A couple driving off to the sunset is the image we mostly associate with a happy ending. The implication is clear: true happiness can only be achieved as part of a pair.
Being in a relationship seems wholesome and healthy by default. If you’re in a relationship, you’ve got it together. It’s like receiving a clean bill of emotional health and overall desirability. If someone else tolerates you enough to hang around, then by all objective measures, you’re fine as a person.
Perhaps this notion comes from the idea that there is strength in numbers. The fact that there’s two of you as opposed to just one makes you feel protected, empowered.
Seeking the validation that comes from being in a relationship, you partner up. You go through the motions of hanging out, going to the movies, grabbing dinner, having sex, being one another’s plus one at family functions, and you make it seem like it’s a relationship. You even feel like you’re in a relationship.
Except you’re not.
You may think you’re in a relationship because you never experienced anything else. You never allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough, or available enough to another person. And you’ve never allowed yourself to rely on anyone beyond them being on time for a dinner reservation, or to dress appropriately to your sister’s wedding.
It turns out that the simple fact of having someone in your life doesn’t mean that you’re interested in being in a relationship, it might just mean you like having someone to date.
Having someone to date is easy. All it takes is for you to focus on the external. It means you show up to events in complementing outfits, holding hands. You look absolutely gorgeous in every picture, and you somehow “never get into a fight.”
Being in a relationship is hard. It takes work. You have to focus on the internal process of establishing an emotional connection. You have to learn how to be vulnerable, and how to accept your partner’s vulnerability.
Having someone to date is about dinner plans, and vacation plans, and buying tickets to that festival you’ve always wanted to go.
Being in a relationship is about having difficult conversations. Is talking about what makes you anxious and afraid, as well as what makes you happy and fulfilled. It’s making plans for the future that include building a retirement fund and how you’re going to take care of your aging parents.
Dating doesn’t have to get too serious too fast, but it’s important not to mistake your desire to just have someone to date with being in a meaningful relationship.
Wanting to have someone by your side is part of life, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than that.
It’s important to keep the lightness and fun of dating when getting into a relationship. Having fun together and continuing to date each other as your relationship deepens makes it more balanced and satisfying.
But unless you do the relationship work, you’re not in a relationship. You’re just enjoying having someone to date even as you mistake one situation for the other.
Way too many people make that mistake, and they usually find out the hard way.
When you’re focused on having someone to date, disagreements get swept under the rug instead of used as opportunities for mutual growth. You want to avoid any pain and get back to enjoying yourself in your partner’s company as soon as possible.
When you’re focused on having someone to date, you resist growing and changing to keep up with your partner’s emotional development. You resist being flexible and adaptable because “no one is supposed to change who you are.”
When you just want to have someone to date, your level of investment is much lower, and therefore you run fewer risks. It feels safer.
You want a relationship when you’re willing to risk pain, rejection, heartbreak. You know you’re in a relationship when you feel that those risks are all worth taking.
Source: Tesia Blake | Medium