inlovewithwords: (collide)
Lee ([personal profile] inlovewithwords) wrote2013-12-09 04:21 pm

Moments so dear

I failed to post on time, or keep up the daily--I told you I would. And yet, this did turn out to be a post on love.

An acquaintance of mine asked in the University Social Media, Not Quite Twitter/Plurk messaging system of those who follow their posts, ‘What does romantic relationship mean to you?’ I meant to just write a thing for her posts. It ended up so insanely long that I am posting it here instead. Because of the nature of the question, some of this will be my generalizations, while other parts will be what it means for me.

Somehow this turned into something of a ‘what should be required for it.’ I don’t know, I think I ended up missing the point, but this is stream of consciousness in how I answered. The tl;dr is at the end.

My interpretation as a 1-on-the-Kinsey-scale-emotionally heterosexual female (1.5 crushes on girls years ago) and hopeless romantic:

For one, a romantic relationship should include most of the facets of a nonromantic friendship. I can’t imagine a romantic relationship in which I would not enjoy time together in ways which could look like friendship if it weren’t romantic. For that matter, some things I really enjoy probably look like romantic things: I love getting to have meals with friends, regardless of gender and sexual orientation; I bet some of those look like dates to ‘mainstream’ types (especially with heteronormative expectations). I feel like there’s a logical gap or lack of clear wording, but that’s how it works in my head.

Trust. In general this should apply to friendships, too—trust to respect boundaries and not do hurtful things by action or inaction, with or without intention, and trust to provide emotional and intellectual support/advice within personal capabilities (including based on, y’know, how many spoons for dealing with life someone has). For whatever reason, the emotional commitment to romantic relationships has a different flavor which I’m still groping to describe.

As far as I’m concerned, though, every form of love someone has for someone else is that slightly different flavor, and some are healthy for one relationship but not for another. Sounds like a cop-out, but it’s true. And some of those, when that trust is broken, it’s really, really bad and horribly hurtful beyond the norm. Somehow romantic relationships tend to fall under that category.

Part and parcel with trust is communication. Things like ‘short-term/long-term’ and ‘poly/monogamous/both’ and where those boundaries lie at the start, with updates as the relationship changes; expectations of present and future, including updating expectations as things change; keeping up with status of relationship. With the first two on that list, there is some variance, especially as the ‘hey, you seem neat, let’s have a try’ is a totally valid way to start such that those conversations should really happen ‘when it feels right’ (ugh, another cop out, but it means something in my head). Me, I think it should be early on.

And, by the way? SEXUAL BOUNDARIES AND HEALTH. Go to horribly painful hell and back if you try to deceive someone on that front or just don’t think it’s important to communicate. I don’t mean it’s required to start with ‘and I don’t want this kink think’ or ‘heeeey come do pain play’ or something… but you can. (I don’t think people should be nearly as uncomfortable as they are discussing it, but not the point.) Things like when you’re okay trying sex. And things like ‘don’t take it casually’ or ‘um I’m asexual.’

Put together, those really mean that people need to somehow communicate how they commit emotionally to things. Really. Friendship is not necessarily expected to require deep ones unless it grows; romance… well, sure dating happens and also grows, but there’s more expectation by the mainstream. Also communicating definitions of words is critical. For me, casual means ‘no real expectation at the moment of hugely long-term stuff, let’s just enjoy this and see,’ and how much sex would be involved with that would vary by the person. Casual might mean something different for other people, I don’t know—maybe an ‘open relationship,’ something I have some difficulty grasping.

Which is, of course, another thing that needs to be communicated.

I’m also of the opinion that it is possible to have emotional commitment of ‘I want to be your partner in endeavors and life long-term, but sex with other people is fun, this doesn’t lessen my love for you,’ and accepting that. I wouldn’t, but as long as everyone is consenting adults, this is their choice. (Clarification: teens with each other is also fine. Y’know, reasonably close in age when teens are involved, basically, where there’s not a huge power discrepancy.

The other thing about trust is that it’s all about expectations. Misleading someone about respecting that, or breaking expectations without warning, is just wrong. Concealment of this is worse. That’s what trust-breaking is. This includes any “I’ll never do this thing” and then doing it without discussing it first. Communication, seriously.

The sexual aspect of this is frankly huge in our culture, and so in many people’s minds. But I think it includes emotionally.

Respect: do I need to say this? OH WAIT YES I DO. I don’t have much to elaborate on here without going into an even longer rant. Blech.

For actual romantic relationships, not just attraction or sex or something, I think the next part of all that is—I mean, friends have to be willing to try harder than usual to resolve problems between them too. And it matters and can hugely hurt and stuff. But—I think for romantic relationships, that really, really matters in a totally different way. Whether that’s a ‘look, it’s not working, we have to just not do this’ or deciding to really give genuine effort to finding compromise, resolution. (Gosh, more communication here. Can’t get away from it.)

For me, frankly ‘romantic’ really goes into long-term territory, unlike casual or sexual. Part of that’s being willing to try hard to resolve stuff for long-term, and ugh genuine effort not token. On the other hand… some relationships just get unhealthy. Sometimes the hard-way-to-resolve is parting. Effort, it matters.

Okay, for me, romantic also really includes ‘personal space’ issues, and I’m not just talking about bodies. I have a problem where I hate, hate, hate having anyone in my bedroom. Back at the house I lived in for my childhood, there was an extra bedroom and it was turned into my playroom (sooooo maaaany Legooooos), and I had shelves upon shelves of books. Later, it had my computer. I was supposed to do homework there, I don’t remember if this really worked. Eh.

Point is, I was only slightly less okay with people being in that room than in my bedroom. I keep the door to my bedroom closed basically always. I’ve had to ask Adopted-Sister-Flatmate (ASF?) to get things from it sometimes when I’m out of town; I love her but my skin crawls a bit. Back when, I kept the door closed even when my parents tried to forbid it. At my parents’, I keep the door to my bedroom closed despite this sending the temperature so hot I can barely function let alone sleep.

For me, I don’t know about other people, romantic relationship means just that: someone I am okay sharing personal space with. Not even 24/7, just okay with it. Kind of like flatmates upgraded, I guess. Heh. Okay with someone being in my room(s). Some people aren’t like that, but whatever that ‘personal space boundary’ is in their definition, I think being able to share that is a thing that makes it romantic—unless they’re the kind of person who can just let more people in without the emotional commitment.

(This includes bed-sharing without sex, by the way. NOT THE SAME THING.)

I also define personal space, in this case, as an emotional thing. I don’t know, some friendships are close enough—and I have had them—that being that close in is allowable. And some boundaries are allowed for one person over another, right?

The other is a value of commitment. The people who somehow have the generosity to go polyamorous (not just sexually open) and really share that love with others… in some ways I envy them. But even there, I tend to view romance as having a slightly different commitment, a way that they feel this way specially for you. Again, argument could be made that friendship is the same for some people in these ways, but… you are treasured and valued in an emotionally cuddly way.

Aaaaand here we go. The point where I apologize to my romantic asexual friends. Sex. Okay? Sexual attraction, eventual sexual activities. I think I talked about it enough earlier, but seriously, for me, romance includes it.

Basically, somehow sharing a life, being partners in facing troubles in some weird way that isn’t just platonic friendship. Love is odd and shaped different ways, and sadly, this is where my ability to find the words breaks down. I feel like a bad writer.

It isn’t just friendship-plus. And, by the way, it is not inherently more precious or somehow BETTER than friendship. Friendship is important as hell, at least for me. Sometimes friendship can feel like romance with enough devotion, or expectation somehow shaping it to that.

tl;dr: Trust, devotion, communication, willingness to fight, sharing, friendship, and for my view at least sex. To me, this makes up a romance.

I’ve gone on too long about this, so I’ll end here.

Maybe one day I’ll find a way to clean this up, make it more coherent. We’ll see.

(Side note: And now the question is making me think of the part on the Four Questions in the Haggadah…)

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