Relationships are complicated. They are made especially complicated because media and society portray a certain kind of relationship—generally a monogamous, heterosexual, reproduction focused one—as the ideal that we should all want to live up to. This creates pressure because, simply put, not everyone fits into that narrative, or wants to, and many of the ideals laid out for us don’t really fit in to many of today’s lifestyles. So what do we do? Take the DIY approach: we make our own rules for better relationships.
Rather than buying something premade model that doesn't fit right, we might tailor it to make it fit better or start completely from scratch and create an individualized relationship experience that suits our needs, and the needs of any partners we make a part of that. Here are a couple examples of what that can look like, but you might discover something that works better for you!
The pressure to be in a relationship is so intense that many of us rush into something that isn't ideal, running from the fear of the ‘curse’ of singlehood. But is it really so bad? No! Once you get past the ingrained feelings of ‘unworthyness’, singlehood might be something that just works better for all sorts of people, whether you just haven’t found the right person for you, you like to date or have non-attached sexual relationships, or it affords you some space for yourself and your projects. Sometimes, not having to be romantically involved isn’t so bad, and many people find that friendships offer them enough emotional support and fulfillment without the pressure a relationship can bring.
Some people really enjoy the freedom of dating one or more people but not building a romantic relationship, which can lead to pressure or expectations to get married, live together, or be codependent—things not everyone wants. But date (and fuck) around, having a better idea of what you want means you'll have a better relationship when it comes around.
When breaking the mould for a DIY relationship, many people find that polyamory is the ticket for them. Many find polyamory freeing because they feel constrained by the expectation to only be emotionally or sexually involved with one person. This can express in a lot of different ways, from people who are in triads or quads to people who have a primary partner and just have sexual relationships with other people, to solo poly practitioners. ‘Solo poly’ or solo polyamorous, in that they don’t have what is commonly referred to as a ‘primary partner’ and instead have a variety of partners that they do different things with, whether that’s snuggling and watching a movie together every Saturday, being emotionally supportive of one another, or having a fuck buddy relationship. Polyamory is a big umbrella category that expresses itself in as many ways as there are people practicing it, which is why more and more people are turning to it as a panacea to issues with ‘traditional’ relationships that don’t fit, preferring the openness and communication that is necessitated to have a healthy polyamorous relationship.
Monogamy doesn't need to be boring or traditional. Many people are radicalizing the way their monogamous partnerships work to be more equal, involve more communication and consent rather than assuming things will work the way you’re taught to expect them to, and tearing down the old structures built up around these kinds of relationships. This can be really challenging, but can definitely lead to better sex and a better relationship if you’re able to negotiate it successfully.
The book Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules by Sarah Mirk goes over these ideas, and others, in more depth than I can here. But in short, honesty- with yourself, with your partners, and with potential partners- and communication are the keys to building a relationship that suits you better. It’s not always easy to escape the big ideas ingrained in us about how relationships work, but it can be incredibly rewarding and lead to healthier, more fulfilling experiences. You and your partners are worth it.
Image from Sam Caplat via Flickr with CC BY 2.0 license
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