We give relationships an interesting standard. The English word in itself is interesting.
1. a connection, association, or involvement.
2. connection between persons by blood or marriage.
3. an emotional or other connection between people:
the relationship between teachers and students.
the relationship between teachers and students.
4. a sexual involvement; affair.
Depending on the interpretation, it could mean either a technical association, a bond between family members, some kind of interpersonal connection, or sex. It goes straight to sex. I was surprised by the definition, and I realized that the relationship we tend to think of in terms of romance is grouped with “an emotional or other connection between people.” It does not get its own term.
At birth, we are born into 1, 2, and 3. We discover 4 later at our own pace. But relationships, this societal construct mostly rooted in monogamy, also comes into play. It is not as clear cut as sex. It is not inevitable and irreplaceable like immediate family or emotional connections. Why does it get its own standard?
Like most normally-cognitive people, I like to have friends. I do my best to keep good relationships with past employers, teachers, and classmates that were noticeably friendly to me. They are people you get really close to by default of society. You can have as many friends as you want, as close to you as you want them to be. Everyone has lots of teachers and classmates. With employers, it may be uncomfortable for them to know that you also work with other people, but as long as you churn out good work, it should never matter.
By default, the typical relationship is monogamous. There are rules, to which one can play at different levels. They include gender norms and dating expectations. Conduct, finesse, and chivalry. Those are the things I think of when I am reminded of the existence of relationships.
I believe love has nothing to do with it. Relationships are powered by eros, conduct, and a set agreement. You can have a long-lasting loving relationship with someone without actually having a relationship with them. Lovers that leave to pursue other things but somehow always come back to each other in a haphazard, chaotic sense. Best friends, sometimes of the same sex, who grow old together — you see them kiss and hold each other, but they are not married nor did they ever act that way. Similarly, you can be in a relationship and detest and have nothing in common with the person. Marriages before they fail. Things that shouldn’t have been solidified in the first place when they could not mix.
It’s strange when you compare it to friendship, something that offers mutual gains at now formal cost. Something egalitarian, laissez-faire, poly-prefix, without set beginnings and end. I see friendship as a natural association of human nature. You don’t have to call them your friend. You treat them kindly and feel some sort of warm, innate bond with them. You simply enjoy their presence and want them around. And if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t often end in an explosion. You just stop seeing them as much or maybe distance got in the way. You enjoy their presence. But people like to think of love as “happily ever after” and the kiss at the end of a movie. You care more for the end result rather than the time you spent enjoying it.
And then the break ups. The “don’t be friends clause.” I can understand a pocket of space to heal, but permanently breaking off a long-term relationship with someone who was closest to you doesn’t seem conducive to personal development. Some do end up terribly and you realized it should never have happened in the first place. But as functional people, the majority of them should at least end on understanding and mutual terms. Why did we decide such de facto strict terms, specifically for romantic relationships and nothing else? It seems like the sort of thing that makes people cling more desperately to constructs rather than people. Something in which the idea of it — the societal skeleton appeals far more than the actual friendship and connection. All or nothing.
And thus the irony of “you can’t date someone you’re friends with” and the “friendzone” complaint emerges. That the mere foundation for any healthy long-lasting relationship disappears. Six months later, you realize you would have never been friends in the first place. Society trains us to do ironic things.
At this point in life, I am not interested in traditional monogamous relationships. I’d rather be with people I like, while keeping my own identity. And it’s funny how often relationships can change those two vital things.
This post was edited August 19th for concerns to quality control and personal privacy.