What Am I Worth?
“If we can’t be in a relationship,
we can’t be friends.”
There’s something inherently wrong with this statement. Simply put, it doesn’t make sense to me. How could I find someone attractive and interesting enough to consider spending a significant amount of time with them and yet not find that same person attractive and interesting enough to want to spend a little time with them? There’s a logical misstep here that eludes me. Though I’ve heard it before, I never questioned it until the other night.
What Is a Relationship?
What exactly is a relationship in this context. It’s difficult enough to define without the sudden influx of dichotomy that arises here.
Is it dating? What defines dating? Does it have to be exclusive? Is it long term? Can it have an expiration date? Do you both have to agree to the status?
I have a friend who mentioned that her date had called her “his girlfriend” in mixed company. She wasn’t perturbed or bothered, though she was a little surprised. But what gave him the right to dub her thusly? Was it the number of times they went out? Was it his understanding of closeness? Was it his choice to be exclusive, even if it hadn’t been specifically stated as an agreement between the two of them?
Perhaps asking what it is won’t be good enough.
The dictionary definition of a relationship is as follows:
- a connection, association, or involvement.
- connection between persons by blood or marriage.
- an emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students.
- a sexual involvement; affair.
In the first definition, I’d have a relationship with everyone I ever met, spoke to, or even passed on the street. I technically have a relationship with world leaders because they’re involved in my life. In this context, it’s obviously not intended to be that broad.
The second definition requires a wedding before it’s a relationship. In the statement in question, while marriage may be a possible outcome, it’s certainly not the current status, leaving it too specific to apply.
With the third definition, everything seems pretty good until you read the example. I’m sure there are some student-teacher relationships like the one in question, but I doubt the example is referring to Debra Lafave and
The final definition requires carnal knowledge. As much as I’d like for many of my relationships to have sex involved, I’d be blatantly lying if that were true. Therefore, this definition is once again too specific.
So with none of the dictionary definitions accurate in this sense, it leaves me wondering.
Perhaps it’s my own relational problems and lack of experience, but I’ve never been able to get a clear sense of what a relationship is. There are so many different variant statuses that come in a relationship. There’s dating, going steady, exclusivity, and fuck buddies. There’s long distance relationships, expiration dates, arranged marriages, and internet dating. There’s experimentation, BDSM, Mr. Right Now, one night stands, and so on. I have difficulty figuring out when one shifts to another and who’s responsible for which label carries the day.
Because of this confusion, I’m simply going to define a relationship as best I can and move on.
A relationship is an emotional connection between two people that’s romantic and sexual in nature. It doesn’t require exclusivity, though many people prefer it, nor does it require sexual activity. A relationship is deeper than friendship, though how much deeper is variable. A relationship requires you want something from and for your partner. And as much as I hate to say it, I don’t believe a relationship requires love, though the best ones do.
What the Fuck
Given the previous definition of a relationship, I can’t imagine meeting someone whom I’d want to be in a relationship with that I wouldn’t want to be friends with. All the various attractive qualities that make them a good partner would qualify just as well to be friends.
When I look for someone to be friends with, it’s often many of the same qualities that I look for in a prospective partner. If anything, I’m less discerning about my friends qualities, some of which grate on me with regularity, than I am about the women I’m attracted to. We’ve all seen people nitpick their current significant other’s flaws to the point of losing interest, so I don’t think I’m alone in this.
When someone says, “if we can’t be in a relationship, we can’t be friends,” it completely and totally nullifies every positive quality. It’s like telling someone I’m only in it for the sex, or that they’re a good friend at work, but you don’t hanging out with them outside of work nor working with them.
I can understand someone saying, “if we can’t be friends, we can’t have a relationship,” but reversing it makes no sense to me. If this is someone I’d be willing to spend a significant amount of time with, then shouldn’t I be happy spending any time at all with them, even as friends?
The Sole Exception
There are, as with any rule, exceptions.
Despite searching for what they may be, I’ve only found one in this case: pain. I’ve pined over a prospective mate who was busy with another person. I’m sure we all have at some point. And when the heartbreak comes as I realized this was a pipe dream, I didn’t want to look or think of the person because knowing they’re with some douchebag, or some don juan, or some average joe simply hurts too badly.
This, however, is a temporary exception. Eventually all emotions change and fade.
I remember running into my 5th grade crush in high school and realizing how unappealing I found her. It shattered the beautiful image I had kept in my head. Slowly, I realized that she never had a lot of the qualities I had given her in my memories over the years. It was devastating, but it allowed us the chance to be friends.
I’ve had several friends with whom I’ve had that emotional connection with and who have ended up with other men. And in many of those cases, I know they’re happier with him than they’d ever be with me. And while it’s hard to give up, it’s sometimes necessary.
I truly believe that all pain subsides eventually. I truly believe that if I can get over someone—and that’s a big if for some—we can be friends. It may take time, perhaps even years or decades, but eventually it’ll be possible.
Sex, Lies, and Youtube
There are many things which seem like exceptions but aren’t.
Someone becoming a stalker, for instance. Any form of abusive or controlling relationship shouldn’t fall under this statement. The fact is that I can’t have a relationship there. If he or she is stalking me, it’s not healthy or sustainable. If I’m afraid to leave the relationship and afraid to stay, there’s a big issue here. Though it may not be easy, I can’t be friends or have a relationship in that case.
A purely sexual relationship may seem great, but when that physical attraction begins to die, so does the connection. In this case, we can’t be in a relationship since there isn’t one and there’s no reason to be friends.
One of the big exceptions friends have pointed out to me is the tease, someone who strings you along with little intention of being in a relationship. But the truth is that even with a tease, we can be in a relationship with little difficulty and we can be friends if I’m not a dumbass and actually care if she’s a tease.
We’re Not Worthy
“If we can’t be in a relationship, we can’t be friends.” To me, this statement is like the Chewbacca Defense. It does not make sense. If someone is worthy of a relationship, they need to be worthy of friendship first. And if they’re not worthy of friendship, why is this even coming up?
Perhaps I’m naive or a hopeless romantic, but I expect my partner to be my best friend above all other things. Only then, could they be worthy of a relationship.