What does a really good relationship feel like?

Some people just seem to relationship well, others just don’t. If you’re like me you tend to fall into the latter category. Perhaps you grew up with unhealthy relationship models rather than healthy ones. I mean, if you’ve never really known healthy relationships then how the hell are you supposed to have one? What does a really good relationship even look like?

It doesn’t help that the relationships reflected in mainstream movies and advertising are over-the-top romance narrative traps: nauseatingly can’t-live-without-you, pushing/pulling, roller-coasters, co-dependent drama sagas.  Even a lot of the happily coupled people I know seem to relate in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I sense the undercurrents of subtle power-struggles, dissatisfaction and difficult projections behind their smiles and public hand-holding. Yes, I am paranoid about co-dependency.

After a while I started to wonder if a healthy relationship even exists – or whether it is mythical like unicorns and ideological utopias. Lo and behold, a few years ago I made some new friends, S & P, who have a really awesome relationship. I like to watch them (not in an invasive way) relate to each-other in an easy, friendly way devoid of passive-aggressive currents. When tensions come up they communicate about them – really well. They share creative interests and collaborate on projects but also maintain their own interests. They don’t need to sit next to each-other at parties but genuinely enjoy each-other’s company. It’s lovely.

Knowing S & P has helped break some of the my underlying negative assumptions about relationships. When one day I repeated the much-used phrase that “all relationships are hard work”, they casually disagreed with me, leaving me with the impression that, although life can be challenging, as long as people are self-aware and communicate well, relationships don’t need to be hard work.  I was surprised to learn that S has a hap-hazard relationship history a lot like my own. Eventually she got to a point in her life where she wanted to have a relationship with someone she would want to be with for a long time, so she started imagining what that might be like, which eventually led to her current very-good-relationship. It makes sense, how are we supposed to have good relationships if we don’t even know what they feel like.

Now, I’ve done the ‘write a list’ thing lots of times, listing very particular characteristics of potential partners, but when I heard S stalk about her imagining I was terrified. I don’t really know what I want; I don’t even know what gender I’m supposed to be imagining. S clarified things just the other day as we lay on couches in the sun: “I didn’t think about what the other person would be like,” she said, “I just imagined what it would feel like – what it would be like waking up in the morning next to someone you really want to be with for a very long time.” As I stretched out on the sun-warmed sofa it seemed obvious that she was talking about the very same feeling – basking in the sun – on an emotionally intimate level. So that settles it: a really good relationship feels like warm sunshine.

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