After the birth and death of several relationships and a the age of 20, I have decided to bestow upon the world the knowledge I have attained concerning romantic relationships, if to serve no other purpose than to become a piece of writing than can be looked back on several years from now in a “what was I thinking” vain. Although much of what I present may seem relatively obvious, I believe that it may prove to be useful to the casual new adult or perhaps even the romantically inept older adult. While I believe much of my theory to be universal, it should be kept in mind that this is written from the heterosexual male perspective, for this is where all my experience lies.
Let us begin at the natural starting point, upon the realization of romantic interest in another. Unfortunately, relationships are not spontaneous reactions, they instead require a catalyst in the form of either party making their feelings for the other apparent. This, I have noticed, is where many would be connections break down. I long believed that upon reaching a certain age that people would leave behind the secret crush culture of elementary school. This, because of our hesitation to leave ourselves emotionally vulnerable, simply is not so. To this day I see people my age pining for someone from afar, with the object of their desire seemingly completely oblivious.
I would argue, however, that it is almost always in your best interest to reveal to your romantic interest the extent of your feelings. In the case of wanting to ask an attractive stranger on a date, the argument is easily justified. The potential benefit of creating the connection far outweighs the possibility of a slightly bruised ego and a few moments of embarrassment. The argument is slightly harder to justify if the romantic interest in question is a friend, because the concern is now less a bruised ego and more the possibility of damaging the current friendship. I hate to be the barer of bad news, but by having romantic feelings for your friend, you have doomed the friendship. Your feelings, by their nature, introduce a skewed power structure into the friendship, which runs orthogonally to to the fundamental equality of friendship. Furthermore, your feelings will most likely cause you to put your romantic interest under the microscope, intensely over-analyzing their words and actions. These two issues coupled together will lead to the degeneration of your friendship. Thus the justification becomes why not make your feelings clear and give yourself a chance with your romantic interest before your friendship rots to the core?
Upon explaining the full extent of your feelings to someone there should be two response that you are willing to accept, which are “I feel the same way” and “I don’t feel the same way”. If you are given an ambiguous answer that lies between these two responses, immediately ask for clarification. If they refuse to clarify, hit the eject button and move on, for any answer that requires you to wait for the other person or prove yourself in some way will surely lead to your slow plummet toward destruction. In a world with 6 billion people you do not need to settle for someone who is going to be vague with you. Instead, find someone who is just as enthusiastic about and confident in the connection as you are.
Provided you’ve been somewhat successful in your crush and pursuing period, you may find yourself in a relationship. And certainly what will be one of the first observations made is that your relationship is nothing like how relationships are depicted in movies and media. The picture of two people who are perfect for each other and click on every issue and because of this never fight does not exist. You will fight with your significant other. And the only way to survive the fallout from what will at times seem like an all out blitzkrieg, will be communication. This is the key to a successful and happy relationship. You must always be in constant dialog with your significant other about your concerns, needs and wants. Once the lines of communication are strong, confidence, trust, comfortability, etc. will all fall into place.
Even with communication however, there comes a time when some relationships must end. This period is tricky because of something I like to call relationship inertia. In physics we learn that because of inertia objects in motion stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. Part of being in a relationship is accept some sort of routine and stability. And this, combined with the integration of lives that relationships foster, creates a situation where it becomes relatively easy to go through the day to day motions of the relationship even though the relationship is more or less over. This is relationship inertia. So what, then, is the outside force that may finally halt the motion of this relationship that is at its end? Anything outside of the relationship routine is a sufficient outside force. While a new romantic interest is a nice force to have, that may not always be the case. Thus, you must be able to reflect upon your relationship outside of its routine, recognize what about it can and cannot be fixed, evaluate whether or not the things that cannot be fixed mark the end of the relationship and act accordingly.
There is, of course, much more to going through a relationship, most of which will be specific to your relationship and thus will have be picked up as the relationship goes. What I have presented are outlines of the big picture and what I believe are the keys to successfully entering, maintaining and, if necessary, recognizing when to exit a relationship. Once again, much of this may seem obvious, but I write this not only because I’ve made many of the mistakes I’m warning against, but also because I see these mistakes being made constantly by people my age and older. I can only hope that by publishing my thoughts on the subject that, I along with others will be able to find happiness in a romantic relationship.