Almost everywhere that you go in the world, people have a very rigid mentality about how relationships should look. And what a person should and shouldn’t do in order to have those relationships. Those relationship models or paradigms that exist in the culture that we are born into and that we are a part of, are thought to be all that exists. Every relationship has to match it and anything that does not adhere to that paradigm, we either don’t even think of as a possibility, or we judge as bad and wrong… even deviant.
For example, for one person, the paradigm that they have adopted might be the picture of a perfect nuclear family unit. Which means that they think what is “right” is to find a significant other to form a monogamous bond with and get married and live together in a home. And eventually have kids together.
For another person, the paradigm that they think is “right” is to put effort into becoming as good looking as possible, to develop an agreeable personality and to become a successful professional. So that someone will want them enough to choose them as a partner.
For another person, the paradigm that they think is “right” is to have their parent move in with them once they are old and to become their parent’s caretaker.
For another person, the paradigm that they think is “right” is to have different lives than your other family members have, but to come together at the end of the day to share food.
For another person, the paradigm that they think is “right” is to compromise in relationships.
For another person, the paradigm that they think is “right” is the picture of living together in a commune off the grid, where everyone is equal.
Relationship paradigms can get us into real trouble, no matter what time period we are living in. But right now, humanity is in a time period where it will not work to stick to the current relationships paradigms that we are accustomed to. In fact, it is a big reason why so many relationships are just not working.
Here are just some of the downsides to relationship paradigms.
- They are not designed to accommodate individuality. They are a model that everyone must squeeze themselves into, and some people are able to do so, but many struggle their whole lives to do so. For example, in the 1950s, the relationship paradigm was that every woman should get married and be the perfect housewife. So, what are you supposed to do if you know that to be the right model for a relationship, but you detest cleaning and cooking. Or if you feel a burning passion to do something like scientific research? OR what if the paradigm shifts and the right relationships is suddenly a partnership where both people do the same things, such as divide up the household chores equally or have a career so that they contribute equally to finances, but you desperately want to be a home maker and focus on raising the kids and not carry financial pressure? Or what if the current paradigm is that only women and men should be together sexually, and you are attracted to the same sex. Or what if a relationship paradigm is that only tall men are desirable by women and you are 5’4”?
- These paradigms don’t change perfectly with the times. The world can change and society can change and things can happen and variables can change… which make the relationship paradigm impossible, but people still struggle to try to adhere to them. And suffer a great deal and make other people suffer a great deal because of it. For example, a country can suffer a war and so many men can be killed that there are millions more men than there are women. But that same country can still hold the relationship paradigm that each woman is supposed to be in a romantic relationship with one man. And one man is supposed to be in a romantic relationship with one woman. Statistically, this will never happen. So, if the relationship paradigm is maintained, millions of women have a doomed relationship life. And the increase of female competition dynamics will negatively alter the entire societal atmosphere.
Relationship paradigms become the way that we establish security in relationships and act as a crutch or a sense of false security making it so that we fail to actually master relationships and establish actual relationship security because of it. For example, we may hold the relationship paradigm that family is about being blood related. And we may hold the belief that being related by blood, means you are close and connected and therefore secure. When the reality is that someone could be family and be abusing you or failing to put any energy into understanding you or choosing not to be there for you when you need them. The fact that you are family, means absolutely nothing with regards to creating a secure relationship. The way that a person conducts themselves in the relationship with you, is what establishes genuine security.
Or for example, we may feel more secure in a relationship because the paradigm that we are adhering to is marriage. The structure of being married may make us feel like we have belonging, or like we will be taken care of, or like the other person isn’t going away. But as we know all too well, a person can be married and kill their spouse, or married and abandon their spouse. Or married and create a toxic environment of dysfunction. The structure of relationships should not be where we are getting our sense of security in relationships from. We should be getting it from the way a person conducts themselves in relationship with us.
Their rigid nature quite often makes them an adversary to people’s unique situations and unique needs. They are intensely limiting. And this creates huge amounts of suffering. They prevent people from becoming creative enough with how their relationship life looks, to live happy, healthy lives. For example, people have so many various social needs, it is impossible for one person to meet all of those needs. And so, if a person’s current relationship paradigm is that they need to find “the right person” to meet all their needs, they will fail and they are likely to feel “starved” in some way, as well as deeply dissatisfied with their partner. And this will lead to mutual shame and lots of conflict.
Or, if we have a passion for something specific, but we hold the paradigm that we must be home to raise children, if we have them, we may fail to even look at the plethora of potential creative options there are for being able to have children, while pursuing that passion. We may simply give up our passion to have children and be deeply dissatisfied because of it, and do a terrible job at raising the children because of that underlying resentment of what we sacrificed in order to have them.
- Relationship paradigms don’t actually reflect what is objectively good or right or healthy. Relationship paradigms don’t just come out of nowhere. And as far as our species is concerned, they definitely don’t happen because they are “natural”. Each relationship paradigm had to be created and decided upon by someone (or by a group of people). And then taught to others for some reason. And then adopted by society at large for a reason. For example, when humans made the transition from a foraging species to an agrarian species, and land ownership became one of the most important things to people, and suddenly paternity mattered. Thus marriage was created. And its original primary purpose was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man's children were truly his biological heirs. Through that marriage, a woman became a man's property. Women could not own property. Love didn’t even enter the picture of marriage until the Middle Ages. And it was hella slow to catch on. It didn’t really take root until the 1920s. The history of how and when certain relationship paradigms came to be established, shows them in context. But even if it might have been right or good at a specific time and under specific conditions, doesn’t mean that it is currently good and right and healthy.
- Relationship paradigms have a tendency of putting us in lose-lose situations. They often set us up to have to prioritize certain needs over other needs in a way that makes life satisfaction impossible. For example, look no further than the countless numbers of gay men throughout history who had to choose to keep their life and social positions and lose the person who they truly loved or to choose a life with the person they loved and lose their social positions and possibly be killed for it.
Just because you think something is normal, does not mean it is healthy, does not mean it is right and does not mean it is good. And most especially, does not mean that it will work for you specifically. The time has come to break the current relationship paradigms. To break the molds. The time has come to design new and different creative arrangements. We are being called to re-invent how we have relationships. We are being called to change the way that relationships look. We are being called to do away with our rigidity regarding how relationships should and shouldn’t be and who they should and shouldn’t be with.
Take some time to think about what the current relationship paradigms are… The ones that society holds and the ones that you, yourself hold. What do you think that each different kind of relationship should look like? And what do you think a person should and shouldn’t do in order to have each of these different kinds of relationships? Are there any kinds of relationships that do not adhere to those paradigms that you judge as bad and wrong… deviant even? Is there a relationship paradigm that you are struggling with because it doesn’t seem to work anymore? What has prevented you from throwing away that model if it doesn’t seem to be working for you? What has prevented you from inventing a new one? If you became really creative about meeting each one of your relationship needs, what might your relationship life look like?
Each and every person is being called to be intensely creative so as to customize the relationship sector of their life so that it reflects what is uniquely healthy and good and right for themselves and the other people in those arrangements with them; regardless of what other people may be doing or not doing. The structure of society will change because of it. And that change will not be a straightforward one that is absent of challenges. But those changes will improve society. And they will drastically improve your quality of life.