The Bittersweet Poison of Being Relationship-Oriented

May 12, 2016

I never thought I'd see the day where being relationship-oriented was seen as a negative personality trait when it comes to dating. "You just seem like a relationship type of girl." is something I've heard negatively come from guys that I was romantically invested in time and time again. And of course, I thought to myself, "Maybe I should stop being that."

I grew up around love. My parents have been together for over 35 years. They are and have been in love and never for a second did I doubt their love for each other. As a young child, I thought that's how it's supposed to be. There is no question of "if," it just was. You're taught from a young age that you grow up you hit your teens and you start dating and you continue dating until you find your one person and then you get married, settle down, have babies and live happily ever after, right? Of course, that's not always the case and the older you get the more you come to realize that the world of dating isn't black and white. It's very, very grey.

As a young teen, I struggled a lot with understanding the dynamics of relationships. How do you know you love someone? How do you even know you like someone? How do you know someone actually likes you? All these questions usually went unanswered due to the fact that when living in an African household, you are to only speak about dating and "relationships" after marriage. Today, I have the same questions. Perhaps the answer is a little less blurry, but regardless, illegible.

Of course, I had boyfriends through middle/high school, however, I always brushed off relationships when I was younger. To me, it wasn't real; we were just kids. We were experimenting. This was relationship-orientation. Everyone wanted a girlfriend/boyfriend in middle/high school. Of course, I had the generic teenage girl mentality in which when you turn 16, you have your "summer fling" and you start to really enter the dating world. You stay in the dating world until you turn 22 and meet your one person and then you marry them. That's not always the case. When I was almost 15, I had met my person. Or at the time, he was my person and for two and a half years, on and off- he was my person. I also met my person at 17. He was my person for a very short period of time, but he was my person, regardless. I would hardly call it "love," but it was an emotional experience, bottom line. Each of these people taught me something different about dating and about myself in (and out of) relationships.

At this point, I had come to the realization that there is no "one person." Everyone you meet an emotional (and even physical) connection with will impact you in some way, shape or form. Right before I turned 18, I was very intrigued by emotional connections and relationships. I couldn't wait to turn 18 because that's when the real magic happens, right? You're legal (where I live, anyway) and you're open to meeting so many different people and leaving emotional imprints on so many lives. Which, in a way, was true. I turned 18, and to my dismay, dating and relationships separated and "dating" and "seeing" were having an affair. I quickly had to learn that "dating" and "seeing"  were mutually exclusive and just because you were "dating" someone, did not mean you were in a relationship with them. I even quicker had to learn that just because someone was "seeing" you, didn't mean they wouldn't/couldn't be "seeing" someone else.

Dating guys older than me often made this learning experience an embarrassing one for me. I didn't know too much about myself, I honestly hadn't heard the term "relationship-oriented" be too widely used in regards to me. The first time I heard this term, I was proud of it. Why wouldn't you want to be a person who wants to give and receive such a commitment? The guys I dated seemed to have already figured it all out. They would laugh and cackle and call me "cute" when they came to the realization that I thought they meant it when they said they wanted to be with me. Silly little me, right? "Babe, you're cute, but I don't wanna date." This sentence became so consistent that it stopped hurting my feelings and ended up resulting in a long, overdrawn eye roll. Even more so when they ask what I'm looking for or "want out of this" and I almost rhetorically respond with "Uh, a relationship?" and they look at you sideways as if it's absolutely preposterous for you to want a relationship. "These are the best years of your life! You wanna be held down?" Why must a relationship hold you down? A question 13-year-old Clara would've asked. I found comfort in the thought of being physically intimate with the same person and just that person whilst connecting on an emotional level as well. The idea of having multiple sexual partners and sharing no connection whatsoever with any of them was unappealing to me. It was annoying to try to have the "What are we?" conversation and they reply that they're not ready. "You seem like a relationship type of girl and I'm just not ready for that." However, they are ready for a physical relationship with you, though.

These conversations were generally the last I had with these people.

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Without realization, my answers began to rapidly change. "What're you looking for?" You know, whatever. "You cool with this?" Yeah. Whatever. "Are you the type of girl that wants to put a label on things?" I don't care. Eventually, I stopped caring and while I sat there in my sarcasm and indifference, thinking I have the upper hand... I overlooked how this screwed me over. I eventually became indifferent to everything. How people treated me, how I treated other people, the dynamics of my relationships. I took the backseat in almost every situation. I had no standards. I quickly became the "I don't wanna date" bitch that I hate. My excuses for brushing off genuine dudes was always, "I'm not ready" or a long, drawn out explanation that in simplicity says, "I don't want to."

Being relationship-oriented isn't a bad thing. Not being relationship-oriented isn't necessarily a bad thing either. The issue at hand is that relationship-oriented and non-relationship-oriented people keep finding each other and it produces an awkward mix. While being a relationship-oriented person can often brand you and condemn you to "black sheep-hood." I refuse to believe that there isn't a person looking for a black sheep.

At the end of the day, most want the same thing. To meet their person and not just any "person" but their person that they actually end up with. Some start that journey at 15 and some start that journey at 37. There's no actual "set age" where one is required to "settle down" as much as society wants to put that burden on us. Some never want to settle down and if that's their niche, to each their own. But there is also no age where one should not want to settle down. Your late teens to twenties don't have to be your time to "experiment" and not be "held down." Hookup culture has really implemented this obsession with not being "held down" or "whipped." The nonchalant attitude towards dating is not mandatory between the ages of 18 and 25. What exactly are we afraid of being "held down" from?

I've said it once and I'll say for the rest of my life, relationships are temporary. That's the super cool thing about them. The fact that they're not marriage. They're not even engagement. Being in a relationship is a "getting to know each other" stage until it's not. You get to know each other in ways much deeper than just being "friends until you're ready." While it may be just a "label" to some, it is a commitment, but it is very much a reversible commitment. If you're not feeling it, end it, move on.

My point here being, wanting to sleep around is absolutely fine, do you. However, it's damaging to try to work a relationship-oriented person into someone who is not. In turn, being relationship-oriented is also fine. But equally, trying to work a person who wants to sleep around into being relationship-oriented is a waste of time. Sometimes, it is what is and it just needs to be accepted.

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