“Do you like horror movies?”
“Have you ever travelled around another country alone?”
“Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?”
Such is the content of a functional (nay, perfect) relationship, according to OKCupid, and recently reported by the BBC.
Maybe I have low standards, but the answers to those questions seem immaterial to me. (For the record, the correct answers are obviously no, yes, and do-you-have-any-idea-how-much-work-sailing-is.)
I don’t want to write an article about relationships, because there’s a glut of them in the world, but maybe the glut of articles is what needs addressing. It’s this poisonous obsession with the perfect person – that, however wonderful and caring the person I’m with now is (or however wonderful and caring any of the people I know are) there might just be someone out there who is ‘better’ for me – and if I read enough articles about relationships I’ll somehow be better equipped to find and keep that ‘better’ person.
Where has this poison begun? Since I need something to pick on, I’m going to choose that seething den of iniquity and banality, the Chick Flick (or, if that needs clarification, the story line in which attractive boy meets attractive girl à boy and girl engage in witty banter à boy and girl have sex à there is a minor conflict, usually based on lack of communication à boy and girl resolve said conflict after public declaration of love).
There are obvious problems with this that we won’t go in to here (but, to name a few, sex used as a bargaining tool, the flinging around of the concept of love, no notion of relationships taking work/sacrifice) but I want to pick on one in particular: the idea of the ‘one’.
A lot of the time churches talk about the dangers of turning relationships/marriage into an idol, placing them before God – cue everyone nervously inspecting their own fears of loneliness to see if they’re based in unholy desires – but what they don’t often mention is why that is so harmful to others, not just you. Do you know how much pressure you put someone under if you expect them to be ‘the one’? And how much pressure you put yourself under? Where is the grace in that?
You know what relationships aren’t supposed to be? An exercise in working out who is ‘best’ for you. You know what they are? An exercise in working out who you could be better for, and who you really want to be better for, and who it is who graciously loves you into a place where you are able to be better for them. Relationships of any kind, romantic or not, have to be based on grace, not shared sailing ability, or they are doomed to failure.
Here’s a thought: it might actually be possible to love someone who isn’t just a more perfect version of you.
Here’s another thought: it might actually be necessary to love someone who isn’t just a more perfect version of you, if you’re going to love at all.