SatSC: Relationship syntax
I care about what people think. Throughout high school and university, the way people perceived me in social situations has impacted who I am now in a variety of ways.
I think it’s fair to say that, to some degree, this is the case for most people. Most of us want to be well-liked. We want our friends to think we’re decent people and fun to hang out with. In different ways, we all seek some sort of external validation for our actions and decisions.
For me, this became much more evident once I entered the world of romantic relationships. I found myself wondering if my friends would approve. I began to think that people in my life had to know about the relationship for it to be considered “legitimate.”
When I started to realize that I was doing this, I thought it was all me – a self-imposed need for approval. Recently, however, I’ve noticed that this need is a by-product of the sort of conversations that surround romantic relationships.
The main problem seems to be the notion that there is only one right way to be in a relationship. I’ve seen friends open up about their relationships only to receive questioning looks and thoughtless comments.
Most people subscribe to the physically and emotionally monogamous kind of relationship, and find it difficult to understand anything located elsewhere on the spectrum. I’ve been guilty of this, too. As a ‘monogamist’, it’s taken me time to comprehend that the way I discuss relationships can unintentionally invalidate the feelings and experiences of others. Implying that your relationship preferences are superior can be extremely harmful to those who have taken time to come to terms with what they want from romantic involvements.
In addition to judging the type of relationship, the way people act in relationships is also a frequent topic of discussion. If you don’t do –insert action here-, then you’re probably not into each other. Looking at these claims critically reveals just how logically unsound they are, but in conversations these pass off as completely valid observations.
We have to remember that romance and love mean different things to different people. Some couples want to see each other all the time and others don’t. Some like to be affectionate in public and others not so much.
By dictating ways that people act in relationships (within the bounds of ethical behaviour) as either “right” or “wrong” we put relationships in a box, and limit romantic interactions between people to what we think is normal.
More importantly, we involve ourselves and our opinion in matters that should be in the hands of the people in the relationship. Unless someone is complaining and asking for advice regarding their relationship, there’s no reason for us to give our unsolicited opinions.
And if you’re like me and have found yourself looking for approval outside of you and your partner(s), take some time to figure out why.
We enter relationships to make ourselves happy, not others, and the language we use when discussing relationships should reflect that.