I recently had a conversation with a close friend regarding intimacy, commitment and relationships. I find that whenever I find myself having these conversations one common theme seems to always come up: fear.
Fear over having our own hearts broken, yes, but as I get older, the fear of hurting our significant other becomes even more prevalent. We’re scared of messing up, of not being enough and of changing our minds. I often wonder why we put so much pressure on the labels of “boyfriend”, “girlfriend” and “relationship”, why we approach the terms with such anxiety as if the idea of belonging to another person or to a pair is terrifying.
I myself can recall a night after a school formal when my grade eleven boyfriend, holding my hand, looked at me and said “this is my hand now.” And while I am sure it was meant to be a romantic and charming gesture, lets face it; the whole thing sounds incredibly scary and territorial. It was my hand, it would always be my hand; I didn’t want it to be anyone else’s. Sure he could hold it, maybe even kiss it from time to time if he should be so inclined, but to call it, and to even consider it to be under his ownership was enough to part the honeymoon phase fog of the relationship, persuading me to end things a few months later. With my latest relationship I didn’t feel like I “belonged” to him at all near the end. There were no gestures, no meaningful conversations, no kindness near the end that said “you are mine, I love you, I will care for you.” So where is the line then between belonging to someone and being with someone?
The more I think about it the more I believe that the problem is we approach our personal relationships with a mindset of ownership and acquiring, which is how we approach almost every other aspect of our lives. People become something to be collected and displayed and disposed of when they are no longer of use or needed. A relationship is only as deep, as its public social media displays of affection are many; or at least thats how it seems. Maybe the problem is that when we enter into a relationship with someone we’re so focused on keeping that person, on not having that person walk away from us. We want others to know that they’re ours. But I think relationships can only thrive when they’re based on a mindset of sharing.
Maybe its because I have been listening to the Ed Sheeran album WAY too much lately, but I think if we are so lucky, we find people in life who we choose to share our stories with for various moments of time. We have a mutual agreement to bring our best to the relationship, to take care of each other, yes, but also ourselves! If we practice love (not just preach it), but actively practice love in meaningful and kind ways in our relationships theres no need to consider or fear the idea of belonging. Because belonging will never not only be in question, but it won’t matter.
Call me a romantic, but being in love isn’t about finding a person we can belong to, in my opinion, but rather about choosing someone to be with. And just like I said to that same friend: I think that the thought of “belonging” to someone is terrifying. With it comes the possibility of hurt, abandonment and disappointment. But if we are lucky enough, finding someone to commit ourselves to doesn’t mean belonging to them or them belonging to us. It means we have made the conscious choice to invite someone into our lives to be our partners, to be equals and to experience life together.
I thought I belonged to someone. I thought he belonged to me. I thought that was what I wanted. I’m grateful that I’ve learned that belonging to myself is a much more fulfilling experience. That someone telling you that they are yours and that you are theirs is simply not enough, nor is it what makes a relationship worthwhile or exciting or even scary. Whats truly scary and thrilling is knowing that you are free in a relationship. You choose to stay, but you are free to change your mind and walk away. To me that is what makes choosing to share yourself with the person you love that much more meaningful.