We all know relationships can be difficult. What with trying to get along with each other’s friends and balancing seeing each other with spending time on your careers, it can be difficult to keep a healthy focus on yourselves and how you think the relationship is going. And obviously, how you think the other thinks the relationship is going. And how this feeds back into your impression of the relationship taking into consideration that their thoughts about the relationship have been influenced by their better understanding of you.
We talked with James and Amanda, who shared with us the secrets to an impressively deep and convoluted relationship. “I know that she knows I love her,” James says. “But she also knows that, so I don’t think I need to tell her. But if she knows that I know that she knows…. Oh God, I’m probably overthinking this again. I bet she knows I’m overthinking this but I don’t know what she thinks about me knowing that.”
If you want to build a relationship that can weather any problem it is critical that you are both utterly lost in a maze of recursive subjective impressions of each other’s opinions that is so twisted, you don’t even know who the ‘you’ is in “you are driving me so fucking crazy right now.”
Amanda has created a spread sheet for their fridge which carefully maps out what depths of self referencing introspection they have to map out during the week. “It’s quite straightforward really. For example, on Mondays and Thursdays we’re mired in doubts about the impossibility of really knowing someone when that knowledge is refracted through their projection to you of the person that they want you to see them as based on their subjective idea of you. On the other weekdays we mostly watch Game of Thrones so we don’t have to work so hard at figuring out relationships.”
The couple’s flat is decorated with the six years worth of relationship, philosophy and game theory literature that they have bought for each other. “I’ll admit I’ve spent more time thinking about the signals she’s trying to send with each present than actually reading anything,” says James. “All I know is I’m either madly in love or actually going mad. Those are my choices.”
“Sometimes I think he overthinks things,” says Amanda. “We were going out for dinner last week and I simply told him to chose somewhere interesting. Obviously he knows not to pick somewhere he thinks I wouldn’t like but I don’t want him to not pick somewhere just because he thinks he knows I think I wouldn’t like it when I might actually like to think I know what somewhere is like but he should know I don’t really think that I just think I do. We ended up eating at Nando’s again which I really hate but it’s close to our house.”
“Would you say you are happy in your relationship?” I ask them. “Give me three weeks and I’ll send you some histograms,” said James.
As we left the happy couple, James was suffering a “minor existential crisis” after Amanda asked what shoes he thought would “go with” her dress. “How can shoes ever be categorized according to which are truly ‘good’ in world experienced though subjective impressions!” he screamed out the window to us. Ah, to be young and in love again!