What makes a good relationship?

I am taking a break from intense scrutiny of serious political issues for this week, how unlike me! I decided to write a blog post on relationships, as now that I am getting older (why God, why?) it seems like everyone I know is slowly but surely getting into a relationship. This isn’t a bad thing, but it leads to some interesting questions. What exactly makes a relationship good, or healthy? How do we know when we belong with a person? What’s so good about relationships anyway? It’s a discussion worth having, as everyone has different ideas on what is love (baby don’t hurt me) and how relationships should work.

According to Gallup’s 2014 survey, 64% of 18-29 year olds are single. So while it may seem like all of your friends are settling down, this isn’t actually the case! There’s nothing wrong with single life either. You’re a whole person, not a person searching for their other half. Plenty of singletons lead happy and fulfilling lives. Obviously I don’t want to patronise single people here who want to be in a relationship, don’t get me wrong, being in a good relationship is wonderful. But I emphasise the word good here. Increasingly, it seems that people are just entering into relationships for the sake of it. Why would you do this? Honestly, what possessed you? That’s like going into a restaurant and the waiter bringing out steak when you ordered sea bass. But you’re too polite to say anything about it, so you just eat the steak. Then you realise you’re actually allergic to steak. You’re setting yourself up for a whole lot of strife and suffering if you don’t really like the person, but you think simply being in a relationship will fill some sort of void in your life.

What I have learned over time is that there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a good relationship. Every single relationship is different because we are all very different in personality, and will tolerate different behaviours. But the stuff some people put up with is shocking. The bar is set so low, yet people will still crawl underneath it, on their hands and knees, in the mud. All it takes is a little bit of effort. If you’re not willing to put in any time why bother staying in the relationship? Look at it like this: if you’re in college, you’re expected to show up to lectures and pass exams. If you don’t show up and don’t submit any assignments, you’ll fail. Similarly, if you don’t bother meeting up with your boyfriend or forget your girlfriend’s birthday, you’re failing at being in a relationship. Extravagant displays of affection or elaborate gifts aren’t necessary to make a relationship good. A text suggesting meeting up for coffee would suffice.

My favourite part about being in a relationship is having a best friend who will always be there to support you. They are another person in your life who loves you unconditionally, apart from your family. You don’t have to see this person every day to know they are there for you. I think that’s what makes a relationship good. I am in relationship currently (hardly surprising given the tone of this post) and I have learned so much about myself because of my boyfriend. I never realised how highly strung I am about being organised and getting things done in advance until my boyfriend tried to complete the latter half of a 15,000 word final year thesis in less than a month and I nearly killed him (he got a 2.1 in it, but please do not try this at home). So the question “what is a good relationship?” has no definitive answer. For me, however, it’s having a best friend, their unconditional support and love, and them showing you things about yourself that you couldn’t have discovered on your own.

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