It is tricky enough meeting someone new, getting along on a first date, and then finding happiness and excitement in the meetings to come. Each step of the way brings it with boundless questions, concerns, and curiosities, and they often all swirl around at once in your head offering little to no help. Sadly, there is another level when assessing our relationships: we are influenced by prevailing societal beliefs, superficial anecdotes, and longstanding stigmas.
Whether we are looking inward at our own relationships or looking at others from afar, there is much we need to overcome. Here’s a start, and it’s by no means exhaustive.
In no uncertain terms, it comes down to this: age is not an indicator of maturity. Age is also not an indicator of where someone is in his or her life or what they want. People joke about those who seem to go after someone’s money, or tease that older men dating younger women is creepy or seedy. Those are among glib remarks that devalue what may be a meaningful relationship (we’re certainly not going to deny the selfish reasons that some get involved with others).
When relationships are about complimenting one another, about exposing the other person to new and different experiences and attitudes, then dating someone ten years apart or more makes perfect sense and affords such opportunity. This makes all the more sense when you start to view relationships not as something that need to last forever, but as a positive experience that runs until it’s maxed out.
A lot of people use online dating. A lot. From OKCupid to Tinder, from Christian Mingle to Farmers Only, the fact is that the medium is effective and worthy. People are busy; many of us want to streamline the process of dating, and online profiles, these advertisements, do just that. Instead of going to a bar and talking to randoms and not knowing whether you yet have important values and goals in common, you can quickly find out what someone wants, what they like, and what’s significant to him or her. It’s an opportunity, and like any other online tool, it’s up to the user to wield it to the best of its capabilities. Just because you first connect online doesn’t mean you don’t have a great meeting story either.
A non-monogamous relationship is no less meaningful, no less powerful than an exclusive one. Never mind that so often monogamous relationships dissolve due to infidelity, cheating, or jealously (there is also quite the debate about whether or not humans are even programmed for monogamy), the notion of loving more than one person makes perfect sense. It’s only that polyamory is judged.
We all have in our lives loving relationships with friends, but those are emotional and personal bonds. It seems silly to think that someone having a physical bond with more than one person is something less serious and important. Ultimately, it’s up to each person to be honest about what they need and desire, and to seek that out; for any others to put that down is offensive.
Friendship Between Exes
Now, this one is a little personal for me admittedly, but it undoubtedly stands true to many out there, especially the younger generation. As those among us increasingly start to view relationships as the fluid, complementary enterprises they really are, we realise that once two people are no longer healthy and happy as partners, it doesn’t mean they can’t work in another way. However, it’s so easily dismissed by those uncomfortable and unenlightened. It is assumed, especially by new prospective partners, that because two people dated and have had sex, they can so easily relapse and surely must have those desires. That of course is completely absurd: someone confident and open with the various relationships in his or her life is in control; the past is just that. It’s about sex though; no one really cares if men and women are friends, but if they used to sleep together, jealousy rises up.
Inherently, being ‘single’ sort of implies that you’re lacking something. There can be stigma attached not being in a relationship—being single—and it’s different for men and women but diminishing all around. Ultimately, though, someone who is single can be seen as having something wrong with them, and most think it’s not his or her choice. It would seem worse for women, as they in general unfairly get asked questions about raising a family and having kids, as if they are a mandate for their life. Our society stresses the importance of being attached, but that has little to do with happiness or actual meaning in life. You don’t have to be with someone to be whole, empowered, or purposeful. After all, don’t you want to go on as many adventures as possible, just like Taylor Swift?
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.