It has been said that change is the only constant in life and most of us, for various reasons seem to have an aversion to it. We want a sense of continuity and predictability, especially in our relationships, but these are not realistic expectations to place on people. We need to start thinking of relationships differently as we also think of the people we form relationships with differently.
In my experience, a big component of commitment in relationships is comprised of an overt or covert attachment to ownership. We might not always be aware of it, but the examples of commitment touted as a standard of relationship often romanticise the idea of belonging to someone. Belonging to someone is very different to belonging with them and these subtle nuances in language construct the realities we find ourselves in.
The idea of ownership often extends into having a stake in how someone carries themselves, dresses and spends their time because by the logic of ownership, we are represented by our partners and their actions reflect on us. These are mechanisms of control that often only impact the feminine partner, yet another legacy of patriarchy. This is but one example of expectations that curtail our ability to grow with people, but what do we do about it? How do we create relationship settings that expand and grow as we do?
Here are some lessons I have learnt along the way:
1. Love is not nearly enough. You must choose people.
2. Sexual desire can cloud your judgment about someone’s behaviour, and make you miss out on their evolution.
3. We cannot own people, under any circumstances.
4. People are never only one thing, we have to remain open to receiving them in many forms, be that physically, psychologically or professionally.
5. One person cannot fulfil all your needs and desires; therefore, friendships and external connections are so important.
6. Monogamy is not always realistic and must be discussed and negotiated before assuming it is natural to all.
7. Love for someone and desire for other people can co-exist.
8. Self-expression and communication are imperative to healthy relationships. My preference has always been words as a vessel for communication.
9. Do not assume anything, even if you must ask 100 questions.
10. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt goes a long way.
I have intentionally chosen lessons that introduce ideas of accommodation and expansion. I believe relationships are much better for inviting multiplicity. It starts with our ideas of what and who people should be and when our concerns, desires and aspirations in relationships are human-centred we end up caring less about rules and more about what makes us and our partners happy.
To be unshackled from the burden of being someone’s end all and be all also helps us to realise that everything in a relationship doesn’t have to revolve around the other person and doing what serves us also matters. When we don’t see partners as possessions, we can start to appreciate their relationship with themselves too. We belong to ourselves first and always and such a foundation of self-regard forms the basis for people to show up to relationships authentically and to be received in the ways they put themselves forward, rather than versions created by expectation.