Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The One"

So, I really would like to get a post with content in before going to bed, but I am really tired, so I'm just going to give it my best shot.

The way relationships are portrayed in tv shows and books and movies and advertising and and and...(I could go on for awhile) is so incredibly destructive and misleading, so I wanted to come up with a list of misconceptions that I had in the past (some of them fairly recent even) and I want to try to address why they're harmful.

The One/Soul Mates
This is one of the most common and most insidious beliefs out there.  It's one that every even slightly romantic young child (and I was a lot more than slightly romantic) believes instantly because it's just so tempting to fall into.  The belief that there is someone, just one person, out there who is absolutely meant for you.  And I did fall into this one and it wasn't a belief that was suddenly changed by a realization but one that occurred over time.

If there's only one person that you're meant for in a world of six billion, let's face it, you're screwed.  How are you ever supposed to find your "soul mate" in a world this big?  And then you realize that if there was only one person for you in the world then basically the vast majority of the world is settling for someone not as good, which is just depressing.  I'm with Boyfriend because I love him and I'm not settling, but can I imagine loving someone just as much, yes, yes I can.  This is all of course not even mentioning that this belief completely denies that polyamory could possibly exist in a healthy and happy form.

Chivalry is Not Dead
Apparently men aren't supposed to pull out chairs and slay dragons and things for women, but they are still supposed to pay for the check and get you flowers and candy, etc?  This seems like a bit of a double standard...okay...more than a bit.  I certainly enjoy all of the things mentioned above on occasion, but media does still frequently push the belief that this is what is expected of men in relationships.  I know many many people who split the bill and split movie costs, etc.  In fact I think most people I know do this, so why is this still so prevalent in the media?  Also what about gay men?  Are they just supposed to fight over the bill constantly?  What about lesbians?  Do they just never go out to eat?  Or do they dine and dash?

Every Happy Relationship will Result in Marriage
This is one of those ones that I honestly didn't realize was problematic till recently.  The problem with it: it denies that people in long-term, committed relationships but who aren't married exist and are happy.  I've met people who have lived together twenty or thirty years in a romantic relationship and haven't married and yet this still didn't click.  If people don't feel like they need or want to get married, that's perfectly reasonable.  I do want to get married some day, but that is a personal feeling, and it doesn't make non-married committed couples any less committed, in love, or happy.

Love at First Sight
Ahaha.  This is one I've always been skeptical of (there had to be one that I realized might be wrong).  I do believe that you can have strong, undeniable chemistry with someone from first meeting, but I have also seen those types of relationships fizzle out and die pretty quickly (not all of them, I'm not trying to say it can't work, just that it's not necessarily the norm).  Love is wonderful and you can love someone deeply and not be in a successful relationship.  Relationships are about love, but they are also about communication and companionship and trust and just getting along with another human being you share your life with; all of this takes work.

You have a Set Amount of Love
I was disabused of this one senior year of high school.  This is the thought that you only have enough romantic love for one person at a time.  Thus, if you like one person then you can't also like another because you only have so much love to give.  I realized that this couldn't possibly a universal truth when I had two people I was attracted to at the same time.  I remember being thoroughly confused and then realizing that liking two people at the same time didn't make either of my feelings less valid.

Being Attracted to Someone Else is Cheating
This one is related to the previous belief, but it also covers a pretty wide scope.  I've heard friends of mine say, "Well I can't be attracted to another person (frequently a celebrity even) because then my significant other would be jealous/consider it cheating".  It's just looking.  That's all.  Saying, "Wow, Ewan Mcgregor (I actually don't find Brad Pitt that attractive otherwise I would have used him) is really hot and sexy" to me is about the same as saying, "Wow, that car is really hot and sexy".  It doesn't mean you're going to cheat on your significant other with Ewan Mcgregor or that car.  It means you appreciate the way they look.

Also, being attracted to someone you know, but not acting on those feelings isn't cheating.  Certainly you can suppress those feelings but you still can't really help feeling them.  This idea relies a lot on the belief that you should be jealous of anyone else that your significant other looks at.  And, once again, a myth completely at odds with polyamory (they seem to be quite common).

Your Significant Other Should have Eyes for Only You
This one is similar to the previous myth and this belief is one that is just going to cause jealousy and arguments and codependent relationships.  I have never been a jealous person and thus haven't really fallen into this one ever, because Boyfriend is allowed to spend time with other people.  He's allowed to have friends with people who aren't me and, in fact, he should.  You're both going to be lonely if you don't keep any friends other than your significant other.

You have to Always be Doing Something Together
This one is one that took me forever to figure out and I still struggle with it some times.  You don't always have to be going out on dates.  You really don't.  You can stay in, you can watch a tv show, play a board game.  And, what is hardest for me, maybe you just sit in the same room enjoying each other's company but doing different things; this is very very possible.  This belief is slightly more subliminal than a lot of the others, but it definitely still exists.

Edit: Wearing the Pants
This one is generally about relationships where the man is quieter and the woman is more outspoken.  I have literally responded with: "No, we're both wearing pants" to people who have said this about my relationship. Boyfriend is quieter by nature yes, but he does have opinions and I try very very hard to respect them at all times.  It's a relationship.  Not a dictatorship.

Related is the question: "But which one's the man in the relationship?" asked of gay and lesbian relationships.  Relationships are different and not every one has to have a "man" and a "woman" in them, because genders are not binary and male and female are not opposite, god dammit.


  1. One misconception I've been struggling with lately is that if a relationship isn't working out for whatever reason, both partners should stay and talk and work it out as hard as they fucking can regardless of whether the relationship is making either of them happy. This hits close to home for a number of reasons that you can probably guess at, but I honestly didn't even realize how strongly I was holding this belief or how wrong I was until I was reading a friend's tumblr the other day and they were like, "...dude, no."

    I also struggled with the whole chivalry one the other day. It came up as a question on OkCupid (i.e. is chivalry good, bad, or sexist?) and I spent a long time looking at the question going, "fuck, I don't even know" and it wasn't until reading your post that I realized how I felt-- I think courtesy is always appreciated and nice, and if you want to use the things that have in the past been associated with chivalry (pulling out a chair, holding open a door, picking up the tab, etc.), that's totally cool, but I think you need to not be doing it from a gendered space. So hold open the door because you're a nice fucking person, not because you're a dude, for example. Likewise, if you're a girl, hold doors open too. It's all good.

    Also, on the note of looking at other people: I think even if you're in a monogamous relationship, there's space for not only looking at other people, but sharing that with your partner. Of course, this is a little easier if you're both attracted to people of the same gender and can be like, "Shiiit, that person's hot," and, "OMG, you're right!" but I think there's still something to be said for, "Shiiit, that person's hot." and, "Lol, I can kind of see what you mean." It's seriously not going to threaten your relationship and it can even bring you closer together, because it fosters intimacy instead of secrecy.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject (basically I totally agree with you, but wanted to add a little bit), hope it's okay that I butted in. ^^


  2. Liam: I appreciate the input about talking things out in relationships, because that's one I didn't even realize is something that is/potentially could be problematic.

  3. Chivalry is sort of a funny one because YES I appreciate having those things done on occasion but... Not when it feels like it's only happening because I'm a girl and they're a guy. I sort of feel like this is a bit of a double standard, too, though? Like, I should get over it and just let them do it if they want because it's still a nice gesture even if it's a bit silly to try and offer me the nicer seat or something because I'm a girl. IDK I have mixed feelings about the whole thing but I try to insist that there's no reason to be awkward about who's sitting where when we get to a restaurant with a mix of booth and chairs at the table.