The Purpose of Relationships
The one question I always found difficult to answer, especially when asked by a significant other or a hope-to-be-significant-other is “What are you looking for in a relationship?” I would stammer and falter through the answer, trying to piece it together as I hear the words come out of my mouth. It’s not because I have never given the question much thought. As a matter of fact, I frequently mull over this question with friends. At one point, I remember naively thinking of relationships as girl meets boy; girl and boy falls in love; girl and boy enters into a relationship and the rest is a matter of history in the making. Relationships, then, were discussed in terms of “who” and the qualities of that “who”, where I would end up with a list of characteristics and traits of the perfect man. It then evolved into relationships as an institution where love was fostered; and under this conception, I was simply looking for the warm fuzzy feelings that came with that love though I had no idea what to do with it once it was found. More recently, relationships were believed to be a stepping stone to marriage, children, family, a home with a picket-white fence – the American dream – though I’ve never been sure of my desire to be a mother or settling down in such a home; and today, relationships are a source of inspiration for my pursuit of a greater, more beautiful life though what that life looks like is still being defined. In a few years, I am sure relationships for me will take on another form. So I’ve always found it difficult to articulate what I look for in a relationship because it changes.
But in a recent conversation, I was asked the question in a way which made me realize why I haven’t been able to articulate an answer: “What is the purpose of a relationship? What am I trying to achieve?” As I pondered this question, I realized I have never looked at relationships as a purpose, as a means to an end. It has always been an end in itself and there lies my problem, the reason (though not the sole reason) for so many failed relationships and frustrated partners – I lacked vision. I ignorantly believed that mutual love was enough to sustain a relationship, so I went about my own projects, expecting my partner to do the same, and only sharing those projects via conversation with no shared interest or joint goals other than wanting the other person to be happy. A relationship as such is essentially a friendship or companionship. There is no shared purpose other than the security of having each other’s company.
Relationships, on the other hand, requires a shared purpose. Just as one needs a purpose in life – something to aspire to, to feel a sense of achievement, growth and self-worth – one needs a purpose in a relationship. An individual without a sense of purpose is lost in life like a couple without a purpose is lost in a relationship. That purpose is how one is able to measure growth and progress. More importantly, that purpose provides a common interest, vision and goal in which both individuals can jointly work towards and share in its successes and failures.
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