3 Things a Loving Relationship Should Be About
"By keeping our expectations of what a relationship should be about simple we can focus on our most important need to feel seen, to be treated kindly, and to be understood."
For many people, after some time in a couple, they will discretely admit that they are in a lot of ways frustrated or disappointed by the people they have chosen to spend the rest of their life with.
If we were to ask them some questions to clarify their reasoning, they wouldn’t hesitate to come up with a long list of the things that their partners do that turn them off. The length of the list won’t signify a decline in the love they feel for their partner, they want to be happy together; they’ve just found that making relationships work is really complicated.
A large part of the difficulties we face around love haunt us because of the complicated ideas that we all may have inherited of what a relationship is supposed to be for. We’ve accepted that it is the absolute merger of two lives, we expect a loving couple to live in the same house, share the same meals together each night, sleep in the same bed, only have sex with each other and only have sexual thoughts of each other, frequently see each other’s families, share same mutual and have no dissenting opinions on any subject at every moment.
This is a utopian ideal that places a huge burden on another human; we feel our partner must be right for us in every way, and if they aren’t we might look for reformatory measures to make them more like our fantasies.
Although there is a less popular school of thought: relationships shouldn’t be so complicated if we fairly pay attention to the things that make relationships fulfilling. To me, the essential things we want from one another could be summed up in these three points:
Kindness: someone who tolerates our imperfections
Shared vulnerability: someone we don’t have to put a good front for; someone around whom we could be vulnerable and honest and who would trust us enough to be the same around us
Understanding: someone who is genuinely interested in us and wants to make sense of us, our minds, and the way we see the world and whom we are enthusiastic to understand as well.
If we could create a mix of these three things in our relationships we will feel loved and content regardless of the other ways we might be different. By limiting what we expect a relationship to be about, we might come to see that a good, simpler, and loving relationship could be different from the norm. We might not socialize much with each other’s friends, or see each other’s families that often. We might keep our finances separate, live in different places, meet only occasionally, and not ask much about each other’s sex life.
We would nonetheless be happy when we are together because we will know we are with someone who is kind, vulnerable, and understanding. By keeping our expectations of what a relationship should be about simple we can focus on our most important need to feel seen, to be treated kindly, and to be understood.