Chapter 5 Learning Objectives

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

  • Explain how satisfactions can be in different degrees and can arise from satisfaction of three different kinds of wants, those of: 1) felt desires or expectations, 2) half-expectations or half-desires, and 3) totally unexpected pleasures.  Discuss the similarities that can arise from lack of fulfillment of the first two (above) and from totally unexpected disappointment or displeasure.
  • Argue that meeting common interests is not necessarily the same thing as having mutual satisfactions.

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Simply being attracted to someone, even in cases where there are no outside impediments thwarting your being together, does not insure that they and their actions will bring you any happiness or satisfaction. In fact, in far too many cases quite the opposite is the result. One of the hardest kinds of relationships to end or endure is that which hangs on because the two people have some sort of attraction for each other even though whenever they are together, one or both make the other thoroughly miserable.

Equally but opposite, finding someone unattractive does not necessarily dispose you to find all their actions unpleasant, disappointing, or dissatisfying. You may, for example, enjoy playing tennis with someone you have no feelings for one way or the other, or even with someone you do not like. (In fact, when you play well against someone you dislike, win, and have to work very hard to do so because they are a good player, it might be a rather exhilarating experience.)

I wish to call the aspect of a relationship in which you find the other person’s behavior on the one hand agreeable, fun, pleasant, satisfying, heart-warming, engaging, heavenly, ecstatic, etc., or, on the other hand, unpleasant, disagreeable, irritating, offensive, nauseating, heartbreaking, tormenting, etc., the satisfaction- dissatisfaction aspect, or for short, the satisfaction aspect.

In a sense, this is really a number of aspects which often, but not always, coincide. It is a number of aspects because we can have satisfactions and/or dissatisfactions in different areas and because our satisfactions and dissatisfactions, being feelings, can often both occur without their being any overriding feeling of either satisfaction or of dissatisfaction; that is, neither feeling takes precedence. For example, in the over- simple case of the person who finds his or her partner sexually gratifying but intellectually stultifying, or vice versa, an evening may be spent alternating between the sublime and the intolerable, without any sort of average able to be felt, calculated, or, for any meaningfully informative purpose, given. There may be nothing one can say in terms of one point on one satisfaction-dissatisfaction scale about the entire evening, but only point out that during the evening there were times with much satisfaction (of certain sorts), other times with much dissatisfaction (of certain sorts), and still other times with some of each (of whatever sorts).

Sometimes, of course, we feel that we can put an entire period of time on one point on one scale, simply because we actually feel that the annoyances were totally overridden by the pleasantries (or vice versa) and that on the whole the occasion was quite satisfactory. Or we can demarcate such a point on one scale because the time in question was either wholly pleasant or wholly unpleasant. It is important to remember though that this is not always the case — that sometimes our feelings are mixed, and there is no point, and often no sense, in trying to “average” them on one point of one satisfaction-dissatisfaction scale.

Now there may be times and areas when one is neither particularly satisfied nor dissatisfied. If it is general or overall, one might call this a state of the blahs. I do not call it that, however, because I consider a state of lethargy, bored inactivity, doldrums, or the blahs as being distinctly dissatisfying. But whatever it might be called then, if there is (are) such a middle state(s), I would put it (them) on the “center” of any satisfaction- dissatisfaction scale that runs from one end of most intense dissatisfaction to the other end of most intense satisfaction, centered between weakest satisfaction and weakest dissatisfaction. What matters is to be able to recognize the condition and to be able to discuss it in application to relationships if it should occur. It is not important that we discuss relationships in the fewest number of terms, distinctions, or depictions, but it is important that we make distinctions which are accurate and which reflect the significant things we want and need to consider in relationships.

Similarly, with regard to feelings, it is not important how exactly we may want to describe the case where we have no particular feelings about someone in terms of the attraction-aversion scale(s); whether it is in between attraction and aversion or at one end of either side, or to consider such indifference as something altogether different. I myself tend to think of attractions and aversions as being able to be depicted on one, or a number, of continuous scales, from intense repugnance or aversion (in general, or in one or more specific areas — physical, sexual, intellectual, artistic, etc.) to intense attraction (in general, or in one or more areas), with “having no feelings”, or feeling indifferent, about someone, lying “in the middle” between the mildest attraction and the mildest aversion. But the point is simply to be able to recognize such a state of having no attraction or aversion to someone should it occur and to be able to think about it’s significance, if any, for your relationship with that person.

When I said at the beginning of chapter 3 that all relationships have the potential to involve emotional, satisfaction-dissatisfaction, and ethical aspects, I was including cases where those emotions, satisfactions, and benefits (or dissatisfactions or harms) were zero or non-existent. The categories apply to every relationship, whatever the contents, or the lack of contents, of those categories. It can be just as important to know there are no feelings, no benefits, or no joys in (areas of) a relationship (and no harms or dissatisfactions) as to know there are and to know what they are (and in what areas).

With most people whom we know over a period of time, we come to have a good idea of which kinds of activities we enjoy with them and which we do not. Cards or golf with Jones might be enjoyable, but he is not the person with whom to discuss serious personal problems or anxieties. Sally may be good company when you feel lighthearted and want to kid around or just have some small talk for a few hours without having to be serious; she may not be the person with whom you want to play chess or discuss serious matters about work. Mary may be a great chess opponent for you and may enjoy the same kind of movies you do, but she may not be very good company at a basketball game or fashion show. Martin may be someone you want to build your house or repair your car, but not to have over for a dinner party. We generally do not set out to pigeonhole our friends and acquaintances but we do often find out that we don’t enjoy doing the same things with all of them. Sometimes, as with regard to sports and games, they may simply not be close enough to your level of (in)competence to enjoy playing with them, unless you are in the mood for giving or taking lessons rather than simply playing.

Likewise with regard to specialized areas of interest such as your field of work or one of your hobbies. Sometimes people’s personalities or general abilities tend to cause you to avoid or include whole kinds of areas with them.  A know-it-all, argumentative type is generally not much fun to talk politics, religion, social criticism, etc. with even though participating in sports with him or her might be quite enjoyable, as long as the sport does not allow much time for lectures. Some people are not very introspective, so introspective persons might tend to avoid areas of discourse with them they would love to discuss with someone sensitive to such matters. Devout liberals and devout conservatives may have difficulty discussing certain matters without getting one another upset, and yet still be the best of friends. In fact, sometimes it is because they are otherwise the best of friends that they find it so unnerving that the other person is so ignorant, stubborn, blind, unreasonable, and insensitive about such matters.

And though whether one is attracted to the other person or not sometimes influences what one likes to do with them, generally it does not. Kissing, making love, etc. for most people most of the time in our culture often depend in part for their satisfaction on one’s being at least somewhat attracted to the other person. But one can enjoy doing many things with people one is not attracted to. One certainly can enjoy talking or playing tennis with a relative without having incestuous motives; or with a person of the same sex, without thereby being homosexual.

One can enjoy the company of one’s friends without having any particular attractions or feelings other than feelings of friendship and enjoyable companionship with them. One might even sometimes enjoy an activity with, or the company of, strangers one has no particular attractions for.  One may prefer, in fact, to discuss certain problems with a stranger rather than a friend, or may prefer to play tennis, when in a very aggressive mood, with someone he does not much like at all.

And on the opposite side, having strong feelings of attraction for someone does not in any way assure that you will enjoy doing some particular activity with them. Having a strong sexual or physical attraction for someone else certainly does not insure they will be able to discuss in any interesting way, issues of interest to you nor be much fun at the tennis court, bowling alley, art museum or some particular movie. It may not even guaranty finding them enjoyable in bed. Even having strong emotional and physical attractions for each other does not guaranty that there will not be some activities that one would prefer doing with someone else, or alone. Many men who love their wives would just rather play golf with other men; and often their golfing wives equally prefer playing their golf with other women. I generally prefer to watch serious television productions alone rather than with most people I am very close to because I find, if we watch together we often tend to interrupt each other’s’ reveries with comments at the wrong times.

There are people though who, it seems, are very happy doing about anything with someone they like just because they are with that person. They enjoy being at otherwise boring or deplorable movies, conventions, sports events, concerts, whatever, as long as they are spending time with a loved one or one for whom they have strong feelings of attachment.

From informal surveys I have taken on this matter, it appears most often to be single girls and young women who fall into this category, and whether their views will change as they get older, I do not know.  But it remains that for such people, what they will most often find satisfying about activities they share in a relationship will have less to do with their abilities or interests in those activities, or with how well the activities go, than it will with the fact they are sharing them with the one for whom they have strong feelings of attraction. Hence, it will be important for them that their loved ones be able and willing to spend time with them, more time perhaps than most couples might tend to want to share just for the sake of being together, rather than doing something together that is interesting to both.

I am talking here about general tendencies, since most people find they want simply to be around a loved one at times even though they really have nothing they particularly want to say or to do.  Most people will periodically enjoy sharing an activity with a loved one more for the sake of the sharing than of the activity. For example, a championship bowler who loves the competition of the sport might go bowling with a less competent friend or loved one just for the sake of their company, not even feeling compelled to give lessons, rather than for any exhilaration that might come from competition. And conversely, I would suspect that even the most companion- loving people find times that their partner’s or opponent’s ability, or their own (lack of) interest, in some activity is more important than whether they have strong feelings for them or not. There must be times, I would think, when they want to talk with someone who understands something better than a loved one might, or want to go somewhere or do something with someone else whose interests and/or abilities might be closer to their own—at least in that particular area.

It is easy to see how dissatisfaction could easily creep in to a relationship between a “company lover” (who wants a loved one’s companionship regardless of activity) and an “activity lover” (who wants a particular satisfying activity and the proper companion who makes it (even more) satisfying), particularly if they do not understand each other’s’ needs or desires, where the company lover is unable to satisfy the activity lover and the activity lover is unwilling to satisfy the company lover because of his or her own quest for a properly competent companion for the activity, though a less loving and less loved one.


There are, I think, three kinds of satisfactions or dissatisfactions. I will speak here only about satisfactions for the sake of brevity, but the situation is parallel with regard to dissatisfactions. The three kinds of satisfactions are:

(1) the satisfactions of conscious or (self-) known wants, hopes, or expectations,

(2) the satisfaction of what I will call half-wants, half- hopes, half-wishes, or half-expectations, and

(3) totally unexpected pleasures.

(1) Known Wants, Hopes, and Expectation

By conscious or known wants, hopes, or expectations I mean those we actually feel and of which we are aware. For example, one might have a craving for a specific kind of chocolate at some time and be very aware of it. A person might want something that catches his eye in a store window, might deliberately pass that store as often as possible to be sure the item is still there or to see whether the price has been marked down or not, and be saving every dollar he can to be able to someday purchase it. Ask him any time if there is anything he wants and immediately he will mention this item. One can expect things too; for example, that their spouse might give them a particular gift of an object they have been lavishly giving hints about for their birthday or Christmas. Likewise we have such desires and expectations about behavior. One might be dying to meet someone with whom they can speak French, discuss their butterfly collection, go fishing, or someone who knows how to build stained glass or home television satellite receiving stations. Or one might expect certain people one has heard

or read about to behave in certain ways. I was terribly disappointed one time to attend a lecture by an author whose writings were witty, intellectual, charming, and extremely interesting. He turned out to be slovenly, slow, bumbling, and boring; he read his speech before a large group in a monotonous voice that was barely audible. Since then I have met a number of world- famous celebrities and have, more often than not, been disappointed in their attitudes, personalities, or behavior.  Definite expectations were definitely not met.

(2) Half-wants, half-hopes, half-expectations

The second sort of satisfaction-dissatisfaction is more difficult to explain. It is not the case that the person will always be able to describe or know the desire or expectation beforehand that is fulfilled or unfulfilled. In some sense, they are not then perhaps desires or expectation at all; yet I will try to show shortly their sufficient resemblance to desires or expectations to give them similar names. In their negative (that is, dissatisfaction) aspects, one example is the kind of thing Betty Friedan referred to in The Feminine Mystique as the problem that has no name, and that Ryan’s daughter, in the movie of that title, seemed to feel when, dissatisfied with her marriage, she answered the priest’s question of what more she could possibly want with, “I don’t know; I don’t even know what more there is. But there must be something.” Dissatisfaction of a half-hope or a half-expectation or half-desire often only presents itself as some vague dissatisfaction without one’s being able to pinpoint the cause. Satisfaction of a half-desire may likewise only bring a welcome or good feeling for no identified reason or cause; though sometimes it is easy after such a feeling to figure out the cause. I call these satisfactions and dissatisfactions those of half-desires, half-expectations, etc. rather than unexpected pleasures because, though the person himself or herself may not know they have such a desire, or may not know what it is, others might very easily be able to tell.  The person may act almost as if they had a conscious desire or expectation, but simply not realize it themself. It may be, for example, that a child does not realize she would like a bicycle for her birthday, and were you to ask her what she wanted, she may not think of asking for a bicycle. Yet others notice how she seems (to feel) left out when other kids ride their bikes and how she lingers at department store bicycle displays though without it ever surfacing in her own mind that a bicycle is a possible gift or something that she would be much happier with if she had one. I am very difficult to buy presents for because if there is something I like that is affordable but not extravagant, I generally buy it for myself; and I do not like to be given expensive presents. But one Christmas I was given a box of stationery, something which triggered all kinds of good and appreciative feelings, since the couple who gave it to me showed better insight into my mind than I had. They knew I loved to write letters and that I had been doing so on typing paper. At that time stationery would have been something of a luxury for me, though it is not terribly expensive, and so I had put it out of my mind. And even when I tried to imagine gifts I might like to receive, I simply never thought of it. Yet when I opened the package, I realized immediately what a perfect and desirable gift it was for me.

There are other examples of the fulfilling of half-expectations or half-desires. One period in my life when I was on crutches, so many people seemed to go out of their way to ignore me and leave doors closed, or even let them slam in my face, when they might easily have helped instead, that I soon gave up any conscious ideas that people would hold open a door or offer to carry packages for me. Yet it was always disappointing when I was not helped, and very refreshing when I was. Or, I found that when I was an undergraduate, girls were so routinely subjected to the kinds of dates where guys took them to a movie, then out for a pizza, hamburger, or ice cream, and then wanted to hold hands and progress to whatever sex they could “get” that the girls began to expect little else from their dates and so developed their defensive maneuvers. Hence, it was surprising and exciting for them when they went on a date with a fellow who wanted to talk about things on more than just a superficial level and who preferred a long sincere talk, in which you got to understand or know each other, to a movie or a makeout session.

Another reason that I want to call these pleasures or disappointments the satisfactions or dissatisfactions of half-wishes or half-expectation or half-desires instead of totally unexpected pleasures or totally unexpected disappointments is that there seems to be some (sort of) antecedent wish or desire or expectation, though not a conscious or known one, for the experience. It is not just an experience that pleases us out of the blue, as would the tax-free million dollar checks Michael Anthony used to bestow for John Beresford Tipton to totally unsuspecting and unexpecting people on the fifties’ television fiction, The Millionaire. We find it welcome, for example, for someone else to be polite to us, though no one else has been in a while, because we still, in some sense, expect politeness of people, even though our expectations may have been dulled by recent experience. And similarly, some find it welcome when strangers will talk openly in a friendly and concerned way instead of at them (or superficially only, or not at all) although they almost give up the idea that strangers will do that, since so many will not.  And the child finds her bicycle in some way quite welcome, and more so than she might find any other gift, even one surpassing it in monetary value, uniqueness, status, or fun because she in some sense wanted or hoped for a bicycle though perhaps she did not know it herself though everyone else did. And I call this sense a half-hope, half-wish, half- want, etc.

In one of my closest relationships, at one point there seemed to be a problem which did not seem to rise quite to the surface. After a number of occurrences, it began to appear that my loved one and I would consistently have bad or semi-bad days the day after we would have a really great time together. At first there was really no notice of the correlation; it seemed more just like ups and downs of life in general or of relationships in particular. The bad days were not all that bad, no fighting or anything of that sort, just days in which we did not seem all that close or on the right wave-length with each other—just a vague feeling of disappointment or of distance.

Then, even after we noticed the pattern that these kinds of bad days followed the best days of our relationship, it still seemed somewhat out of our control. It seemed then perhaps we were simply ordained to have such a pattern and that the bad days were just like that because we had expectations that were too high because of the wonderful time of the previous day.  We also thought it possible that the bad days were not so bad in themselves, but simply letdowns after the heights of the good days just before.

Still there was a nagging suspicion in my mind that this must be in our control, that there must be some specific cause of those particular bad days that we could eliminate. One day, it suddenly dawned on me what the problem was; and it seemed obvious then, once a few otherwise isolated facts were seen together in the particular perspective of this problem.

This was the first girlfriend that I had who did a great number of stylistic and also formal things according to etiquette. She would send store-bought “thank you” notes for even the simplest or most spontaneous gifts I gave her. Flowers in my apartment had to be arranged particular ways. If she entertained, even in the most informal circumstances, there was still a certain formality in the table arrangements, serving, etc. Furthermore, she always thanked me for the nice time she had when we had a nice time together and might even talk about it on the phone the next day. I invariably sloughed off such thanks with comments like the pleasure was all mine, or at least half mine, or just said that I had enjoyed it immensely too, or that it really had been a great time. I always felt that any time we had a wonderful time together it was because of both of us, not just one of us, certainly not just me; it was because of the lucky way our two personalities meshed, not because of anything in particular that I had done—not anything that other people would have enjoyed as well as she did, but things that we both enjoyed together and to which we both contributed. I never felt the need to be thanked, and was always embarrassed by her thanking me. Furthermore, I would sometimes write poetry (to her) inspired by the good day, often even on that very day, or I would do or say things that showed I had been very pleased with the day. But I never was very formal about it nor did I dwell on it much afterwards in any sort of formal or particular way.  To thank her or even mention appreciation for a nice time we had together on the day before seemed to be repetitive, unnecessary and in some way inappropriate.  I just sort of expected to mention it nostalgically when appropriately reminded of the day and to go on from there to even better days, having each good day be a stepping stone to, or a part of, a supremely wonderful relationship.

But as all this just kind of came together one day in my mind, it was fairly obvious what was causing our bad days after the good days. Because I did not ever, in a formal or isolated way, express appreciation and happiness concerning the good day, on the next day, no matter how appreciative or happy I had seemed or said I was during that time, it made her feel that somehow it was not as important to me or as good for me, as it was for her. And she did not even realize she felt this way herself, or that this was the cause of her feelings. Once we discovered just how important formal expressions on succeeding days were to her, and therefore what my lack of them meant to her, I made a conscious effort to make such comments though it seemed somewhat unnatural to me; but also then when I failed to remember to do so, it provoked less anxiety on her part. I have always been one to show my enthusiasm or appreciation at the time, in a poem or just in my smile or spirits, rather than to say things like “Gee, I really had a fine time,” or “Yesterday was really a special day.”  I always just wanted a day to go on as a continuation from the previous one without thinking about demarcating one from the other and then expressing thanks or joy about the prior one as such.

At any rate, this was one particular example of what seems to fit my description of a half-wish or half- expectation which, when unmet or unfulfilled, caused a certain amount of frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. There was an element of expectation involved that was easy to see after the situation was unraveled, but difficult to see before. As soon as I explained my theory to my love, she agreed she was sure that was it, though she too had never realized what had been bothering her. My wife and I have a similar kind of half-expectations that cause a problem when we do not remember. It involves gift giving occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. She likes to be asked what she wants and then to be given it. I don’t like to be asked; I like to be surprised. But I don’t like to be given things I need, like clothes or tools for the house.  I like to get things that are inexpensive but fun or interesting to have, particularly that I might not think to buy for myself.  She likes to be given things she either wants or needs, whether they are fun or not. Hence, we both forget periodically—I, to ask or to give a necessity; her, not to ask, or to give something inexpensive and unnecessary. (Also, I hate to give things that are expected; I like to give surprise gifts; so sometimes I hate to ask, even when I know I should.) Now, this is hardly a major problem; and it is not that we each go around thinking how much we want to be asked or not asked, but we each notice the disappointment immediately—I, when she asks me what I want; and she, when I surprise her with a wrong present.

(3) Unexpected Pleasures

The third sort of satisfaction-dissatisfaction factor is that of totally unexpected pleasures or surprises or of equally unexpected disappointments. Anything could happen here. One girl I know had been married for a few years before, while on a hike with another couple, she learned for the first time that her husband was a knowledgeable birdwatcher. It was only in response to the other couple’s speaking about the various birds they were seeing that he happened to show his knowledge for the first time around his wife. She was astonished. I read in a magazine one time about a woman who died but who had before that secretly stored loving and/or funny notes for various family members in places they were likely to find them after her death. I decided one did not need to die to make that an effective pleasant surprise, so one time on vacation from college, I left notes at home for my parents to find after I returned to school. For weeks, and in one case a whole year later, mother was finding the little hello’s and funny messages I had hidden for her to find. She seemed to enjoy that.

Of course, some initially unexpected pleasures turn out to become expected or half-expected ones. Familiar is the lament, for example, that “you never bring me flowers any more like you used to,” when the first batch of flowers might have been a total surprise. One might even come to expect the unexpected from a friend or mate who is continually providing unexpected pleasures. Further, of course, there can be unexpected disappointments or displeasures as when, say, one’s mate or friend becomes terribly angry unjustifiably because of some frustration rather than because of anything the object of his wrath has actually done. Or one who is not given to asking for favors might find the one time they do ask, their partner is not very open to providing favors.

Depth of Satisfaction(s)

I have been writing mainly about the kinds and number of satisfactory or enjoyable things that may be involved in a relationship. But it is also important to remember that the amount of satisfaction depends not only on the number of satisfying or enjoyable or pleasing things that people do for each other, but also on how satisfying (that is, the depth of satisfaction or enjoyment) any given thing is.

For example, one couple might play tennis in the morning, visit friends in the afternoon, go to dinner in the evening, then on to a movie, afterward make love, and finally retire for the night, awakening the next morning to a good breakfast. There might be a certain amount of joy and satisfaction in such a day for each of the partners. But suppose their tennis abilities and pleasure at tennis not that great; or suppose it was somewhat chilly while they played and that took some of the fun out of it.  And suppose that the visit with their friends was pleasant but not exciting, that dinner was adequate but not superb, the movie cute but not particularly great, and the sex pleasurable but somewhat perfunctory. Suppose another couple (or this same couple on another day) spent (a part of) a day doing only one or two of these things, say, spent the whole day just talking and cuddling and making love and talking some more, or played the most fantastic tennis of their lives for four or five hours until they practically dropped from exhaustion. It makes sense to compare how much satisfaction each person or each couple had under these different circumstances, though, since we do not have precise pleasure measures, this would only be in rough estimates.

We can all think of days or times that were more satisfying, or less satisfying than others. Cleaning a marine latrine in the rain would certainly be less enjoyable than making a game winning touchdown for your team. Some movies or vacations are more enjoyable than others; some meals, some dates, and some football games better than others. Sex is better sometimes than at others. We ask our co-workers how their weekends were and we ask our spouses how their day was.  We do not expect or desire an exact answer, but we expect some sort of rating or indication (great, lousy, boring, more fun than catching on fire, about as exciting as watching four-man bobsled races on television, on a scale of 1 to 10 it was an absolute 20). And that answer will depend not just on how many things they did (or that happened to them) that were enjoyable or disagreeable, but also on just how enjoyable or unpleasant each thing was. One or two extremely pleasant experiences might make a time more enjoyable than a lot of only slightly pleasant experiences. And one or two extremely unpleasant experiences might make a time more unpleasant than a lot of only slightly unpleasant experiences.

A further distinction to be made is that of further subdividing (or being more specific about) activities. For example, it may not be that a person just wants to play tennis but that they want to play aggressive tennis or highly competitive tennis, or maybe just easy-going, knock the ball around a bit tennis. He or she may prefer singles, or may prefer doubles, that day; may even prefer mixed doubles, and/or some particular opponent, say, in a rematch. One may only want to work on his or her serve, maybe even just one particular kind of serve, even to a particular location.

Or one may not only want to have sex, but a specific kind of sex, say, lots of caressing foreplay, or very little foreplay (a “quickie”). One may want playful sex at one time, or teasing sex at another, or loving, tender, touching, quiet sex at another.  One may want to be a more active partner or a more passive one (at one time or another), or to alternate roles, or may want both partners to be active simultaneously. One may want to seduce someone or to be seduced, or one may not want to “play (such) games.” Some people might like their sex the same way each time; others, not.

One may not only want to listen to music at some particular time, but classical music; perhaps even a particular artist’s recording of one particular adagio movement of a particular piano concerto; possibly even one particular recorded version by that artist in case there is more than one performance on record.

Hence, when you, I, or anyone speaks simply of tennis, sex, dining, dancing, poker, or whatever, you should keep in mind that these activities can be further subdivided or specified and that sometimes that could be important. Sex or tennis or conversation of one sort may not be the desired, expected, or satisfactory kind of sex, tennis, or conversation. People rarely describe their desires as specifically as they perhaps should, and sometimes they don’t even realize themselves how specific those desires are. Then we disappoint them when we try to do what they said but not what they really meant. Or they become frustrated or angry with us even though we were trying to be nice. For example, they suggest the two of you play some tennis; you think that means play hard and go all out to win; but they just wanted to knock the ball around a little bit to get some exercise and think you are just trying to show off or show them up.

Another thing to keep in mind in the area of satisfying actions is that sometimes it is not only what you say or do that is important, but your attitude and manner as well. For example, a grudging apology is virtually no apology.  (I remember the time a maid who used to help my working mother once a week, with the ironing, scorched and ruined my absolute favorite T- shirt—she burned up the cotton bear that was sewn to the front of the shirt. I was five years old at the time; I was crushed.  I told the maid she was stupid. My mother heard this, spanked me, and made me tell the maid I was sorry.  Defiantly, and now really upset, I did— I told the maid I was sorry she was stupid!  Somehow, as you might imagine, that did not count, and I got spanked again.) Sometimes we want someone not only to talk with us or to have sex with us, but to enjoy talking with us or having sex with us. That is why sometimes some people are so disappointed even though we did the activity we thought they wanted; we did not do it in the way or with the attitude or end result they wanted. One may want one’s mate not only to attend a party or concert with them, but to want to attend, and not just to go, reluctantly and sullenly, “as a favor”.

This sometimes makes for difficulties since one cannot always control one’s attitudes. In one dramatic television movie after a girl had been raped, her boyfriend tried very hard to be supportive, but he was having all kinds of psychological difficulty adjusting to it himself. So even though he was saying kind things and being sympathetic to her, he also tried to be honest, and he could not disguise his own reactions. She became upset with him; and he was also hurt and said it was not fair that he not only had to say the right thing but that he also had to feel the right way too.

I knew one couple who had lived together for years but the woman had for some time really wanted them to get married. But she wanted her mate to decide for himself that was what he wanted too, and then to suggest it to her, or ask her. So it was difficult for her and for her friends who knew this because no one wanted to “make” or pressure her mate to propose to her just to do the “right” thing; the right thing was not only something that had to be done, but something that had to be done with the right attitude.

It also makes for difficulties when, for example in sex, someone asks you what they should do (to please or arouse you), but what you want them to do is either to joyfully explore in order to figure it out themself, or to be spontaneous, inventive, creative, or imaginative; so telling them specifically would be self-defeating and counter-productive. Even just asking them to be imaginative or spontaneous may be self-defeating since in a sense you are still more or less having to guide their ideas and behavior even though not their specific actions. And it is not just their actions, but their state of mind as well that is important.

Reciprocity of Satisfaction Is Not Necessarily Having “Common Interests”

It would be a mistake to think having mutual satisfactions in a relationship means, or requires, having “common interests.” Certainly people who enjoy the same kinds of things (the same kinds of movies, the same kinds of sports or games, the same kind of topics of conversation, or whatever) might find satisfactions in doing those things with each other. This may be particularly true if they are evenly matched in ability or knowledge. But it is not always the case that common interests will provide mutual satisfactions; and it is also not the only case.

One couple I knew both were avid and excellent golfers.  Both enjoyed the game immensely, but not while playing it with each other. He could hit the ball much farther than she could.  He could generally beat her, even though she had been women’s champion of a fairly large city a number of times. They loved each other, and they loved golf, but they just did not enjoy playing golf with each other. This kind of case may even be more prevalent in tennis where differences in ability and strength can often lead to monotonously similar results. And this might be just as easily true of two friends of the same sex as of husband-wife combinations. Two men (or two women) may both enjoy tennis, but just not with each other, even though they might perfectly well like each other or even enjoy being spectators together at tennis matches. Also, particularly in doubles, personality and team work are very important, and friction in those categories may override individual skills. Many couples know not to play mixed doubles with each other as partners for that very reason; it is far too easy to turn a tennis court into a divorce court.  Two persons with the same interests simply may not like participating in those interests with each other, even though they may like each other considerably.

And of equal or greater importance, two people may get along quite satisfactorily where they are each getting something different from out of what they are doing together. Suppose one person is teaching another person something, whether it is golf, philosophy, engineering mathematics, making paper airplanes, preparing quiche, or whatever. One might get great joy out of teaching; the other, out of learning, even with no prior interest in the particular subject. Or suppose a couple has a day in which each lets the other do what they want, one plays tennis while the other works on a book they are writing. They can each be happy for the time and grateful for the opportunity and support. Or suppose one person likes to talk and another likes to listen. Or suppose a man likes to open doors for a woman and she likes to have doors opened for her. Or that one person likes to buy presents for another who likes to receive them (some people like to give presents more than they like to receive them). Or that a father likes to give piggy back rides to a child who delights in getting them. Or imagine a sadist and masochist (though the old joke is that when the masochist asks to be beaten, the sadist, in order to torment, refuses). Or suppose, as often happens in our society, that a husband enjoys being the breadwinner and his wife enjoys being domestic or enjoys doing women’s auxiliary work or enjoys supporting his work by making social contacts, throwing parties, entertaining clients at dinner, etc. These two might satisfy each other, though they do not have the same interests; it is just that their interests nicely mesh and are satisfying to each other as well as to themselves.

Even just considering an activity that both enjoy, such as caressing each other, there may be moments when one prefers to stroke the other person and the other person prefers to be stroked rather than do any stroking. Both may quite enjoy such a moment, though in different ways. Joys may be reciprocated or reciprocal without their therefore being the same joy or the joy of some common interest. Not having common interests will not necessarily prevent enjoyment of each other; and having them will not insure it.

In short, with regard to satisfactions and dissatisfactions then, you may be satisfied or dissatisfied in one or more ways, each to a stronger or lesser degree, by another’s actions and/or feelings, actions and/or feelings that you either (1) expected or wanted (or expected or wanted not to happen), (2) half-expected or half-wanted (or half didn’t want or expect), or (3) were not looking for or expecting in any way at all. And these actions or feelings may be satisfying or dissatisfying independently of whether you have any attraction or aversion to the other person or not, and independently of whether they stem from a common interest or not.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding better one’s own desires and reactions to their fulfillment or lack of fulfillment.

Key Terms

  • A half-expectation or half-desire is the sort of wanting of something that one might not realize one wants as much as they do or would enjoy as much as they would (or find disappointing or upsetting to be thwarted or unfulfilled) but which is fairly obvious to other people who know them well, or that they themselves after finding the want met or thwarted realizes how important it is or has been to them.

Chapter Review Questions

  • Question: What is important to remember in regard to the satisfaction-dissatisfaction scale?
  • Question: What are the three kinds of satisfactions or dissatisfactions?


Chapter 5 The Satisfaction Aspect Copyright © 2017 by jhill5 and Richard Garlikov. All Rights Reserved.

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