Sunday, March 2, 2008

Outsourcing your relationship needs?

The language of relationship psychology has influenced the way we verbalize many of the expectations we bring to the workplace. Thus employees expect to derive a sense of ‘emotional satisfaction’ and ‘personal fulfillment’ from their jobs – concepts that are clear imports from the world of intimate relationships. Similarly, workers may complain of not feeling ‘emotionally supported’ by their bosses (parent substitutes?), of being ‘taken for granted’ by fellow co-workers (spouse?), or of being ‘unfairly picked on’ (siblings?).

But isn't it possible that this process of influence is mutual? Can the way we think about our jobs also come to influence and perhaps change our conceptualization of how intimate relationships are supposed to function?

One of the more popular workplace trends is the strategy of 'outsourcing'. Outsourcing has been hailed by Fortune as a powerful tool for business growth. Outsourcing refers to the use of "innovative, strategically grounded outside relationships" to get certain company needs met, at a significantly lower cost.

So my question is this – is it possible to outsource your relationship needs? And if so, exactly how would that work?

The point of this type of outsourcing would be to develop a flexible system in which your emotional needs are met via a single relationship but by multiple partnerships. There would of course be no expectations of longevity, permanence, or any other other emotional annuities. Instead, you could establish a number of peripheral relationships, each carefully selected to meet a separate need.

Thus, you could decide that James is your lover. You may even contract to be sexually faithful to him. In the meantime, Michael, your best boyfriend may supply the emotional intimacy you also crave. He may or may not be gay. But he does become the repository of all of your most intimate thoughts and feelings.

But you also need Christian because he is a wonderful person to hang out with and take to events. And then there's Donald. He appeals to your intellect. He can debate you under the table and continually challenges your thinking process.

Four different needs, successfully outsourced to four different men. A flexible system indeed. And let’s be realistic, you can't expect one person to meet all of your needs anyway.

Outsourcing your relationship needs may, in the long run even be cheaper because you don't have to permanently acquire any of these outside resources, simply organize and manage them. Really it’s networking by another name.

But, a cautionary note. Don't ever fall in love with any of these dudes. That can be a deal-breaker. And of course don’t ever come up pregnant. You simply can't outsource the needs of children. Ever.

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