LTR (not)

So, all my recent research into relationships and identity combined with my own life situation has led me to think about Long Term Relationships (LTRs) and the way they work – or don’t work in today’s world. I’m not at all opposed to LTRs, or to happy stories of couples who met in high school and live together happily ever after. Those are great stories and I don’t begrudge any of those people their experiences. But for many people, that isn’t the prevailing story. Most of us enter into a number of relationships in our lives, of varying duration. Most of the endings of these relationships are at best, sad ones, and many others are down right heart-wrenching.

Even though this is what we see and experience, most people continue to expect to “fall in love” with the “right” person and for that relationship to last “forever.” That is the ideal in our culture, it’s what the stories, movies and TV shows say are great. Again, I’m not saying I’m against the fairy tale ending. What I am against, though, is the drive to make every relationship out to be “THE” relationship or risk…risk what? Ridicule? Bad karma? A nasty label (slut, player)?

This is played out in the working world as well. People apply for and get hired at jobs that they KNOW they will not want to keep “forever” but it isn’t ok to say that out loud in many companies. The person doing the hiring may also know in the back of their mind that this person won’t be kept on “forever,” but they certainly wouldn’t say so. People who are actively seeking a new job continue to fill out their annual performance paperwork complete with “Goals for the coming year” without batting an eye. Managers hire people that they know will be more or less temporary while selling the benefits of long time employment with their company. Leaving these jobs is also often sad or traumatic – even though both parties had it in their mind at some point that it wasn’t going to be long term.

In the business world, however, there are some alternatives. Seasonal jobs at large stores, for instance. People who are looking for extra income, say, find jobs with companies who only need extra staff for a month or two and everyone goes away happy. Yes, it is true that sometimes people take these jobs hoping to get a foot in the door, so to speak, but because they know the situation up front, if it doesn’t become a regular job, they can go away without major trauma. Internships, practicums and externships are similar (although not exactly the same as there is the training component) in that they are time limited up front and everyone can part ways at the end unscathed.

I am proposing something similar – a kind of Medium Term Relationship (MTR). Why is it that we can’t enter into a relationship with another person with the understanding up front that we are not necessarily expecting it to last forever? I admit that I started thinking about this because of my own situation. I was in a (supposedly) LTR which ended a few years ago. That in and of itself was not a problem (apart from the normal break-up stuff), but it started to look like a problem when I found myself ready to date again.

Once I was ready to start dating again, I found myself in the rather unattractive position of being a short-timer. I knew with some certainty that I would be leaving this fine state in either June or August of this year. If your premise is that everyone you go out with is auditioning for the role of “forever person,” people who are leaving the state in 10 – 14 months are generally considered immediate rejects. I mean, it’s a no-win setup (especially if you live in a place where people historically stick around…forever). You wouldn’t even consider a person who is planning to leave, because that would ruin the forever bit (I actually had a friend who only got close to me after I bought my house because she said that she knew then that I was going to be in MN forever. I swear, I am not even kidding, that is what she said. Despite me telling her from the time that I met her that I planned to move after getting my degree).

Meanwhile I was lonely. I wanted to talk to someone, to cuddle with someone, to do things with someone. I love to discuss ideas and to get a chance to see things from someone else’s perspective – and I was mostly just hanging around alone. A lot.

I tried to enhance my social life by calling it “dating,” a term I dragged up thinking, hey, why is this all about the LTR? Don’t people date anymore? Except that when I looked that up, dating, apparently, is also about finding the ONE. And I didn’t even try the old casual sex/hook up route. I’m just not interested in that.

Which brings me back to the MTR. I want to be with someone, to build relationship, to have fun and to argue, to be with – without the premise that this is going to last forever. Or anyway the necessity of that premise. I want to be with someone in a monogamous, committed, caring relationship – the only difference is that instead of saying I promise to feel this way about you forever we are saying, I am committed to you and this relationship for now and yet I know we will separate eventually. I can just see some of you shaking your heads, saying, “Yes, but by the end of that 10 months, you will feel differently.” And I’m not even going to argue, maybe we would – but then we’d manage that at that time.

My argument is that in the long run, that is what we do already, just that we encase it in this idea that we are attempting to do forever.
I was discussing my idea with my ex-neighbor at his BBQ the other night. I believe he was slightly inebriated at the time and I may have been myself – so here I am, trying to explain my very complicated idea about relationships and he is looking at me, ever so seriously, and he says, “You mean, just, tell the truth?”

Um, yeah. That’s what I’m saying. I am a proponent of MTRs, also known as Telling the Truth. Thanks, Joe.

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