Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Musings on Romantic Relationships

A couple I barely know announced via Facebook this morning that they're splitting up. They're both nice people - you know, based on the two times I've met them. They seem fun and interesting and generous. And I think they were together for a while. Their breakup should not affect me in the slightest. And yet it does.

I won't pretend to know what went wrong. I will try not to pry too much or to point fingers or to blame people without hearing the whole story. But as it stands, it reminds me a bit of my last relationship. I'm projecting my own former pain and mistrust onto the few details I choose to read as clues. My social ties make me closer to him but my feminine instincts make me closer to her.

My own last, long relationship went on far too long, although I needed it to in order to be sure. During that time, though, I was repeatedly encouraged to second-guess my gut feelings, to presume I was overreacting when something felt wrong. I'm slowly learning not to do that anymore. My sense of self is returning.

My sense of self is not tied up (often, anyway) in my significant other. We embrace vulnerability and entwine in measure, but each of us is a strong individual on our own. We have our own careers and distinct social activities, but we also love spending time with each other, doing things romantic or friendly or mundane. I bristle and my heart clenches when I think about the possibility of ending things, but I know we're both strong enough to not just survive but thrive. I don't dwell on things; I am all about living in the moment (at least relative to how past- and future-oriented I've been in the past).

I seem to let each long-term relationship I see end weaken my own relationship, or at least make me question it. Make me paranoid. Make me wonder at all the hidden things between people that make or break something. When is something worth it? When is it not working anymore? What do people want? How much of that changes, and how much of that stays the same?

It's about commitment. Actively and repeatedly choosing to make it work. But what's the value of commitment anymore in contemporary Western society? It's about honesty. Not being out to hurt your partner but being willing to do so if it means avoiding deception. It's about affection. Genuinely liking another person, flaws and all. Being willing to give the benefit of the doubt, and forgive, and compromise. It's not for everyone. It's not always forever. But for me, right now, it's right.

Currently reading: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

This is really interesting. I know I felt some similar insecurity when a friend of mine had his wife of 23 years leave him, and also with other relationships that I've seen not work out. Steve and I have talked about it and came to some similar conclusions as far as honesty and affection. Compatibility is also important, and maybe caught up in your ideas of affection. I've known people that I liked enormously but would go crazy living with because of different ways of dealing with time or different levels of need for interaction.