re-la-tion-ship

Noun:  The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

– The Dictionary

Magic happens

So I was recently discussing the current state of my love life to my girlfriend Bella, and then to my girlfriend Rose…that I wished aloud that this whole dating/love/commitment scenario could just be simple, or at the very least a little less complicated!

So then it got me thinking. I’m smart enough to realise that to form a romantic relationship, generally two people are involved (though of course we can have a relationship with self). Some people just seem to think that “relationship” is a dirty word. It has scary connotations for them.

Surely, it’s just a word, made up of twelve letters. It isn’t alive. It has no great magical powers to possess, consume or restrain someone – but damn this little word really raises all sorts of emotions in different people.

We have many relationships in life, and with many people. I am lucky enough to have a loving, nurturing and meaningful relationship with all of my kids; I have wonderfully soul affirming relationships with my girlfriends; I have a professional and respectful relationship with my work colleagues. I have an interesting relationship with my waxer where she inflicts pain by ripping out unwanted hair and I actually thank her and then pay her for the privilege (That sounds almost like S&M!). Hell, I even have a relationship of great trust with my hairdresser (when I actually drag my ass there!). I don’t always know what’s happening in her life, but I trust her to colour my locks without question. People have all kinds of relationships – with their parents, siblings, grandparents, your kid’s teachers, other parents you meet through school, your personal trainer….So if you talked about having a relationship like any of the above, would it make you fearful? Probably not (save for the personal trainer, and possibly my waxer!).

Why is it then that when the word Relationship is spoken whilst dating, it causes so much angst and stress? Men seem to struggle more with the concept than women, though this is not always true. My friend the Grecian tends to get twitchy when the words like the ‘R’ word, or ‘commitment’ get spoken out loud.

I understand that a couple-type relationship is different from other relationships in some ways – but all great relationships, be it with family or friends, involves some form of commitment, expectation, love, communication, respect and to some degree, allowing others to see your vulnerability. When you share these aspects with a lover, and there is sex thrown in, can that really be a scary thing?

A very good platonic male friend of mine pointed out just this morning that for some men, the words “relationship” and “commitment” are paramount to marriage…even if you don’t live together and you have no agenda to get married. He explained that surrendering to a relationship (wait, you’re not in a war zone here!), means to some men “giving themselves over emotionally” to another human being.

“It’s tougher than you think for a guy to do that,” he said. Even if you love her? “Hell yes! That’s even scarier.”

This is why, he enthused, that some men use terminology like “hanging out”, or “spending time”, rather than “we’re in a relationship.” The terminology just sounds less scary to the ears of men.

That was kind of a light bulb moment for me.

Okay, so I looked up the definition of ‘relationship’ and then  used it as my quote for this blog. No wonder men get so scared! The second part of the dictionary definition read, “ The state of being connected by blood or marriage.” What the?! Just to reassure any males who might be reading this, I have plenty of relationships with people that are not related by blood or marriage. Though now I know where subconsciously that fear now comes from.

So what I realised today is that although nothing may change in your partnership from one day to the next, labelling what you have as a relationship creates for some, a sense that the bar has been raised and additional expectations will have to be met, even if that’s not the case. In short, the moniker of relationship makes things seem more serious. I guess that’s true for women too.

Calling something a relationship, from a chic perspective, is reassurance that you are both on the same page, moving in the same direction, even if it’s slowly.

Which then raises for women another word…exclusive. Being in a relationship as opposed to just “dating” usually means monogamy, and spending more time together. For a lot of chics this seems like a logical progression when you care about someone. Especially when you like them for exactly who they are and you’ve discovered they have flaws yet you still like hanging out with them. You wouldn’t mind introducing this guy to your nearest and dearest in the future because well, you think he’s pretty cool and amazing.

Why then is it so hard for some people to step over the line?

To clarify, I’m a firm believer that love given too freely or quickly can just as quickly be lost. In other words, something worthwhile takes time to develop and you need time to get to know one another. Some take much longer than others to feel comfortable enough to willingly take dating to the next level. I do realise also that a lot of factors come into play regarding one’s ability to be committed or not. Childhood memories and upbringing, issues surrounding self esteem, previous relationships and break ups (and if there are kids involved), can all influence your comfort levels.

My gorgeous friend Naina was laughing with me today about this subject. When she pointed out to her boyfriend that he might be a tad commitment-phobic, the academic said, “Nonsense! If you don’t like mushrooms, it doesn’t mean you are afraid of mushrooms! It’s not a phobia. It’s just a dislike.”

So, some men apparently just don’t “like” the label of commitment, or worse yet “committed relationship”. That’s a double whammy! Naina and the Academic are in a monogomous relationship, and are committed to each other but I should point out they quite comfortably choose not to cohabitate three years on, and both seem happy with that at this stage. It works for them.

So is it possible that someone who fears relationships and commitment can step over up to be part of a couple?

Yes, I believe that it is, and it happens all the time but they have to have a desire to. They may need to take baby steps and it might require some patience.

I worked with a lovely guy who is now happily married and they are expecting their first child. He quite openly admitted that he’d previously been completely hesitant to use the R word or the C word because it just made him feel restricted. Ironically he was totally monogamous to his then girlfriend and wasn’t interested in playing around. They called it “dating” for years and finally his best mate offered up this pearl of wisdom – what would be different if he admitted he was committed to her, and he called it a relationship?

He mulled it over for a few days and said for him the penny dropped. He loved her and he didn’t want to be with anyone else. And the rest as they say is history. She was happy that he’d finally called it a relationship.

Being a Leo, I’ll admit that I like the idea of the monogamous/exclusive “relationship”. As anyone following my love life will know, I’m also not able to just settle with anyone in the pursuit of it!

I’m quite a patient person (though that wasn’t always so. Being single for three years has taught me many things – one of them is patience) and I’m happy for something to develop and grow, absolutely. Dating can be lovely, and brilliant fun. It allows you time to get to know someone and hang out and spend time.

A kind of “try before you buy” idea, as one cheeky friend put it.

I think sometimes I am freakishly tolerant. Friends constantly tell me so. I probably do have a higher tolerance than most.  I think I’m just quite aware of my own flaws and limitations as well as my own strengths and my past has probably set me in good stead to be understanding of other people’s flaws, hesitancies and limitations. What I know is, if I think someone is worth the effort, and they believe I am, then I’m willing to see where it leads. We have to know our own worth and stay true to our own values of course.

When I give my heart to someone, however, I’m faithful and loyal and I expect the same in return. I think that’s true of most people, and not unique to me! I think you can only define your own relationship expectations, which are different for everyone.

Maybe we need to rethink our definition of relationship. Perhaps we need to re-invent what it means to us, or at the very least what we would like one to look like, instead of tainting it with stories from our pasts?

It doesn’t have to be scary. Rather than thinking of it as a monster, what if we likened a relationship to a beautiful, ever changing and growing plant. Sometimes there may be weeds and you may need to tend to them so show the real beauty of what grows there, but the end result is surely worth it when you have an amazing person willing to share the journey.

You might like to think of it as just a harmless word – with twelve letters and a not so scary dictionary definition: The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

I acknowledge that in the past, I too was fearful of being in another committed relationship. It was easy to be cynical.  I’ve been deeply hurt in the past, so the thought of giving my heart to another knowing that there was risk of getting hurt again didn’t thrill me. Anyone who has been in a relationship that ended in heartache absolutely needs time to heal. Getting hurt sucks.

Ah, but then the truth is this. If you get to know someone, sometimes feelings develop in spite of our fears and our ego. Sometimes two people just click despite our initial resistance.

Then we are faced with choices. To walk away from something because it raises insecurities or to look beyond the fears and see the simple possibility of hope and love. To give ourselves permission to put a bit of faith in someone else if they are worthy of our trust. To learn from our previous experiences and simply do it differently next time. To take a chance on happiness.

Sometimes we have to step outside the comfort zone to embrace the magic, right?

Perhaps talking about our expectations, fears and limitations is a good start. We all have them, after all.

I’ve decided to meditate and focus on all the positives that can be gained from being in a relationship, and to honour my heart. What is life without love after all? What a joyful concept to find someone who you fall in love with who loves you in return. A best friend who respects and cares about you, as you do them. To negotiate a new vision of a relationship that works for the two of you. That’s not a shabby idea at all!

I’m just ready to steady my nerves, take a deep breath and I’m more willing to step up for the right man who finds the courage to step up with me.

As the image of my Mr. Darcy becomes clearer, I’m just feeling brave enough to take a chance on the big R word. Relationships do come with emotional risk, sure,  but more importantly they come with great emotional reward.

I’m looking forward to the state of being connected.