I read about love every single day.
I read books on theories, tweets about shitty dates, articles shelling out advice, and my Instagram feed filled with tales of heartaches and grand love.
But no matter what I read, no matter the context of the anecdote, I see a common theme.
People cling to the idea of a relationship.
And you might be thinking, How could the idea of a relationship possibly cause harm?
Well, let’s take a step back and really dissect what a romantic relationship is.
Relationship: an emotional and sexual association between two people.
In the simplest sense of the term, it’s two people coming together. Whether that be to have sex or to be together until they’re playing bingo in a retirement center, it’s two people forming a symbiotic connection with one another.
But now, let’s focus on the committed kind of love.
People talk about marriage (please don’t click away, I’ll only talk about marriage for mere fragments of this article) like you’re giving up a whole lot to gain a bit more. In exchange for commitment, you’re gaining a life partner that will support you in sickness and in health. Don’t mind that you were probably already doing that before marriage, though; now it’s signed on a legally binding contract.
While I do think choosing to be with someone for the “rest of your life” is indeed a choice—hello, life is long—I also think the idea of a relationship clouds one’s decisions in this matter.
Often, people focus too much on what a relationship can give them: stability, financial security, a baby daddy/momma, someone to remind to grab milk while they’re out.
A chance to update our Facebook status from “single” to “in a relationship,” and maybe one day “engaged.”
And I understand this want to an extent.
I want to do life with someone. I want a partner that’s going to help me figure out how to pay a mortgage (or what that even is). I want a person that’s going to be by my side as I feign interest in our child’s first grade art show.
But when it comes down to it, all of that is just a want. It’s not a need.
I don’t need a life partner. I do think there exists a world where I would be just as happy, drifting from partner to partner. Giving in fully to my whims and living a less structured, more throw-caution-to-the-wind life.
But with each version of my future comes their hardships. And I choose, for now, the former life.
I want a relationship. But I don’t want it with just anyone.
And I think that’s where everyone is going wrong.
See, a relationship isn’t about checking something on your to-do list of life. It’s not an achievement, not something to aspire to with just anyone willing to say, “I do.”
A relationship is something that shouldn’t be coerced. Either you both fully want it or you don’t. The kind of forever that’s born from manipulation or fear is going to be a sad one; you know, the kind we read about ending in things like divorce and infidelity.
These relationships are the ones focused on the ideas of relationships, instead of the person.
I don’t want a life partner just for the sake of having a life partner. I want one because I met a fucking fantastic person. Someone that thinking of doing life without makes me feel all sorts of sad. I want a relationship because my partner is one of my best friends, and why would I want to let go of my best friend, especially when I get to have sex with them?
Because when you find the right person, it’s not about what you’re giving up.
It’s not about forcing yourself to be monogamous. It’s not about losing your “freedom.” It’s not about gaining the right to joke around about your “nagging wife.”
Because damn, that all sounds like a drag.
Finding the right person should feel like gaining, not losing.
You’re gaining a partner to laugh with until you’re able to snag the senior discount at your local diner. You’re gaining a shoulder to cry on and a forever dance partner. You’re gaining someone who wants you just as much as you want them.
And I think the difference between the two—focusing on a relationship rather than the person—may be why a lot of people aren’t finding love.
They’re drowning in fears of missing out on a “relationship” instead of focusing on finding a great partner. They’re too caught up in worrying about saying the wrong thing on the first date, that they aren’t able to be themselves.
So my advice is simple, but takes courage: Let go of the notion of a relationship; stop thinking it’s some kind of life accomplishment.
Instead, focus on the individual human being in front of you. Get to know them like you did when you first met your best friend. Understand their quirks; dive into their fears with them.
Your relationship will never look like the person next to you’s. In fact, happiness will never look the same for you as it does anyone else.
So why aspire to this cookie-cutter idea of relationships?
Take a step back and relax a bit. You’re your top priority in all of this. Someone you want to do the rest of your life with isn’t going to come easy. But at the same time, I think we can agree you don’t want to do life with someone mediocre or worse.
Don’t let the idea of a relationship distract you from what really matters when finding love.