We all know what it means. If we think of all the times we have asked it and all the times we have been asked it, the answer is one of two things:
“Yes!” followed by a meet-cute story of how we met our boyfriend or husband
An awkward pause as the room dims. We shake our head, “No,” while someone randomly begins to play an organ in the background
In summary: if we have a boyfriend, we ARE in a relationship with someone. And if we don’t have a boyfriend, we are NOT in a relationship with anyone. It is so simple to think this way. It is also, utter and complete bullshit.
But first, let me answer the question myself before I explain why.
Now, there’s no meet-cute in these stories…These relationships have been challenging and difficult. These relationships are the very definition of “til death do us part,” they’ve made me cry, made me laugh, and made me change. That’s probably why these relationships matter. So, after 30 years of living and loving, here’s my answer to:
So…Sonia, are you in a relationship with anyone?
Yes. Yes I am.
I’m in a relationship with my mother:
Everyone says me and my mom have a great relationship. And, it’s true… we finally have a GREAT relationship, but, I’m not gonna lie, It wasn’t easy. I don’t’ know if you know this, but I’m no bed of roses. Me and my mom would throw down, gloves off. We’ve fought til we were both red in the face, slammed doors, stared each other down, and then I realized… I was the one with the problem and I needed to change.
Each door I had slammed over the course of my life had to be pried open, and I had to face the reality of the damage I had done. I had to change. We both did. And now I’m best friends with one of the bravest women I’ve ever known.
With my father:
Dad and I
My dad. The surgeon. The man who taught me how to ride a bike, was with me every moment of the way during cancer treatments, the man who worked to pay for new clothes, cars, college, medical school, Master’s programs. The man who I never knew quite how to talk to about things other than money and his practice.
The man who did everything for his family with stoic diligence, and never asked for, or got, any thanks. None. He went to work, the bills were paid, he showed up to to teacher nights, helped us with our math homework, and went to bed for over 25 years, until I finally realized that in any other context… this wouldn’t fly. I was taking advantage of one of the best relationships that had literally been handed to me since birth.
Well… a few years ago (27 years too late), even though it felt weird and strange, I sat down at the breakfast table and I thanked him. And I told him that I loved him. And then I waited.
He put down his Wall Street Journal for a second, looked at me, cleared his throat, and said: Would you like the other half of my English Muffin? (Baby steps. He’s never shared his English Muffins with anyone.)
With my brother:
We’ve overcome a lot, and he’s seen me put myself through a lot. Yes he’s married and has a kid, and yes people told me that things would change and he would be less able to “be there” for me. So I decided to try to be there for him whenever or wherever I could. I know, we are SO different, but it’s weird how as time goes on, I find myself really enjoying the time we get to spend together. I wish we did this earlier.
And yes, he’s a surgeon. Yeah, yeah. But, surgeon or not, he still signs all his emails to me with a, “meow,” so don’t look too impressed.
My brother’s most recent email
With my family:
My cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents…the army behind my back at every step I take.
It’s like whack-a-mole, really. I focus on one of them, and a million things pop up with the others. I’m not very good at it yet, but I think they know I’m trying. Trying.
I’m in a relationship with my friends:
My friends, my champions, the family we choose.
Nothing better than being a friend to friends worth having
I worked hard for these friends. We fought with and fought for each other. From missed dinner dates, missed weddings and misunderstandings, we’ve survived it all.
In life when I’ve been a bit broken down, these people have stepped up and had my f*cking back. My friends are my magic mirror, they speak the truth and only the truth. They tell me they love me, they tell me they’re proud of me, and they tell me when to shut the hell up.
Im in a good relationship with my career:
They say you shouldn’t be married to your work. But I’m not sure I agree with that. If a marriage is supposed to be a commitment that both challenges and fulfills you, requires that you grow and evolve, develop compassion and patience, well then, consider me hitched.
Most importantly, I’m in a good relationship with myself:
And it was the hardest and most difficult relationship to build…ever.
I am not in a romantic relationship:
I don’t have a “love life” at the moment, but I have no shortage of love in my life. And if you think this is the “make or break” relationship…the ultimate void to fill, you have a little bit of growing up to do and some perspective to be gained.
This type of relationship is a piece of some people’s puzzle. They will find it when they find it, so leave them to their journey.
For some, it’s the whole picture entirely. Let them paint it with whoever they want… Even if its not the vision you have for their life.
And for other’s it is the icing on what is otherwise, a very very delicious cake. They could take it or leave it. We all need to accept that about one another.
Think about your definition of being in a relationship with someone:
If you have a relationship with a boyfriend/husband, fantastic!
Now start building those relationships with other people in your life. If you think about how rewarding it is to have a partner you can rely and depend on, think about if all of your relationships were like that? Why be defined by the one relationship you DO have in your life.
(If you’re one of those “my husband is my everything” people, that is amazing, and you are lucky to have one another…but you’re building a very pretty glass house on a quick sand pit…in a rock slide area…set on a fault line)
If you don’t have a relationship with a boyfriend/husband, fantastic!
Start building those relationships with other people you DO have in your life. Call your parents more, start “liking” your cousin’s or sibling’s facebook pages more…talk to that one person at the gym who always seemed nice…just do it, already! Why be defined by the one relationship you DONT have in your life?
(Truth bomb: Whether you have a boyfriend or not, if you have absolutely no acquaintances, friends, or family that you can reach out to…you’ve got a “you” problem…so start on the inside, girl)
And to everyone who is reading this and thinking, “I haven’t called my mom in months…it would be weird.” I have to say this: What the mother-loving-earth are you talking about!
It’s going to be weird? To call your mom? The woman who wiped your ass, showered you, and KEPT YOU ALIVE through infancy…it’s going to be weird to give her a phone call? What exactly do you think your mom is going to do if you call her for the first time in a long time? I’m going to take a wild guess…she’ll probably f*cking pick up the phone and want to talk to you. That’s what. If not…try your brother. And keep going down the list until you make contact with another human.
Think it’s weird to drop your dad a text message that says, “I love you?” Chug a few beers, send the text message, turn off your phone, put it under a couch cushion, and go to sleep. Just get it done!
Call to action:
Whether you have a boyfriend/husband or not, there are probably several people in your life that you don’t reach out to because you guys ‘just don’t have that type of relationship.’ Well…BUILD IT. You’re an adult now. Pick up the Lego Blocks of missed opportunities and build that bridge to someone, anyone, you want to care about.
That way, the next time someone asks you whether you’re in a relationship with someone or not, you may have more than one answer to give.
Oh and update: I sent this article to my family ahead of time, to make sure they were fine with me writing about them, and look what I got in my inbox…three years later. Baby steps.
Disclaimer: Do NOT call or get in touch with people who have severely hurt you, neglected, or abused you in the past: parents, siblings, boyfriend, friends etc. Some people don’t deserve to be in your life and this article is not a “sign” to call up someone who treated you like a door mat…In fact, if you still have their numbers, delete them right now