Recently I read this quote by Dean Spade from his essay For Lovers and Fighters that discusses the concepts of friendship and romantic relationships:
“One of my goals in thinking about redefining the way we view relationships is to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends– try to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations– and to try to treat my friends more like my dates– give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together.”
It got me thinking a lot about how young people approach these two seemingly different but similar types of relationships. I realize that as you get older the person you are intimately committed to will play a larger and different role in your life, as in sharing a house or raising a child. I wonder however, as young people, if we are investing too intensely in our romantic relationships? Should we instead be approaching these relationships the way we approach our friendships? I love my friends very much but I would never expect them to be my “everything”. We make plans and we keep in touch when we are apart but there is an important degree of independence from one another. I wonder if relationships would be healthier or last longer or end less painfully if codependence did not seem so significant. Codependence is not the only thing that complicates relationships as they change and inevitably end: it’s this whole idea of ‘love.’ Do we love our romantic partners differently than we love our friends? Or is sex the only defining difference between the two? Maybe this different concept of love is what gets us into trouble and sex should be the only difference. This quote has given me a degree of optimism regarding relationships and love, which I have been feeling quite cynical about lately. It made me realize that as young people we have the opportunity to approach our relationships in a number of different ways because we have the luxury of reaping the benefits of being with someone without the responsibility that comes with marriage or family. I think this is the prime time to apply this statement to our platonic and intimate relationships, even if it doesn’t eliminate all the heartache and heartbreak. I think it will allow us to have a number of healthy, rewarding relationships, which when you think about it, sounds a lot more appealing than investing everything in one person.
The rest of Spade’s essay is also very thought provoking, discussing how monogamy can be analyzed and critiqued within queer, trans, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-oppression politics. Check it out!