The other night I was giving relationship advice to my younger sister. She came to me worried about how her current relationship was a rebound, but it was obvious that the person she was with wanted more out of the relationship, but she didn’t want to hurt him.
I told her to do the obvious: break up with him before it got to that point. It’ll just hurt him more if she didn’t.
She acknowledged that she needed to, but she couldn’t. She “needed” him for several reasons.
- She was still hurt from her last break up
- Her relationship with her best friend was not going very well
- Home life was inconsistent and rocky
She needed him to fill in a gap caused by adverse conditions in her life. “If everything were okay right now, I wouldn’t need him. But everything is kind of sh*t and I just need someone to rely on.”
We resolved her individual problem, but it got me thinking, don’t all relationships have a specific purpose is a person’s life? Furthermore, don’t they all become absolute once they’ve served that purpose?
It would make sense.
Think about the friends who you completely lost contact with after high school. The purpose of those relationships were to keep each other company in school. Once school ended, you had no use for each other and moved on. Very similar to relationships between coworkers.
In romantic relationships, the purpose can vary, but at a young age, they’re usually for fun or to experience the silly notions of romance that are generally unrealistic. Once the fun and the romance fades, so does the relationship.
However, there are relationships that are more complicated and last a lot longer than that. This, in my opinion, would be because after the relationship served its initial purpose, we’re able to assign it a new one. The relationship we have with our parents is a very extreme version of this.
From birth to about sixteen or seventeen, we need them because we literally cannot live as humans without them. It’s a subconscious dependence that helps us develop into functioning adults. At eighteen the need for that relationship shifts. Now we need them because we can’t afford to pay the basic necessities on top of school, but once we are able to afford that, the need for the relationship goes away and we assign a new one. Instead of “I need them to survive” it’s “I need them to be my roots or a place to go back to if all else fails. Some life advice would be great too.”
Long term romantic partners are almost the same. After the initial purpose of providing fun and romance (the honeymoon phase), it shifts to a type of reliance, whether that’s financial, emotional or physical. For me personally, I rely on my SO to teach me. He lives a lifestyle that I want to live, but don’t know how.
After that most people probably want kids, so you assign each other the purpose of ‘mother’ or ‘father’ to my children. It progresses from there. (Keep in mind that I might have missed several parts of a serious romantic relationship because I’ve never been that deep into one.)
Of course, all of these are assumptions based off of the objectification of very complicated relationships. The relationships don’t feel this obvious because they’re clouded with emotions and feel-good hormones, but if you’re able to look past it and ask yourself “what’s the purpose of this relationship?” you’d probably find the same things.
Objectifying your relationships can help you pinpoint which ones are healthy, which ones are abusive, the ones you need to put more effort in and perhaps some of the ones you need to back away from for a while.