Struggling with the Romantic Paradigm
Hi Paulo, I've been in an on-again, off-again relationship with John for about 10 years, sometimes with long periods of time apart (in other relationships). I don't seem to be able to get over him and we always end up back in each other's lives. A few months ago we "broke up" again, but have continued to stay friends (and, yes, we are intimate). He has some family issues going on, so I want to be there for him, as I know he needs someone right now. He also admits that he has commitment issues. My question is this: Is our relationship ever going to move forward or should I move on and find someone else? I love him very much, but I am tired of waiting on him. I keep thinking that in the long run it'll be worth it ... or will it?
-Pamela, 40-50, Maui Meadows
The real question is not whether it will be worth it, but whether it is worth it now. You have a "friends-with-benefits" relationship that must be pretty good, considering that you both keep coming back!
Ask yourself why you feel like this form needs to change. If it really does, talk to John about how you can both feel more satisfied, without bringing the word "commitment" into the question at all. If you like what you have going on, see if you can let go of externally imposed ideas of what a relationship should look like, and focus on enjoying what you already have. You mentioned you love him, you are intimate physically and you want to be there for him emotionally. These sound like hallmarks of a great relationship to me!
To some extent all couples "settle" … it's called settling down, as in being relaxed with someone, which is the basis for emotional intimacy. You two have a lot of intimacy and have been honest with each other for a long time. You have every right to enjoy yourselves.
It's important you make your own decision about what sort of relationship you want. Keep in mind that the romantic paradigm, the concept that you marry one perfect "soulmate" and live happily ever after, has only ruled the way people seek intimacy for 200 years. Before that, it was all an arrangement -- specifically, arranged marriage -- still the case in many cultures.
The biggest problem with arranged marriage is that women have had no ability to negotiate for themselves. Friends-with-benefits is an arrangement, too, but you have equal say regarding terms. Make the most of this power and make it a great arrangement for yourself! Ask for what you want, just avoid all-or-nothing demands. Don't let the perfect (your fantasy) become the enemy of the good (the intimacy you enjoy).
As Ken Keyes pointed out in his groundbreaking book, A Conscious Person's Guide to Relationships, our ability to sustain intimacy is limited by our tendency to dictate the form that the relationship must take. We are much happier when we let the form adapt to the flow … flex-form!
Place the issue of what form you might prefer below more important factors -- like how well you communicate, enjoy each other's company, solve problems, resolve conflicts. Focus on and cultivate these blessings and you will co-create something marvelous, something worth living for -- no matter what its form … so, enjoy!