Since coming to college I’ve started getting a sense for the visual traits I find attractive (…baby-faced, pretty eyes; game’s up, I guess) but am still largely clueless about what I think I’d like in a primary relationship. They’re difficult to imagine, and what I’d be happy with would definitely change depending on the specific person involved. But I am nothing if not overly theoretical, so here goes.
So first. What is a relationship?
I suppose this definition would change over time as well, but for now I’m going with this: if you’re in a relationship with someone, that person lives at the top level of your emotional hierarchy, and you do things together. You partake in fun activities together, and not-so-fun ones as well. When something happens, good or bad, you want to tell each other first. I suppose eventually you start to become each other’s family; both in the more exciting emotionally intertwined way and the more boring take-care-of-each-other-when-sick way or maybe the file-taxes-together way. Perhaps eventually you’ll even try living or babyraising together.
That you start becoming part of each other’s lives is a no-brainer, but more important is that you make a commitment to that. I see the formalizing of a relationship as an agreement to free physical and emotional access to each other (still with consent of course) – making it a given that you can ask each other for funtimes, dates, emotional support, seeing each other, and so on, without any fear of rejection. And whether you will be together for a year or a hundred you don’t know yet (and will never know!), but you want to stay together for as long as possible and will put in work to maintain that, even when things get difficult. Your partner is to be treasured and the relationship a thing to be maintained. The idea of being a unit is also important.
It might be a little old-fashioned, but commitment is crucial to me, especially because once we wading into non-sexual-romantic territory it’s hard to distinguish a primary relationship from others based on other factors. (Speaking of sexual-romantic, my ideal relationship would probably be celibate, unless I turn out to be a demisexual after all.) The Thinking Asexual has a post on commitment in asexual and celibate relationships – I don’t agree with all of it, but I do with this part:
So what does commitment look like, for a nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationship—especially if it’s nonmonogamous? If I have a romantic friendship, passionate friendship, or a queerplatonic relationship with someone who I’m not living with and we’re committed to each other, that means that we do whatever we have to do to both stay in relationship with each other and to make each other feel loved and valued and important.
So we spend time together whenever we can, just the two of us. We protect that time. We schedule it, we plan it, we make sure it happens.
We talk as much as we want to, which I imagine would be pretty frequently.
We take each other into account when we’re making major life decisions that could affect our relationship, like moving to another state or escalating the involvement of another relationship one of us has. We discuss these things with each other. We care about each other’s feelings surrounding these decisions.
There’s a bit more – read the post for the full definition.
Lastly, a relationship has to be formalized in some way. In a recent conversation with Y I realized that labels are important to me in relationships too, despite how wanting them makes me feel rather shallow. I recently realized I attach somewhat anxious (thanks E for the link), and am trying to find small ways to help myself feel safer without putting excessive strain on a partner.
This is one of them. I need to be reassured – when I have easy physical access to someone it’s not a problem at all (sometimes not enough of a problem…) – but without that it falls to words and actions. An official statement of ‘hey, you’re important to me in a way that no one else is, and I want this to continue’ would be very helpful.
A friend and her boyfriend never had The Talk – they just went ‘so are we together?’/’I think so’ one day – and I think that could work (the idea is somewhat appealing to me) but not in a long-distance situation. But I think that at this point in my life I’d still need an ‘official’ conversation with the object of my affections about the nature of our relationship, and to decide on appropriate terminology for each other.
Now on to specific requirements. The following is an image that I solidified on the morning of 2nd September while complaining/being conflicted at my good friend J about how a romantic relationship wasn’t all that different from a deep and affectionate platonic relationship.
This assumes the other partner isn’t overly romantic or sentimental, greatly enjoys the platonic aspects of a relationship, but is touch-positive (or at the very least touch-accepting). It seems to be a good foundation to build further romantic interactions on, or can exist happily (I hope!) on its own.
I want someone to:
- be best friends with; care deeply about each other
- have interesting conversations and share funny or interesting things with each other and do fun things and hang out together irl or online
- examples: exercising together, going shopping, meals, reading comics, watching movies/TV shows, enjoying each other’s company in silence while doing other things, and going for walks together. Walks! I love walks.
- have long hugs, cuddle while watching things with
- snuggle with and kiss
- ‘snuggling’ defined here as being in contact with the partner’s body entirely for the sensual enjoyment of it
- kissing: both ‘chaste’ on the cheek etc. and, less frequently, more drawn-out kisses.
When I showed this list to Y, he said that he too wanted these things from a relationship when he was younger, but that as adult roles and responsibilities start to enter the picture, relationship requirements change. I’m interested in seeing how my relationship interests will change as I get older.
Update 15/9/13: I completely forgot to include.physical attraction; I assumed it was a given.