The Key to the Success of Your Relationship?

Writers both online and in print have discovered that the quickest way to get a reader’s attention in a busy world is to put whatever one has to say into a list, preferably one that’s not too long. Lists simplify the reading and thinking process so that we only need to check off quickly what we must know or do to get whatever we want.

Lists get our immediate attention. They promise what could be quickly and easily absorbed answers without having to work through a thinking process behind the answers.

In addition, the more desperate someone is for solutions to a seemingly ever-present problem, the more someone wants answers right now so they can immediately apply them. The more lost one feels regarding the problem to be solved, the more these lists call out as saviors.

Given human desires for fulfilling relationships that we hope will fill holes in our lives, there are few subjects in which lists attract us more. The fact that article after article of lists of three to ten “crucial” features of successful relationships appear monthly, if not weekly, indicates that writers and their publishers are also convinced that relationship lists capture eyeballs.

Be assured that these lists are everywhere and that more will regularly come. We will never run out of new ones. The definitive list hasn’t obviously appeared because that would be the end of them all.

And for the reader who’s looking for that magical list, there’ll always be the belief that they just haven’t found it yet. Keeping hope for answers alive is a feature of our desperation to be in couples – there aren’t many lists about how to be a better friend.

Journalist Simone Chandler in “10 Signs You Have No Idea About Relationships” looks at this plethora of “listicles,” as she calls them, and what they tell us about those who read them.

These listicle articles seldom say anything new. They’re broadly repetitious.

So, as she points out, they actually tell us how little many of us really know about relationships. “They indicate that we often begin seeing someone else without any pre-established ideas of what we want from our new entwinement and what it should be doing for us.”

And even more tellingly: “they also reveal that our love lives are frequently a matter of conformity, and that we pursue them largely to fit in and be normal.”

Now, that’s a key point that underlines what’s been behind so much that’s in the relationship columns you read here – as we pursue a relationship of any kind, from friendship to lover, have we clarified for ourselves what our relationship is for and what we want out of each one?

Is what we want in a relationship just something we’ve seen in others or in the media? Do we just want what “others” have?

Are we just afraid to be alone? Do we want to be coupled because we judge our worth by whether we are or not? Are we feeling that there’s not enough time left as we get older for us to meditate at length upon such things?

How do we embrace what we need or want in a relationship that’s different from what others need or want? What are the things we want in a relationship that would distinguish our relationship from all the others and their definitions of normality and success?

Should I spend more time learning about who I am and what I really want including working those issues out with a counselor or caring and accepting friend?

Aren’t our ideas of what we want better for us than what others say we should want a relationship to be? Consider the possibility that our relationship is healthy when it’s not like any others?

So is it time for us to make our own list of what the ideal relationship would look like for us without looking at still another list written by others?

Contributed by

Bob Minor

University of Kansas
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
A national resource for information on gender issues and gay/straight relationships for organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets such as NBC and USA Today, Bob Minor, Ph.D. …

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