I planned on dying alone in a monastery or silent retreat, but then I realized how comfortable I am with myself and with someone else.
When is a relationship toxic? When is it time to leave him or her? When is a relationship going well? I have had quite some upheaval within a few relationships and tried to find out what it is I actually want. There were also times when I assumed that I would live in an unfurnished studio apartment, shouting incorrect Jeopardy! answers at my projector while 15 cats keep me company. Why is it that some relationships seem to work effortlessly and others are a disaster? I was indeed very unsure of what to look for, or worse yet, I didn’t know all the positives that I truly deserve to have within a relationship. I was blind, assumed and thought that certain patterns within a relationship or marriage are “normal”. What I was lacking was a good understanding of what an awesome relationship looks like. When it comes to relationships and what I perceive as healthy and functional, I would like to share a couple of characteristics that should not be optional. If they are, they should be addressed as soon as possible.
Trust is one of the most important relationship characteristics to me. Without trust, there is a lack of a solid foundation on which to build anything. Without trust, I cannot count on my partner. For me, once trust is broken, the relationship is over.
Communication. Talking to each other honestly and respectfully, especially about things that are difficult, is something that does not come naturally and is not easy. Usually, uncomfortable topics are kept under the surface for the sake of harmony or perfection. I love a partner who doesn’t take things personally or who lashes out when he feels threatened. No need to escalate a conflict into a full-blown nuclear meltdown.
Respect for each other and don’t expect too much. I believe partners in a healthy, loving relationship extend each other a basic common denominator of patience that allows for flexibility, peace, and support for each other. Nothing and nobody is ever perfect but I think it is important to adjust to the ebbs and flows of a partner’s moods, within reason, on a daily basis. No need to scream and shout! I also think there is no need to say I love you but rather to show it in a form of affection and genuine interest. Kind of “a liking” for each other: hugs, kisses, comforting touch and whatnot. A relationship works in my opinion if both partners are truly interested in each other and are together out of attraction rather than obligation. In a healthy relationship, partners value each other’s time and opinions like they value their own. Compromises and flexibility are key, too. The relationship will change because people change. Nothing ever stays the same; to expect that two people will remain the exact same across months or years and decades is downright unhealthy thinking. You know why? Because hopes, fears, goals, and interests constantly evolve and this is a good thing. Also, the give-and-take roughly works out to equal over time, and neither partner feels resentful. There are exceptions of course and this is okay as long as both partners feel comfortable overall with the level of give-and-take as it exists. Oh, and don’t expect too much and you will never be disappointed.
Healthy conflict resolution. Usually, it does not work like this: boy-meets-girl-loses-girl, then boy-gets-girl-back-and-lives-happily-ever-after and they ride off into the sunset together and things are okay from now on. I believe that in a healthy relationship, partners are able to talk anything through with respect, empathy, and understanding.
Individuality and boundaries. Opposites attract. If two people were the exact same they would probably not have much to talk about after a while. And people who are so different that they don’t share each other’s values or daily styles of living are bound to have too little in common to maintain interest in each other. Do you know what the sweet spot is? A relationship where the similarities create a foundation to connect with each other, but individual differences are still respected and valued. Jealousy kills and I want to give my partner the freedom to still live his own life, especially in terms of friendships, hobbies etc. I believe it is important that each person has aspects of their lives that are theirs alone, and that boundary is respected by both. Lastly, but most important is honesty. Say what is on your mind and don’t mask your true self.
Do I need to be in a relationship?
I am in an awesome relationship with myself. I am perfectly happy by and with myself. Nobody needs to make me happy, heal me, help me or create my life for me. I am capable of taking care of all this on my own. But still, it is nice to have a partner by my side.
Then we met. He was there for me when I needed someone the most, yet we got to know each other slowly. In a way that felt totally fine. We read books together and didn’t call it a date. We watched movies. There was no pressure. Does the word commitment mean anything if two people live separate lives in two separate cities or countries? Even so, I wasn’t actively looking for anyone else and neither was he, but for me, that felt less like a decision I was making and more like a realization that “Hey, this feels good, maybe we should keep this going.”
I guess I spent so much time believing that there is a perfect person out there waiting for me and that my life’s primary directive is to tirelessly hunt that person down until finally I catch them and convince them to fall in love with my “strangeness and quirks”. Maybe this is all a fairy-tale rainbow and most couples haven’t come together in the end but that is okay, too. At the same time, I tend to think of commitment. The serious kind, permanent, capital -C Commitment as a bogeyman, with a clanking set of rusty shackles gaining on me, waiting for me to trip over a raised corner of the pavement so it can lock me up and trap me in its vice grip forever.
Honestly, committing feels less like impending doom descending on me to snuff out the flames of desire and more like crushing on a comfortable couch, reading to each other and cooking together while drinking tea or wine. Isn’t that sexy? Add intense fireworks, appreciation, and passion later and literally nothing sounds better than just staying where I am, forever, with a person who says they want to keep sitting there next to me.