical aspects of relationships over and above their joys and dissatisfactions since many things may be both enjoyable and harmful, enjoyable in terms of pleasurable sensations but harmful in terms of side- effects, consequences, or some other relevant factor. For example, satisfying sex that results in an unwanted pregnancy or disease. Similarly, some very unpleasant things may result in great good, such as ill- tasting medicine. (This is not to say that all ethics involves only harm and benefit, but that will be explained in detail in the ethics chapter. A sufficient example of that for now is the nature of the obligation to keep a promise or appointment even though doing so might not cause as much pleasure as breaking it would.) I want to keep the above distinctions also because I want to give ample consideration to satisfactions and dissatisfactions since they form perhaps the most noticeable or visible part of ethics, relationships, and life. Finally, I want to make the distinction between joys and other kinds of feelings because I am especially interested in some of those other kinds, particularly feelings of attraction.

I believe that these three categories—feelings, satisfactions, and ethics—can profitably be considered separately, even though often they do not occur separately in life. I further believe that these categories involve most, if not all, of the significant aspects of any relationship, and that most of the important things concerning relationships will involve one, two, or all three of these categories.

I believe the clearest, most useful, most helpful way of speaking and thinking about relationships is to separate talking about those (1) between people who have feelings (of attraction) for each other, (2) between people who satisfy or give (significant) joy to each other, and (3) between people who are good for each other. This way of speaking separates relationships on the basis of the above three categories and allows more clarity of communication. For example, a parent might be able to explain more clearly to his daughter why he disapproves of her going with or becoming engaged to a particular boy by saying, “I know you are attracted to each other and enjoy each other a lot, but I do not believe that you satisfy each other in enough areas that the relationship will stay a happy one very long because….” This is a far preferable basis for discussion of the situation than “You don’t really love that boy; you just think you do; you’re too young to even know what love is,” where the father might be referring to a beneficial aspect or to some concern there will be lack of (significant) mutual satisfactions as they grow older but where the girl might then easily take him to be simply questioning her feelings for the boy, or the boy’s feelings for her. In which case, she would probably reply, “But we do love each other.” And thus most likely would the idle and unproductive disagreement end with anger and/or hurt feelings, and with each side believing they are right and the other blind and obstinate.

Key Takeaways

  • Students should begin to see all relationships in terms of the three aspects discussed in this chapter.

Key Terms

  • The emotional aspect of relationships refers to feelings involving the other person, particularly, but not only, feelings of attraction or aversion for another person and will be explained in greater detail in subsequent chapters.
  • The satisfaction/dissatisfaction aspect refers to how enjoyable or dissatisfying given times or acts in the relationship are for either or both partners or how satisfying or dissatisfying the relationship is in general for either or both and will be explained in greater detail in subsequent chapters.
  • Ethical aspect of relationships refers to how good or bad, and how right or wrong for one or both people any given act in a relationship is or how good or bad for either or both the relationship in general is.  Chapters 25 and 26 give a detailed explanation about ethics and ethical principles.

Chapter 3 Review Questions

  • Question: Every relationship has the potential to involve what three aspects?
  • Question: What are the three clearest, most useful, most helpful ways of speaking and thinking about relationships?


Chapter 3 The Three Important Aspects of Relationships Copyright © 2017 by jhill5 and Richard Garlikov. All Rights Reserved.

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