What Makes A Relationship “A Relationship”?

So you’re probably thinking: “Jeez, Vivienne, how the hell am I supposed to answer that?” 

Well friend, I don’t expect you to. Or at least not in the same way that I would, or your parents would, or a shrink would.  Hell, even googling the definition of the word relationship came up with multiple different meanings; my favourite being:

Relationship (noun): the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.

Which is quite sweet, when you put it that way, but also very practical, because relationships do in fact connect people. Human beings thrive on connection, we always have, and yet, after hundreds of thousands of years, we still struggle to define the relationships we share with certain people. 

Of course they aren’t always so complicated. Sometimes a friend is just a friend, or you have that rare distant cousin that you actually like, or a partner that you have been married to forever. There are lots of relationships in our lives that are uncomplicated, and for the most part, shall remain so. You know the ones – like the cashier at your local post office, or the nice girl at your favourite takeaway shop. It’s easy, simple, straightforward. You say a quick hello and thank them before hauling your ass home to open your new clothing/highly anticipated chicken stir fry.

But, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m not talking about those relationships. Those are easy. They don’t cause us to lay awake at night, obsessively going over every interaction you’ve had that past week, or questioning if they’re mad at you because they didn’t add a smiley face to the end of that text or if that girl in those tagged Facebook photos is really  just a friend of a friend. Yeah, we’ve all been there. It fucking sucks. We have all of this technology that’s supposed to help us feel “connected” and here we are, hiding behind screens too petrified to just march over and ask “what the hell is going on between us?!” 

It’s a strange concept, and one I’ve found myself pondering over quite often. I’m lucky enough now to be in a relationship where everything is completely transparent – we know how we feel about each other and what the other one wants, and that we make each other happy. Hell, sometimes I still pinch myself over how good I’ve got it. But it wasn’t always this way.

For a good 8 months, I was one of those people in limbo. I used to look for signs in everything – a text, a conversation, a look, a touch, a gesture. Anything that could potentially shine a bit of light as to how the heck he felt towards me.

Now, I’m not trying to group boys together here, but I do have a little bit of sympathy for them. The majority of the ones I know were raised by fathers who taught them not to be weak, and as helpful a trait as that may be, it also means that it makes it that much fucking harder for us girls to get a meaningful or personal answer out of them. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard “I don’t know” I would be living in a trendy warehouse loft in Brooklyn by now. I can’t complain too much, because with a lot of prodding and patience we managed to talk things out, but boy was it exhausting.

I hate to be the one who pulls this card, but movies and books do NOT help you in these circumstances. All the good YA books most definitely are fiction, because things don’t happen like they do in those novels! My god, I wish they did. The genre should be changed to ‘Never Happening To You’ because that’s kind of how I felt reading them during that period of my life. Don’t get me wrong, they are dreamy and romantic and whimsical and oh so cool, but c’mon! They’re helping set our expectations stupidly high and putting a little voice in our heads that reminds us at every possible moment how our lover/partner could be being more romantic/spontaneous at that moment.

I’m not even going to get started on rom-com’s. It’s my own fault for liking them. I know what I’m getting myself into. And yet, I watch them over and over again, gaping at how sweet they are and chiding my inner voice that maybe there are people out there who still act like that. But there’s clearly none in Cairns.

I’m not writing this post to say that I’m unhappy – quite the opposite in fact. I’m scarily happy with James, but it took a long time for us to get to this point. And that long time involved a lot of texting and phone calls and scheduling around work rosters and late night conversations that finally led to me asking if we could just properly be together already. Lucky for me, the answer was yes. But I know for a lot of people it isn’t. And that’s what breaks my heart the most. When we go through all of this bullshit and chasing and deciphering and interpreting and crying and lying on the floor, not knowing how to handle these situations in this technology-shielded world. That although, yes, we are infinitely blessed with our lives and the access we have, but at the same time, how is has created a pixelated void that fate and chance meetings used to once fill.

As a girl in her 20’s, I am terrified of dating in this world; which again, only makes me that much more grateful that I reunited with someone instead of having to start all over again. I know it can be fun and exciting and interesting, but it’s also incredibly exhausting too. Especially when you think everything is going well and you have a really good connection and then you finally find the courage to ask “what are we doing?” or the real big one: “are we in a relationship?” and it turns out that you’re just not the right girl for them or they’re not looking for anything serious at the moment. Ugh. 

As usual, this post strayed from it’s original concept, but that’s just how the brain works, I suppose. It’s actually pretty fascinating how six words have sparked such a deep and opinionated piece from myself, but I stand by what I’ve written nonetheless. 

What brought all this on was initially wondering “how do we define a romantic relationship between two people? Like, what actually takes it from being ‘just a thing’ to a full blown relationship? Is it a question, or a verbal agreement, or an unspoken understanding that you are together and that’s that? Is there some sort of checklist we can tick off to ensure that a possible relationship meets the offical criteria?” Well, the short answer is: no, of course not, silly. But it’s a nice idea.

Something I have learnt pretty quickly over the last 9 months is that every relationship is different. Sounds cliched and completely obvious, I know, but it really is something we overlook when we start comparing milestones and behaviours. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeing a friend being really happy with their partner and subconsciously noting how your relationship sizes up to theirs. I’m sorry, but no matter how cute their situation may be – yours is never going to be the same. It’s just biologically impossible. We are all individual human beings, with unique thoughts and feelings and reactions, so how can we expect that any two relationships will be exactly the same? 

Once I stopped comparing I realised how much easier it was to be grateful for what I have, and stop worrying about what I didn’t have yet. The best thing I’ve learnt from being with James is to have faith and to have patience, and yes, they have absolutely paid off. 

So I guess if you take anything from this long and extremely rambly post, take that: have faith, and have patience, and if you don’t think it’s worth it, take a break and cut communication for a while. After a couple of weeks you’ll either start missing them like crazy or feel content with your choice.

 

Sending you good vibes in this crazy age,

Viv  x

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One thought on “What Makes A Relationship “A Relationship”?

  1. you can think im ridiculous for saying this, but for all my love of science, for all the years of thought ive put into relationships, for all the long-term-relationships (and a failed marriage) and meeting people in bars, meeting people online, getting fixed up by a friend a couple times, and just a chance meeting (the most amazing and intense and incredible romance i ever had started by stealing the seat of a friend-of-a-friend…)

    no advice ive gotten or books ive read, nor romantic movies ive watched have ever measured up to the stuff you can glean from (basic) astrology. im not saying horoscopes are worth anything, or that the zodiac is scientific– the gist of it is that there are 12 types of people (an arbitrary number to be sure) and they have different traits that either make them easy for you to relate to, or extremely challenging. and as i was saying, whether you put any stock in the way people match their birthdays or not– just the traits in these archetypes are extremely useful.

    for example, im a very affectionate and relationship-oriented guy. right off, that makes half the women out there fundamentally incompatible. if i just went to bars looking for someone that was into that sort of thing, most of the people i will meet are going to convince me that such women dont exist– even if ive met them in the past. i will ultimately determine that such women no longer exist.

    but of course, the zodiac covers mostly everyone, from the cerebral to the passionate, from the boring to the pathologically extroverted. im sure theres some kind of bias that lines up a person ive been thinking of avoiding with goals and preoccupations i will never relate to– and while horoscopes (the day to day or month to month predictions) are unfalsifiably vague, the types of people… well, theyre specific enough to actually sort the people you know into categories you can relate to on a relationship level, or count on in a friendship. its helped with a lot of confusion ive had sorting out not so much the people i know, but the experiences ive had with them– good and bad. cheers.

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