I have never been in a relationship.
I’m in that awkward stage of being pre-30 but past mid-20s and I’ve never been in a “real” relationship. I can’t say I’ve never been interested in a guy (I have, though not often) or that there haven’t been some, shall we say, interesting situations over the years. But the time-space continuum has yet to align for me to have a mental (my interest is piqued first with my mind), emotional, and physical attraction align with the same person. From a societal perspective, I’m an oddity. We’re told from the time we come out of the womb that the purpose of life is to seek out our other half/soulmate/partner/co-provider/etc. and at my age, it’s strange that I have never been in a relationship. It’s even weirder that I’m not bothered by it.
That is not to say that I have not loved.
I have loved my family with a full and bursting heart, and felt the agony and the joy of that relationship every day of my life. I have loved my animals more than I have cared for some relatives, and I will carry them with me for the rest of my life. The people I deem friends, some of which are blood, many are not, are all family. I love them as a whole and in their own right, as individuals and couples, and beyond the “luv ya” we carelessly throw out to express the sentiment but avoid the seriousness of the phrase. I have thought myself in love a time or two, but age and reason has redefined it as a youthful fancy, more in love with the idea of love, than with the person. To imply, as many do, that love, or “real” love, is exclusive to a romantic relationship is both ignorant and sad. It makes me pity them, while they look strangely at me, for having to wait and be limited to one person’s at a time love. It sounds terribly lonely.
Relationships are not exclusively romantic.
From birth to death, we spend our lives stuck in the biological imperative to find a mate. It’s an evolutionary protocol to keep the cycle of life moving forward, an emotional need to ward off the loneliness, and a cultural dictum echoed in every movie, novel, and song. We grow up learning that the ultimate goal is singular- to tie oneself to another and that doing so will beget a new meaning into our life. Our relationships – the friends and family, places and people- that which granted meaning to our lives “before,” are too often disregarded for the ultimate romantic relationship. Priorities shift, dynamics change, and former lives fall apart as we replace old loves – loves that we are told that are lesser – with this greater, ultimate act of being in love.
This is bullshit.
Countless religions teach us to love broadly and universally. We are to love our fellow man under the eyes of our various gods, we swear fealty to our nation to be a good citizen, and we are told we must first love ourselves to be healthy and whole. Why then do we exist in a culture that upholds only romantic bonds? It’s a relatively new by-product of history– marriage was a contract, not an emotional connection; the love of God and Country superseded interpersonal relationships, and the notions of fraternity (brotherhood, not the Panhellenic variety) trumped all else. Yet nowadays we dismiss these principles and read and watch our romantic stories and rush to find meaningful love, declare ourselves unloved and lonely, and don’t stop to think of all the people standing beside us who would beg to differ. My parents used to tell me, “for what it’s worth, we love you,” and I would scoff and say, “it doesn’t count, you have to love me,” but the fact is that no, no they don’t, and yes, it very much does count. No one has to love you, no one has to support or accept you. Those that do are precious regardless of what kind of relationship it is or whether they love or are in love with you.
I want it all.
This perhaps implies that I am unromantic. I’m truly not. I’ve read (and enjoyed) terribly cliched romance books and I still watch “Pride & Prejudice” obsessively every time it comes on. I often close my eyes at night and dream of having a husband and children of my own. I want all those things, but (most of the time) I’m capable of being happy with what I have now. I’m not alone, I am not unloved, and even if it’s a pile of puppies curling up to me at night or my sister, parents, or friends I’m going out to dinner with, it doesn’t mean I don’t value it or them. I may not have a lot of friends, but those that I do are precious – they bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in me, are there when I need them, and even if I am not the most important person in their lives, does it make our friendship any less valuable? Is the time I spend reading with my mother on Sunday mornings, gossiping with my sister, debating music with my father, or chatting with my cousin as I drive home from work any less important than the time other people spend with their significant other?
I am fortunate enough to have always loved and been loved throughout my life.
Too many children, animals, and people haven’t been as lucky. I’ve never been accused of having a large heart, I’m generally too distrustful and cynical a person, often skeptical of motive and genuineness, to take easily to people. Therefore when I do, I am ferociously protective, and I will not tolerate any insinuation that they are lesser or I am missing out because they are “all that I have.”
A lack of romance does not mean for one moment that I am not lucky, I am not loved, or that I am alone. It may not be conventional, but it is mine.
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