Sometimes, I hate dating.

I do.

I’m not talking about the awkward stages, the half-hearted flirtation, the weird tightrope between letting him hold the door for you and knowing when to go halvsies on an ice cream, the DTRs, Snapchatting from a high angle to make yourself look pretty…

I’m talking about being in a relationship.

Now, let the record show that I am currently in one, with a person I love very much (YES I SAID LOVE AND I REALIZE THAT IT’S PERMANENTLY ON THE INTERNET). I realize, therefore, that this is a horrible thing to say, both in his virtual presence, and in the virtual presences of numerous people who would really like to be in romantic relationships. For your convenience, I have pre-sharpened a whole host of pitchforks and collected a substantial number of gasoline-soaked torches that I have left at an undisclosed location; should you be interested in their use, shoot me an e-mail and I will forward you the address, as well as a copy of my daily schedule so you and your angry mob of friends can ascertain the best time to catch me unawares.

Now, while I wait here for my reckoning, let me reflect on the “why.”

Why do I hate being in a relationship? Dating is fun, nice, and generally pleasant for a number of reasons that I won’t begin to list for the sake of the people who are currently driving seventy-three miles an hour toward the pitchfork location.

Well, I think we can all agree on the number one reason I hate being in a relationship, which is that I might have emotional and psychological issues that should be dealt with by a professional.

I don’t know, though. There’s something about romantic self-sacrifice that’s really an issue for me. I seem to have developed a self-assigned policy that states “You shouldn’t do anything for anyone else ever.”

The thing is, sacrifice for my friends seems noble and beautiful. Sacrifice for A MAN, though, seems like a capital offense against all womankind, the sort of thing that would make Susan B. Anthony roll in her grave. I shouldn’t move anywhere for A DUDE. I shouldn’t give up any of my dreams for a pair of gorgeous eyes. I shouldn’t give up anything I MODERATELY LIKE for a person I seriously love.

YOU AREN’T ALLOWED TO ASK ANYTHING OF ME. YOUR ANCESTORS OPPRESSED MINE. WELL, ACTUALLY MY OWN ANCESTORS OPPRESSED EACH OTHER, BUT SOME OF THEM HAD PENISES AND SO DO YOU.

I dated someone once, who shall remain nameless and, in his anonymity, throw everyone else I’ve ever dated under the bus. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Andrew Garfield. Now, Drew (I hypothetically like to call him Drew) argued that obligation is a natural part of being in a relationship. (Now, about half of those who are currently coming to pitchfork me have suddenly pulled a U-turn to redirect their fury. (If you’ve ever dated me, and you’re reading this now, I advise you to relocate immediately.))

Never fear, though. I keep a pitchfork or two reserved for myself; The gentleman in question is no longer with us.

Just kidding. I only roughed him up a bit.

Just kidding. I punched him in the ribs and he didn’t notice.

I brought all this up in a conversation with my friends the other evening. We all bristled at the word “obligation,” and maybe it is too strong. But why does it offend us so much? “A binding promise, contract, sense of duty, indebtedness, bond containing a penalty…” (yeah, I see why that last one is a problem.)

Binding promise. Okay, that seems to be a pretty worthwhile thing. Marriage, I think, is supposed to be this kind of thing.

Contract. Ehhh. Maybe that one’s too much like an official business dealing. I don’t want to sign anything in blood, and I never read fine print.

A sense of duty. Well, was Aragorn obligated to save the hobbits? Sort of. I mean, he was honor bound. But he had a choice. Right?

Maybe that’s what I don’t like about the word “obligation.” It implies requirement. I have to do it. And that doesn’t seem very loving to me.

To me, it seems the power in loving comes from the choice. You always have the option to get out, and it’s deciding to stay in that is beautiful. But maybe there are things that you’re signing up for when you make the choice to sign on to the relationship in general.

I can’t be in a romantic relationship for the friendship and the foot massages. The question isn’t really “How much do I have to do?” but rather “How much can I do?” The obligation thing doesn’t even come into question if you’re doing the relationship thing the way you’re supposed to, I’m pretty sure.

Am I simply a product of the whole Western individualist mentality? Because I don’t believe life is supposed to be about my dreams or my plans or, actually, me. At least not first and foremost. I’m supposed to look to the needs of others. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” was intended to be gender-blind, I’d wager. And I think there’s a small possibility that I use past injustices to justify my own selfishness, although that’s probably not the case because I’m perfect.

It could be that I’m obligated to other human beings simply by nature of their being humans. I’m obligated by eternal debt to someone who extended undeserved love to me once. Right? His love requires my response. Does that sound wrong?

I still don’t know and I don’t know how to know. For some reason, certain people keep sticking with me, whether it’s obligation or choice or something else that I’d love to have a name for.

I have learned though, that most of the time I barely know what I’m talking about.

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    It took me a long time to come to terms with the whole ACK I’M GETTING MARRIED TO A MAN thing which means I HAVE TO MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON A MAN and everything that comes with it before I got married. Now that we’re settled into the reality of marriage it’s not an issue but I think I privately worried about that more than anything before the wedding.

    Reply
    • Alissa

      Oh my God yes. And I CHANGED MY NAME. (Which I did not actually feel obligated to do—I asked my then-fiancé about it, and he basically said I could do whatever, which was the right answer. But clearly I had plenty of anxiety about it.) I think I resist obligation because I’m incredibly stubborn and the best way to make me resist doing something is to tell me to do it…but the biggest issue that’s applied to in my marriage is, like, maybe doing the laundry on Sunday instead of Monday. (Yeah, I do the laundry, but that’s more a trust issue…) And I can handle that.

      Reply
      • Avatar

        YES! We were engaged for a year and a half — I took a year, 5 months, and two weeks agonizing over what to do with my name. (Matt said he didn’t want to change his, thanks for asking, but I could do whatever I wanted to with mine, it being my name.) But in a weird way the perceived obligation to change it made me not want to do it.

        Reply
  2. Bart

    I really thought you killed a guy. Or he died on his own.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Don’t ask questions, Tocci.

      Reply

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