Dating: Accordions Vs. Sitars

The accordion is much easier than it looks.

Each left handed button is an entire chord, and it’s arranged in an easy-to-memorize pattern. You pick it up, press down, and it booms with harmony. The instrument is constructed that you only need to engage with it minimally to get the song you want out of it.

Similarly, ‘accordion style’ partners are easy to play – engaging in a relationship with them is simple, and you need to engage with them minimally to get the ‘song’ of a good relationship out of them.

Accordion relationships don’t cost you a lot of energy. I don’t mean energy as in ‘they don’t talk a lot,’ I mean energy as in ‘they perform actions that make relationship-specific aspects with them very easy’ – such as excellent communication or being self-motivated about exercise or whatever it is that’s necessary for your relationship to function.

Aspects that might bump someone towards the ‘accordion’ side of the spectrum are things like equal status to you, physical and emotional stability, identity independence (separating their self worth from their relationship with you), independent wealth, or their own social network.

The Sitar

Have you ever played a sitar? It’s leagues more difficult than an accordion. Not only do you play one note at a time – no easily organized chords – there are dozens of strings, and just holding the instrument properly is a lesson in itself. The process of using the sitar requires understanding the instrument well, and engaging with it closely is an integral part of making it sing. The accordion may feel like ‘playing a song,’ but a sitar feels like ‘playing the instrument.’

Sitar partners are high cost – in that functioning in the relationship takes a lot of energy. Mental or physical disabilities, unresolved childhood trauma, poverty, significant introversion, jealousy, or practical dependence can all contribute to being a sitar partner, as maintenance of the person themselves must be done before maintenance of the relationship. 

Of course internal factors can contribute too, such as having very specific needs in order to feel satisfied in a relationship, requiring high amounts of actions in order to feel safe in the relationship, and sometimes general stuff like insecurity, perfectionism, or neuroticism.

The accordion/sitar spectrum is also not the same thing as casual vs. committed relationships, or compatible vs. incompatible preferences. Casual relationships can still require a lot of energy, and incompatible preferences can take very little energy to handle, if lubricated with good communication and self awareness.

Now, this might start to sound like I’m calling Accordions ‘desirable and good’ and Sitars ‘undesirable and bad’,

but I want to steer away from that sharply. Inheriting a lot of money from a relative might push someone towards the ‘Accordion’ side of the spectrum, and getting into a car accident might push them towards the ‘Sitar’ side – frequently a partner’s cost is affected by things entirely outside of their control, and having these things happen to a partner probably doesn’t affect how much the relationship is ‘worth it’ or how much you love them.

The benefits of Accordion partners might sound ideal, almost romantic, but I think a lot of people find relationships to be like the Sitar – it’s only fun when it’s hard.

Sitar partners have the ability to provide an intense sense of specialness – if they require a lot of energy to date, then you are set apart from others more distinctly by being the one to spend that energy. Not just anybody could/would spend all this energy! They also lure in people who feel they need to feel like they must work hard to feel like they deserve love from the other person.

There may also be a greater sense of satisfaction and meaningfulness when progression is made in the relationship. And often, the sense of ‘suffering with someone’ is tragically romantic and incredibly bonding – often we feel sharing our pain is a core component of achieving intimacy, and comforting a suffering partner – and being comforted by them in turn – can make you feel fused to each other so completely that it soothes that gnawing itch of constant aloneness. Such is the appeal of unhealed wounds.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone explicitly verbalize that they are looking for a partner who will cost them a lot of energy, but it seems very obvious from observation. For example, a few years ago I watched the dating life of one of my old roommates – she shifted through a lot of attractive, easy-to-date men, only to end up disappearing to love/take care of someone who was extremely high cost – aggressive and neurotic, with a few mental disorders. It took me a while to realize that she hadn’t been duped – she was doing this deliberately, and this is what she wanted. She didn’t date him in spite of the fact he was a Sitar, she dated him because of it.

I don’t think that any pairing of Sitar/Accordion Sitar/Sitar Accordion/Accordion is bad at all, but it does seem difficult for people who’ve ended up in the relationship rather accidentally, and not because they were actively seeking it like my old roommate actively sought it.

I’ve seen a few people who prefer Sitar partners date an Accordion partner and end up a bit unsatisfied. Usually their complaint (not explicitly verbalized!) is that of lack of passion – their Accordion partner is a little boring, or just friendly, or cold. And the other way around is just as bad – people who prefer Accordion partners are unhappy when they date Sitar partners, and the experience for them is exhausting and often feels like an unnecessary distraction, or a chore.

I think that often, in both of these scenarios, the people would still say their relationship is ‘worth it.’ Once you cross the familiarity threshhold, there’s no going back really until other factors break the relationship down from the inside, or they deal with it and grow old and die. The best cure is prevention.

This is why I think learning to explicitly identify the kind of labor you want to put into a relationship –

without judging that desire at all – would be very useful, because then you can avoid getting into a mismatched relationship in the first place. This may be difficult, as I suspect most people would tell themselves they want an Accordion one, because that seems like the ‘right’ answer.

I think the reason for this is that Sitar relationships tend to feature more intense points of unhappiness, and there’s a big “unhappiness is bad” narrative going on, and it’s nearly taboo to say “unhappiness can be fulfilling and meaningful.” Go watch a tragic movie goddamnit.

And sometimes people who want a Accordion relationship end up dating a Sitar partner – often because they feel that they would be a bad person if they let the difficulties affect their love for someone, or out of a sense of duty, or an unawareness that Accordion partners are an available option, or because they failed to recognize early enough that their partner was a Sitar. I usually see this in people who are so passively nice it ends up being a defensive maneuver. I belong in this category.

Basically, my point is make sure you research the instruments you buy beforehand, so you can learn to recognize signs of whether it will easily make you a beautiful song or if it will make you bleed as it slowly absorbs into your flesh and you don’t know anymore whether it is you or the instrument who is shedding those tears.
But hey, I respect the intensity.

11 thoughts on “Dating: Accordions Vs. Sitars”

  1. Lol… you’re tripping me out. New Moon Energy has been really interesting this cycle…

    I play both Sitar and Accordion (in the literal sense) ~

    Funny thing is that I always tell people that the Sitar is “much easier than it looks”. I have a general disagreement with your assessment of the Sitar. (and some things about the Accordion too). 😛

    I’m a little tired of writing right now… gonna go for a sunrise walk. I’m not sure if you reply to any of these… but I’d love to share my alternate perspectives and observations on the Accordion and the Sitar. 🙂 Some points of yours I agree on… others are a bit misleading.

    Let me know if you’d like to hear my thoughts… and discuss a bit further!

  2. I didn’t realize that an accordion’s buttons were each an entire chord rather than a note. My son really wants to learn how to play and we are all for it! Maybe we’ll have to hire an accordion player to teach him how to start so he can get started as well!

  3. I love your music symbolism and binary, though only for illustrative purposes. I’m surely a sitar and feel a combo of boredom and loneliness when I spend too much time with accordion type beaus. However, I like having friends of the accordion type; I find them reassuring, reliable company, good for a casual evening dinner or stroll around town. One of my problem with dating apps is that they obscure this distinction, aiming to present everyone as an accordion. So when I look at those cheesy smiles and bios of sappy ambitions and cliche pleasures, my sitar spirits reach out from within me and swipe left. Where is a girl to meet a kindred kooky?

  4. This was very helpful for my understanding of my reaction to others and their reaction to me, thank you.

    It’s interesting to look at certain types of self improvement such as “managing anxiety better” as “moving from a high cost to a low cost type of person”. The dating advice of “do exciting / interesting things and invite someone along” seems like ‘move towards being low cost to hang out with’/ ‘make intensity low cost’ for the other person.

    I also find it interesting that having anxiety is not necessarily a high cost thing if you do your emotional management yourself, or are otherwise very guarded — it’s still possible to have a relationship without revealing your entire self. or you can move from a low cost person to a high cost person by outsourcing emotional management to your partner.

    Things I am curious about:
    – does having a partner who challenges you necessitate high cost / dramatic interactions?
    – do people move back and forth between low and high cost during a relationship? (ex: opening up about childhood, getting cancer, switching jobs) How does this change the relationship?
    – do people without neuroticisms and have to do extra work to create tension? This is somewhat fascinating to me. (Does it always come out as play tension or do they have to create real tension too for things to be interesting?)

  5. I’ve done both. I tend to see myself as an easy partner. I don’t require much, and I’m very mentally stable. Even so, I’ve found that I tend to enjoy relationships with women that require a certain amount of care and feeding; it makes the relationship feel much more rewarding. This unfortunately results in a lot of “broken-wing syndrome” scenarios where women move on when they don’t need me anymore. I think the key insight, is that all four pairings can work, they aren’t necessarily better or worse, just different, with different pros and cons.

    1. Okay.
      1. Your comment section in my Nexus 6 is all static, even in crome.
      2. I don’t like the way the word “could” lands in your recanting of your sitar purchase. Feels much more like underestimated the motivation required to master such beauty.
      3. Low-costers miss the finer delicacies of intimate rejection and despair. How good can their Joy taste without knowing sorrow.
      4. Having either the talent or honed skill enough to play me like a fiddle? Oh but to be blessed by such devotion – for about 3 months.

  6. Curious about other elements that make someone high cost. My introversion and minor bouts of anxiety add to the cost of dating me, but I think they are less than the cost my sexual proclivities. Vanilla and rocky road are both yummy flavors but one is so much more specific that not everyone can enjoy it. Good article!

  7. This is yet another expression of something I’ve never heard said but I’ve always wanted to say yet don’t know how to say without making myself feel like a terrible person. I sort of always hoped to work my way up to writing about it under this handle one day, but my personal relationship with the subject matter is probably darker than with anything else I write about.

    Yes, I’ve known some people who seem to thrive on “high-cost” relationships. I have discovered in the little relationship experience (and rich array of friendship experiences) I’ve had that I’m definitely not one of them.

    And sometimes people who want a low cost relationship end up dating a high cost partner – often because they feel that they would be a bad person if they let the difficulties affect their love for someone, or out of a sense of duty, or an unawareness that low cost partners are an available option, or because they failed to recognize early enough that their partner was high cost.

    Or because while they themselves are pretty low-cost, they are unattractive/inept in other ways that directly decrease their standing in the “dating playing field” all across the board, which I’m afraid is the case with me. Although the “passively nice” description which follows also applies to me, especially when I was younger.

    Thank you again for your post, I’m sorry my comment under it is kind of a downer. :/

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