Underestimating love was our first mistake. Thinking it needed years to do its thing. We forgot–or, perhaps, never remembered–that love could come in a week and completely rock our world.
The question my friend asked was an innocent enough question. The kind of question that a person taught to see love as a quantitative affair would ask. “How long was your longest relationship?” He asked. I’m not sure when questions like this begun to irritate me, but it seems that questions like these are communicating a form of defeat.
We live in a society that is far too preoccupied with the length of a relationship rather than the quality of one. How many times have we heard someone boast about the fact that they have been in a relationship for X amount of months, years, or decades? Never mind that the people in the relationship are beyond miserable. We are taught to believe that the most important thing in a relationship is how long that relationship lasts. The quality of the relationship and the sheer exhilaration that relationship brought, however short, are not supposed to matter.
I used to trouble myself with paranoia that my relationships didn’t last long enough. I had internalized a problematic cultural narrative that insisted that there is an appropriate timeframe for a relationship. It didn’t matter that my episodic relationships were full of wonder, pleasure, pain, and love–things common in all intimate relationships regardless of time. It didn’t matter that I had loved more intensely in two months than some people love in two years. I was too focused on forever, and it was staining the way I looked at my relationships, how I processed “the end”.
“It didn’t last forever.” No, it sure didn’t, but a lot of things in the world don’t. I had to embrace that notions of eternity, however comforting, don’t afford us the opportunity to do justice to our intimate relationships. Our obsession with length rather than quality thrusts us into boxes of obsession that render us incapable of judging intimate relationships on criteria other than “duration.”
When it comes to relationships, “long term” or “short term,” if it ain’t about mutual pleasure, understanding and love, I ain’t checking for it. I no longer seek long-term-relationships just to be able to say that I am in one. While length can convey certain things, such as commitment and conviction, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all when we look at love and relationships.
I enjoy being in a place mentally where I can enjoy a relationship regardless of its duration. I can value a two week relationship just as much as I value a two month or two year relationship. I treasure love when it comes. Nothing in nature lasts forever: seasons come and go, rivers dry up, and night eases into day. I’m not caught up in “forever.”