Relationships

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what even is the point of having friends, family, and lovers.  Especially since — if you think about it — the definitions of these things are so abstract and bendable sometimes.  After all, isn’t a group of friends like a found family — a beautiful little eclectic clan brought together by chance?  And doesn’t a family sometimes feel like people who you’re expected to be friends with for a lifetime?  Isn’t a lover just a best friend that you also sleep with — or are friends just lovers that you don’t sleep with?  I guess the confusing thing is that the word “love” blankets all these categories — sure, you can add modifiers like “platonic,” “familial,” and “romantic,” but our clumsy language includes that baffling universal solvent: L O V E.For someone like me, I live for friendship.  And, in a selfish kind of way, I think it’s because I believe that platonic love is conditional.  After all, if friendship isn’t based on the other person’s personality and interests, it usually depends on proximity and convenience.  Family isn’t like that.  You’re expected to love your family members despite their temperaments, despite the distance.  And that just, I don’t know, sounds pretty fake and unhealthy to me.  Friends get to choose each other.

I’ve reached a mini-breakthrough recently: it’s not genius, but it feels clarifying to verbalize.  Having relationships is all about the search for home.  As you venture out of the nest and seek friends, you build a home of new people that you choose, people who complement the person you have grown into.  You can rebuild that home of friends  — you get to discover and gather your platonic soul mates — at every new stage of your life.  Home away from home, found families: the beauty of friendship.

But friendship is fragile and temporary.  Adulthood grows them apart, responsibilities distance them, personalities change — and so conditions break.

Families are never perfect; often they are hard to keep together.  But familial love is supposed to be unconditional: so having a family is about always having a home to come back to. No matter if your personalities would otherwise be incompatible, no matter how far away you wander from the nest, family is supposed to be an unwavering constant.

And so, in a kind of mind-blowingly beautiful kind of way, starting a life with your true love is clashing these two things together: your lover is someone you found at one point in life, like a friend, and is someone you choose to be with over and over again, conditionally.  But pledging the rest of your life to them is making that love unconditional: creating an intimate new home from your coupling, a home you get to propagate with your own family, over and over and over again.

Unfortunately, I realized all this at a time in my life when my own family lets me down.  Ultimately, the house that my family lives in rarely feels like a home.  Our differences and dysfunctions feel unfixable, at this point in my life.  And that is fine — in some ways, I am relieved to lack a tether — but I am also realizing that I may have to be an emotional nomad for all my life.  Wandering, finding shelter, but lacking a homeland to claim pride and refuge in.

-M.L.

 

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