Love can look so different for everyone. However, we are social beings and we naturally bond by mimicking our peers. Not to mention, if everyone is doing it, we don’t want to be the one not doing. I would gently categorize that under fomo, and it goes against our basic need for connection.
Connection brings me to my next point. There are ways that we connect so beautifully in a relationship, and there are subtle ways that we quietly let antiquated relationship norms erode the health of our relationship.
I recently stumbled upon Youtubers Conor and Brittany, and have had my perceptions about polyamory totally dismantled. While I assumed that these unconventional relationships were often avoidant of staying put and leaning in, I am learning just how judgmental I was about unconventional love, and relationships that didn’t fit the norm I was used to. Conor and Brittany educate and inform of alternative relationships and their techniques of compassionate communication and self-growth. Naturally, this unconventional approach to relationships allowed me to question societal norms for relationships to see how they were eroding our relational well-being.
Let’s Question These Norms
Comparison is a tough one, because it can be very subconscious. As I mentioned before, we long to be like and think like our peers because it gives us a sense of connection and community. In fact, we can assimilate and harmonize even past the point of common sense, for the sake of our social needs. This is called groupthink.
As individuals, it is primal for us to be close to people, and it is necessary for us to also be autonomous. Brene Brown describes this balance well when she says that “we can’t say we don’t care what others think because we will lose our sense of community, however we can’t care what everyone thinks because we will lose our sense of authenticity.’”
The same goes for our relationships. It is easy to want to date someone similar to another person’s partner. Doing so can easily shield us from the individuality of our partner. Pay attention to any inadequacies you sense with your partner and see if it is coming from an expectation of comparison with somebody else’s life. Noticing those thought patterns that make you fit in might also be quietly sucking the life out of your relationship. Find your close people with whom you trust to support and have your back, and then embrace the differences that make you and your partner beautifully distinct. What works for you may not work for another.
Relying On Your Partner To Be Your Everything
One of the most important parts about a relationships is learning who we are within a relationship and outside of that relationship. I know we can attest to knowing someone, whether ourselves or someone else, who lost themselves within a relationship. On the other hand, we also probably know someone who didn’t know who they were going into one.
Relying on your partner can put an immense amount of pressure on them, and enable you to not take responsibility for your autonomy. According to Esther Perel, with the advancement of our society, we now rely on our partner for what we used to go to a whole village for. From the practical, to the physical, to the emotional, our expectations can be really high. This focus on what the other can bring us really takes us away from the self-growth and inner work we can be taking responsibility for.
Commitment is a Loss of Self
This norm rides on the back of the aforementioned norm. The more we can give ourselves room to do our own work and not rely solely on our partners for everything, the more we can autonomously choose our partner daily, and allow them the space and autonomy to do the same.
Incompatibility Means It Won’t Work
There is an ethereal idea of compatibility between partners. However, the focus should be more on quality of communication. If communication is compassionate, non-violent, and respectful, many different personalities can partner together and create long-lasting love. It is often said that opposites attract, or birds of a feather flock together. Ironically, both situations can make a beautiful relationship as long as they are willing to put in the work.
Trying to Change Who You are With
This goes back to relying on your partner for everything. If they are to be your everything, you want them to be everything that you’ve dreamed of. This leaves little room for us to respect differences and individuality. The more you love yourself and your quirks, the easier it is to love another for theirs. As you loosen the ropes and appreciate who they are, you’ll begin to notice yourself wanting to change them less.
The beauty of seeing alternative relationships, open relationships, or unconventional love is to allow it to challenge our perspective. Questioning some of those antiquated norms can allow us to thrive more autonomously outside and within our relationship. If we are brave enough to question, then we are brave enough to de-program anything that isn no longer serving us. Love is expansive and endless, let’s allow it to be so with our perspectives, our growth, and our judgements.