When Loretta, divorced for ten years, met Richard, there was clearly a connection. She was excited. Finally a marriage prospect! However, several months later the relationship hadn’t progressed beyond casual dating. When she discussed her frustrations with Richard, he was very clear about the commitment he was willing to make and explained what he meant by it:
The bad points for her:
• They would have sex but he didn’t promise to be monogamous.
• They would see each other but his availability was based on his schedule.
• He explained that his work was his priority and that he had to travel extensively for his job.
• He didn’t want to get into discussions as to where he was and what he did. He would understand if she would reject this arrangement. It was entirely up to her.
The good points for her:
• When they were together she had lots of fun. He was interesting, behaved in a gentlemanly manner and was attentive to her and made her feel no one else existed.
• Sex was great. He was a thoughtful, passionate lover.
• When he did invite her to dinners or events, he was a generous host.
• He remembered her birthday, Valentine’s Day and Christmas and recalled the things she liked.
Still, her frustration for not getting what she wanted grew into anger and disappointment. On multiple occasions she tried to break the relationship but never carried through for fear of loneliness and irrational hope that he would change.
Once a relationship pattern is set, once a woman or a man is willing to accept less than what they really want and need, there is no reason for the other partner to change the arrangement which is just what they want. Many men and women, especially women that are self- supporting, prefer relationships with clear limits and boundaries rather than traditional commitments. Such lifestyle choices do not, by themselves, make these people poor relationship partners, as long as they pair with people that have similar needs and preferences.
What is essential, as in all new liaisons, is to discuss and understand from the beginning what the conditions and responsibilities of both partners are. Do they agree on monogamy or not, availability of regular time together? What is the understanding on financial sharing, traveling? How do they feel about dating other people? In other words, they need to define the nature of their relationship. If their needs and lifestyle choices match, such arrangements can be harmonious and positive for both partners.
Making any relationship work means understanding clearly what to expect from the other, whatever the partners agree to. In the case of Kathleen, she never really wanted a part-time relationship but settled for it rather than having no one in her life at all. Eventually, going against her own true feelings she felt angry and cheated by herself and Brian. Hanging in two years stopped her from being open to meet someone else. A happy relationship does not necessarily mean commitment or marriage. It means understanding and being happy with the choices you want and make.
Edited by Jody Smith