The standard social model is as follows: You have a large number of acquaintances, followed by a smaller number of close friends, and then at the top: the single solitary love.
Putting aside the acquaintances for now, it’s the differences between a close friend and a love that interest me.
One might immediately say that one big difference is that you share all of your innermost secrets and feelings with your love. And while that may be true, I know of many close friends who share pretty much everything but their toothbrush. Some friendships are so tight that it is possible to think of them as a “unit,” which is another word for a partnership.
Speaking of partners, one might say that a love is someone you share your life with: all the gory details, such as taking out the garbage, feeding the cat, and planning for the future. But friends live together too (they are sometimes known as “roommates”) and share all of the household chores (hopefully, when things go well), and might share future plans as well.
Now I know you’ve been waiting for this one. “Silly: you have sex with your love, and you don’t with your friends.”
Okay, fair point. But what about lovers who don’t have sex? People in an intimate relationship may have sex at a frequency of their choosing (known only between them, the walls, and the cat). But it’s not hard to imagine a partnership that is rock solid, intimate as hell, but without the physical expressions of sexual love. Besides, would that really be the only difference?
Where am I going with this?
Nevertheless, given all the potential commonalities, many of us persist with the “pyramid model” of interpersonal relationships. I think this might be because this is what we have been taught, not because it is necessarily the optimal model for people (though I’m sure it is for many). Many of us don’t question it, assuming that “this is just the way it is” (one of my least favorite phrases).
But here is my thesis statement: our relationship model is a choice we make. I’m not suggesting that you have sex with your friends, but neither am I saying that you need only have one single love in your life. True, society promotes certain situations as being more “socially acceptable,” but if you never question these assumptions, and maybe even try out other possibilities, you may never find the dynamic that works best for you.
Do you find that you’re living in a “different” relationship model? I’d love to hear about it.
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