A Few Words About Relationships   Leave a comment

I have to start out with a disclaimer here. I am married, but I have only been married for a little while. I have been in exactly one serious relationship in my whole life, and that started in October of my freshman year of college. So while I think my insight with relationships is deep, it isn’t exactly broad.

Second disclaimer: different things work for different people. If you’re reading an article like “Ten Gifts Your Guy Will Love,” you’re getting your information from a bad source. I don’t want football tickets. I don’t want car magazines. And I really don’t want to stop communicating. If you really want a healthy relationship, figure out what works for you, find somebody who fits that description, and then figure out what works for them. It doesn’t matter if you both wind up reproducing all of Ibsen’s plays as two-man-shows in your apartment for your pet iguana. If that works for you and makes you happy, then that’s one way for you to have a healthy relationship.

But that second disclaimer (we’ll just boil it down to “different strokes for different folks”) is something that I understand only intellectually. I know that it’s right, but it doesn’t feel right. The truth is, I don’t really understand how people can be satisfied with a relationship that doesn’t work like mine does. People are satisfied with their different relationships, so I know the problem is with me, but it’s still weird to acknowledge.

And I do acknowledge it, but I also acknowledge that I have an incredibly satisfying relationship, and that a lot of people could be helped if their relationships looked more like mine. So, with the understanding that what I’m about to say does not and should not apply to everyone, we’ll finally leave this disclaimer behind and get to the meat of what I wanted to write about.

I feel like the attention that people pay to sacrifice in relationships is the wrong kind of attention. Sacrifice does happen and is usually necessary for a healthy relationship, but sacrifice should never be the point of any action. Instead what partners should be focusing on is how everyone involved can be most themselves.

So for example, I love my wife. I love who she is, what she wants to do with her life, and how she wants to get there. I absolutely do not want her to sacrifice all her goals in life so that I can do the crap that I want to do. I would be livid if I found out that she had given up on a good opportunity for herself because of me without at least talking to me about it first. Both of us have made sacrifices for our relationship, but those sacrifices have been incidental and minor compared to what we have gained from each other. I am more myself, or perhaps a better self, than I was when I first met my wife, and I think she would say the same of me. We are mutually dependent not because we have carved out pieces of ourselves to fill with the other person, but because we have grown taller each by leaning on the other.

So that, I think, is one way to judge a relationship. Don’t ask whether your partner is willing to make sacrifices for you. If they are using you the use might be worth the sacrifice. Ask instead whether they care about helping you live the kind of life you want to lead. Ask yourself if you want to help them live the way they want live.

If the answer to these questions is no, is the relationship still worth it? It might be. I don’t understand that kind of relationship, but I’m some know-it-all in my early twenties. I don’t need to understand it. I don’t know anything about you. All I know is what I need, what makes me happy, and the kind of relationship that has given me so much strength through the years. So don’t look at this post as one way to test your relationships. Rather, look at it as an opportunity to think about your own wants and needs, the wants and needs of your partner, and what that tells you.


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