PQ 4.1 — Why do I have romantic relationships? What do I get out of them?

close-up of 2 braids made of multi-colored yard - both braids have their own color scheme, complicated and unique
Image by LollyKnit / CC BY

PQ 4.1 — Why do I have romantic relationships? What do I get out of them?

*

“Romance is stupid,” Seth said. “Everyone knows it’s just something Hallmark made up to sell more cards.”

“Really?” I said. It explained a lot but didn’t feel good to hear him say. Especially since I was a self-described hopeless romantic, and he knew it. “I don’t know about that. Romance doesn’t have to be like Hallmark. I think romance, or something like it, has to exist. I’ve felt it. Other people I’ve dated have felt it.”

Seth scoffed. “Anyone who told you that was lying to you.”

“All of them?” I asked.

“All of them,” he replied.

And yet, for all of his disdain for romance, Seth said he loved me. Often.

It was curious to me, that he didn’t believe in romance but said he loved me. So I asked for clarification.

“What do I mean when I say I love you?” he said. “I mean that I like just being in the same room with you. Hanging out. Because you’re so funny. And really fucking hot.”

It sounded good. It felt good to hear. But I knew that there were things I desperately wanted that weren’t part of what he said. Part of my personal definition of romance.

I wasn’t about the lavish displays. The consumerism. The giant pink ribboned heart full of candy. That stuff was cute and sweet, sure. And partnered with other things, it could be a fun way to display love.

But for me? Romance was about shared secrets. Confiding in one another. Having weird private jokes.

My ideal relationship had us lying next to each other in bed. Kicking up our legs to make a blanket tent. Giggling like kids about random stuff. Being nerdy, silly, profound. All of it. Up way past our bedtime.

And sex, those moments where we could both come apart. Casting aside the layers that we donned for acceptability, the world. And become whatever animal selves we were underneath. Surf the intensity. Drink of each other. Couple in that place where we were naked of artifice, of embarrassment.

The friendship, the carnality, the intimate connection. It was a braid. I wanted that braid.

Not a fluffy red teddy bear holding a white satin pillow that read “KISS ME.” Although I’d gladly accept one.

But Seth didn’t think those things were romance. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a way for us to agree on that. To reach a place of mutual understanding where we could say “yes, this is love, we mean basically the same thing, we want mostly the same things.” To connect somehow on what it all even meant. Even if it meant both things, his and mine. Not just his. Not just mine. Something in between. Or both.

And the fact remained: Even if I could get Seth to see how intimacy could be considered romance, he was unwilling to do things that felt intimate to me. He thought the talks in the dark sounded boring and annoying. And the bedroom a terrible place to talk.

And the kinky things I wanted to try? He not only didn’t want to do them, but he became irritated I even asked.

So I scaled back my expectations and lived without it. And did everything I could to please him, hoping he would reciprocate in turn. Modeling the consideration I wanted to receive from him.

Much of it fell way outside of my comfort zone. Including opening our marriage. After all, Seth reasoned, it could be a nice way for me to get some of those needs met somewhere else.

But even that soured. After we opened (since Seth was quite keen on having threesomes), and I started to have phone sex with my boyfriend Rob, Seth made fun of me for it. Phone sex was weird, Seth said. Dorky. Why the fuck would I want to do something lame like that?

*

But here I am, 8 years later. And while Seth and I ultimately moved on to different things, we are both better for it.

And one of the greatest gifts of all that I got from Seth? I figured out what I really want out of romantic relationships. We both did. And the answer wasn’t each other. We weren’t very compatible.

It was incredibly painful to learn some of those lessons.

By being so close to someone so different from me, I discovered what I wasn’t. And that led me to figure out who I am. 

Now, not everyone is going to want the same things out of romantic relationships that I do. But at least I now know what I want. And it will never again make sense to be told by another person what is and isn’t romantic in an objective sense.

Because I do believe it’s personal, what makes people feel connected to another human being.

And finding out what it is for each of us and sharing it with those we love? Well, that’s half of the fun.

*

This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

 

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