Did you know that you are actually in a relationship? Actually, you're in multiple relationships. Yep, being ‘single’ doesn’t really exist. It’s just colloquial slang for “not in a ‘romantic/sexual/’ relationship.”
Why is this the case? Well, you first must consider the question "what is a relationship?" My definition is: any interaction where both parties are affected in some way. This may seem broad, but it's actually a pretty solid definition.
"By this definition, you’re in a relationship with everyone you know and people you’ve never met, they’re just different kinds of relationships."
In fact, I'd go as far to say that you're in a relationship with every person, animal, place, and thing on the planet! For the sake of our sanity, I'll keep this article grounded by just discussing the most important people that you're in a relationship with (and maybe, the pets).
Think about all the people you stay in contact with on a regular basis and all of the people who you serve and who serve you in some way or another (yep, even the guy who serves you waffles once a year at your nephew's birthday party). What matters most is that you trust the people you're in a relationship with to fulfill a certain role, and when they don’t, it throws you off.
Here are the 10 different types of relationships:
Mentor: someone who imparts knowledge to you and helps you grow
Romance: someone who makes you feel really alive, who you desire to see in order to make life exciting. You may also have the desire to touch and cuddle this person, share intimate details about yourself with them, and plan a life with them, but it’s not necessarily sexual (but often is).
Sibling: someone similar to yourself in some way who you can confide in and be friends with, but who you are also there for (and who is there for you) on a fundamental level (not an optional level). If they/you landed in the hospital, you'd/they'd be there in a heart beat.
Friend: someone with shared interests or a compatible personality with your own who you like to share experiences with, but who you don’t necessarily feel the need to be emotionally or physically intimate with and who you are fine spending a large amounts of time away from without separation anxiety, which often accompanies romantic relationships
Guardian: someone who cares for you or provides basic necessities for you (regardless of age, though these relationships tend to be more important at the beginning and end of life)
Sexual: someone you have sexual relations with
Ally: someone you work with to accomplish things (co-worker, business partner, classmate)
Muse/Idol: someone who inspires you, but who you may not necessarily know personally
Service: someone who provides a product or service for you including paying you for services you provide to them, but who you may not know personally
Opponent: someone who you dislike, whose ideas you oppose, or who you generally try and avoid and oppose for any number of reasons
Each category has its own sub categories and often you can be in a relationship with somebody in multiple categories at once. Your relationship with someone can also change and shift categories over time. One day, you might have a friend, who then becomes an opponent over night, because they stole your girlfriend.
One reason why it seems so difficult for people to answer the question, “what kind of relationship do you want?” is because it’s normal to simply assume that one is talking about a sexual relationship that are also supposed to cover a bunch of other relationship types. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the person you’re dating (and on yourself) for now you have to be simultaneously good at everything! For some people, this actually does 'pan out' (it continues rather than ends, until death do you part). For most, it’s a burden and they’d be better off seeking more people to fulfill the different categories rather than assuming that the person who sleeps in the same bed as them is somehow balancing their life, career and sanity while also fulfilling 8 other reliable ‘roles’ just for YOU.
Unless you feel like you have it all figured out, consider this: a balanced life distributes the different relationship types between different people. If you’re lacking something, look at the list above and think about which type you may be missing. Likely if you’re stuck right now in any capacity, it’s because you’re lacking a relationship type or you’ve mis-identified certain people as being a particular type that they are not. If you’re constantly getting sick, you’re lacking a service/mentor (in health). If you’re lonely, you’re lacking a friend/romantic/sibling. If you’re short on security and basic necessities, you’re lacking a guardian/parent figure. If you’re low on inspiration, you’re lacking a muse/mentor. If you’re stagnant in your career your lacking ally/mentor/service relationships. If you’re lacking someone to confide in you’re lacking a sibling/friend/guardian.
Even pets can fulfill some of these roles, which is why cats and dogs are so prominent as friend/sibling/romance partners. Pets can also be great mentors and pain-in-the-ass opponents. The weird thing is, just because in your mind, you’re in a certain type of relationship with somebody else, it doesn’t mean that they are in the same kind of relationship with you. This is often why people break up, because the two people don’t see things in the same way and therefore there is a breakdown in the functionality of roles that are expected to be fulfilled. It’s not a bad idea to take inventory from time to time with all the people you stay in contact with regularly (let’s say, within a year’s time) and plot out which category they represent for you. If you feel like you’re not the same for them, there’s something there.
As you’ve heard before, trust is the most important element of any of these relationships (even the opponent, for you trust them to piss you off!). Whenever you’re offended or hurt by something that somebody has ‘done to you’ consider that it’s because you assumed you were in a particular kind of relationship with that person and perhaps they didn’t see it that way. Some people also ‘try on’ different relationships to see if it really feels like a fit, which can also lead to pain. Dating is probably the best example of this, since it’s assumed that you’re meeting up for the purpose of eventually having a romantic/sexual relationship. When one person feels like it’s a ‘yes’ and the other one ‘isn’t sure’ then the latter person is ‘trying on’ the idea of considering you as a romance/sexual partner, but you’re not actually approved yet, which means you aren’t actually in a relationship with them yeteven if you wish you were.
Assessing the quality of your relationships means seeing things from both sides. It's not just "Am I satisfied with all of the people I'm in a relationship with?" it's "Are all the people I'm in relationships with satisfied with me? If not, why not? How can I be a better partner to everyone?" A great question is:
“what is the quality of the sum of all my relationships and which ones am I missing?”
The question is not “do I believe in ‘the one’” it’s “who all do I need to build relationships with for a good, balanced life?”
Most relationships tend to come about naturally, but sometimes you actually have to treat relationship-building as work. That’s why people complain about dating and job interviews, since they’re seeking sexual/romance/friends and ally/service/mentors and this is not always easy to do!
Now, here is the most mind-blowing part of this whole article. YOU are simultaneously fulfilling all of the relationship types with yourself when they’re not being met by someone else (or you should be/you’re forced to).
Oliver Twist becomes his own guardian by becoming a pick-pocket to provide basic necessities for himself
When you’re sick, most often you research online first to be your own mentor
When you’re tired of your life, you seek out hobbies in which you can aMUSE yourself
Each month you should pay yourself first (being in a Service relationship with yourself) to accrue savings and look out for your own future
Everyone is their own opponent on a daily basis, since no one agrees with themselves all of the time and that’s part of what makes you smarter as you get better at discerning after doing your research
SO - go take inventory of which relationship types you’re missing, then get to work by either better fulfilling them yourself or by actively seeking someone else out who can do it better than you.