In this article I want to share some of my thoughts on relationships. Needless to say, I’m no expert on this issue, but I hope that I have at least picked up some insights over time (vicariously or otherwise).
One of the things that I had wrong when I was a kid was that I took relationships too seriously. As a young teenager I thought that you entered into a relationship with someone because you thought that that relationship had a serious chance of resulting in marriage. It seems quite silly looking back on it now. Admittedly, I do still feel this same way in some regards – I would still say that if your relationship is going nowhere then it is effectively dead. But I would also now say that a relationship is a kind of step into the unknown; it’s about coming to know someone better. You don’t need to know the person super well; that’s what relationships are for! Your relationship should only be as serious as is appropriate for it to be. At the start of a new relationship you aren’t committing to marriage, you’re only committing to finding out more about a person that you like. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and that’s fine. If it does work out then great! That’s what everyone is searching for 🙂
I think I might describe a romantic relationship as a journey from regular friendship to marriage. (Yes, I still firmly believe that marriage should be the ultimate end goal – but you shouldn’t be worrying about that at the start at all!) You might only travel so far along that path before you realize that you, as a couple, can’t go any further. And this can still be a very positive and enriching experience for both the people involved. When this happens you become friends again – but it’s a different kind of friendship to what you had before, because you will have been changed by the things you’ve shared. You knew a lot of each others’ innermost thoughts and feelings and that’s going to have a big effect on both of you. You will have changed each other in ways that only people on this unique journey can. I think it is a great pity when people who break up with each other after a long time never talk again, never become friends again. A romantic relationship should be rooted in friendship, and it is a pity if that friendship is lost when the romance is.
A big problem with relationships, as I see it, is that intense physicality – i.e. physical intimacy – forces the relationship to become more serious. A marriage is going to be physically intimate; a friendship is not. If a relationship is a journey from friendship to marriage, but you’re 100% physically intimate from the very start… Well, I’m sure you can see the problem.
It’s my opinion that the physicality of a relationship should match the intimacy of every other aspect of the relationship. For example, I think sex is only fully right in the context of marriage – where every part of the relationship is profoundly and equally intimate. I suppose a lot of people today would see sex as a perfectly normal part of a relationship from pretty much the get-go. But if you’re trying to sleep with someone after your first date, can you really stand up and say quite honestly that you’re doing so purely out of love and not for any other reason? I don’t think you can.
Furthermore, an overly physical relationship can actually reduce the intimacy of the rest of your relationship. If all you do is have sex then where is the room for intellectual bonding? Allow any one part of a relationship to become too dominant and it will strangle the others – and this is fatal. You need every part of a relationship to be in balance if it is to succeed.
There are also other dangers with having a difference in intimacy between the various aspects of a relationship. Continuing with the example of sex, physical intimacy heightens emotional intimacy. When you have sex with someone you’re going to feel closer to them; you will become more attached. Now, hopefully this will be a good thing – and in a healthy relationship it is a wonderful gift that nurtures a couple’s love – but it can be misused and abused too. If you have sex when the rest of your relationship has not achieved that level of intimacy, you run the risk of becoming overly attached to someone that you really shouldn’t be with. You could be reinforcing a relationship that should actually be allowed to fall apart. I suspect that divorce is on the rise in modern times because a lot of people get married when they shouldn’t – and I would say that sex will have played a role in at least some of these cases.
Another thing which I believe very strongly is that love is not a light switch. The idea that you fall “in love” is something that we almost take for granted. But it’s wrong to think of it as just black and white – as either “being in love” or “not being in love at all”. Love is perhaps the most wonderfully varied phenomenon that we can experience as humans. Love comes in so many forms: loving your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, spouse, etc. (Loving yourself. Loving God.) And in each of these cases love is dynamic and ever-changing – just as we as individuals are; just as our relationships are. It’s seems so silly then to reduce love to some sort of simple light switch; to being either on or off; to being either “in” or “out” of love.
I think that we can see this concept of “being in love” very clearly in Disney films. Typically in these films, a young prince and princess fall “in love”. They have an idyllic, honeymoon-esque relationship where each thinks the other is perfect. If you go out into real life and expect your relationships to be like this – even demand that they be like this – then you will be in for a rude awakening. This type of love is akin to infatuation. (But I do think that is a type of love. After all, what else could you call thinking someone to be absolutely wonderful if not a type of love?) A mature loving relationship, however, is not like this Disney relationship. In a mature relationship each person will recognize the other’s faults; there will be fights; there will be compromises. Relationships will often be challenging. But if a couple they truly love each other, they will support each other despite these things. There will be moments of this “Disney love” constantly appearing throughout your relationship, and you should savor these moments because they are wonderful and worthwhile. But if you expect every single moment of your relationship to be like this then you will quickly become disillusioned. And if that’s all your relationship is then I would question whether it is a truly loving relationship at all, or merely one of delusional infatuation.
Most people I know wouldn’t sleep with someone just for self-gratification; they would do so when they sincerely believe themselves to be in love – in a loving relationship. As you can probably tell from what I’ve written above, I don’t think this is a good idea. First of all, it’s extremely difficult to quantify when you are in a loving relationship with someone. If a relationship is a journey in love, what stage of that journey marks the point where you are sufficiently “in love” to have sex? I suspect that it is very easy to feel that you have reached that stage when you are experiencing infatuation, a type of love I mentioned earlier. But is this kind of short-term, intense but brief love really solid grounds for a serious relationship? In contrast, if you’re going to marry someone you’re probably as sure as you can ever be that you love your partner in a lifelong way – it’s definitely a loving relationship! My point is that people can be willing to have sex once they’re part of a loving relationship but do they mean a relationship founded on infatuation or one founded on a deeper long-term love? And might it not be rather easy to mistake the first for the second?
OK I’ve just noticed how long this article has gotten! (Actually had to cut out a few paragraphs and it’s still really long!) It’s definitely time to call a halt for today 😛 I’ve actually kind of surprised myself with how much I have to say on this topic – I’ll have to write at least one more post on this in the near future. Anyway, if you got this far well done! I hope you enjoyed it 🙂 As always, please feel free to leave comments below. Kevin out!