We’re a strange, contradictory culture. We want our relationships to “lead” somewhere. We always seem to be projecting to the next step, and at the same time, we wonder why we’re not living in the moment.
I call that a logic FAIL, a relationship TRAP, and kissing common sense goodbye.
What if we accepted that every relationship does NOT need to lead somewhere?
I have learned from every dating situation. I have learned from one-sided, unrequited love. I have learned from my marriage – the courtship, the good years, the empty years, and its demise. I have certainly learned from divorce and the many challenging years that followed.
I have come to accept (and enjoy) my need for alone time.
I own the satisfaction of my hard-won independence.
I recognize my value – with or without a man in my life.
The path to mastering those lessons is the journey of relationships of all kinds: first and foremost, my relationship with myself; second, the diversity of both casual and serious romantic relationships I have experienced. And what I now fully understand is this.
Every relationship is not a keeper. It may be good for awhile, it serves its purpose, it brings us pleasure, and it offers us experience.
Part of that experience is learning to take from others, when we are accustomed to giving, and likewise to give, if we’ve lost our capacity to be emotionally generous.
So why do we see “casual” as bad?
I remember all the questions in the first two years after the end of my marriage, most of which were a variation on the theme of “Are you dating yet?”
Once I was dating again (and that took me three years), the next round of inquiries was focused on “why I was still single” or when I was going to remarry. Whether or not the man in the picture was appropriate for a change in marital status seemed to be completely irrelevant. Talk about pressure!
What ever happened to dating for fun?
Casual relationships (with or without sex) can be uplifting, diverting, tender, and in general, helpful. These relationships encourage us to get our feet wet in broader (dating) social circles, and they are meant to be enjoyed – not to be molded into something they are not.
Loving someone intensely who may love you as a friend is also something most of us have experienced in our lives. Look back at your adolescence. Didn’t you have at least one crush or relationship like this? If not in your teens, maybe in your twenties?
Didn’t it hone your ability to read the other person? Would you really like to be with him – 10 or 20 years later?
After the breakup of a long-term marriage, you may not be ready for a serious relationship. If anything, it’s a bit like being thrust back to those teenage years, in need of dusting off your Judgment GPS, and apt to make some of the same mistakes all over again. Emotional readiness after divorce – for trusting, for sex, for introducing your kids to a new guy – isn’t a given. This is where emotional maturity comes in. Even if it’s the maturity to recognize that you wouldn’t know a “good thing” if it dropped on your head!
Besides, you recognize that you can’t order up the “perfect next guy” – and even if you could, it may not be a good idea.
Time on your own allows you to learn what you want – now. Time experimenting with dating different types of men is, in itself, informative – and fun.
So what if we stopped trying to make the next date our Next Big Love? What if stopped trying to imagine some fairy tale future when we ought to be living in the present and savoring what we have?
What if we accepted that every relationship is NOT a keeper?
Here’s what: We’ll enjoy each experience of dating and loving – for what it is.