Finding the proper pivot point in human leverage

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I’m not talking about sex as much as I’m talking about relationships, but I suppose they’re intertwined in some way, at least when things are going good for the Den-Man.

I’m talking about human leverage.

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about-maybe even a book-for long, long time. My personal feeling toward human leverage, especially as a young person, is that it runs our lives in a sort of demented, unsafe kind of way. I think people know what I mean.

Have you ever started dating someone or been in a relationship with someone where one of the primary reasons it ended was because you had “leverage” on him or her, or because he or she had “leverage” on you? I know I have. It was awful.

By leverage, I mean upper hand. In short, you have it more together than the other person. You are less needy. You are more secure with yourself. You are maybe a little smarter or at least driven to be a successful person. You are emotionally complete-as much as a normal 20-something human can be-and maybe the other person isn’t.

In fact, the other person is very insecure with him or herself. He or she cannot figure out why you didn’t call them back 30 seconds after your last call. You find yourself having far too many relationship “heart-to-hearts” and not enough time living out the relationship. It seems that this other person needs some sort of approval from you, or at least a certain amount of attention that if you don’t give, the moon will explode.

That’s leverage: an imbalance with how comfortable a relationship is, from either party’s perspective. I’ve been on either side of the leverage balance. I hated being the one without the upper hand, and I hated being the one with the upper hand. They’re both bad.

Here’s a funny side effect: leverage works in other relationships, too, perhaps even more often. Have you ever been friends with someone where it was SO obvious that the other person wanted to maintain the friendship way more than you? Every time you make plans for the weekend, you never call them, but they call you. In most cases, you aren’t even excluding them intentionally, but stuff happens, and you end up massaging the friendship.

How does that affect a friendship, when one person has leverage on another? It’s not good. I’ve been in those situations, too, and I hated having the upper hand. But with friends, not having leverage is good. Whenever I make a new friend-man or woman -I look forward to the idea of someone being way cooler than I am, having more to say, having a more dynamic understanding of the world, their profession, their future. It is striking to me when I meet someone who has it more together than I do, and I feed off of that.

It all comes down to what a person gets out of the friendships and romantic relationships he or she has in the world.

Obviously, having a “leverage balance” is what a person wants. No one wants to feel like they’ve constantly got the lower hand in a relationship of any kind. It’s not a good feeling scrambling for something to do on a Friday night. It’s sometimes an even worse feeling to feel responsible for planning an entire night for someone who can’t do it for themselves, especially if you don’t enjoy their company that much.

If I could get a leverage balance in every relationship I have, that’d be amazing. I have it with a few people, my best friends and my brother included. But not many. I’d like to have more, and balancing the scales is on my to-do list.

How does this all relate to sex? Well, for the relationships that actually have this as a possible extracurricular activity, leverage means a lot. A lot of sex is about reliability, comfort, feeling close to someone, feeling safe, seeing them naked, and screaming loudly. Without the first four -which relies on leverage balance-the last two are moot.

I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong in a lot of the relationships I’ve been in. Some of it may have to do with the fact that I see everything in terms of leverage, which, as my friends say, is about the unhealthiest thing a young man can do.

But it may be that I’m not using leverage correctly. Once I do, and once I find someone who challenges me, pushes me against the wall and says, “Do better!”, who is pissed off when I ditch them on a Friday night, but goes out with her other friends-now that’s love.

Which occasionally leads to sex. Sometimes.

Ryan Denham can be reached at ryan.denham@csun.edu.