So we posed the question–
“How do you define successful relationships, and what does it take to achieve that success?”
I have given this a lot of thought (and everyone’s comments and blogs on the subject were great fodder for that thinking, so thanks, everyone!). As many of you have pointed out, there are so many things that are “musts” in relationships that it’s hard to pick just one. However, I think that all of the musts that are out there boil down to one thing, and it’s simpler than most of us are willing to admit:
A successful relationship is one where both people are looking for the same thing, and find it in each other.
The beauty of this is that the “thing” both people are looking for can be anything. In the case of me and the BF, it is a LTR with the ability to have hot, kinky sex as well as be intellectual and financial partners. However, the “thing” could be a one-night stand. Or it could have nothing to do with romantic relationships at all–for example, someone to bounce ideas off of and run a blogging site with (hey, Lance!). Or it could be someone to fight with you (I am of the opinion that many, many people genuinely do not want “healthy” relationships and are perfectly okay finding a partner to fight with so they can spend their lives happily making each other miserable). With the exception of physical and emotional abuse (and fighting is not necessarily abuse, though it can be), whatever you’re looking for is okay–provided you have found someone who is looking for it, too.
So what is necessary in order to achieve that success? As far as I can tell, there are three main components necessary for success in relationships. I’ll break them down below, but the short answer is that successful relationships require:
- Honesty (about what you truly want),
- Commitment (to holding out for what you truly want), and
- Compromise (to retain what you truly want).
Honesty, of course, is twofold. First, you have to be able to be honest with yourself about what it is that you really want. This can obviously be very difficult, especially if some of the things you want aren’t what you believe you’re “supposed” to want. But if you can’t be honest with yourself, then by default you’re never going to be able to accomplish the part that’s even more important if your goal is interaction with other human beings: being honest with the other person.
Now, I understand why that’s hard–you risk being rejected, being judged, being seen as a douchebag/douchebaguette–but I think that you actually run a much higher risk of all those things if you’re not being upfront with people about what you’re looking for. And you can’t do that unless you know yourself. I’m not telling you to print up t-shirts or anything:
(this’ll have them lining up, eh?)
However, you definitely need to find witty, non-threatening ways to get the truth out there within a reasonable timeframe. That way, you give the other person the opportunity to make his/her decisions based on what you’ve told them, rather than on their wishful thinking.
Once you’ve decided what it is you need from another person (whatever type of relationship you’re currently seeking), then the next thing is not to give up until you find it. In other words: don’t settle. I’m not saying that you hold out for someone who is your absolute dream partner in every particular. I’m saying that once you’ve identified the things that are really important, you keep looking until you find them. Again, this is tough. As Lance points out, it takes time, energy, and money to meet people. Many people won’t be willing or able to fulfill the portion of your life that you are trying to fill. It can take so long, in fact, to find someone who matches what you’re looking for that it’s tempting to a) give up entirely, b) give up what you really want just to have someone, or c) lie to others to get what you want, at least temporarily.
(stop counting the days and start looking already!)
I know that a year and a half prior to meeting my BF I almost settled with someone who I knew could never be as open, affectionate, and sexually active as I needed in a LTR. I bit the bullet and went back on Match, but found only the same 20 guys that I’d already been out with (Flagstaff’s a small town, and admittedly I’m pretty picky). I’d totally given up, cancelled my Match subscription, and decided that I’d never find someone until I moved to another town when I saw the BF’s profile on Myspace. So you just have to keep looking (and there are all kinds of clubs and specialized websites if what you’re looking for is a standard deviation or more from the norm).
One of the reasons that honesty and commitment are so important is because you’re not going to be able to find one person that fulfills all of your needs. So you need to identify what it is you need and what you’re willing to compromise on. If you have multiple needs, then maybe you need multiple relationships to fulfill them–and again, I’m not talking about polyamory (though that’s cool if you are). Your romantic partner doesn’t necessarily need to fulfill you the way your friends or colleagues do. If you’re adding a romantic partner to an already full life, then you don’t need to find one person to be everything. You just need to find someone else who doesn’t expect you to be their everything–i.e., someone who’s looking for the same thing as you.