A few years back, the Utne Reader had a cover article about SuperRelationships. I found the article compelling because it explored the question of whether we expect too much from relationships. This is a question to which I keep returning. Is it realistic to expect so much from one person? Can we expect that one person will "get" every aspect of us?
In October, I was at a wedding and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in some time. I was telling my friend about my recently acquired boyfriend. I felt compelled to explain that I wasn't sure that he was the love of my life, because even though he was my boyfriend, I feared that people would infer too much from it. I then began confessing that as much as I adored my boyfriend, I also felt drawn to a coworker with whom I got along very well and who shared a similar sense of humor and approached work much in the same way I do. I was confused by what seemed to be conflicting feelings - how can I feel that way towards one if I feel the way I feel towards another? My friend shared something that I thought was so insightful and intelligent that I reflect back upon it often, particularly when the issue of relationships come up in conversation.
What my friend shared with me was her belief that perhaps our society is so wildly monogamous that we cannot accept that there might be one person, not our significant other, who gets one part of us so much better than anyone else, and we feel guilty when that happens.
Over the holidays, I again found myself in a discussion about my current relationship status. When asked whether it was serious, I responded that I couldn't tell. I knew I cared very deeply for my boyfriend, and I felt that his laid-back, upbeat approach to life balanced out my high-anxiety, intense, sometimes moody self. I liked spending time with him, but liked that we both kept separate spheres, and were able to join or not join the other when we felt like it. What I didn't feel, however, was that firecracker emotion, that tingle in the back of my neck, the excitement that comes when you meet someone who sparks some dormant or quiet part of you. I wasn't sure that he really "got" me, and that we didn't have enough in common for that to ever realistically happen. So things were good, they were really good, but I wasn't sure they were great, but I also wasn't sure that any relationship ever has that capacity. My friends shared their stories, of friends who were together but then broke up, no reason other than it just wasn't The One. It was good, but it wasn't great, and good isn't good enough. And here we are, embracing or about to embrace our 30s, and still no answers or discoveries with respect to The One.
It came up again last week. A friend who was considering some of her own relationships started asking whether I saw myself marrying my current boyfriend. She asked if I was happy, or just content, and was being just "content" settling for something less than love that we each deserve?
I don't have answers. I do sometimes wonder about my relationship, and it pains me to admit that. But for as much as the questioning around me increases, my own questions subside. The longer I'm in this relationship, the more I see that he gets me much more than I gave him credit for. He might not debate my socio-political philosophies with me, and we may never be capable of having such esoteric discussions. But there are other people with whom I can have those discussions, and I don't know anyone else who can calm me or keep me company in the day to day drudgery of life the way that he can.
If we expect the superrelationship, then we are looking for one person who gets every part of us, to the exclusion of the people around us who are very capable of providing those connections. I have seen couples who are good examples of superrelationships, but I am not sure it's for everyone. And it's not that I don't wish the best for myself or others who haven't found a superrelationship, and I'm not even sure whether I think there is a superrelationship for everyone or not. But I think it's ok to be in a committed, long-term relationship with someone who gets most of you, and respects that the rest of the parts of you will continue to explore and develop, sometimes or even oftentimes with other people in your life.
So am I going to marry the boyfriend? I don't know. I'm not anywhere near that place. The question makes me uncomfortable. Would I be, if I were in a superrelationship? Maybe. There's no way to tell. I'm not in a rush to resolve the question. There's so much more fun to be had first. I know we're good together right now, and right now I think that's enough.
What do you think? Are we expecting superrelationships and supermonogamy? Are we expecting too much? Or are we discarding a formerly economic and social contractual approach to marriage and relationships in favor of a true, deep, one-of-a-kind bond approach to marriage?