I don’t understand certain things, as is natural in life, and this uncertainty often sparks a curiosity. “Why?” is a question I ask frequently. My goal is to gain concrete, immediate knowledge, but not all topics can garner such a firm response, so I’m either satisfied with a less-specific answer or I continue my search. That curiosity of personal understanding led to a series of long, personal blog posts in 2010: on compromise, passion, oddity, and logic. I’m in a better place on those subjects by now (after 4 years, one would hope so), which is sort of evident in the fact that I haven’t really had deep posts like that for a while. I did write about my lack of interest in commitment, earlier this year, but even the writing of that post shows a different frame of mind. I’m still curious about things, though, so while the idea of others wanting to commit their lives to a dependent pet or child sits in my head just fine, the concept of romantic relationships still does confuse me.
So, here… since we haven’t had one for a while, let’s have another Mark-asks-why post. I know you’ll just love it! 😉
Since I started having these conversations with folks regarding my apparent disinterest in the pursuit of a romantic relationship, I’ve garnered a wide variety of reactions: that I’ll come around eventually, that it’s just fine and perfectly healthy, that there’s a deeper issue at hand, and even acceptance that’s tinged with a suspicious “okay, but I don’t REALLY believe you” tone. I’ve hardly declared that I will NEVER find a mate (though I tend to move more in that direction every day), merely that while looking at the evidence of my history and considering my more matured emotions, this is the current personal frame of mind I’ve come to understand. The base of this point-of-view, though, isn’t that I just can’t see myself in a relationship, but that I sincerely don’t really understand why ANYONE chooses to be in a relationship.
And that’s what I’m here to ask you, dear faithful, semi-faithful, or first-time reader 🙂 .
We’ll start with the obvious — I did not grow up with a healthy view of marriage. My parents are hardly a beaming example of what I think a great relationship should be, and while I very often questioned why my mom could be stupid enough to want to be with my dad (how I saw it, growing up), I have also questioned why my dad would want to be with my mom (and not just because I thought less of her for her poor choice in partner). I learned much more about what I don’t want in a relationship than what I do, from them. Just as with how I carry myself and how I emotionally respond to life, I think I tended to learn more cons than pros from my folks about relationship. Well, perhaps that’s not fair… let’s just say that the cons heavily outweighed the pros in terms of influence. It may be truer of the latter phrasing, but I’ll give them this benefit of the doubt. Did I expect them to be perfect? Perhaps. I was a perfectionist all the way back to the time when I can remember memories, so it’s certainly possible that my standards were too high. I think it’s more likely, though, that it’s just not a great relationship. It also carried extra weight because I was the spawn of this relationship… so there are added layers of screwed-up-ness when you toss in the fact that I was a kid who tried to foster a relationship with my mom and my dad would tend to ruin things. I am fully aware of this influence on how I perceive the men and women in my life when they directly relate to me — I tend to be extremely selfish with the female attention I can get (friends, conversations, whatever). That’s a whole other bucket of madness, sure, but at least I understand it 🙂 . How does all of this parental influence impact my current view of relationships, though… or does it even still carry any serious weight at all?
It’s easy to see why maybe I’d be confounded when a woman I’m close with gets into a relationship that I don’t see as ideal, but this doesn’t mean she’s up on a pedestal as perfect — and, taking it to the heart of the matter, my confusion extends even to couples who ARE pretty well-off and happy. I can point to a whopping TWO couples whom I know well that seem to embody the ideas of what a good relationship should be. If I was engaged in a conversations on this subject in my day-to-day life, I would mention these two as “healthy,” but even still… in the back of my head I am left really confused as to how they stay together — and, more importantly to the topic at-hand… why? I personally have a very difficult time imagining wanting to choose to put up with any of these individuals’ human imperfections in a lifelong partnership. I don’t know of a single relationship that I envy. Even the best ones, such as the two mentioned above, reveal situations where I’d just check right out. In a friendship, I have a safe distance which allows me to extend all of the patience and love in the world, but choosing a person to be my partner in a relationship means that at the first turn-off I’d just want to BOOM, end it. To me, it’s that the commitment just doesn’t seem worth it; my gut reaction is just to end it right then and there so I wouldn’t have to deal with somebody’s annoying quirks and baggage. As I said in the beginning, I understand my current disinterest in committing to taking care of a dog or a baby, because that seems reasonable to me, but a “good” romantic relationship doesn’t mean I’m supposed to be taking care of the other person, raising and providing for them as I would a dependent creature — yet, I can’t help but see the same level of inconvenience and annoyance in all of these relationships. I couldn’t just drop a kid or a dog in the same way, though… that’s why I have no issue with staying away from that responsibility, now. A relationship, however, can be dropped to the curb anytime — so, I’m trying to wrap my head around why people don’t just do that. It’s something I can’t understand, because I look at every person I’ve ever known.. and at some point (usually very early on), I’d break up with all of ’em.
It’s a bizarre place to be, because I can sit at my pals’ wedding and just be so happy for them, but I don’t really envy them. I don’t think I do, at least. In daily life, though, seeing any couple working through existence together displays so many instances of situations I wouldn’t want to bother with. So, what would my pros for a relationship be? Well, when I think about wanting one, one that might lead to marriage and all that, I really only want a woman for a few things: sex (so much of it), physical intimacy (non-sexual), and that’s about it. Anything else can come about in friendship, I think.. like, when I’m lonely or sharing life experiences with someone. This has NOTHING to do with what I think of women or how I value them as people, but when I think of my ideal relationship, it’d just be a woman I could finger-snap into and out of existence — only having her around when I want her. That, of course, is not a relationship. Perhaps the issue is simply that level of deep intimacy? Maybe I’m just extremely uncomfortable with how much this kind of relationship would take, in terms of needing to give 100% of myself to another person and take on 100% of their crap in return? But, again, it’s more than the surface-level issues of compromise and perfection, I think… it’s that I can’t comprehend wanting to do all of this at all.
Can the benefits of a relationship simply not be understood by someone on the outside? I could accept this, I think, but it sure wouldn’t quench my curiosity. Because I AM curious about it, though, means that I’m more than open to the fact that I’m wrong about all of this, in some way. Perhaps it’s a lack of personal experience (the outsider not understanding the benefits) or perhaps I’m just all KINDS of screwed up. So, I broach the subject here and with friends, seeking a better understanding of how healthy folks choose to pursue these relationships, because if the fault IS on my plate, then obviously it’s something I’d like to work on.
I often hear that the pros of relationship are personal growth and deeper understanding. It’s an idea that often comes up in conversation, but is that maybe just not how some of us work? It was a point made with great frequency whenever I’d bring up my issues with compromise, but even then I had difficulty understanding how the differences of those in my life enriched me as a person — beyond something surface-level such as their showing me a new movie. I’m not completely obtuse, though. I know that relationship CAN spark growth. Haha, heck… I can admit that the aforementioned year of self-reflection and emotional unrest that was my 2010 was likely instigated by the fact that I met a gal with whom I’ve probably gotten closest to the idea of romantic love. Is that the value, then? Forcing ourselves to look at personal issues? I don’t know.. that almost sounds as selfish and bizarre as my dream of activating wife-mode by using The Clapper 🙂 . Even if it’s perfectly genuine and legitimate, it doesn’t feel like enough of a reason to pursue this life with another person.
I don’t think I’m “above” romantic relationships, or something so special, because I sure as heck wouldn’t want to date me, either (haha, my tics alone would be enough to keep me away). Because I can’t fathom putting up with the things that people do when in one, though, it makes relationships seem like a really stupid choice to me. I can’t help but think this when a friend tells me about a silly argument they had with their partner or when I see one person accommodating the annoying failings of their significant other — no matter how much I may love all of the parties involved. My gut reaction is, “Well, then why bother?” I can help friends sort out problems, as they can help me, without having to LIVE with those problems in my home every second of the rest of my life. My curiosity is sincere, here… I just can’t figure out how, in what is even considered a healthy relationship, the pros outweigh the cons.
So, if you’re in a happy, healthy relationship — what makes you want to put up with the downsides? Are you just more blind to the downsides than I am (or, for better phrasing.. am I just too sensitive to them)? If the pros aren’t stronger than the cons then you can’t be in a good relationship, but if your relationship is good, how is it possible that it’s good enough to keep you together? What are these amazing benefits that somehow outweigh the daily hassles? My sincere curiosity sometimes leads folks to say that I’m simply over-thinking a subject, but by golly, this is just how my head works — and I think it’s a good thing 🙂 . I’m in a very okay place, but since this idea has been popping in and out of my head a little more frequently, lately, I figured I’d address it here.
Your thoughts, Internet?