What makes a relationship


Is it stupid that what I want more than anything in the world is a romantic companion?

It is stupid; I was horrified to realize it and I’m embarrassed to have admitted it. I’ve become what I hate: one of those women who are constantly obsessed with wanting to find a boyfriend, wanting to find a husband, wanting to get married and settle down as soon as possible.

I would roll my eyes and scoff: there’s more to life than that, c’mon, does it really matter that much? When it happens, it happens. In the meantime, live your life, please!

And yet… I don’t think it’s that uncommon a desire. In fact, I think it’s a pretty common desire, based on what the majority of our music, movies and books are about and on the fact that people pair up more often than they don’t.

I was watching Juno for the first time recently, and the following quote from the father made me cry (I was also slightly drunk, that’s my excuse): “The best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.”

I cried because I know I’m capable of that. Is that really so hard to do? I cried because real life is never that simple. Why are there so many things that get in the way? Why do we let them get in the way?

I recently got the feeling that… I think I could love just about anyone. I don’t know how true that is and I certainly don’t want to test it (how, by randomly picking a person in my vicinity and attempt to cultivate a crush on that person??), but that’s how I felt.

That made me think that perhaps our parents’ and grandparents’ generations got it right: just pick one or have one picked for you and that’s it. You learn to live with the person. You learn to take care of the person. You learn to love them, you grow to love each other. Isn’t there a kind of love that grows naturally from spending time with a person and getting to know them?

I guess that isn’t enough though. I should have seen enough rubbish marriages to know this…

I never liked the idea of having a list of criteria for your significant other, choosing mechanically by ticking off a checklist. Every time I re-vist the idea, I find myself mocking it. He has to be taller than you… really? Has to have certain qualifications, have certain amount of money… really?

Well, I guess it would be good if she likes the outdoors, like me. I guess it would be fantastic if she liked rock-climbing too, then we could go together! She must like animals, she must care for the environment. Singing and music. Those are very important too. And art! We could draw things for each other and visit art exhibitions together. Oh, preferably a Terry Pratchett fan c’mon how can one not like Terry Pratchett? It would be good if our socio-economical backgrounds are similar too, and if she can speak or understand hokkien, that’d make integration into my extended family much easier. Oh, she should be a science person, because I’m a science person. And wouldn’t it be cool if we could have pointless philosophical discussions that last forever? 

… And wouldn’t that be just like dating myself and wouldn’t that be a whole bunch of EXTREMELY BORING.

Honestly, I think one of the best parts about being in a relationship– the most fresh, exciting and meaningful parts– is seeing through some one else’s eye. Having the scope of your world open up and expand, being introduced to a whole new world you weren’t privy to before. Learning more about things you never knew about, never thought about, never saw in that way before and having yourself changed by that experience.

Where would all that be if the other person were exactly like you?

It’s of course good and sound advice that certain compatibilities should be present. If you have no common interests, what are you going to do together or talk about? If your backgrounds and perspectives are too different, misunderstandings would occur easily. And more importantly, if your priorities in life and in the relationship clash, it would be hard to make it last.

I made a list (similar to the one above) of all the things that were important to me. Must like animals and nature. Must value friends and family highly. I made a list, and then I dismissed it. These sort of things really aren’t what’s important in a relationship, it’s not what you should be looking out or on your guard for.

Yet such a list is important– not as a criteria list but as a list of knowing what’s important to you. Which are the most important values to you, which are the lines you won’t cross? Which are the essential characteristic, which define what you want from the relationship? And which define your dreams and what you want from life?

And that’s what makes or breaks a relationship, I think. Each knowing the their own general answers to these questions and being able to talk openly and successfully arrive at common answers as a couple.

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3 thoughts on “What makes a relationship

  1. I think the common problem is that culture places too much value on romantic love and romantic relationships above all else. People don’t learn to love and value themselves, their friendships and other relations and don’t learn to be alone. Humans need romantic companionship but not at all costs. As they say your love should be the person you don’t feel the need to be together with but you like to be together with. Most people can’t find suitable love because they’re looking for Romeos and Juliets while they let real life caring relationships to pass by.
    There are so many factors that make a good relationship and though love is an essential ingredient it’s not enough to make it work. Also I don’t agree with the above quote from Juno though I understand the motive. That kind of love is not love it’s blind obsession.If someone doesn’t love you for what you’re and doesn’t put up with you at bad times then it’s not love, but that doesn’t mean someone should tolerate everything about you blindly.

    • Hey, thanks for the comment!

      I have to agree with you– our media and culture definitely places to much value on romantic love, especially the crazy-passionate kind rather than the more measured, long-term kind. But it makes me wonder though, do we have this sort of mindset because we’re influenced by the media, or does the media portray this because it’s our general mindset? Probably both, in a vicious cycle, I feel.

      The idea of crazy-passionate love appeals very much to us, but the media exaggerates that and feeds our obsession.

      Oh, I kind of interpreted the Juno quote as “loving you for what you are and puts up with you at bad times”, but I see what you mean and yeah, I guess the two (the above phrase vs blind obsession) could be difficult to differentiate. Have to be wary not to mistake one for the other.

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