The eternal mystery of how to maintain a successful sexual relationship has boggled the minds and hearts of society since time began. A successful relationship is different for everyone. What constitutes a successful relationship varies so much depending on our social, political and religious influences, it’s hard to get a decisive answer. In modern society the idea of the perfect nuclear family of the nineteen fifties is no longer relevant. The face of sexual relationships and what constitutes family has evolved into unrecognisable dimensions since the introduction of the perfect husband, wife and 2.4 children, thankfully. So what constitutes a successful relationship in our modern world? Well I can’t talk about what that means for anyone other than myself.
Is longevity Important?
Many of us will say that the measure of a successful relationship is how long a couple have been together. For some that may be true, but not necessarily true for everyone. I am certainly guilty, in my idealist mind, of wishing for a flawless, trouble free relationship. Pangs of regret that my first marriage didn’t succeed have plagued me in the past. The idea of falling in love, raising children and living happily ever after in wedded bliss was exactly what I expected. My romantic vision of what I wanted clouded reality and at 24 years old, I hadn’t got a clue about relationships anyway. It’s strange because that wasn’t what I experienced in my childhood home. There is certainly relationship longevity between my parents, but definitely not happiness. What I experienced there was chaos and everything I didn’t want for myself. Maybe I thought I could create something better.
My Own Influences
I modelled what it meant to be a good wife on my mothers behaviour. The lunacy of even thinking that being a “good wife” was even something that I needed to be, was lost on me at that time. Of course, since she and I are worlds apart in everyway, her approach didn’t work for me. The obedience and tolerance for abuse and honouring her martial vows at all costs, crippled me. Staying was and still is her answer to success. I have never been obedient, at least not willingly, in my entire life. As for tolerance – well I’m pretty tolerant of most things, except abuse, misogyny and neglect. I was a feminist and social justice advocate without knowing it. Alas, my first marriage lasted seven years and I ended up raising our two children alone. I certainly learned a whole lot about myself from that relationship but not about being happy.
My Understanding of Love
The length of a relationship is by no means an indicator of a healthy relationship. Many dysfunctional relationships last decades because partners learn to accept and even become addicted to toxic cycles. No, longevity does not mean success in my relationships. It took quite a few more unsuccessful relationships after that to understand anything about sexual relationships and what it means to truly love someone. It also took me a long time to understand accepting love and not admiration, sex or intensity as a substitute. In my eagerness to learn I discovered that one person cannot fulfil all your needs and what a crazy amount of pressure we put on each other to do that.
If I wanted a successful relationship I had to get busy fulfilling most of my own needs first and then accept a loving partner as a healthy addition. Nobody was going to save me from my past pain or self-destruction. I had to figure that out on my own. As a heterosexual woman, my inbuilt independence was also an issue for some of my past male partners. A close male friend of mine says that I am intimidating. Even in the modern world, some men can feel threatened by a totally self-sufficient woman. Not their fault though. Men are by no means immune to societal conditioning and are just as much victims of patriarchal idealism as women are, but they don’t even know it. Not their fault but definitely their responsibility to learn.
My acceptance of others
Likewise, I had to accept the fullness of the man I was going to be with. I needed to accept their independent soul and need to be who they are without expecting them to be a knight in shining armour for me. And so it is.
My husband to be is very much his own man. he doesn’t pretend that he can solve my problems or save me from pain. He can be openly vulnerable with me because he feels safe and in turn I can also be gutturally vulnerable with him. We work brilliantly together because we have a deep understanding of who the other one is…..because we understand ourselves deeply. We don’t have to be everything to each other because that is fantasy, but it also keeps us madly attracted to each other. The depth of another person is deeply fascinating and erotic and means there is always more to discover in the other and in ourselves. All that is what constitutes a successful relationship for me.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the toxic intensity and admiration of an unhealthy relationship. It’s all I knew once and the chemical surge of that can be unforgettable. I am human after all and highly susceptible to addictive pursuits. But now I know and understand love. I know joy. I know peace and I know that right now I am in a successful relationship. Will it last forever? Who knows. Will we fall out of love? Perhaps but maybe not. Am I getting married for the right reasons this time? You bet I am!