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Getting Serious in an American Relationship

This material courtesy of Katherine Barrington

Many Americans regulate a relationship as if it were another appointment written into their scheduling books, each new development corresponding to a certain date on the calendar. If a relationship were to start in March, one might assume that by April the couple would be holding hands and strolling through the park or meeting for coffee after work. By June the couple would be going out every weekend and, if it hadn’t already happened, the man would be thinking of how to get the woman into bed when the night was over.

In an orderly, time oriented culture such as ours, Americans tend to feel as if everything can be conformed to a schedule and if things do not fall into their proper places in time then something must be wrong. There is a great deal of pressure placed on people in relationships. After dating for six months or so friends begin to ask questions about commitment and marriage. Because there seems to be a trend in the development process of relationships, we as Americans have come to expect this timeline to be followed in all relationships, including our own.

Is it possible, however, that we are entirely missing the point of having a relationship? Taking steps toward intimacy with another person cannot be compared to scheduling a visit to visit your doctor’s office by picking a date on the calendar and showing up at the appointed time. Relationships must not be constrained by a timeline because they are not meant to be and not everyone goes into a relationship looking for the same thing. Some Americans might assume that if a couple has not had sex after dating for a month that they are not “serious.” Is this true, or does our definition of “serious” need to be re-evaluated? One dictionary definition of the word “serious” suggests that to be serious is to show deep thought and earnestness in action. If we were to follow the relationship timeline normalized by our culture, basing the seriousness of our relationship on its progression toward sexual intimacy, would we really be moving towards a serious relationship or just another sexual fling?

It must be accounted for that everyone has a different understanding of progress and value in a relationship. Some may seek a partner merely to fulfill a sexual desire while others long to have someone to cling to through the rough storms of life. However, one must consider that a relationship can and should be more than just a routine or something else to be acquired in a materialistic society. The value of a relationship should be judged from the level of emotional intimacy a couple experiences, their ability to understand and be understood by one another.

American culture is so focused on sex and its appeal that we have come to associate physical intimacy with emotional intimacy and love. Love does not occur during or as a result of a physical act of intimacy, it is a bond forged in the space of time during which a couple gets to know each other beyond a surface level. If you are considering getting “serious” with your boyfriend or girlfriend, take a moment to think about your conception of this word. Will you follow the well-traveled route of sexual relationship or will you seek a more rewarding sense of trust and belonging that can be had in a strong love relationship based on your deep knowledge and understanding of your partner?

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