Relationship Soapbox

Author name
Sheila Broderick, LCSW

Will you help me? Today, I am on my “Relationship Soapbox.”  I invite you to get mad with me and spread the word.  First, I supply context.  Something like 18 times a week, I hear some version of this from friends, neighbors, family and students:

“Me and this guy, this girl, this friend (insert whatever nomenclature fits here) are “hooking up” but we are not in a relationship.”  Let’s suspend my irritation with the laziness of the “hooking up” verbage.   I will save that rant for another blog.  For today, I will focus on the silliness of the notion of sexual intimacy without a relationship.

I find this is usually said in one of two contexts.  The first is an attempt to absolve the speaker of responsibility of acting like a human being.  “Me and X are “hooking up” and the next day she/he texted me and I haven’t responded.  That was 3 days ago.  I mean, it’s not like we are in a RELATIONSHIP!” (insert derisive tone of voice here).

The second context I hear this in is an attempt to assure me that the speaker is cool, evolved, sexually liberated and they have no feelings whatsoever about having shared a profoundly intimate experience with another human being and then the next day cannot look them in the eye.  It goes something like this.  “Yeah, so me and this girl, me and this guy, hooked up at this party and I just ran into them at the bus stop and just looked the other way.  I mean, it’s not like we are in a RELATIONSHIP.”

To paraphrase Hamlet’s mom, methinks thou dost protest too much.   Newsflash: YOU ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP!

I get it.  Maybe you aren’t getting married, applying for a mortgage or picking out colors for the nursery, but dude, your mouth was on their mouth, saliva was exchanged, yummy body parts were touched, maybe even some clothes were in a pile on the floor.  Any part of you on, in, under, over, between theirs?  YOU ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP.  Of some sort.  You are relating to that other glorious incredible beautiful human being.

Don, my car guy, Sean who bags my groceries, Candy the lady at the bank whose daughter is in the Raleigh roller derby (how cool is that?)  -- I’m in some sort of a RELATIONSHIP with all these people and none of them have seen me naked. But, we relate.  We smile.  We use manners.  We are glad to see each other, we enhance the quality of each other’s day, we care about the other’s well being and inquire after it.  I certainly could not get along without any of them.  We have a social contract of sorts.  And adhering to it and bowing to the other’s humanity and divinity allows this crazy world to function with a modicum of order and grace.

How much more so is this true if I had made out with any of them?  We are all in relationship to one another.  It’s a matter of degree of connection and amount of contact.  We need to stop fooling ourselves.  If we kiss another person, enjoy touching their body, indicate to them we really, REALLY * really * like (whew! I really like you) being close to them, then, my friend, we are relating.  We are in relationship to each other.  Own it.  And stop being mean.  Smile, text the next day, thank them for sharing that moment (hopefully it was more than that).  Don’t be sexually intimate and THEN back track and draw the boundaries.  That’s cowardly.  And it offends me because it is low quality intimacy and we all know we don’t need to add THAT to the world.

Here’s a modest proposal.  I’m asking you to help me spread the word.

Establish the boundaries first.  Then enjoy the intimacy and guess what?  You have the pleasure of running into them later, seeing their beautiful face, looking them right in the eye with no shame, no fear, no embarrassment.  And you get the pleasure of reliving the memory in your mind.

Ahhhhhh, daydreaming.  Now, go relate!