My ex-girlfriend brought to my attention a few years ago that I might not actually want a committed relationship. I was confused and asked her why. She said that I didn’t act like I wanted her enough and I seemed too passive.
I dismissed her reasoning because I had spent years trying to be with her, but the sentiment that I might not want a relationship never left me. It would pop in and out of my mind but I did nothing about it.
Fast forward to the present day. I’ve been interested in getting into another relationship but I realised that I was too focused on and complaining about not having one. I realised I had to shift to the possibility of having one.
That seemed simple enough, so I did it. I imagined myself in a relationship with someone I admire, but something strange happened. I didn’t feel like how I expected to feel. I felt… stressed.
I restarted the visualization, but sure enough, I still felt stressed. The girl looked content, but I clearly wasn’t.
That’s when it dawned on me — my ex was right.
I didn’t actually want a relationship. I wanted to pine after someone. It wasn’t the actual relationship that I wanted, but the vicissitudes of romance; the emotional highs and lows. But why? To find that out I had to retrace my steps.
Sometime in high school, I was ridiculously bored out of my mind. There was nothing on TV, I had listened to my albums ’til I was sick of them and I didn’t really have the close connections I wanted in friendship. That’s when it dawned on me: I should get a girlfriend. That’ll solve everything!
With a relationship, I’d have the excitement that I’m lacking and the close connection. It seemed perfect. Unfortunately, for the supremely naïve me, I didn’t realise the implications of what I was asking for.
A relationship that’s actually founded on love (versus infatuation or obsession) is not about excitement, because excitement means drama, and drama means conflict. Let’s face it, where would I even get the idea that a relationship is supposed to be exciting? Movies, novels, television, songs, poetry, etc.
This is something that an embarrassing amount of us have to admit. It’s such a common thing to want a love so deep the ocean gets jealous. It’s melodramatic, and then when you get actual melodrama in your life, should you really be surprised? I was, and if you can relate to this, maybe you were too.
Our melodramas play out differently. For me, I wanted to pine for and beseech some fair maiden to bless me with her love. For someone else, it could be constantly trying to change a badboy/badgirl into someone nicer. For someone else, it could be about dating people who are emotionally unavailable.
Some of us seek love where it cannot be found because it’s simply more exciting. If you accomplish that, is that not a great love story?
Don’t get me wrong. The dramas that some suffer may have nothing to do with them wanting excitement and it’s more about unhealed trauma that they are trying to mask with a relationship. And yet, the question remains — what made them think that a relationship would help them cover up emotional pains? Once again, the media plays a huge role, but they can also see this in the relationships their friends have. Last month they were okay, but this month they’re so much happier ever since they got into a relationship.
Relationships can certainly be blessings, but if they are predicated on the thought that they are supposed to be exciting, you’re screwed. A relationship that is exciting all the time must be a drama. Why? Because excitement must include conflict. A story where everything is amazing all the time cannot exist because it’s boring. Also, don’t confuse excitement with meaning that everything is good. Excitement is never static. You will have dizzying heights and drowning depths. Check your most unhealthy romances and you will find this to be true.
Having said all of that, bear in mind that nothing can be static. A healthy and harmonious relationship will oscillate. Good things will happen and problems will come up. However, the good times are not sky high to the point where you’re oxygen-deprived and the bad times are not going to cause you to contemplate suicide.
People get addicted to the emotional highs of infatuation because you really do feel high. But the subsequent crash is absolutely awful. Again, check your most unhealthy romances and you will see this to be true.
By contrast, a healthy relationship isn’t as emotionally amazing and subsequently depressing because there is no subconscious belief that a relationship is supposed to make you feel incredible. As has been said time and time again, love is not a feeling. And if your objective in getting a relationship is to feel amazing, I have some bad news for you. After the high, there is a crash.
That’s what I went through for a number of years. I blamed other people. They blamed me. The fact of the matter was, we were just using each other to feel something.
What does this mean for me now? Well, I had to redefine what a relationship meant. I had started this long before but I saw that love is a choice, and I saw how the people I chose to date changed.
Also, I had to let go of the notion that being in a relationship is stressful and replace it with the thought that it’s amazing and helpful because I am choosing to love. My friendships are amazing and helpful, so I want my romantic relationship to be as well. With that, how I saw myself changed. I wasn’t stressed anymore. I was at peace, a peace that felt unusual and even uncomfortable because I was so used to the highs and lows of infatuation. With this, you have to just embrace how you feel, as uncomfortable as it is. You have to retrain your addicted brain.
Ultimately, I really want to stress how important it is to at least listen to your partners. They may not be right about everything they think about you, but they might be right about something crucial. They can see your blind spots. Friends can be great help here too because they’ve seen you go through relationships.
Also, take the time and look at what you think love and romantic relationships mean. Then take a look at your relationships. It is likely you will see a pattern, and once you see it, you can take the steps to chart a new course for healthier relationships.