Found myself talking about relationships a lot this week. Solid people in them were having trouble, as is natural. (Then again, breaking up is natural.) And saw some stunning instances of “wow, you guys go to college, but apparently being a couple for you is just making out and saying ‘in a relationship’ loudly to everyone else.” The basics of conversation & observation – your thoughts are certainly welcome:
- Religious fundamentalism does not necessarily create sensible couples. What you need is for people to know what they want and who they can work with. What I’m seeing happen is a number of young people – and even some older than me – use “church” and “churchy things” as a meeting ground even as they have no other shared values. “Church” is too generic a concept to know whether someone is moral or trustworthy enough – sorry Mom and Dad. It can be a starting point, but if you’re looking for someone righteous, someone once said you shall know them by what they actually do. Now I’m not talking about having things in common, although that’s not unimportant. I am talking whether people are getting the minimum habits in order to make a relationship work. Not, for example, skipping work to hang with one’s significant other. No amount of prayer is going to fix that sort of dysfunction.
- Isn’t a relationship about betterment? If it were, we’d all get married and no one would go to school. I’m not saying it isn’t about betterment; that’s definitely part of it. A good couple supports each other and achieves together and individually. Sometimes, though, that means they don’t have kids. I think what drives most couples is that being alone is really, really scary. This is not the worst fear to have: the worst is probably being scared of the world and other people. So we take something of which we’re really frightened and actually turn it into a positive. Couplehood can be about improving each other. But it’s truly about being there for each other in a more fundamental way. A family results from that sort of love, which can’t be thought merely biological because it is fulfilling for many.
- What about finding someone? Please start with your friends. I’m not saying that will definitely work, or that you can’t try elsewhere. But you’re crazy to think that whoever you decide to be with isn’t going to be your best friend. They have to be. There’s no other option. There are scenes you can try, but you’re looking for people who are willing to make the effort a certain way. I wish I could tell you “desperation” – which has brought together many a couple – works. In a way it does. People do just get together and life goes on. It isn’t totally unpleasant. But if you want to be happy and not wasting your time even in a committed relationship (think about how many mindless fights you’ll be having and chores you’ll be doing), that’s another story.