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Why a Long Term Relationship? - Mo's Journal
December 26th, 2007
02:31 pm


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Why a Long Term Relationship?
New Year's approaching is making me kind of reflective. I tend to think of New Year's as a good holiday for couples, and I'm not coupled. So, mixed in with the reflection is a soupcon of self-pity. I'll try to get over that.

As readers of this journal will know, I was in a non-legally-recognized marriage with another woman for over 25 years (I was a child bride). We broke up seven years ago this coming April. She now says we were never married, but I'm not accepting that rewrite of history. We were married; we are divorced; unfortunately we haven't had legal recognition or support for either state.

I wish I were married now. I don't regret leaving S. at all. I think - for a variety of reasons, some my fault, some hers and some just fate - things got to a point where we could not be married to each other. OTOH, I still believe in marriage, in a lifelong partnership, and wish to meet someone to spend the rest of my life together. I've dated and been involved in three relationships (two long-distance, one local) but - as Bertie Wooster is wont to say of his assorted engagements - no business resulted. Someone asked me a while ago why I'm looking for someone to marry, what I feel I would get out of marriage that I can't get out of a loving family and a strong network of friends. She herself is a single parent by choice and not very interested in changing that. She asked what is it that she's missing and this is what I said:

I am definitely very much in favor of a long-term committed relationship, for me personally. I join you in deploring the social expectation that everyone pair off, though. I feel about marriage (and I do think in terms of marriage, whether legally recognized or not) much like I do about parenting. It’s good for some people and not for others. It’s a huge commitment and not something to enter into lightly. Too many people do it because it’s expected of them, without really considering whether or not they want this enough to make such a big commitment. Many people would be more fulfilled without kids or marriage, and they should not feel pressured into either or both. But for some of us these are very fulfilling things to do. I feel both are very important for my personal fulfillment and I’ve been willing to work to achieve both of them and am willing to work to make them last and make both kinds of relationships fulfilling for all involved.

Why a long-term committed relationship? I think my personality lends itself to it. I think I am very much a pair-bonding type. I feel that I get something out of a close, loving relationship with one person that I don’t get out of friendship, although friends are also very important to me. Here are some of the things I like about being half of a long-term couple:

- I like having one significant other to whom I turn first with good news, bad news, and everything in between. I like the feeling of being “in it” with one other person, who is truly the primary adult I share my life with. I like feeling like we face the world together in some very real sense. I don’t want to be together all the time, but I like feeling like I kind of carry her around with me when we’re apart. When I’ve been coupled, pretty much anything significant that happens to me has accompanying it the feeling “I can’t wait to tell [insert lover’s name] about this.” I like that feeling.

- I like being the most significant adult in someone else’s life. I want to be the primary sounding board, consultant, recipient of news. I like that feeling of primacy. I also worry that when I’m not coupled, I might look for that feeling of primacy from my kids. I've seen that happen to others and I think it puts a lot of pressure on the kid to fulfill a role s/he really can’t and doesn’t want to and can only end in resentment.

- I think there are some real economies of scale and efficiencies to everyday life in long-term relationships. In my marriage this broke down over time (as did most of the marriage) but for many years we were much more able to function well together, both at home and as we went out in the world, than we would have been as singles. We had somewhat complementary skills and strengths and made the most of them. We ran a home better; we supported each other in our careers and facilitated career growth; we saved money better; we collaborated on all sorts of wonderful projects. I think the whole was more than the sum of the parts. We definitely worked on a “from each according to her ability, to each according to her needs” model. I know that that has gone out of fashion as a way to organize a society, but I think it’s still a great way to organize a family. I think it’s definitely possible to get some of that from friends, and my friends and I really do support one another in lots of ways, but I think the synergies are much more there in a couple, or at least have been for me.

- I like living with someone. I like sharing meals, going to sleep together, waking up together. I like sharing housework and household errands. I like just being in the same room or the same home doing different things. I love to entertain (from just having someone over for dinner to a big party once or twice a year) and I enjoy doing so together more than as an individual. I’ve been without a live-in partner for years now and have adjusted well, I think, to single life, but it’s definitely not my first choice. I manage fine being the one who kind of does everything, except for what the kids do. Unfortunately, I had lots of practice during the last few years of my marriage :-(. Still, it’s not the way I prefer to live. I do value time alone and I might have some difficulty adjusting to sleeping with someone every night, etc. but I really do miss living together in a lot of ways.

- I like going places with someone else, and particularly with a partner. I love to travel, and I love seeing a new place (or an old and familiar one) with a lover. I like sharing each other’s favorite places. I’ve vacationed with friends and with extended family and really enjoyed that, but I’ve enjoyed it more with a lover. From little weekend getaways to a month in India, the enjoyment of both the planning and the execution of a trip have been really enhanced by going with my partner.

- I like taking the long view. I like planning for or just dreaming about events years in the future and knowing that you’ll be doing them together. I’m mostly loving parenting actively now, but I know that’s only going on for a few more years. I like the idea of being with one significant other after the kids are grown and planning for that.

- I love the spousal exemption to mandates to tell no one. I’m pretty discreet about a lot of stuff. If someone tells me something in confidence, it stays confidential. There’s also a lot of stuff about the kids that I feel I have no right to share (not necessarily bad stuff, just private, but some of it really cute!) There’s confidential info through work I come by. And there are very private feelings that I don’t talk about much. I like having one special person in my life I can tell anything to, who’s exempt from vows of silence :-) and who similarly exempts me.

- I like sex a whole lot better in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship. I know this isn’t true for everyone, and I don’t think it ought to be, by any means. I have nothing against casual sex, and certainly want to be having sex whether or not I’m partnered, but sex in the context of a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship is my ideal – and for totally unromantic reasons. Also, although you are quite right that one can have sex without a partnership, it’s kind of easier when you’re a busy person with kids and a job and other commitments to not have to go out and find someone to have sex with. A lot of single parents I know don’t have sex at all, or rarely do, just because it seems like too much trouble to find a sex partner. Of course, if one has friends who are single and amenable, that can work out, but it doesn’t for everyone.

- I like long-term, committed relationships for all the horrible stuff you go through. Okay, that’s not exactly what I mean :-). I do think that over time the difficulties that couples have can make them stronger. I found that when long term couples are dealing with stressful situations they can handle those problems better with time and with commitment than they could at the outset. Partly that’s because over time you develop ways of dealing with most problems. OTOH, it’s also because I found that over time you just develop a sense of confidence from having overcome problems in the past, and that confidence makes you stronger as a couple. Of course, the down side of that is that it can be hard to tell the difference between a bad patch and the end of a relationship – I think I probably left about two years later than I ought to have. But generally, although I don’t believe adversity makes you grow as a couple, I do believe that working through problems does, and everyone has problems.

- I like the sense of kinship that for me comes with marriage. I think it’s just absolutely the best thing to be having sex with, next of kin to, and living with your best friend. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I still hope to have it again.

So, that’s a bit of what appeals to me. Friends are very important to me. A strong friendship network has always been something that matters to me and always will. I don’t see it as an alternative to marriage. I think it’s important to me whether I’m married or single.

I wrote that a couple of years ago, and I still believe it all. Anyone want to weigh in? Single or married? What do you think the advantages are of either state?

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:December 26th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
I myself am single, and I have no problems with that, but I agree with everything that you wrote. I agree that marriage (like parenting) is not for everyone, and (like parenting) I almost think people should have to take a test to ensure they understand just what they are getting into! lol!

I agree with your statements about the communication and feeling of primacy with a spouse (although I've never had one myself) and I know that I enjoy having that feeling of being the first adult in someone else's life. I also like the thought of always having someone right there when I need to talk to anyone, and that they would put up with me through the high's and low's. Sadly I have not found such a person yet (It's hard to find an affectionate gay male, without having too many of the feminine stereotypes/traits comming into play - at least that's my experience in the small town I live in.

^_^ Anyways, I agree with your view, and I also agree with your view that it is not for everyone. I believe that we - as a society - have almost developed the "Cinderella Syndrome", as I term it, because we expect to be trudging along in the daily dirt and grime of our lives, and then we expect Mr or Mrs right to just be there and to live Happily Ever After while being rescued from the daily grind. I think that it is, as a whole, that people seem to prefer the fantasy of a relationship to the reality - on both ends of the spectrum. Shows, movies, books, and magazines alike don't seem to portray that daily give-and-take anymore, and as such people are loosing their knowledge on how to compromise and make things work.

Uh....with all that said (and more that I had written and deleted because I was off on a tangent about people loosing the ability to compromise) I agree with what you said, heh.
[User Picture]
Date:December 26th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting thought about preferring fantasy relationships to the real thing. I tend to take a very unromantic view of relationships. And never feel like you need to delete tangents. Tangents are what make lj interesting!
[User Picture]
Date:December 26th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
My tangent was going to turn into a bit of a rant, as I studied sociology and interpersonal relationships and social interactions was my main area of study (well, I also majored in Criminology so yeah, you can see that society is a fun thing for me to debate, lol).

What I was going to say is that there is always an omnipresent sense of 'unreality' in life now, in my opinion, due to how much the children rely on media these days. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming media at all and there are many wonderful programs out there, and the knowledge that is now accessable is amazing. But what I mean is that when every child that is 7 or 8 has their own phone, tv, and computer (or combinations thereof) and has their own gaming system, and etc and so forth - well my point is that there is less frced cooperation. It used to be that you'd have to cooperate with your siblings on the TV shows you watched, or you cooperated as a family unit to determine what movie, etc. My thoughts on this now are that there is less interaction as a whole family, and that as a result there is less social interaction that people learn.

Plus the fact that so much of society is electronic now, there's that feeling that if you don't like something you can change the channel, or turn it off, or find something else in the pile of DVD's. If that is what people are exposed to, then I feel that it will translate over in to how people relate to each other in their relationships. We are creatures of habit, and we will act in accordance to what we have seen/experienced/done in the past - and if finding something new when we don't like what we have is what people did in the past, then it's what they'll do in the future of their relationships.

But, once again, that's all just my own personal speculation on relationships - and it's possibly why I'm not in one, lol! I hope you don't think that I'm preaching about going back to the days of women always at home, men out at work, and the kids at the table doing homework/chores/etc. What I'm really getting at is that with less socialization early on, people have fewer coping mechanisms later in life. At we, as a society, are at the point now where our coping mechanism is to get onto the computer or play a video game or watch a movie, rather than discuss things with our spouses/ significant others.
[User Picture]
Date:December 27th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
Do you really know kids of 7 or 8 who have their own phones, computers and tvs? Wow! I got my youngest a cell phone at 10 and it was hard to do. I felt like it was necessary, as a safety measure, but I had to get over the idea of 10 just being too young to have her own phone. And I just got the kids their own computers (at 19, 15 and 12). Up until then we shared two among the four of us, but Doran needed to take one to college. Oh and we have two televisions for the four of us, too.
[User Picture]
Date:December 27th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
Considering that I live in one of the poorest provinces (cost of living vs. paid wages) in Canada, it is insane the amount of things that the kid have. They have thei own phones at 5 or 6, and it got to the point that the schools had to ban all cell phones in halls/classes/etc. Most of them have their own computers/TV's by middle school (if not earlier - my cousin is 3 and he has his own TV).

It's just to the point, where I live, that the kids have no need to compromise with each other, and so when they disagree with anyting they usually won't bother to work it out. It's really wierd.

I can understand the phone for a safety issue, and the computer for school (I had to get my own for university too) but even in my house we now have 5 tv's for the four of us (mom, step-dad, brother, and myself). It's to the point where we don't even see each other unless we're getting something from the kitchen. It makes for no one wanting to compromise - at least in the micro-verse that is my Family, Lol!

But anyways I think I've ranted about my own views on society for long enough, I sure didn't mean to hijack your thread about marriage - which I am still in total agreement about!
[User Picture]
Date:December 26th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
I agree with what you said. I've been married for 28 years, and we get along pretty good. He's a very decent guy, and he balances me. Without him, I'd be a pretty horrible person. Without me, he'd be knee-deep in two-legged leeches. I'm surprised to find out he gets more and more interesting as the years go by.
I also think there are lots and lots of people who really should never marry. It's not a fairy tale wrap-up, and two do not magically become one. Sometimes it sucks, but with the right partner, it works more often than it doesn't.
[User Picture]
Date:December 27th, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
I'm glad it has worked out well for you. I really hoped for that, myself.
[User Picture]
Date:December 27th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
Since I seem to do better when I'm on my own, I'm probably not the person to answer this. But I see it as a matte of figuring out what works for you, and going with that. We're all different, with different needs, wants, preferences, and tolerances.

But then, I've always had boundary/territory issues. I won't say that I'd never be in a LTR again, but I'd probably want to keep my own place. Or city. Long-distance relationships tend to work best for me.
[User Picture]
Date:December 27th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)
Since I seem to do better when I'm on my own, I'm probably not the person to answer this.

Absolutely you should answer it! That's part of my point, that it's not for everybody.

I was in two long distance relationships and saw some real advantages to that. Particularly since I got involved in the first one very quickly after my big break up. I felt that the physical distance forced me to learn how to live on my own and function as single in a lot of ways. I was 45 years old when we broke up and it was the first time I had my own apartment! It was a big adjustment. If I'd jumped into a local relationship, I could see me just getting lost in the relationship and never growing in the ways I needed to.

OTOH, once I'd learned how to live single - and I must say, there are a lot of things I like about it - I did feel a pull to pair-bond again, and to do so with someone I could live with. So I do think it's my personality.

Love your icon, btw.
[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this, mofic. Like you I thrive in partnership, and I agree with you that it's not for everybody: it depends on one's temperament. I hope you do find someone again, and that sooner rather than later the state will at long last recognize and honor all marriages.
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