Very often, people use the word “relationship” to refer to romantic relationships – just as they use the word “love” to refer to romantic love. It rather annoys me to see those words trapped into one of their specific meanings, especially as this specific meaning is not one I can relate to. So, be warned – in this blog, “relationship” refers to all kinds of relationships, and “love” refers to all kinds of love.
And in fact, I will certainly write much more about all the non-romantic kinds of relationships and love than about the romantic ones.
It bothers me that romantic love and romantic relationships are now considered the main and most important kinds of love and relationships, so much that it is necessary to specify that one is not talking about romantic love or romantic relationships in order to be understood when trying to discuss the other kinds. I have nothing against romantic love and romantic relationships – I do not seek them and I consider both highly overrated and the product of social and cultural conditioning, but I respect the fact that they are real and important to other people – but I wish they did not push the other kinds into the shadows so much.
Most of the time, it seems to me that romantic relationships are considered to be the only valuable kinds of relationships. Whenever I hear someone saying that they fear they will remain single, the main reason they are afraid appears to be that they do not want to “die alone” or “grow old alone”. But who says that they have to? Are romantic partners the only people likely to stay by their side? No. Nothing actually prevents friends from staying by their friends all through their lives – nothing, except the fact that it is not what is expected of them. Friendship is not considered to imply the same kind of long-term commitments romantic relationships do, even though some friendships last much longer than some romantic relationships – I know many people who have a best friend they have known since childhood, but none so far who have a romantic partner they have known for so long. Of course, maybe that is because most of the people I know are younger than thirty and, thus, are very unlikely to have had the same romantic partner for a longer time than they have known their childhood friends.
Very few people put the same expectations into their friendships as they do into their romantic relationships – and ever fewer are ready to fulfil the same expectations for their friends as for their romantic partners. They obviously wish some kind of long-term, permanent connection to someone, but since romantic relationships are expected to provide that, they do not turn to other relationships in order to get that connection if they have no romantic partner. And even if they did consider it, even if they were willing to put that kind of energy and dedication into a friendship rather than a romantic relationship, they would not dare try it, because they would not believe that any of their friends would be willing to do the same – they would expect their friend not to give so much of themself as they would be willing to, or to withdraw it in order to give it to a romantic partner the day they get one.
This makes me sad. I wish that all kinds of relationships – not just romantic ones – could be highly valued by the people involved, no matter what kind of relationship they are.
One of the reasons romantic relationships are so highly valued, I think, is that people expect their romantic partner to fulfil most of their social and emotional needs – to be someone they can plan the future with, and also have fun; someone they can share activities with, who will always understand them and support them, and so on. Basically, finding such a person would mean not needing another person anymore. Besides the fact that being so dependent on another person seems more scary than appealing to me, I dislike this ideal because it seems totally unrealistic.
Rather, I very much like the idea of relying on several different people for fulfilling one’s emotional and social needs. For instance, I do not engage in the same activities with all my friends, and I like it that way. I also like the fact that I do not have the same emotional connection to all of them, that we do not discuss the same things and that I do not behave the same way with all of them; I never play a part or pretend to be someone I am not, I simply do not show the same facet of myself to everyone. While only two of my friendships are truly deep and close, none of the others are casual (or else, I would not refer to these people as “friends”) and they are all important to me. Maybe my two close friendships fulfil more of my emotional needs, but that does not mean that I am not emotionally involved in the other ones.
I also dislike the idea of needing only one person to fulfil one’s needs, because I have never been looking for people to fulfil my needs (they are pretty low in the first place, and only grow when a relationship develops and more than fulfils the needs I have) – I have met them by chance, and those friendships often developed without my expecting them to (especially the most emotionally involving ones). Why should I have refused to let the second one develop, for the only reason that I already had one close friendship? Why should I have put an end to the first one in order to allow the second one to grow? My having a second close friend did not weaken my relationship to the first one. They are two very different people, and my relationships with them are totally different as well; I enjoy both, and would not want to choose between them. And if I ever were so lucky as to develop a close friendship with a third person, I would not give up any of the first two either. This is not a matter of competition; just as my social and emotional needs grow as I develop new sources of fulfilment through new or deepening friendships, the affection and attention I can offer my friends also grow with my friends’ needs for them. I am quite certain there are limits somewhere, but as my friends are not that numerous yet, I am quite sure I have a long way to go before I reach them.
Once, I wrote on AVEN, on a thread about polyamory, that I did not think I could be polyamorous, as I did not need more than one person to fulfil my emotional needs. I was mistaken about this for two reasons: 1) I had not yet become aware that I was aromantic, and 2) I had only one very close friend at the time, and never dreamed that I would ever be so lucky as to have another one. Now I do, and I realize that I really have no need for a romantic partner in order to feel loved, cared for, and supported, or to love, care for, and support another person – and that, while each of these two friendships alone would make me very happy, having both makes me even happier.
I was right about one thing, though: I could not be polyamorous, as I am aromantic. But I am polyemotional. I do not need several deep emotional connections to be happy, but I do not wish to limit myself to one when I am fortunate enough to have an opportunity for two. And both my friends, although they do not know each other, know about my close friendship with the other, and are happy for me. One of them has other close friends that he values as much as he values me, while the other will certainly get married someday. I am fine with both. I certainly do not believe that I am awesome enough that they should need no-one else beside me, and knowing how happy these two friendships make me, I can only wish them the same happiness (or happiness of a similar kind, for the one who wants to get married).
I am not saying that people seeking romantic relationships should give up and be content with friendship. What matters is not the kind of relationship one is involved in, but how satisfying they are. Rather than clinging to a relationship label, I would suggest they make a list of what they want from other people (for me, it would be mutual trust, understanding, fun, support, affection, among other things; for other people, it could also include great sex, romantic weekend getaways, someone to make plans and build a future with, someone to raise a child with, or someone to sail across the Atlantic with) and try to find that – not focusing on the context in which they get it, but simply on who can give it to them. They could be surprised.
And I would also suggest to remain open to what people have to offer, even if it was not on the list. I never thought I wanted someone to remind me of my dreams, show me the signs and push me into the right direction when I am confused about what to do with my life. And yet, now, I am glad I have him – for this and for many other things.
All I can say is…and go check out her blog