Healthy and fulfilling expectations for a relationship
November 25, 2012 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What are the healthy and fulfilling expectations of what a relationship should be and do for you?

I'm not currently dating and haven't been for about six months. And generally, I'm fine with the situation as it is. For a long time, I realize I had an obsessive need to be in a relationship (I didn't feel happy unless I was dating). That wasn't healthy (obviously, but I think I had to learn that for myself and let experience teach me that). Now though, it's odd because I realize I don't need a relationship and so I'm sort of confused about what I would actually expect a relationship to do for me. I have fun with my friends. I have a job which I moderately enjoy. I have hobbies I enjoy. I've reconciled with my family. Life isn't perfect, but it's pretty stable and comfortable.

All of this makes me wonder, what do I need a relationship for? Really, what do I want a relationship for? I'm agnostic about having kids. I have no religious pressure or feeling of obligation to get married. I have companionship with my friends and family. I get fulfillment from my hobbies and close friendships. Perhaps TMI, and maybe related somehow or not, I've noticed my libido lower in my mid/late twenties.

Part of me remembers fondly, if not incorrectly, those times when I was obsessed with women. I'd get crushes. I'd fall hard for a girl. There'd be great emotional highs (with the obligatory gnashing of teeth for the emotional lows). Relationships added a certain magic to life.

But now I feel jaded about it. I feel like I've swung far to the other side. I shouldn't depend on relationships for happiness. My emotional well-being is separate from being in a relationship. And so, I don't even know what to expect. Am I done with falling in love? If you don't need a relationship, do you really want a relationship? What should my expectations or a want for a relationship be (besides compatibility and companionship, or is that really it and I'm too busy trying to make it more complex than it should be)? Should it be transcendental or fun or passionate or safe? I mean, I don't think I want to live alone (although I guess I'd be fine if I did, or is this itself an admonition that I wouldn't be) and so I'm just trying to figure out what to actually expect of my next relationship.

Just trying to get some insight while I'm on the sidelines (so to speak).
posted by yeahyeahyeah to Human Relations (8 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
posted by John Cohen at 3:53 PM on November 25, 2012

You might want to take a listen to Gary van Warmerdan's podcast, the episode titled "How to tell if a relationship will work", about halfway down the list. I found it helpful for figuring out what it is I want, what I can expect, and what will actually work for me.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:08 PM on November 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

There are as many possible answers to your questions as there are people in this world. Here's my (somewhat incoherent) take:

Am I done with falling in love?

You're FAR too young, and life (I hope) is too long, to decide that you're done with anything like this -- anything on the scale of major life changes.

But since you feel like you're in a hiatus, I suggest you acknowledge and embrace this state of being instead of getting down on yourself. That is, resist the urge to declare yourself "done" with anything, but do accept that you're in a place where love doesn't really interest you, and that's perfectly okay -- until that time comes when suddenly you realize you're interested again, at which point, that will be okay, too.

If you don't need a relationship, do you really want a relationship?

I didn't feel in need of a relationship when I met my SO. But as I grew to know him, I became more and more enamored of what life looked like when I was with him. And so... voila. I grew very keen on a relationship with him!

In fact, I think the best relationships happen when two people who don't need a relationship meet and click. After all, being happy on your own is often a key sign of being a healthy, well-adjusted, interesting person. Someone who is in need is, by definition, less able to give. And what you're looking for is someone who can give.

What should my expectations or a want for a relationship be (besides compatibility and companionship, or is that really it and I'm too busy trying to make it more complex than it should be)? Should it be transcendental or fun or passionate or safe? I mean, I don't think I want to live alone (although I guess I'd be fine if I did, or is this itself an admonition that I wouldn't be)

See above. I think until you're perfectly content on your own, you'll never be quite sure of contentment with someone else. Good relationships, in my experience, work through the principle of giving: that is, I give and give and give 100%, and my SO also happens to give and give and give 100%, and through this wonderful storm of generosity, we both end up feeling incredibly loved and appreciated by each other (and, by extension, not wanting for anything from each other). Were either of us in a less giving and more "needy" mode (e.g., coming from a place of 'I don't want to be alone, so I need you around' rather than 'I like being on my own, but it's way more fun to be with you'), the dynamic would be much different and not nearly as...wonderful as it is.

I'm just trying to figure out what to actually expect of my next relationship.

I don't think you can ever (well, not productively or helpfully) form expectations of something that does not yet exist. To risk sounding Zen, I think the best road is to accept this moment, this situation, this mood, this place you're in. Acknowledge and seek contentment in where you are, both mentally and circumstantially. Also, crucially and relatedly, be open to the world and its possibilities.

Should someone come along who adds new dimensions to your contentment -- and who makes togetherness even more appealing than your life before you met her/him -- pursue a relationship with that person, and see where it leads you. Always, though, be appreciative of the moment. Stop thinking in terms of future goals, and take the time to see and recognize and enjoy what you have right now.

This comment is starting to sound very woo-woo, for which I apologize. know, once you've been in crap relationships and then you find yourself in a good, solid, loving one, you realize that overthinking things is just not necessary. Or, to put it differently: a good relationship is about luck, good timing, and what you bring to the table as a grown adult who is happy with herself.

(Coda: I always used to roll my eyes at people who said, "It's not supposed to be hard." Now I'm learning that they were right.)
posted by artemisia at 4:11 PM on November 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

Sod's law states that you will fall completely and irreversibly in love within the week.

It's all about feeling like your life is one pretty darn awesome cupcake and then noticing someone who somehow manages to be the cherry on the top of it all.

Also, the gestalt prayer. I want to live this all of the time.
posted by f3l1x at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have been contemplating the same issue.

Why do I want a relationship?

I`ve come to the conclusion that I don`t have to be in a relationship to be happy. But if I met the right person it would be nice. First of all you need to be comfortable with who you are, and what you want. To many people expects others to make them happy. That will never end well.

For me, I want to have a relationsship with another independent person. Someone who enjoys my company, who I can make laugh. And who likes the same shit as me. But has her own interests as well.

I can`t agree enough witt Artemisia about being an adult who is happy with herself! remember that you can`t make anyone else happy, if you`re not happy yourself. Train yourself to just go with the flow. (not on everything in life, but relax).
posted by silvershadow at 2:18 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you are in the best situation possible. So many people find their happiness in their SO. But you are at the point where you are emotionally stable and independent. This gives you great freedom in looking for a relationship because you won't be pressured by yourself or by others to start one. But when the time comes that you find someone you would rather be with more than you would prefer to be apart, you'll be a well-rounded individual with a lot to contribute.

It's a lot better for the health of the relationship to be in a position to give than just take, take, take. I think you'll find it's also more rewarding.

As far as what a relationship might give you, I think I'm at the same place. I have someone I can simply share life with. There's always a bit of dependence, but it's a relationship where two people are independent, for the most part. For me, the reward of being in a relationship is that you'll always have someone who will share in your successes and your sorrows. Living life with others amplifies the joy of simple life experiences. Companionship is what makes my relationship right now worth every minute. (oh, and all the laughter. I am done being in a relationship with high-stress individuals.)
posted by mellosphere at 7:15 AM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: Very "inspirational" and uplifting stuff. I'll let you know how Sod's law works out (jk, or maybe not depending on the rest of the week). And this was all a very reassuring read, so thank you very much strangers from the internet and I hope your days are grand.
posted by yeahyeahyeah at 6:09 PM on November 26, 2012

I can only tell you what happened with me, I was married for almost 9 years and my SO (we shall say) left me for someone else. I did the cycle of angry, depressed and all that and then moved on. What could I change? Nothing. So I thought long and hard about what I wanted and came to the conclusion that I wanted to matter to someone. I did not have to be the "be all and end all" for them I just wanted to matter.

I felt that someone out there would like me for my brain and sense of humor not for my mesurements and face. I felt there was someone out there would would see me for me with my faults and all and still want to be with me. I didn't really overthink it because what is the use all it does is make you frustrated and upset.

I was not in another relationship for 11 years after that and I found a man who like me for me and God knows he was not perfect but we cared for each other and we fit each others needs. Regretfully that relationship only lasted 4 years and he found someone who fit him a lot better, and I wish him the best.

I know one day someone will come who will fit me and fulfill me, I was patient for 11 years I figure I can be patient a bit longer (hopefully not 11 more years) and see what happens. I do not have to have someone in my life to be happy, that is what hobbies and friends and my children are for.

I'm just trying to figure out what to actually expect of my next relationship

Expect nothing but grab it with both hands when it jumps up and bites you, you will know when it is right for you. I know that sounds corny but you can never push these things to happen and if you make a list you will be disappointed because no one is perfect.

Another small piece of advice do not burn any bridges as you never know who will recross them and end up being perfect at a later time. Hope this helps some.
posted by kmpwj at 7:02 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older SPOOOOOOOOONNNNNN!!!!   |   Searching for beautiful emotional minimal music Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.