Have you ever listened to a couple tell “their story”? How they met, how they started dating, what made them first realize the other person was “the one”? Every story is unique, and I don’t just mean in a positive way.
Sometimes you’re listening to one of those stories and all you can think is “Oh geez, these people have no idea what they’re doing.” Maybe, as you listen, you get the distinct impression they clearly rushed into things or their story raises enough red flags to make up a communist parade. Or maybe you really get the sense these people don’t really… get it, you know? Like, they don’t grasp what they’re getting into, they don’t understand what a serious relationship requires of them. They really don’t “get” that a real relationship means sacrifice and pain and loss alongside all the companionship and joy and love.
But every relationship is different and there’s no one right way to do things. Maybe one pair of partners doesn’t approach their relationship with the same seriousness as another, at least not at first, but that doesn’t mean theirs won’t work out. What makes each relationship unique is the fact that the couple get to define what that relationship is and what they mean to each other.
The strife comes, of course, in the figuring out what the other person wants and expects while also reconciling that with what you want and expect… provided you actually know what that is in the first place… and provided they know that as well… and provided both of you know the difference between what you’re looking for in a relationship vs what you’re looking for in a person…
Look, it’s a whole mess.
It’s so much harder trying to manage your present and future life with someone if you or they or both of you have no idea what it is you/they/both of y’all want and need. The reason so many relationships between young and/or experienced people don’t work out is because so often they don’t fully understand themselves and what they’re looking for.
Personally, I’ve always been hesitant to try and define what it is I look for in a relationship. I never wanted to get in a place where I started imagining an ideal person or an ideal relationship that would then taint my reality. I didn’t want to miss someone who was special in a way I never could have imagined because I was too fixated on the “ideal” someone of my own imaginings.
However, I think I’ve been confusing imagining an ideal person with an ideal relationship. I have no idea if I will ever meet someone I want to spend the rest of my life with and I certainly have no earthly clue what kind of person that would be.
But I do know what kind of relationship I would want with that person.
Going back to listening to other couple’s stories, it’s interesting to see how the partners like to define the other person.
Sometimes couples see each other as soul mates, special people with a deep, spiritual connection to one another that are able to understand and provide for each other in ways no other people could.
Sometimes they see each other as best friends, their bestest buddies whom they love to talk, hang out, and do random stuff with and who also just happen to be their romantic partners.
And sometimes they see each other as just that: romantic partners. They see each other as BFs, GFs, SOs, etc. who occupy their romantic side of their life but don’t necessarily cross over with any other parts of their lives.
But something I don’t see too often is when partners see each other as… well, partners. I’m not just “romantic” partners, but like co-workers or police partners in buddy cop movies. I love it when I see couples who aren’t just in a loving relationship, but a working relationship.
Now, I don’t mean that it’s all business all the time with these people. Nor do I mean their relationship is strictly professional and there’s no room for intimacy, amity, or vulnerability. But I love it when a loving couple is defined by something more than just their bond with one another.
I love to see couples that have built a strong relationship together and have decided, together, to do something more… together. They want to accomplish something, they have their sights set on changing things, working on things, establishing things. And again, I don’t just mean stuff for themselves, like making a family or buying a home. I mean they know that is something out there other than themselves, they want to work for or towards that thing, and they will have each other’s backs every step of the way.
For some couples, it might mean investing in their community: reaching out to those in need, whether local or global.
It might mean creating something: a work of art that affects people in a profound way.
It might mean changing the world around them: dedicating all their efforts to make a real difference in how things are done in their city or country.
And it might even mean looking, every day, to make the lives of other people better, even if it’s just in little ways: doing small gestures and praying for people everyone else has forgotten.
These are the kinds of relationships I most love to see.
That doesn’t mean these types of relationships are better than any others, or that I think any less of you and your special someone if you don’t think you fit this criteria.
I love these types of relationships because it’s the kind of couple I want to be in.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to meet someone special, fall in love, and spend the rest of my life with them. But I never wanted to find someone who was just my romantic partner or my soul mate. And even when I thought I had found that special someone and they talked about they were happy we could be both best friends and significant others… it wasn’t what I truly wanted.
I would love to find someone I do love romantically, someone I do feel is special to me (if not my “soul mate” since I have a problem with the connotations of that title) and even someone I love to hang out with like they’re my good buddy, my best friend.
But none of that would be enough. I want to find someone who wants to accomplish something with me. I want to find someone who, like me, isn’t satisfied with just having a family or buying a home, but wants to change the world for the better, even if it’s just in little ways.
I want to find someone who I feel has my back, someone I can call my partner. Someone who is navigating towards the same place I am whom I can work with as my equal.
I want a co-pilot I guess is what I’m saying. And I want to be someone else’s co-pilot. I want to be their equal and help them navigate to where they want to be. I want to be their partner and have their back, no matter what comes their way.
I want to to help them in their quest to change the world for the better, to support them in wanting more out of life and accomplishing something, whatever it is, that makes a real difference, even if it’s just in little ways.
Again, most couples aren’t necessarily like this for one another (although there are still quite a lot of them out there). But in truth, I’ve realized this type of relationship, one that’s made up of two equals working together towards the same goal, a real partnership, is what I truly am looking for. And I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever find it (it is a lot to ask for on top of also a romantic relationship that feels like a friendship with a… “soul mate” or some other better term for that).
If I don’t… well, that’s ok. If I never find a person I can have this type of partnership with, I’d be all right with that. I’d rather stay single than try to build something with someone who doesn’t hold the same values as me.
So maybe I’ll find a co-pilot someday. Maybe I’ll keep flying solo. What matters most to be is where I’m headed, where I’ve always wanted to keep aiming for:
A world that is better than this one, even if it’s just in little ways.