Why Be In Relationship?

Recently I was meeting with an individual client who was questioning her relationship. We discussed differentiation and how expecting her partner to comfort her in the middle of a tense disagreement was a recipe for her continued disappointment and suffering. (Not because her partner is "bad" or "wrong", but because at those painful moments he's trying his best, just like her, to hang-in there with his pain.) Nodding her understanding, she suddenly blurted out, "Then what's the point? If my boyfriend isn't [behaving like I want him to], why would I want to be in a relationship?"

"I can give you at least two reasons," I replied.

First, humans are just social animals by nature. We desire closeness because our survival as a species has been historically dependent on it. A particular person’s social interests may take different forms, of course. “Pairing up” is not necessarily for everyone. In general, however, human survival for 200,000 years has depended on emotional bonding and social cooperation. It’s intrinsic to who we are as a species. Without fangs or claws, humans needed close bonding to survive. We can’t
not bond.

Second (and perhaps most interesting to me), intimate relationship is an opportunity to develop your own sense of self. Another way to say this is that being in relationship provides repeated opportunity for deepening psychological maturity. David Schnarch, Ph.D. calls marriage “a people growing machine.” I believe all human growth is tied into relationship.
Your partner provides an unmatched opportunity for you to deeply understand yourself. Being in relationship helps you psychologically develop, stretch, and grow.

So, if you’d like to deepen your understanding of yourself, get into an emotionally bonded relationship. It’s a real education. --Doug