Building a Ship by Relating
When I was a kid, from the age of 5 to 18, all I wanted was a girlfriend.
I was desperate to be accepted, by anyone. Like many teenagers, I’d do things that I thought would impress girls, but that actually made me look foolish.
All because no one ever taught me, explicitly or implicitly, what a relationship actually is.
All I had for a model of a teen relationship was my friends. They bent over backwards to say and do macho type things. It seemed to me that the girls in my school really wanted someone who broke rules, someone who was extremely confident.
In other words, we all tried too hard. It worked for some, but I wouldn’t call what they had a relationship… they had courtships, prom dates, and make out partners. But hardly anyone was focused on the relating part.
If I could give advice to my younger self, it would be this: relationships happen when you focus on the relation part. The common bond. The shared values. And relationships aren’t always sexual, and in fact, they can still be deeply satisfying without sex.
Of course, after a bad break up in high school, I stopped trying to find someone, and at college, for the first time, I was open to all the new possibilities my social life offered me. I connected to people, I talked deeply with them until 5am, I learned where they were from and why they left.
And of course, out of this openness came the most important relationship of my life, the one that led to an eventual marriage.
And we still have crushes on each other. We never seem to tire of one another, at least not long term. And that’s because, I suspect, we started with relation and from that, we built a ship.