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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Bridging the Gap Between Forever and Reality (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Bridging the Gap Between Forever and Reality
Heather
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So. Let's say you're a younger person, you're in love, and those feelings, or the relationship they're within, absolutely feel like they will last forever and ever, in a very big, real way. While this isn't how young people in love always feel, or how every relationship feels, it's very common, and we talk and hear about it here a lot.

At the same time, we know that in reality, very few feelings like this DO last forever (well, nothing does, so let's say "do last a lifetime"), and very few romantic relationships truly ARE lifelong. We also know that the younger people are, the more quickly these feelings and relationships tend to change as compared with older people.

So, here we are, standing at an impasse between what you might feel and might want and wish for, and what even may feel very real, but what, in actuality, is very unlikely.

Even when we have something like that, I think we can still honor the feelings one feels and the wishes on has. But at the same time, we want to find a way to do that and still live in reality, and take care of everyone's hearts in such a way that if and when the reality of not-even-close-to-forever shows up, as it usually does, people can deal and heal and move forward. As well, we want to make sure that some kind of balance gets struck here so that when navigating relationships, people are doing so in reality more than fantasy, both to help them be and stay healthy, but also to really enjoy them for what they are, whether they last years or weeks.

What I'm interested in is all of your thoughts with this.

Obviously, the older I get, the less loaded this conflict gets for me, since it gets less and less personal, and I think some of you also know that I got a very rough object lesson in the lack-of-forever when I was younger, which I suspect made it easier for me to accept these kinds of realities way back when. So, I feel like your thoughts and ideas on how to manage this and process it would be really valuable.

What say you?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SilverLining
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I agree with what you say; that few feelings do last a lifetime and I agree that many young people do bounce between love and other feelings and end up hurt in the crossfire.

However I do realize at any age though, a committed relationship can spawn and carry on for many years despite whatever different background relations and/or contrary situations. I think that you can have a relationship that started at whatever age and last a long time with both parters remaining happy; not saying these relationships will be without it's own hardships but if a couple works together many can be overcome and that is a reality; not a fantasy.

Couples fight; it's normal, it's knowing how to fight and still being able to say "I love you" in the end despite your different point of views and beliefs.

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SilverLining 2012

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Heather
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Okay, but the thing is that very, very few adolescent relationships DO last more than even six months based on studies (and the observations of those of us who work in fields like this). And that includes relationships without big conflicts.

This isn't about relationships not lasting a lifetime because of certain conditions: it mostly appears that the condition is simply about phases of human development.

So, by all means, there are exceptions to this, but that is what they are. And, of course, it's common for people to think and hear that a given relationship must be the exception, even though...well, exceptions are just that.

So, how to deal with the rule, as it were, rather than the rare exception?

In other words, if you are aware of what the likely reality is, and it conflicts with your wants, wishes and feelings, how do you deal with that divide? That's what I'd like to talk about here, rather than having anyone immediately go to the place of dismissing what most commonly happens. (And it might be a conversation that isn't so great for anyone really feeling that hopeful forever in a big way right now, just sayin'.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SilverLining
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Just clearing up a bit; so you mean what if your current reality isn't matching up with your wants and needs? What do you do then?

I figure the word for it would be "Adapt".I can't really find the words too well to explain more what I mean by that...but yeah. Adapting to your current state to better and achieve what you want.

And I know there might not be many cases like I said; bu I like to think more on the better side of things occasionally rather than "What's wrong"; "How to make it better" seems more...upbeat to me. And I try to put that into my friendships.

Why dwell on the past when you can't change it? At least, that's what I like thinking. Go along and move to the next best thing, even if it wasn't planned or whatever. I think that's more what I meant by adapt; moving on. Not persay to the next relationship if your talking in that sense, but to the next good thing jn the relationship. [Smile]

I like to see the better part of the situation rather than the bad I guess...which is why I suggest adapting.

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SilverLining 2012

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Heather
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I mean when things feel like forever, but we know they very, very rarely are, how do you bridge the gap, honoring your feelings, while still knowing and understanding that feelings of eternity aren't usually reflective of reality, and engaging in relationships with that understanding? And I'm not just talking about when relationships have changed or are over, but when people are still actively in them.

quote:
And I know there might not be many cases like I said; bu I like to think more on the better side of things occasionally rather than "What's wrong"; "How to make it better" seems more...upbeat to me. And I try to put that into my friendships.
But what if something not lasting, or lasting in a certain way, for years or decades or lifetime doesn't mean anything is wrong?

In other words, besides that not being what someone might have wanted at the time, why assume that means something must be or must have been wrong? What if there's nothing wrong at all with having big feelings that feel forever-y, but relationships that aren't, or having those feelings change?

Why would one thing not staying the same for always and always automatically be a bad thing?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SilverLining
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I thunk that I'm assuming something negative happens in such situations just because I find it most people have trouble with something changing and it's not for the better and instead it's for negative. I hadn't thought of it that way.

What would be a situation then with instead something good happen and would alternate the situation; or give me a situation where I can picture it better? It would help understanding.

But what I mean to say with adapting is that weather it is for the better or worse; a relationship is supposed change, I used the example of things changing for the bad because I mearly haven't thought of "What if something positive happens and changed things instead?" I still think my answer is acceptable; adapting to weather something stays the same; something good happens; or something bad happens would be a way to...keep moving forward in any situations; we as a race adapt to situations everyday to different things happening and it impacts us.

So weather it happens and helps you towards your goals and wishes; that's great! However if it doesnt; you adapt and keep moving because unfortunately the world doesn't stop when something bad happens to us; any of us.

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SilverLining 2012

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Heather
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I think the bigger issue is that a lot of people, if not most people, have a very hard time with change, period. As well, when we're in our first romantic/sexual relationships, they're often some of our first elective relationships, period, and they tend to be very different than family relationships. Adjusting, and learning to work with, those kinds of relationships tends to be challenging.

I don't really want to lead this conversation, so I'm inclined to put a hold on some of your questions here. I could certainly talk about how relationships, all of them, are usually personal growth stepping stones, how we usually have way more than one important or intimate relationship in life, and how things lasting a long time doesn't mean they're good. But I posted this really wanting to hear our users talk about bridging this gap, rather than for me to talk about how, especially right out at the gate.

[ 08-06-2011, 12:27 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Roxie102
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How do I deal with that divide? My boyfriend and I both know that having our relationship last a lifetime will be very unlikely and that in the next few years especially, things will be difficult. Even so, we're willing to work at it until the time comes for us to part ways, if that time ever comes. Why jeopardize a relationship that in the present feels over-the-top amazing and fulfilling?

The emotions we feel feel like they'll last forever, and really, it's hard not to get caught up in future plans and hopes when we both feel so strongly. As you said, there are always exceptions to the rules, so why not try to be an exception? In that light, it's important to note that if for whatever reason, sometime in the future our relationship ends, it doesn't mean anything is wrong. It doesn't mean that the feelings we had were wrong or the experiences we had together were wasted. I'll carry a part of my boyfriend in my heart for the rest of my life, whether I continue to be with him or not.

Conclusively, no one knows what's going to happen in the future of a relationship. The only thing you have to go on are the emotions you have in the present, and nothing is wrong about that.

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Heather
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quote:
Why jeopardize a relationship that in the present feels over-the-top amazing and fulfilling?
Just FYI, this is one of the big reasons I'm asking all of you about this. My hope is that we can all get some extra helps and cues to support you and others in deeply enjoying the relationships you have in the present no matter what the future may or may not hold. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Roxie102
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I'll probably be contradicting myself by saying this, but I'm honestly afraid of the future and afraid of my relationship ending. I feel awesome right now, but the uncertainty - knowing those feelings could be taken away - makes me worry. And really? I don't think there's much of anything that could make that fear go away.
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Heather
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I don't think that's a contradiction. I think some of bridging this gap for plenty of folks involves still feeling afraid or worried in some ways, but making some kind of peace with that, or, at least, not letting it sap the joy of the present.

Maybe I can throw an additional question into this mix, which I'm not sure has relevance: but to you, marie, or anyone else, do you feel like these years of your life, these relationships you have at this time are, as some people like to say about being young "the best years of your life?" Do you feel like your life and feelings and relationships will get better and richer over time, or stay just as good and rich, even with changes, or like it's all downhill from here?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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SilverLining
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I agree with marie's point aswell, many of them I may add. It is very easy to get caught up in planning in the future and I feel that sometimes when couples plan something more near in the future, and say it's closer to the "now" future, if they go along and it doesn't end up happening like they planned and didn't meet their expectations they tend to dwell on it to much rather than moving on. In this case I say when it doesnt meet up because we tend to plan for wanting the best possible situation right? I mean why not.

But even if it's something like a couple applying to univerties, and one gets accepted to one that they really want to go to and the other person ends up being accopted into a great university or collage that he or she finds great for them. This is great individually and even if the universities are close together, they'll have to adapt to the situation.

This is where what Heather said comes into play, a lot of people aren't open or comfortable with change as easily as other. That, is something I'm not sure how to get around unfortunately.

I find that adapting from what you want and what is currently happening, is a way to bridge that gap between forever-y feelings and reality.

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SilverLining 2012

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Roxie102
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So is fear inevitable? Just a fact of life?

This is my boyfriend and I's first relationship, so I have nothing really to base this assumption off of, but I really think maybe our first loves are so great because they're so intense and new. We're discovering things we've never experienced before, so I'd be willing to bet that relationships after that would yes, being something new to the table but probably wouldn't be as exciting and intense. I guess that's probably why we feel the need to cling so heavily to our first loves.

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Heather
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Like I said, I don't want to lead this conversation, but yes, I'd say fear and working with/dealing with fear tends to be part of life for most people. Most people, if not all people, deal with fears about at least some things during their lives.

Okay, so maybe I can throw something else into this to keep the thought process going.

That's this: the idea that love after first love will never be as exciting, intense or rich is often false, and not reflective of people's real-life and lifelong experiences with love. What's much more common is for people to find that their relationships as they get older get more depth, not less. As well, most people don't tend to cling to first loves later on in life, or look back on them as their very best relationships, even though plenty of people do look back on them as being important in various ways.

So, knowing that that is what is more likely than a first love, or one of the first loves, being the best, most amazing relationship of all, what does that add to thinking about this?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Roxie102
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I guess that just brings me back to my previous point of letting your relationship run it's course and last as long as it's meant to. And I'd add, when/if that first relationship does end, we just have to accept the fact that it was right at that time in our lives and that we must move on to new things.
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breath
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It encourages me to keep going, exploring, experimenting, meeting more people, being open and reflective about what I am thinking. It adds to a passionate view of life, with the knowledge that i'll always discover some new aspect of my personality/likes/dislikes around people/relationships
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SilverLining
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I pretty much just have to say that I agree with what Marie said again.

We go through the relationship, always hoping for the best, but if a relationship comes to and end you go through your grieving time but eventually you adapt: move on.

Sometimes first loves stay together, sometimes they split apart. I find it too generalized when every couple has their own circumstances and own situations at hand that changes their own relationship. Overall you change or get left behind I think... You can't stay still when everything else moving.

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SilverLining 2012

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bump on a log
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What people have been saying about learning to live with worry about the future of your relationships resonates with me very much. It's what I've been thinking lately that I have to do, that we all have to do. "It's the human condition, like."

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
do you feel like these years of your life, these relationships you have at this time are, as some people like to say about being young "the best years of your life?" Do you feel like your life and feelings and relationships will get better and richer over time, or stay just as good and rich, even with changes, or like it's all downhill from here?

I'm terrified of growing old for all sorts of individual reasons, and want to cling on to my first youth for all sorts of individual reasons. On the other hand, as I get older I find that social situations get easier for me and I have more confidence, which certainly improves my life. And I'm always finding out new things, and there are big changes that I couldn't have foreseen, like my becoming involved in hard-left activism recently. That's shifted my world on its axis. I'm always worried that no more big good changes like that will come along, that it really is all downhill from here. But then I'm always worried, period. It's congenital, I expect.

OK, want to know what really frightens me, me personally? I don't want kids. I don't want marriage. Sure, I could change my mind. But I have always felt like this and I may well not change my mind. I'm twenty-two. In ten years, less if I'm unlucky, my friends will be settling down, having kids; their lives will change massively, in ways I won't fully be able to understand, and I will be shut out at least partly. I'm a dogged young soul in these things and don't mind doing the great majority of the donkey-work in a relationship, and I can bear long separations, so I don't expect my friendships to disappear completely because of this. But they will inevitably attenuate, seems to me. I feel as though I am going on without ultimate hope, as though I have to wring every drop of enjoyment that I can out of the time I get with my friends now, because this way of life, where your friends are the centre of your existence, is a young person's way of life and cannot last. But nobody has ultimate hope, after all. We are all, to quote Dickens, fellow-passengers to the grave.

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
the idea that love after first love will never be as exciting, intense or rich is often false, and not reflective of people's real-life and lifelong experiences with love. What's much more common is for people to find that their relationships as they get older get more depth, not less. As well, most people don't tend to cling to first loves later on in life, or look back on them as their very best relationships, even though plenty of people do look back on them as being important in various ways.

I'm quite prepared to believe that this is true of most people. However, it doesn't reflect my own experience so far. Since I was seven or eight I've always had a crush on somebody, or two or three somebodies. I've fallen hard five times. The third time was when I was fifteen, and was by far the most intense experience of my life. It lasted for about five and a half years. Since then, I've fallen hard twice, but it's been nowhere near as intense. The first time was intense; the second more intense; the third at peak intensity; and now my falling-for-people experiences seem to be getting progressively milder: the fifth and most recent time was, is, less intense than the fourth, which was, is, less intense than the third. Oh, but much less intense. I really do feel as though that great love of my middle and later teens burnt to ash something in me, that I cannot fall in love that deep any more, that my capacity to do so has been seared out. My capacity to love affectionately, as opposed to romantically, remains as strong as it ever was, though.

One thing: when I fell in love the first four times, I assumed it was forever, even though I had the memory of 'last time' to tell me it wasn't. The most recent time, I was wiser. I don't assume it's forever. Mind you, I still care very deeply for all of the people I have fallen for and still see them (except the first two who were my schoolteachers and have long since vanished from my life). I write to them, I'd be devastated if they died, they are very important in my life.

Also, bear in mind that none of the people I have crushed on or fallen in love with has ever fallen for me back. Nobody has ever had a crush on me, not since I was nine. My idea of a relationship is being secretly head over ears in love with somebody who is merely fond of me and thinks of me as a good friend. So in a way, I haven't started the process you're talking about. I think I may never start it, may never have an actual mutual relationship; that thought doesn't bother me much, as I've long been accustomed to it.

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Roxie102
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quote:
Originally posted by SilverLining:

Sometimes first loves stay together, sometimes they split apart. I find it too generalized when every couple has their own circumstances and own situations at hand that changes their own relationship. Overall you change or get left behind I think... You can't stay still when everything else moving.

Is this where commitment comes in? Is it really all that correct to think that couples who've stayed together their entire lives still feel "in love"? While this isn't impossible, I think they've just made the commitment to grow together and accept that their relationship is always changing as well. Maybe the reason younger people have shorter relationships is because they can't accept being tied down so early in life. Maybe they can't accept that for a relationship to really work on the long term, change and hard work and deep compromise are undoubtedly required. Yes, maybe it isn't all that wise to stay tied down and committed to someone who just isn't suited for you, so maybe I'm wrong in this, but I think older people maybe are just more serious about commitment and making relationships work. (The current divorce rate doesn't affirm this very well though...)
...Of course this doesn't take into consideration those individuals who don't want now or ever to have a long term, committed relationship, which is totally okay, by the way.

[ 08-06-2011, 07:50 PM: Message edited by: marie293 ]

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SilverLining
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Yes I think that young people not wanting to be tied down is also a reason. Some Young guys my age just wanting to see how far they can get with a girl; philysical attraction meaning more than an actual emotional relationship. There are tons of different reasons younger people maybe don't stay together. Some just want to get their fair share of exploring around; have as many lovers or girlfriends. Some maybe just want short relationships because they travel around. Others try saving themselves until they meet the one that fits a criteria they want. (My own girlfriend promised herself she wouldn't date someone she couldn't see herself married to and still happy.) I'm her first boyfriend and we've been together for a year and two months now. She is my first love and my 3rd girlfriend. Those different things, they could all be different situations, different mindset of thinking, but I think that if you start out a relationship for long term, you have to realize that a relationship is a learning experience for both of you in a partnership. You can be scared or wary of change that will slowly happen, but you can't shy away from it if you intend to continue to be together.

I do agree that maybe adults do try more to make a relationship work, however why divorce? I feel it's not my place to speak. I can talk more easily about the younger population; I've traveled from island to island here in the carribean and met plenty couples and the reasons they break up are mostly trivial; something that could easily be overcome. They are dating for dating's sake rather than love I find.

Around 2 years ago, I really liked this girl. I spent 4 years of my life (Note; I'm 15, I was crazy about her; so what.) trying to Impress my first crush, 3rd year of knowing her she tells me she will never date me. I was crushed; but then was when I realized the entire "Adapting" thing. Move on. Don't dwell. A year later I found my current girlfriend.

Lol, I can honestly say that I think I've just started banking at this point and the night air is getting to me so im gonna post this [Smile]

...Now.

*editing to say: I'm just generalizing from MY experiences and not meaning to put these generalizations on anyone else. I just speak my mind basically when I post here. I do realize that my examples don't fit everyone but those are just ones that poped into my head; sorry if anything I do say offends in any way, not my intent.*

[ 08-06-2011, 08:28 PM: Message edited by: SilverLining ]

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SilverLining 2012

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Atonement
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This is such a tough subject, and I think a lot of it has to do with all the messages we get.

I grew up a pretty lonely kid who watched a lot of Disney movies and fell in love at 13 and finally around people my own age. I was so convinced that if I played my cards right, we'd get married and grow old together. That went on for about 2 years.

With my ex, I thought we would as well. I knew how unlikely it was to stay with your first significant other forever, but I just always imagine I'd be the exception to the rule.

Now, i realize that it's unlikely that I ever will find someone who will last forever.

In most of the relationships that I get a close look into, Forever looks a lot less like "happily ever after" and a lot more like a life sentence in prison.

I admit I do have trouble coming to terms with the idea. Most of the time, I realistically imagine my future consisting of my career front and center, and having a string of relationships that last a few weeks, a few months, or a few years and then end. And I hate it so much when I let myself drift off into the "forever" fantasy.

It's harder when you get so many people who say things like "oh, you'll feel different once you meet the right guy." And what strikes me as ironic is that most of these people are on second marriages. And, of course, they all expected their first marriage to last forever.

The problem, It's so much easier for me to think about things this way now, while I'm single. When I'm with someone and enjoying myself, it's hard to imagine the end. It's also kind of hard to look forward to future relationships, when you think about all the negative feelings that one usually experiences during the downward spiral of a relationship.

Also, I think it's problematic when so many people equate staying together as success. A constant downward spiral through a bottomless pit is not better that ending a relationship.

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Brennan
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I think people overestimate what they think they'll get from a relationship...

They expect the flame of a young love to last forever. When it fails to spark after a long day of work, and you two fight about something frivolous and realize just how little you have in common, you break up with them. At least, that's how most relationships end, more or less.

I think about sexual and romantic relationships as being really, really, -really- good friendships that happen to have a spoonful of sugar on the side. All I expect from my lover is romantic (not necessarily sexual) exclusivity, a shoulder to cry on, and a warm body to snuggle up against late at night when all you want in the world is a fire on the hearth and a warm cup of cocoa.

I realize that 'forever' may seem like life in prison for some people, but that's why I'm not really that crazy over traditional relationships. They fail because there's too much pressure for them to work out.

I prefer no-strings-attached relationships, where both people can express themselves freely and where the ONLY real requirement is that each side is entirely accepting of one another. Sex, cuddling, etc is all icing on the cake.

Not all relationships include romance as a cornerstone of their development, but all romance tends to be a cornerstone of relationships. I suppose that's what makes being young and in love so fun.

Bottom line: forever may not exist for sexual attraction, romance, and personal interest in a person... But forever does exist in the fact that if the person is right for you, they'll understand you and want to be near you -forever-. They'll always have a shoulder for you to lay down on, and they'll always be a pillar of support in your life, even if you're not currently 'seeing each other'.

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Brennan
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As for Heather, I'd ask her to look inward and question herself on why she gives the advice 'forever isn't reality' when prompted with calls for relationship help. I know -plenty- of old couples who are very happy with each other. My parents have been married for fifteen years, and though they've had their troubles, they've worked through them because in the end they accept each other more than anyone else possibly could.

I mean, who else other than his soul-mate could put up with my father's constant neurotic behavior?

Who else other than her soul-mate could put up with my mother's incessant workaholism and penchant for nagging?


Heather, forever is -very- real... I've seen it many times in my relatively short life. 'Forever love' just takes a level of maturity and understanding between each member of the relationship. It would be more accurate to say that some people cannot have permanent relationships because their personality doesn't allow it.

Perhaps your personality is an example of someone who isn't interested in loving someone for forever, or at least thinks it's impossible and not worth trying.

I'm not trying to insult you, of course, Heather... I just know that when you give so much advice, day after day after day, you begin to forget to question yourself to ask why you're giving the particular advice you give.


I, for one, hope to eventually enjoy a relationship like the one my grandparents share. Supportive, loving, sexual, and fulfilling.

[ 08-07-2011, 03:26 AM: Message edited by: Brennan ]

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SilverLining
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I agree with some of the things Brennon said, about maturity level of each person in the relationship. I'm more uncertain about personality however I do partially agree. There are certain people with personalities that just don't harbor long term relationship with other people, bu I'm guessing there are other peoples personalities that they'd match up with. But there is just some people who just don't want to be in long term relationships. Fact is I personally know people who just want to switch from partner to partner to have fun.


Sorry if Im not as active today as I normally am, my aunt passed away from cancer last night.

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kitkatbits
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quote:
Originally posted by Brennan:
As for Heather, I'd ask her to look inward and question herself on why she gives the advice 'forever isn't reality' when prompted with calls for relationship help. [...]

Heather, forever is -very- real... I've seen it many times in my relatively short life. 'Forever love' just takes a level of maturity and understanding between each member of the relationship. It would be more accurate to say that some people cannot have permanent relationships because their personality doesn't allow it.

Perhaps your personality is an example of someone who isn't interested in loving someone for forever, or at least thinks it's impossible and not worth trying.

[...]

Heather is just asking us for views around forever love since it is not statistically realistic for the majority of young people. This is not about her personality at all.

For the record, your post assumes that forever love is the only thing that counts. Not true at all.

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whilemyguitargentlyweeps
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SilverLining, my condolences to you and your family. I hope things get better for you soon.

Regarding forever–– I had a childhood crush (which extended into my early teenage years) in which I fantasized about marrying the boy in question. Then I had my first boyfriend. He did not feel like forever, perhaps because we were so poorly matched. Since then I've had two relationships (one past, one current), where I've wondered about "forever." My ex-boyfriend and I talked at length about "eternity," staying together through university despite going to different schools. We were in the relationship from 16-18 (me) and 17-19 (him), so although we were certainly young to think about forever, it was very real, a desire fed by the fires of "first love." I also know a surprising number of adults who entered into successful longterm relationships with people they began seeing in high school, which gave me unrealistic hope. (In retrospect, what was important to note is that many of these people dated in high school, split for a number of years, and then found each other again after university or later).

For me, the hardest barrier is realizing that there will be other people later on, other chances to enter into a relationship. It's okay to give up a dream of forever if things aren't working anymore.

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Heather
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Hey, Brennan. I assure you, one of the things I very much do is spend a lot of time being very reflective around my life and my work, as a constant practice. Some of that is about being Buddhist, but some of it is just about doing my job well.

Why I asked about what I did was not about my personal beliefs or personal life, but about strong, longstanding social trends found in broad, sociological data and in observations of my work with the large, diverse groups I've worked with over all of these years.

You're also making some assumptions about my personality and my personal life and life history that are not sound. For instance, my first feeling-of-forever person was lost to me due to death, which I'm pretty sure I can't control with the power of my personality, and I'm currently with a partner I've been involved with -- though in a different pattern and model than is typical -- and loved for longer than your parents have been together.

Give me the benefit of the doubt, eh? If you're new to me and the work I do, I know that can be a stretch, but know I have a pretty solid professional rep for not leading with my own stuff. If and when I do, I make very sure to be clear that is what I am doing, which is a pretty major point of ethics in the kind of work I do, one I take very seriously.

[ 08-07-2011, 10:45 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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Just to make sure something is clear, too: I don't think it's fair or sound to assume that the young people whose adolescent relationships don't last decades aren't having that result because of personality deficits or a lack of desire for those relationships to last.

When we look at data that shows averages around adolescent relationships (the National Survey of Family Growth is one often used for this here in the states), it is broad enough that we have to assume an array of personality types, levels of maturity (within the age groups talked about: I don't think it's fair to ask someone 15 to have the same maturity as someone 35, and this is, in fact, likely part of the issue) and motives. If studies of thousands of young people about this issue somehow managed to ONLY include young people who had no desire to have long-term relationships AND who all were incapable of them, I'd say that would be nothing short of miraculously bizarre.

Even if you just read here one these boards, it's very clear that plenty of young people are absolutely agonized when their relationships end after months or a year because they very, very much had the desire for those relationships to last longer than they did. I think suggesting those folks just didn't want something they obviously did is really dismissive of them, and suggesting they have personality deficiencies or shortages is both likely very inaccurate, but also pretty insensitive.

So, in having this conversation, let's do so assuming that the numbers are so great that we know there are plenty of young people whose relationships last shorter periods of time than they'd like or then they thoughts they would who did not want that outcome, who put real care and effort into their relationships, and who are not without a level of maturity appropriate to their level of life experience and time spent living so far, okay?

[ 08-07-2011, 09:53 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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Also just want to kind of reprise the original question so it's intent doesn't get lost or confused amongst any derails:

quote:
So. Let's say you're a younger person, you're in love, and those feelings, or the relationship they're within, absolutely feel like they will last forever and ever, in a very big, real way. While this isn't how young people in love always feel, or how every relationship feels, it's very common, and we talk and hear about it here a lot.

At the same time, we know that in reality, very few feelings like this DO last forever (well, nothing does, so let's say "do last a lifetime"), and very few romantic relationships truly ARE lifelong. We also know that the younger people are, the more quickly these feelings and relationships tend to change as compared with older people.

So, here we are, standing at an impasse between what you might feel and might want and wish for, and what even may feel very real, but what, in actuality, is very unlikely.

Even when we have something like that, I think we can still honor the feelings one feels and the wishes on has. But at the same time, we want to find a way to do that and still live in reality, and take care of everyone's hearts in such a way that if and when the reality of not-even-close-to-forever shows up, as it usually does, people can deal and heal and move forward. As well, we want to make sure that some kind of balance gets struck here so that when navigating relationships, people are doing so in reality more than fantasy, both to help them be and stay healthy, but also to really enjoy them for what they are, whether they last years or weeks.

If a shorter rephrase helps, consider the questions these: how do you navigate and enjoy your early* love relationships when they feel like forever, but when the reality of them being so isn't likely?

How do you honor those big feelings of forever, but still stay in the present and look towards a more realistic future, which probably will not involve a lifelong partnership (again, nothing interpersonal can be forever, since none of us live forever)?

And if and when a relationship changes or ends that felt like forever, but clearly seems not to have been so, how do you both still honor and appreciate the feelings you had like that and move forward?

* Terms like younger, adolescent and early matter in all of this, because once people are out of their teens, longer-term love relationships become a lot more likely/common.

[ 08-07-2011, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
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bump on a log: so much of interest in all you said there!

Just FYI, though, when I talk about people looking over their relationships later in life, after their teens, I'm talking about a way bigger later than a few years. I'm talking about over decades or more, a length-of-perspective over our lives which often tends to be radically different than one we might have which spans a decade or less.

Atonement: I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, too.

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Heather
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whilemyguitargentlyweeps, you said:

quote:
I also know a surprising number of adults who entered into successful longterm relationships with people they began seeing in high school, which gave me unrealistic hope. (In retrospect, what was important to note is that many of these people dated in high school, split for a number of years, and then found each other again after university or later).
I think that might beg/present another question around all of this, which is about ideas of what very long-term or even lifelong relationships can look like, and how different they can look from what people envision.

In other words, for some people (and this is something I personally understand very well, having experienced it more than once), very long-term love doesn't mean always being together, and can even include being apart and not in partnership or even relationship for a long period of time. For others, it may mean that while a relationship is lifelong, the nature of that relationship is not static, but could be something like first-romantic, then sexual, then totally platonic, then sexual again, then not sexual but about family, etc.

And I think bringing those kinds of things up is important, because sometimes this is less about love or relationships ending earlier than thought, but continuing in such a way that they are seen or "counted" as over, even when they're not, because the way someone conceptualized what long-term is didn't include changes to the model/kid/nature of a relationship.

In other words, just to throw something to think about out there, if you are with someone romantically or sexually for a few months who then turns into a friend you have some kind of friendship with pretty much until you die, wasn't that just as much of a long-term relationship as a relationship staying romantic/sexual would have been? If not, why not?

[ 08-07-2011, 12:42 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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breath
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I have always tried to view my relationships with people (sexual, non-sexual, friendships, etc) as long -lasting, even when the sexual/other parts changed or no longer there......, but in some manner, maybe due to social programming, I see them as "failed" , or did not reach their highest potential which in my mind is "sexual and romantic forever and ever" which overcame all differences and challenges.

Maybe I feel that they failed b.c those individuals were (After me) were able to find themselves partnerships with others where they likely (or atleast from my uninformed point of view ) found lasting romantic/sexual parternships which in mind are "Better" "more valuable".....so that may contribute to my ideas that it "failed" in my case with them.

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I've tried to type a few responses to this and they've all sounded very cliché and not at all me.

What do I do about future-y feelings that likely wont' be a reality? I worry. It's not the right thing to do, it doesn't help me any, but I worry.

So I'm trying really hard to enjoy the moment I'm living in without completely neglecting the future. Right now, I need to live in the moment. I need to enjoy what we have now. It may well change, I'd be surprised if it didn't. But I have no way of knowing if it will be for the better or the worse.

I've had a good relationship and if it ends I still will have had a good relationship. No matter what happens in the future, I have the past and nothing short of amnesia is going to take that away from me.

I am working on not worrying about the future, because it's coming and there's nothing I can do to change that.

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Heather
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quote:
I need to enjoy what we have now. It may well change, I'd be surprised if it didn't. But I have no way of knowing if it will be for the better or the worse.

I've had a good relationship and if it ends I still will have had a good relationship. No matter what happens in the future, I have the past and nothing short of amnesia is going to take that away from me.

Love your candor, moonlight, but I also really love those lines above, and think they are super-important, valuable in terms of enjoying relationships at any time of life, and really powerful.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Brennan
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
quote:
I need to enjoy what we have now. It may well change, I'd be surprised if it didn't. But I have no way of knowing if it will be for the better or the worse.

I've had a good relationship and if it ends I still will have had a good relationship. No matter what happens in the future, I have the past and nothing short of amnesia is going to take that away from me.

Love your candor, moonlight, but I also really love those lines above, and think they are super-important, valuable in terms of enjoying relationships at any time of life, and really powerful.
@Heather
I'm sorry if it seemed as if I was making assumptions about your personality -- I was just going off of the fact that your general advice for relationships is "let it go.. Relationships don't generally last forever anyway."

I should have figured that you were using official statistics to base your opinions, and not personal bias. For that I apologize sincerely, especially if you felt like your person was being attacked in any way.

My philosophy for relationships is this:

If it feels good, do it. If you are enjoying a relationship, stay in it. If your partner changes, as people tend to do over time, embrace them. If you cannot, and it has changed the way they work with you in a relationship, then it's time to look into finding a new mate who is more suited to who you are right now.

I don't think that changes are the death of relationship. I think if you and another person love each other, it should be about rather static things about each other. The way they come home and plop down, willing to cuddle, perhaps. I don't see anything but stress changing that, and stressors change faster than -anything-, so they're -really- easy to work through, especially if you value something more than that about the person.

The cornerstone, in my opinion; the most important thing in a relationship above ALL else is: you NEED to be with someone who accepts you and is willing to help you feel better when bad things have happened and you need support.

This is why people with untreated mental conditions cannot handle relationships. If they come to their partner every time they see their partner saying, "Honey, I'm depressed," or "Love, I'm so anxious about -- insert frivolous matter here --," it overuses the support in a relationship, wearing the stable partner out.

If BOTH of the members of the relationship have untreated mental conditions, then you -really- need to steer clear. That's the perfect seed, soil, fertilizer, and sunshine for an abusive or toxic relationship.

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