One of the most interesting things about traveling the world, is seeing just how similar and just how different the values are from culture to culture. And it is especially interesting to see what kinds of relationships are considered to be the most valuable from culture to culture. For certain Asian cultures, the most important relationship of all, is your relationship with your ancestors. For certain Hispanic cultures, the most important relationship is between a mother and daughter and father and son. For certain Native Cultures, the most important relationship is between you and your tribe and also with that extended tribe, which is the natural world. For many of you watching this, the most valued and important relationship is the romantic partnership… Finding your “other half”.
Given that no one can actually agree about what the most important relationship is, and we tend to get sucked into the trap of valuing and prioritizing whatever relationship our family and culture and society holds to be most important, it is time to question our own limited thinking relative to relationships.
In truth, if we glamorize any one type of relationship, while devaluing another, we can get ourselves into a whole heap of unnecessary trouble. But one of the biggest barriers to people getting their needs met and recognizing resources within relationships and being able to create feel-good relationships in the modern world, is that so many people glorify the romantic partnership while devaluing every other relationship. This creates a fixation on the romantic relationship and a de-prioritization of and even discarding of other relationships. And this creates a state of starvation within people.
The reason that people fixate on the romantic partnership is because many of us feel that this is the only relationship where we can guarantee that our needs will be met. There are two main reasons that we think a romantic relationship is the only one in which we can guarantee our needs will be met.
Pair bonding, even if established only temporarily, is something that evolved within humanity because it served to meet needs of the individuals within the pair bond as well as to secure greater individual and species success. You could consider it evolutionary. But the genuine need for humans to go from the evolution of pair bonding to marriage, took root when families that consisted of loosely organized groups of people, got to the point where the evolution of societal success required settling down into agrarian civilizations. Property ownership became a serious concern. Religions then embraced and started proselytizing the idea of marriage in order to establish social order.To begin with, the primary purpose of establishing the life-long pair bond that we call marriage, was to bind women to men, and thus guarantee that a man's children were truly his biological heirs.
For most of human history, couples were brought together into a partnership for practical reasons, not because they fell in love. But there were many “needs” that both people had (and even needs that their families had) that were met by forming such a partnership. The idea of romantic love, as a motivating force for pair bonding, does not go very far back. And yet the needs we have that are satisfied by romantic attachment, have become of paramount importance in the world today.
The most important take away from this is that for thousands of years, the structure of many societies across the globe have been literally founded on marriage. They still are today. This means citizens and families and cultures and religions and government organizations and educational sources and entertainment have all been indoctrinating you with the idea that marriage is the most important relationship you will have. And that the romantic pair bond is the relationship in which your needs will be met. Many societies have made it only acceptable for certain needs to come through a romantic partner. And they set the idea in people’s heads that by establishing a romantic pair bond, you can guarantee that your romantic partner will meet your needs and you will meet theirs. Which leads us to our next point.
If you look at the needs that most people are looking for today from a romantic partner, such as a sense of merging and closeness and importance and togetherness and belonging and oneness and focus and prioritization and availability, there is a belief that one can only guarantee the security of getting these needs met from a romantic partner. They don’t feel any other relationship can be relied upon to meet those needs, certainly not long term. There is a belief that the romantic partnership is the only relationship where both the feelings as well as the transactional element of the relationship are strong enough to be able to rely on the other person committing to providing those things that we need and want. To learn more about this, you can watch my video titled: Be Consciously Transactional. We tend to feel like every other relationship is not secure. And the problem is, when we live in a society where people genuinely feel that what matters most is the romantic partnership, we have learned that other people will value and prioritize a romantic partner above all other relationships; therefore, you are only genuinely secure and only have leverage for getting your needs met in a relationship, if you are that person’s romantic partner.
This is especially compounded if a person did not get their needs met for things like a sense of merging and closeness and importance and togetherness and belonging and oneness and focus and prioritization and availability through their initial relationship with mom and then dad. The romantic partnership mimics the initial experience that one needs to have with their parent. And if this experience was lacking in some way, the romantic partnership is the one that we think will heal us from what was lacking and provide those needs that we are starving for.
There are so many problems with this fixation that we have developed on the romantic relationship. Perhaps the biggest problem though, is that we start to see the romantic partnership as the only relationship that promises to meet our needs… The only one that will make us happy. The only one in which we can feel secure and establish a sense of guarantee. As a result, we fail to recognize and we devalue all of the other forms of relationships around us, as well as the plentitude of resources that each one offers us. This causes us to obsessively hunt for our romantic partner as if this relationship is all that matters to us. Once we find it, this causes us to prioritize that relationship over all others and then de-prioritize and even discard our other relationships for the sake of that one. We also put all the pressure on that other person to be the one to meet all of our needs, which is impossible. No one person can meet all of your needs. So it is a set up for disappointment and pain.
We need to expand our idea of relationships beyond what it is today. One of the most beneficial steps you can take in relationships is to accept that we form relationships because of our needs and desires. We seek to establish a symbiosis whereby the relationship is mutually beneficial. And every relationship is a potential symbiosis. Every relationship offers different needs and lends to our desires. A romantic partner is not all there is. It is not your only hope of getting the needs that you have reliably met. It is not your only hope of happiness. A great many needs that you have, which you are convinced can only come in the form of a romantic partner, are actually not dependent on a romantic partner. And the more people that realize this, the more people will stop fixating on the value of this one kind of relationship over all others and begin to resource the value of all the other plethora of relationships there are in the world.
Every person (including you) and every type of relationship has so much value to provide. Each one is a powerful resource for something. The question is… Can you recognize that value? Can you recognize that resource? And can you be nourished by it?