Positionality statement: This post is written by Rachael Joslow, a third-year and student staff at the Women’s Center. In addition to my experience growing up as an only child with a single mom, this blog will be about what a romantic relationship is and how I’ve struggled to understand what it means to have one over the years. With sharing my personal experiences, I hope this blog can be something that others can relate to and shed light on a different perspective on dating and relationships.
Something that I’ve been thinking about more often this year is my perception of relationships in a romantic sense. As I’m getting older, I start to realize how I don’t know what it means to have a partner or what it means to have a romantic relationship. It’s so normalized to find a romantic relationship in our society. Ever since I was young, it’s been ingrained in me by others in different ways that I’ll get married or “you’ll find the one when you’re older.” Even in school growing up, it’s the “high school” experience to have your first kiss, be asked out to prom, have sex, and all those personal experiences. Why does it matter to everyone so much during that time? Maybe peer pressure and all that stupid shit.
Growing up, I was an only child in a single parent household, so it was only my mom and I! It never felt empty or like something was missing, it was just another type of household that I was more used to. With having a single mom, I experienced how I didn’t need to have both a mom and a dad in terms of emotional support, because I was surrounded by so much love and support from other family members and family friends growing up.
As I was surrounded by a loving community, I came to understand the different types of love that you can receive and give to others.
I recently recalled a conversation I had in 5th grade with another classmate: “oh, it would be okay if I married somebody or if I married nobody! If I do get married, the person can be a girl or a boy.” Ten years later, I am someone who experiences attraction for any gender. But now, I’ve been vehemently opposed to getting married or being in relationships. Other thoughts that come to mind are after being through relationships, I really don’t know how to be in one. I don’t know what to look for in a partner, I’m not sure how to act in one, and I also don’t know what it means to have a partner. I see what everyone else does in relationships, but I haven’t figured out what that looks like for me. I feel like I’ve also gotten to the point where I don’t have the capacity for relationships, because I recognize that it requires a lot of time and effort that I don’t have.
There’s so many unrealistic standards that we have for relationships. Everyone either broadcasts their own opinion on what a relationship should be like, or puts their relationship online, mostly showing the positive aspects. There is so much romanticization of dating online. It sets unrealistic standards and expectations on what a relationship is which results in people missing the importance of them. There have been many instances where people fall into this loophole of falling in love with the idea of a relationship or the idea of a partner. It becomes difficult to experience relationships genuinely when people are constantly sharing on social media about “if your partner doesn’t do this then… [insert bad indicator that the relationship is unhealthy]” or “here’s 10 signs that your relationship may be healthy/toxic” Constantly internalizing other people’s personal experiences and preferences creates a disillusion for what you actually want in a relationship rather than figuring out your needs and wants and what you like or dislike.
The standards that society has for women in relationships are toxic, and often do not prioritize their well-being. Growing up, we’re conditioned with heteronormativity and taught that we have to learn how to take care of a family and partner in relationships. Ultimately, our identity becomes the caretaker, but not who we are. From previous experiences, I found myself putting my partner’s needs above my own rather than thinking how I felt. My friends noticed that I would be in this constant state of being anxious if I did something to make them upset, or assuming already that I had done something wrong. I would constantly be worrying if I upset them, and it would feel like the end of the world if that were true. There would be unrealistic standards for me to meet, and it would not be communicated with me often, so there would be this big blow up about how I have done something wrong multiple times when all the while, I hadn’t even realized it. Communication is so vital in relationships. Everyone says this, but in any relationship, friendship or romance, it is so important to talk about your needs and wants, because you don’t want a type of resentment to build overtime between you and your partner. It would be this constant cycle of undervaluing how I was feeling, and then convincing myself that things were fine when they really were not.
I’ve now taken the time to not be in relationships, and it’s been the best decision for myself! I’ve been able to focus on my other types of relationships such as family, friends, and with myself. Focusing on myself, and learning more about who I am has been one of the best forms of love for me. Giving myself space from romantic relationships has put myself in a healthy headspace such as finding joy in the type of person I’m becoming, and pursuing my personal interests. I’ve become friends with so many wonderful people these past few years, and I truly believe they have brought out the best within myself. The friendships I’ve made have made my heart full in ways that I can’t describe. I feel that friendships are often overlooked in terms of the different types of love there are in life.
Society perceives romantic love as the ultimate form of love that you can receive and give, but that shouldn’t be the case!
I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me-they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.Veronica Roth