Polyamory

Here’s the final blog post that I’ve written for TINO (so far- I’m about to write another one). This is a surprisingly special one as I’ve had about a dozen people commenting on the contents of the article. Many people seem to share affirmations that it’s a wonderful concept/value/life that seems to exist in a contrast to a monogamous society. Others were curious, even sceptical. But most special of all, so many people have come forward and expressed their own experiences polyamory. I find it very humbling and very wonderful to provide a small space where the discussion of an unspoken, but apparently common ideal can be shared without retribution. If you haven’t read it already, I hope you enjoy the article.

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AN INTRODUCTION

Polyamory is the idea of having multiple partners at the same time. It is a form of “ethical non-monogamy”- that is to say, it is a consensual choice to not be limited to having only one significant partner at a time. It is entirely different from non-ethical non-monogamy (i.e., cheating, or having multiple partners without their informed consent). A lot of stigma exists against people who choose to live a polyamorous lifestyle, and this article is intended to have a brief look into what it means to be polyamorous and debunk some of the myths surrounding it. Polyamory isn’t for everyone, and not everybody is going to agree with what they are about to read. That’s fantastic! We’re all different, and I’m not trying to promote one thing or the other: I just want to share some information about different ways of relating to people. I feel this is especially important for issues that are largely unspoken, because they are so misunderstood. This blog post is for anyone who wants to learn more about another perspective on relationships.

As I said, polyamory is an ethical form of non-monogamy, and it literally means “many loves”- it basically refers to being in a relationship with more than one person at a time. It is distinct from “monogamy”, which means having only one romantic partner in your life at a time. Perhaps like me you thought it didn’t exist in the Western world, but polyamory has always existed, and will continue to exist wherever people want to connect to one another. Like any other sub-culture (e.g. your local queer community, or your group of anime/manga fans), it is likely that there is a polyamorous community living in your area, doing their own thing and being part of society without threatening its structural integrity in any way. It’s always been there, and your life probably hasn’t been adversely affected by its existence.

I’d like to make it clear that I am not challenging the virtues of monogamy: it is and has always been a meaningful way of relating to people. It can, however, be non-ethical: depending on your social values, certain relationships can be seen as harmful. For example, most people would consider it non-ethical for a brother to start a sexual relationship with his sister. Non-monogamy is not a solution to this: according to our social values, it’s wrong no matter how you slice it. Similarly, there is non-ethical non-monogamy: for example, having multiple partners who don’t know about each other. Simply put, cheating and infidelity have literally destroyed lives. What I must make clear is that I’m not saying that polyamory is better than monogamy or vice versa, but that our understandings of what is acceptable and what is taboo is due to value-laden social and cultural conditioning. What’s important is not whether you’re monogamous or non-monogamous, but whether or not you act ethically in the way you relate to people.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE

I’d like to put forward a bizarre idea: all of us are polyamorous.

Think about the people in your life that matter to you. Not just romantically, but as friends, neighbours, community members, family, distant acquaintances. You have a relationship with every single one of them. Some of them are really great to talk to about certain topics. Others give warm hugs when you feel low. Some of them are excellent tennis partners but lousy friends, while others are really amazing to have sex with. When we use the word “relationship”, we tend to think of it in a romantic way, but it literally means how we relate to one another. And in that sense, you most definitely have multiple important relationships. This is essentially polyamory. And although polyamorous relationships aren’t necessarily based on romance, this is largely what I’m going to focus on for this blog post.

Bizarre idea number two: you can romantically love more than one person in your life.

Have you ever had a break up with someone you loved? I remember when I had just turned fifteen and I broke up with Vanessa, my first serious girlfriend after nearly two years. Although I was still relatively young, my love was profoundly real, and it hurt deeply when our relationship ended. I swore that day that I would never love again, that I would carry the pain of the separation in my heart like a knife every day. I’m still not completely over her, but fortunately time has a way of dulling the pain and I’ve since renounced that vow. It allowed me to meet Bethwyn, who I can scarcely imagine being any more perfect for me.

My point is that even though you love or have loved someone, it’s possible to eventually love someone else. But what would have happened if I met Bethwyn while I was dating Vanessa? What if I discovered that I loved Bethwyn, even though I was currently in a relationship with someone else? According to monogamy I’d have to choose between two very amazing people, and that choice would forever change the way that one of them would relate to me. Why is it okay to fall in love after you’re broken up, but horribly wrong to fall in love while you currently have a partner? As I’ve mentioned before, we rarely choose who we fall in love with, so why is it frowned upon so much?

SOME EXAMPLES

Let me first say that every relationship is different. Just like every couple has rules and understandings that they know innately (leave the toilet seat down, don’t pester him before he’s had his coffee, when she’s studying she’d appreciate a little quiet etc.), every polyamorous couple/group/constellation has different ways of relating to one another. There are an infinite number of relationship possibilities.

  • Sasha might be sleeping with both Ben and Ivan.
  • James might be sleeping with Madeline, but also enjoy cuddling and flirting and kissing Natalie without ever intending it to go further.
  • Bei might be seeing Adam, Michael, Zoe and Andrea and be sleeping with all of them. But Adam, Michael, Zoe and Andrea are not in the slightest bit interested in sleeping with each other- they might have their own relationships outside of the one with Bei, or they might not.
  • Cathy, Jacque and Mikael might all act in the role of parents for their children, who all sleep together in one gigantic bed.
  • Any potential combination of more than one human being relating to another in a romantic way, regardless of whether sex is involved, is a kind of polyamorous relationship. How “romantic” is defined is up to the people in the relationship.

Complex, right? Well, maybe. But it’s not very different from being friends with two people who are fighting, or being part of friend groups that have completely different interests. You learn, subconsciously or otherwise, how to get on with the people that matter to you. Participants in complex constellations (my favourite word for referring to polyamorous groups) constantly negotiate their relationships and understandings of their roles in order to live harmoniously. And no combination of relationships is wrong as long as everyone gives informed consent (that is, as long as everyone understands what’s going on and is comfortable with it). If you and your partners have well-developed relationship skills, most potential difficulties will be possible to overcome with the intention to.

A DIFFERENT VALUE BASE

Love isn’t restrictive. It doesn’t bind people, and it doesn’t run out: it is free and accepting, without condition or restraint. Just because you love your boyfriend doesn’t mean you love your little brother any less, right? This, I feel, is the essential value behind polyamory. If I felt attracted to another woman, it doesn’t mean I’d love my girlfriend any less. And because my girlfriend and I communicate freely, especially about the hard stuff, she would know that no one could ever replace her- no one could ever mean the same to me for the same reasons. Hopefully, if I was excited about meeting someone who nourished me, who provided for some need I had (someone to talk about my job with, or someone who made me feel especially attractive again) and made me happy, she would be happy for me too. As long as I wasn’t causing any damage to other relationships, and largely positive, happy, wonderful things were coming from relating to this other woman, and Beth was totally fine with all of it, what would the real harm be?

This is not, absolutely not the same thing as cheating. All relationships are based on expectations. You might expect your neighbour not to use your spare key to help themselves to your sugar, just as you might expect your partner not to bring a new love interest home without talking to you about it first. Infidelity means breaking these expectations, which are different for everybody. If your partner understands that you would not like it if they had sex with someone else and then they do it anyway, that’s cheating. If you make it clear to your partner that you’re okay with them looking but not touching, and all you do is look, then that’s fine. If your partner is okay with you having one night stands, as long as you come back to them in the morning, that’s cool. These expectations are different to everybody, and it hurts just as much when someone betrays your trust, regardless of what you trusted them to do.

Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of polyamory, and that’s totally fine. Nobody should be forced to do anything that they’re not comfortable with. But this article is for anyone who is interested in learning a little bit more and getting a new perspective. I can personally see the potential in polyamory for solving or preventing a number of relationship troubles, not because anyone is doing anything “wrong”, but because the values we have as a monogamous society have drilled it into us that it’s tantamount to sinful to be attracted to someone while you’re currently in a relationship. I find this kind of thinking unhelpful and limiting at best, and destructive and heartbreaking at worst. So while I’m not advocating everyone goes out there and hooks up with as many people simultaneously as feasible, I am hoping that anyone who has read this far gives a little thought to how their relationships could benefit by loving freely, not possessively (or exclusively).

A PERSONAL STORY

I’d like to end on a personal example of how one experience of polyamory enriched my life and my relationships. I was on holiday in Egypt and the UK, and I’d been away from Bethwyn for almost a month. I’d spent the past fortnight with Arabic men and mostly middle-aged tourists, and so when I boarded a bus to tour the mountains of Scotland, it came as a surprise to see so many young people my age. Some chemical deep in my brain, consumed with longing for my girlfriend, latched onto the closest available girl who I found attractive. On those long bus rides I got to know Rachel quite well, and I found myself outrageously smitten by her. At the first opportunity I got, I emailed Bethwyn explaining how confused and guilty I felt to find infatuation so far from home. I talked about Rachel and how she made me feel, and I asked her very sincerely to let me know her reaction to everything I’d said and what she wanted me to do about it. The email I got in response still blows my mind.

Ever since we started looking into polyamory, initially as an assignment for uni, we’d had the idea at the back of our minds and had been mulling it over quietly. But now we were faced with a dilemma, and we had no idea how to proceed. Reading about it and living it are entirely two different things. Bethwyn told me, with such love, trust and respect (all those wonderful ingredients of a healthy relationship), that I could enjoy flirting with Rachel without feeling guilty, and that I could enjoy her company while I had the opportunity. She thought she might be okay if, somehow, I ended up in a position where I might like to kiss her. But that was the line and she did not think she could process or accept any more than that without becoming upset.

After that my interest in Rachel plummeted. I was so overcome with how grateful and in love with Bethwyn I was that I wasn’t even remotely attracted to the other girls on the bus. And although I’ve had crushes and fleeting attractions since, all of which have been accepted gracefully and lovingly, none of them have held a candle to my most wonderful girlfriend.

Although this story is, in a way, about the success of monogamy, the point I’m trying to make is that my relationship with Rachel (irrespective of the outcome) did not affect my relationship with Bethwyn in a negative way at all. Indeed, it deepened the trust, respect and love I have for her, and I consider that a wonderful thing. When you step outside the artifice of internalised cultural values, you might find that polyamory isn’t inherently bad. In fact, it has enormous potential in enriching relationships of every kind.

I hope you’ve found this article interesting, even valuable, and it gives you some ideas about how to improve your own personal relationships by looking at things from a new perspective. I wish you all the best.

Xin.

A POST SCRIPT

For additional reading I highly recommend Easton and Hardy’s “The Ethical Slut” (2009), a highly engaging and well-written book. Don’t be misled by its title- it’s about reclaiming the right to express yourself as a sexual person, particularly in a polyamorous context. Although there is no such thing as an applicable step-by-step manual or instruction book for having a successful relationship (let alone multiple ones), it is a most excellent handbook to something so little spoken about in our societies today.

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The Key to Really Great Sex

I know my bpd (blogs per day) ratio is currently above one, but I couldn’t help but slip in this blog post which I wrote for TINO. And speaking of slipping things in…

 

Warning. This blog post deals with some confrontational issues and requires a fair bit of maturity to process. If you giggle or flinch at words like masturbation or anus, you probably won’t enjoy this article.

Sex. It’s everywhere, and with good reason. Human beings are inherently sexual, from the moment we’re born til the moment we die. That’s not to say we’re always ready, willing and able to have sex- our sexuality develops just as we do, and every person is different. Some men rarely experience sexual arousal until their fifties, while some young girls can’t stop thinking about sex, and every combination imaginable. Some people are asexual entirely, without any libido whatsoever. We’re all different, and we all grow.

This week [was] Sexual Health Awareness week, and I wanted to write an article about sex, because let’s face it, most people think about it from time to time, some more than others. It’s highly likely you’ve come across information about sex before- how to do it, what feels good for you and your partner/s, what type of contraception exists, STI’s and the horrific pictures that follow… But something I’ve noticed among young people my age is that there’s not a lot of information about how to have enjoyable sex that isn’t oppressive or disrespectful. Essentially what I’d like to write about are the interconnected issues of respect and consent. But before you say “I’ve heard it all before- Australia says no etc. etc.”, these are actually fairly complex issues and it’s important to re-examine them in new light. I urge you to take five minutes to read this article- it might seriously improve your sex life forever.

Sex is generally considered to be awesome. But what is sex? Is it strictly limited to vaginal intercourse? What about anal sex? Oral sex? Manual sex? What about dry sex (with at least some clothes on)? What about fondling? French kissing? Heavy petting? Sexting? I’d argue that any exchange of a sexual nature (that is, inciting sexual arousal) is a form of sex, some more intimate than others.

I’d also like to throw a crazy idea out there: all sex is great, as long as everyone consents to it. I’ll explain the second half of that statement in a moment, but let’s think about this first. Gay sex is great. Sadomasochism is great. Role playing is great. Anal sex, water sports, bondage and domination, transvesticism, fetishes, they’re all really, really great. As long as there’s consent. I’m not comfortable with a lot of things. For example, I’m not comfortable masturbating onto someone’s feet. But if someone in the world really enjoys having someone masturbate onto his/her feet, then that’s absolutely fine. There are people in the world doing all sorts of sex-based activities right now, some of which horrify me, but if the people involved are fully committed and enjoying themselves, I have no right in the world to stop them. This is exactly the nature of consent.

Consent is agreeing to something whilst being fully aware of what that something involves. To give a common example, if a man wants to have vaginal intercourse with a woman, she must be fully aware of what it means to have a penis inside her vagina and agree to it in order to provide consent. Someone who is drunk and not in full control of their faculties cannot, by definition, give consent. Someone who is unconscious, who is underage or mentally underdeveloped, who is tied up with a gag in their mouth, who is mentally ill, who (God forbid) is dead, who is a stranger who is witnessing (or worse, experiencing) a sexual act without being asked first if they wanted to see/experience it… All of them are unable to give consent, and it is never okay to force, coerce or trick them into having any kind of sexual contact, not even a little bit. Not even if they were enjoying it ten seconds ago and suddenly changed their mind. Not even if you think that their actions are speaking louder than their words. If they so “No”, “Stop”, “Wait!”, or anything along the lines of “I don’t want to do that with you”, then you shouldn’t do it. Forcing sex of any kind is illegal, and perhaps worse, it hurts people in the most intimate of ways.

But consent isn’t just about following the law. There’s a damn good reason why it’s so important: respect. Respect is something that isn’t always understood or valued, but it is the foundation for any kind of meaningful connection. And if you’re not meaningfully connected during sex, you have some real issues that you need to look at. There is no more important time to be respectful than when you are in the very most intimate of places you can be with a person. But how does respect help you have better sex?

I cannot think of anything less sexy than hurting someone I care about. I would never find it arousing to hurt, shame or bully my girlfriend into doing something for my benefit. I would, on the other hand, find it ridiculously arousing if I asked her to do something for me and she did it willingly because she wanted me to enjoy it. I don’t particularly care who you are or what you’re into- that’s your business. But it’s also the business of your partner/s. If you want your boyfriend to role play as a secret agent then ask him. If you want your girlfriend to wear her sexy underwear around the house then ask her. If you want your partner to try anal sex then ask them.  And most importantly of all, respect their decision to say no!

Once you get to the stage where you respect your partner enough to ask them, and your partner respects you enough to consider what you’re asking, everything changes. When you start talking about sex, what you enjoy, what you fantasise about, what you’d really like your partner to do some day if they didn’t mind trying it, sex becomes limitless. You don’t have to feel guilty about what you like. You can start experimenting, if you and your partner want to, in whatever way you both enjoy. Good sex (however you like it) becomes a gift rather than something you have to steal or take or fantasise about secretly. You’re free to experience PLEASURE. And God, isn’t that what it’s all about? Why should anyone have to feel guilty about enjoying themselves as long as everyone’s okay with it? (I’m careful not to say “as long as no one gets hurt”, because some people like a good spanking among other things, and that’s cool too.)

So I guess what I’m really what I’m trying to say is that sex is really great, but it becomes so much better when you know that your partner is either enjoying it too, or doing it freely because they care about you enough to give you pleasure. In my books, the key to really amazing sex comes not from any activity in particular, but a value-based attitude: respect. Now go out there and get some.

PS: Just as a matter of interest, there are a number of Declarations of Sexual Rights, but this one is probably my favourite.

  1. The right to sexual freedom. Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.
  2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body. This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.
  3. The right to sexual privacy. This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviors about intimacy as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.
  4. The right to sexual equity. This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.
  5. The right to sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well being.
  6. The right to emotional sexual expression. Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.
  7. The right to sexually associate freely. This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.
  8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices. This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.
  9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry. This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.
  10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education. This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.
  11. The right to sexual health care. Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.

Sexual Rights are Fundamental and Universal Human Rights

Adopted in Hong Kong at the 14th World Congress of Sexology, August 26, 1999

How to Win at Relationships

So it occurs to me that I’ve written a number of blog posts for Tune In Not Out (TINO) which I haven’t published here. I’m just going to go right ahead and post them now >.<”

Here’s the first one. And, incidentally, it comes with accompanying pictures of tremendous awesomeness from the photo shoot Bethwyn and I won.

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HOW TO WIN AT RELATIONSHIPS

 

Introduction

Relationships. They are what bind societies, and in many cases what allows the survival and continuation of the human race. Love has cost trillions of dollars, sent millions to their death in wars and literally changed the face of the earth. It’s no understatement to say that good relationships are a pivotal dimension of the human condition. Yet crucial as they are, why are so many people so bad at them?

Think of someone in a romantic relationship. It might be yourself, your parents or your friends. Do you think the relationship is healthy? Do the people in it spend more time criticising or complimenting each other? Do they yell every day or always talk affectionately and gently? Do they ignore and put each other down, or really listen truly respect what the other has to say? Looking around at the people in my own life, it hurts me to admit that not everyone is as loving to one another as they should be, for whatever reasons. Human beings can be spiteful, selfish or just plain ignorant, and it can hurt those closest to them. I also look at my own intimate relationship and am so grateful, almost every day of my life, to be with someone so kind, respectful, loving and beautiful. Being with my lifemate is like eating the most amazing strawberry shortcake, all the time, without it ever losing its flavour or making you fat. And, using the metaphor of the cake, I wanted to share with you some of the ingredients that make our relationship so very, very tasty. Most of it will seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how uncommon it is for people to follow it. I’d also like to add that everyone is different, and I’ve seen relationships based on bickering and teasing that have lasted decades and ended very happily. But as a general rule, here are some of the ways to make your relationship sweeter, healthier and just plain awesome.

Ingredient one: Love

Obviously this is the big one. Having a relationship without love is like a cake without sugar of any kind- it’ll be bland at the best and poisonous at the worst. Yes, in olden days women would be married to men (it was very rarely the other way round) to secure alliances, for fortune or status, but the Western world has changed and we are encouraged to pursue individual happiness. There is some argument that familial duty is more important than pursuing dreams, but generally it is accepted that no one should have to stay in a position (or indeed, a relationship) that makes them unhappy. And the glue of any happy relationship is love.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little science with you. There are many different ways to understand love and we could spend all day discussing which the best model to use is, but I’m going to cut to the chase and share the simplest in terms of romance. Elaine Hatfield (a famed professor of psychology in Hawaii) distinguishes two types of love: short term passionate love, and longer term companionate love.

Passionate love is that intense, overwhelming infatuation that kicks off the start of a new romantic interest. The racing heart, the butterflies in the stomach, the showing off, the crazy monkey sex, the desire to be with the object of your affection 24/7… These are all characteristics of passionate love, fuelled by a crazy dose of endorphins, “the love hormone”, released into your bloodstream to make you completely smitten. Logic and reason are swept away by passion and excitement, and nothing could ever be as important as being with the object of your affection. But the important thing to realise is that passionate love does not last forever. It tends to be measured in months rather than years, but many people make the mistake of making decisions (such as getting engaged or moving in) based on the assumption they’ll always be crazy passionate about their partner. It can be quite disillusioning to discover that six months down the track they’re actually with an ordinary human being with the usual amount of faults and annoyances. Again, there are exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking the passion will burn bright and hot like sparklers on the cake before dying out and leaving… what? If you’re lucky, you’ll find companionate love instead of magnesium oxide, or whatever sparklers are made of.

Companionate love is the kind of love that lasts forever; it is what allows elderly couples to hold hands in the park and marriages to survive incredible strain. It is not based on passion, but on deep affection and extensive familiarity with a loved one. It is appreciative, tolerant, encouraging, respectful and enduring. The sex may not always be as crazed or simian, but it tends to be more meaningful and satisfying. Although not as exciting as passionate love, the quiet satisfaction and contentment provide an entirely different sense of fulfillment that is worth pursuing. Not everyone is ready for long term relationships, and some people never will be (which is totally okay, as long as they’re happy), but without companionate love a close relationship can transform into two people sharing the same space, often out of convenience. Although enduring, even love can fade with time, and it takes work to maintain a relationship. But in my opinion, it is unquestionably worth every effort.

Ingredient two: Honest communication

Honesty is like flour: the cake will literally fall apart without it. It is the foundation for trust, and trust is the foundation for love. Each of us has felt the cold stab of betrayal, and it’s easy to see how the pain of being hurt by someone we’ve let so close to our hearts can destroy everything. Infidelity, for example, has ruined more than one civilisation- just look at Troy.

But it’s more than just being honest (though it cannot be understated how important that is). I’d wager, without any kind of scientific method, that 90% of all conflicts are due to miscommunication. Think of a fight you’ve had in your life where you’ve been really defensive about something, or really offensive about something, only to discover it was all a misunderstanding and that guy wasn’t actually hitting on your girlfriend, he’s just her long lost cousin or something. If only you’d taken the time to ask her, you might have avoided that long, shameful journey to the hospital to apologise for breaking his nose. Talk. Talk often, and honestly, about everything. Especially the hard stuff. If it embarrasses you, if you think it’ll cause problems, if you’re scared of how your partner might react it’s more important than ever to air it before it starts to fester. Keeping a secret, especially a hurtful one, can eat you inside out, and you can save both yourself and them the pain of them discovering it on their own if you just have the courage to bring it up early. And, chances are, things will turn out much better than you imagined, if only you take the time to understand how your partner feels, and just as importantly, they take the time to do the same for you.

Ingredient three: Respect

Respect is kind of like the egg in the cake: it keeps everything together, and it makes everything slightly distasteful without it. No two human beings share the same view- it’s part of the miracle of our infinitely complex brains. Given our inherent differences, we must learn accept that we do not always see eye-to-eye, and more importantly, to treat each other respectfully when this happens. I’m going to throw a crazy idea our there: you are always right. And so is your partner. And so is your mother, so stop giving her so much grief. It is absolutely impossible to believe that you are wrong about something- seriously! Even if you think you’re wrong, what you’re actually thinking is “I’m right about thinking I’m wrong.” Once you realise that everyone believes they’re right all the time it’s easy to see how arguing is pointless. My girlfriend and I once argued about where I parked the car- I was positive it was over there on the right, but she was certain it was up there on the left. It didn’t matter who was right- we both believed it to be ourselves- and we argued and we argued until I realised that all we were achieving was discord, so we just went left and it turns out that’s where I parked after all.

No two people are ever going to agree all the time. But it’s so important that in those circumstances where we disagree we can respect that the other person is no less “right” than we are. A different opinion from your own does not wrong- it makes it different, and there is nothing inherently wrong in that. Treating people like they’re stupid, wrong, ugly, insufficient, or less-than-you will not win you any endearment. If you truly want to be in a happy relationship, you must not disrespect or put down your partner. We absolutely must strive with every action to affirm the goodness of our loved one, which we can choose to see at any time as easily as we might see their faults.

 

Ingredient four: Laughter

Laughter to a relationship is like the strawberries on a cake: it is light-hearted and sweet to the tongue. You must have fun with your partner! Yes, there is a deep sense of satisfaction from sitting home on a Saturday night to and give each other massages, but that’s not to say you can’t tell (and listen to) terrible jokes, go out dancing, chase each other around the house just for the hell of it… A relationship that doesn’t have the ingredient of laughter runs the risk of becoming stagnant, banal and routine. This is the danger of many long term relationships- getting so comfortable all the fun has drained away. Do what you can to shake this up: be spontaneous and surprising, in the bedroom, at his workplace, everywhere.

Ingredient five: The Mystery

The universe is complex. People, moreso. We fall in love for the stupidest and the best of reasons. We might find ourselves completely and hopelessly in love with the Romeos and Juliets of the world- people who, by all rights, we should despise and avoid like the plague. No one really understands why we fall in love, nor do I think we need to. It is the mystery ingredient in the cake that no one really gets- sometimes when you bake a cake more than once, you’ll use the same ingredients with the same method in the same kitchen and it’ll turn out completely different to every other cake you’ve ever made. I’ve just come to accept that love is a mystery, and sometimes we just have to roll with it if we ever want any kind of peace with life.

I know it seems to completely go against everything I’ve said in the above paragraph, but it’s still important to find the right person. We may not be able to choose who we feel attraction to, but we can choose how to act upon those feelings. Some relationships are disasters waiting to happen- I have seen with my own eyes what happens when the passion fades and a couple wakes up one morning and realises they can’t stand each other, but they can’t separate because now they have a baby and they can’t decide whether they love being with the baby more than they love hating one another. I believe that we are all very, very complex jigsaw pieces, with thousands of different edges that are always changing as we grow. Sometimes we meet an individual who we connect to so perfectly it’s like all the edges line up, perhaps not perfectly, but so damn close that that person is worth holding on to and never letting go. And sometimes we (or our loved ones) change, slowly but surely, so much that a relationship that was once perfect is now in need of some adjustment.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it’s your cake too. Even if you’re sharing it, you still have to eat it, so it’s really worth putting the effort in to make it a good one. It’s important to honour your self, your individuality, as well as accepting that you’re part of an “us”.  Do your utmost to be the best damn person you can be, because as important as relationships are, none of them last forever. Whether distance, time, or death, we are all individuals who come together, and you’ll never be able to escape the one relationship that matters most: your relationship with your self. Always do your best to be loving, respectful, honest and funny in every relationship (especially but not exclusively romantic ones) that matters to you, including the one you have with yourself.

It must also be said that not every relationship is meant to be, and they all require maintenance. Like in the Sims, if you don’t spend enough time and effort really working on being close to your loved ones you can drift apart. Sometimes, despite your greatest efforts, you can have the freshest ingredients and the best kitchen ever but the cake doesn’t turn out quite like you imagined it. Having said that, I daresay that even the most horrendous failed strawberry shortcake still tastes a notch better than one without sugar, flour, eggs, or strawberries.

This article is not a definitive recipe as much as it is a general guideline. We all like our cakes a little differently, so work out with your loved one what part of your cake doesn’t taste as good as it should, and add a little more sugar here or crack an egg there as needed. I hope this post has been helpful, and I wish each and every one of you the most delectable of pastries.