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Essay: Casual Relationships: Yay or Neigh?
“Love isn’t just a feeling, sometimes love is shaving your balls”
American Pie (The Wedding)
Shiver me, Tinders, who does love a good casual liaison these days? Somebody to watch tv with, drink low-fat lattes? Do the no-pants dance, and then say see-ya-later? Sounds like a hell of a deal! Until it isn’t…
Every casual relationship that I went into with the intention of not giving a feck, with the attitude of this is just going to be a bit of fun for a short bit of time, and then I'll sling my hook, turned out to be precisely that, except when the end came, I was disappointed.
As always happens when two people become close, contrary to the agreement, you start to wonder, what if? What if this story had another chapter? This imaginative streak is an indisputable human response to possibility, in the same way that when you get a tooth out, your tongue pokes into the hole for weeks on end, annoyingly trying to map out the new and strange space. We can't help but explore what we shouldn’t.
The future is a persistent problem we have to contend with, if we are lucky enough. When you get into a relationship, a future together becomes something possible, and it occupies your wandering mind. In a casual relationship, you have to live a double life, one in the fun and consequence-free present but another in the very much consequence-full future.
It might seem like to have a relationship that involves no commitment. You can come and go as you please, where there is no definite attachment future or plan, that you are off the hook, that this is the safer option? But this is not the case. In fact, what this arrangement does, rather than create a situation with no consequences, is ensure the worst consequences are going to be what happens.
Fair enough, you're saying Mahon 'it's a bit of fun? We watch Netflix together? Last week we had pancakes for breakfast?’ But what about when the future comes up and there’s an awkward pause? A collective feeling of, we'll just deal with that later like leaving your dishes in the sink…The lingering question is always in the air, what are we? And where are we going? I can't tell you that, but what I can tell you is sooner or later you gotta choose, or the choice gets made for you, and better the poison you pick than the one you get left with, even if it is a tasty poison.
I've always been afraid of commitment. For me, commitment was kind of like digging your own grave and having to lie down in the tomb - I was capable of doing it as an act of will, for a certain amount of time, until my discomfort became so heightened. I irrationally broke up with somebody for no apparent reason.
Casual relationships are not safer because they ensure that the future is never addressed; they guarantee that the relationship will fade out. Maybe it will end with a bang, perhaps it will end with a whimper, or both, but it ultimately ensures that there will be no future together, period.
Learning the positive side of commitment and sacrifice was a real game-changer for me. When you commit yourself, the doubts in your mind go away, the indecision, you are truly free. How is that possible? That in limiting your options you get freedom? Sacrifice allows you to contend in a single arena, and that is often a relief. For the most part, we suffer in the modern world from too many options, not a lack; our lack is in the balls to choose a sacrifice, and who could blame us? It's quite a buffet table, but sooner or later, dinners gonna end, so you better hurry up and order something, or else you'll be crabby later.
The benefits of a committed relationship, saying 'no' to other sexual arrangements, offers you something that you can't get in casual relationships. It offers you a connection with somebody that is rock-solid, where intimacy can take place, where you have somebody else's brain as well as your own, somebody who can tell you when you're yourself, who can advise you what to do because they actually know who you are, where you can start to plan a future together. There is a spirit of reciprocity at the bottom of committed relationships, a growing love and trust across time, which is just not possible in casual relationships because of the uncertainty, so get certain. Certainy isn’t a gift from God that just falls from the heavens and hits you in the sconce, it is the end result of deliberation, observation and decision, and an unwavering commitment.
It's that Notebook shit, old man Ryan Gosling reading stories to his demented wife, who he loves. Crazy, painful, brave, and unimaginably necessary.
The cost of instant gratification and the option to run away at any time is the lost potential of the future. The committed relationship is more frightening, but in the long run, for the sacrifice, it offers you far greater benefits.