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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What makes a friendship?


What makes a friendship?

I’ve often asked myself that question, and, in my head, stared quizzically at my friends, trying to figure out the common denominator between them, why they are my friends.

Do you choose your friends? I certainly don’t, not to a large extent anyway. I tend to be very passive in the way I lead my life, and pretty shy and anti-social in the way I interact with people. I’m never the one to first approach someone else.

How did my friends become my friends? I don’t really know. I guess it tends to be a mixture of being brought together by circumstance and then staying together, becoming friends due to the friendliness of one or both parties. Which is then cemented first by the decisions to make the effort, to keep in touch, and later by the trust and understanding that time helps build.

So what makes a friendship, or any kind of relationship? What’s the crucial ingredient, what’s important to you?

Do your friends (or girlfriend or boyfriend or sister or brother) have to share your values, your ideals, your political or religious beliefs?
Do your friends (or girlfriend or boyfriend or mother or father) have to have the same tastes in music, same tastes in movies, same tastes in books, same tastes in food?
Do they have to enjoy singing, if you love to sing? running, if you love to run? gaming, if you love to game? playing basketball, if you love basketball? rock climbing, if you love rock climbing? photography, if you love photography? anime, if you love anime? being outdoors, if you enjoy being outdoors?
Do they have to spend a certain amount of time with you to qualify? Chat with you on the phone several times a week? Bug each other online every other day? Hang out every week or so?
Or do they have to meet certain criteria you’ve set down for whom you want to be friends with, or whom you want has a romantic partner? Does he need to own a car? Buy you flowers? Call you every night? Be of a certain social status (would you be friends with the weirdos and the outcasts?) Would you be friends with someone much richer, or much poorer than you? someone of a different race, perhaps, or different culture? Do they need to fit your stereotype of what a boyfriend or a friend should be?

I suppose that most of the time you would share some of these, many of these, with your friends. After all, it’s probably a common interest or activity that brought you together in the first place. And if two people were really completely different as night and day with no common ground, it would be difficult to carry a conversation, much less sustain a friendship.

And yet I dare say that NONE of that matters at all, not really. None of it is what makes the friendship, none of it is what defines the friendship and keep it going.

I have friends whom I hardly ever see, hardly ever speak to, because of our busy schedules and because we’re only in the same country once or twice a year. Friends who differ completely from me in their ideological beliefs, their way of doing things. Friends who don’t enjoy the same activities I enjoy, whose favourite activities I have no interest in. It may even be hard for me to explain what we actually do or talk about when we get together.

But it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that when we do meet, the meeting is the point, not the activity. When we do meet, we spend the time enjoying each others’ company. Certain people you just click with instantly, finding yourselves on the same wavelength. When we do meet, we feel at ease, relaxed and happy. Conversation flows easily, and even if it doesn’t, that’s fine and we enjoy comfortable silences. We trust each other enough to be ourselves, to speak of the things on our minds and in our hearts, unafraid of rejection or judgement. We understand each other with just a look or brief comment, but we accept and support even when we don’t fully understand. We love each other enough to care, enough to try; enough to make the commitment to always be there.

That’s what matters to me; that’s what relationships are made of. Every other obstacle is secondary, every other problem is just a stepping stone to be overcome. Because when you have that, nothing can touch it and nothing can replace it.

Circumstance allows your paths to cross. From there, it starts with a feeling, maybe. A spark, or some kind of comfortable compatibility where you find each other pleasant enough to be around. Time builds on that and as you get to know each other better, trust, understanding and love grows. Cement that with the active, constant decision to commitment from both parties and you’re good for life.

Compatibility. Love. Trust. Understanding. Acceptance. And mutual commitment.

When you have something like that in your life, where things have gone more than right at every step and stage, when every component is strong… cherish it. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t throw it away. It’s not that easy to come by.