Before we begin, I have a small disclaimer. I have many hot takes on whether romantic relationships are overrated, but I am going to try and reel them in and try having a ‘progression of thought’.
Growing up with the Indian culture in context - rich in family values, rituals and most importantly, collectivist ideas - there is less value given to ‘I’ and more to the ‘WE’ (something along the lines of ‘there’s no I in TEAM’). Living in a primarily Indian household has instilled in me the idea that family comes before self, we need to all be on the same page, and also that we need to agree to agree. The idea that when you grow up, you need to also have this family system and also have this collective outlook, because if you don't, you are a weirdo loner who didn't get the memo. So like any other person, I also wanted to grow up and have a partner and have a family and have the typical idea of togetherness and whatnot’s (insert the idea of the Brady Bunch). As a 10 year old, this sounded so romantic only because we are the same as our parents. The shared ideas are that tight.
However, the cracks start to show when you start needing to be an adult and have thoughts of your own. Is this what my parents were talking about? How many frogs would lead to a prince? Is everyone a potential partner?
Thus, the romanticised idea is now under immense pressure. Everyone is dating and on the hunt for a partner. Everyone is finding someone while I’m grasping at straws. Is there something wrong with me that I can't be part of the system that is working? To sum up the despair, ‘What is wrong with me?’? Honestly, that is the one (powerful) question that shook me.
There was a ME. The WE was being shaken and a new ME emerged. It’s not as sweet as this heartfelt paragraph but it was such a mind harrowing experience. My cool parents went from family values to me dying (alone). The confusion is as real as the jump in conclusion.
But that really made me think. In all my experiences of observing other people’s relationships, it made me shift from one side of the spectrum to the other. Now instead of wanting to be one happy family, I wanted nothing to do with the idea of being in one. Why? Because everyone around me has been hunting and failing and sad then happy and to be honest… adding to my confusion. And truth be told, there was also a part where I was too chicken to experience relationships for myself.
The realness was the constant hyperfocus on romantic relationships, because if those don't exist for you, then (ominous music) you don't exist. I am not trying to be dramatic, but the anxiety made everything even more intense than things actually were. Now, you just have to accept that you are an old maid, if you choose to not actively hunt down the next potential partner.
The more the question ‘what is wrong with me?’ came up, the more the investigation to understand what was actually wrong. I love conversations and now I am going to use this love to collect data. Why are people so hung up on romantic relationships anyway?
Yes, this was counterproductive because nothing was helping me understand what I wanted from a relationship and why the hype with romantic relationships was not sitting with me. I have liked, loved, crushed, wanted to crush … but what did that all mean?
I think for me what really stood out was the fact that romantic relationships (in my opinion) are superly overrated. They aren’t terrible, but the hype doesn’t add up. I have not really felt the void of not being in a relationship and maybe that’s why I can be less hurt by it. But I do think all the other relationships we have in life are a lot more underrated as compared to romantic ones. There has been no void to fill because I have the late night friend to talk to, the mom to have fights with, the dad to pick me up when i am stranded, the other friend who relies on me by crying at 3am, the dog who unconditionally loves me and would share every meal with me, a sister that will drag me to hang out, the neighbour that will watch me as I come home too late and hiss her concerns at me, the coworker who gets you lunch when you ran out of time to make it, the teacher who sat with you when you were overwhelmed with work, the househelp that makes you chai when they see you having a bad day - a lot of which we want from partners. I hope we all get partners who give us these intimate connections that we deserve. But I also hope that we never miss out on underrated relationships like friends, family, animals, etc. that never leave a void.
I do believe that relationships, romantic or not, are important, but one isn't better than the other. I believe that there are relationships which change us and some where they want you to change. The ones that are more wholesome are the former ones and they don’t necessarily have to be romantic.
Maybe it isn't about one person who gets you and understands you, but a whole bunch of people who understand and love you in different capacities.