Happiness is only real when shared.

Why do we get in to relationships? How do we make them last? If change is the nature of life, how can we keep the happiness from becoming boredom, excitement from turning in to apathy, admiration in to resentment? And love, romantic or platonic, from an exhilarating rush of an obsessive high in to gray indifference?

First, let’s consider why people get in to relationships in the first place.

If we ask evolutionary biologists then the answer is to reproduce. From an evolutionarily based view point this makes complete sense. It is because we’re trying to disseminate our genes by mating with a compatible partner. With humans, of course, that compatibility is a complex web of smells, social pecking order, face symmetry and what’s called “social intelligence. And relationships then are just a nature’s way to chemically mutually addict a couple long enough to stop them from killing each other to raise the kids to adulthood.

From a psychological perspective, the goal of a relationship is much more simple. The benefit is that it allows an individual to grow through their “childhood trauma.” In a way, our romantic relationships turn out to be a great way to get over our parent’s deficiencies in raising us.

A romantic partner’s purpose is simply to compensate for our upbringing’s shortcomings, cong enough for us to get over them so that we can grow up and build a happy and fulfilling relationship(s).

From that point of view, as radical as it sounds, inability to maintain a functional, inter-dependent (not to be confused with co-dependent), relationship is the hallmark of not growing up.

Easier said than done, of course, however this is the ultimate snafu. We can’t grow up as individuals outside of a relationship, and we can’t be in a healthy and happy one until we do grow up.

Being a sample representative of the male population myself, I can’t speak for the females of the species but for a man this growing up is imperative. In the western society, it’s up to the men to grow up by themselves. There is really no environment available for men in western society to grow in to. Social rules have changed so much and so quickly that western world left the current generation of men hanging. We’re stuck between new values, new social patterns, and despite some attempts to be initiated in to this new world as men (by other men in similar situation), there’s no world to initiated to.

In such an environment, it’s no surprise that ultimately our interpersonal relationships suffer the most.

Naturally, the question arises – how do we make our relationships work? Why do so many of them don’t? And what can we do about it?

Since most everyone agrees, grownups – mature individuals – are simply better at managing their relationships. That’s really the keyword – relationships don’t just run themselves, they need to actively be managed. This simple fact eludes so many people.

Think about it – does a successful business just run itself? How about a functional government? Is there an established protocol for it?

While it’s true, there’s no way to guarantee a 100% positive outcome – after all there will always be variables outside of our control – following a tested methodology will in the long run produce much better results than just “letting things run their course.”

As someone smarter than I had said a long time ago: we are not defined in a vacuum. As humans, we are defined by our relationships. It is through our relationships with others that we understand who we are, and become more developed individuals as a result.

To do that we, as men especially, need to have a strong lock on who we are right now. While many people will say it doesn’t matter where you are only where you’re going, I disagree with that. Of course direction is important, but if you don’t know where you are it’s an impossible task to figure out in what direction to go. What’s your starting point? Where are you at right now?

For example, having many friends or being good with people doesn’t actually help one build and maintain strong, happy, romantic relationships. Obviously taking showers once in a while, being able to carry on a conversation and having enough self-confidence and charisma to come across as a functional and attractive man will get out laid more often than the opposite – but that’s the problem right there. Getting laid is actually not what defines a relationship, and clearly doesn’t guarantee a lasting and happy one. Proof of that is everywhere around us, including our personal experience.

My current opinion on relationships is that once we develop to a certain point, managing a fulfilling relationship becomes doable. Not necessarily easy and at no point effortless, but it is accomplishable.

It just requires a bit of growing up.

In the next series of posts, I will explore in more detail the requirements and methodologies for creating and maintaining a lasting and fulfilling relationship. When I discovered many of these patters they seemed very logical, and although at first a large part of them seemed unnecessary and superficial it turned out to be quite necessary for forming and managing a happy relationship.

In recent years there has been a lot of information on meeting people, dating, improving social skills, and yet from what I’ve seen many people still have a hard time maintaining lasting and fulfilling relationships.

The statistics are quite sobering – out of all relationships that make it far enough to any sort of commitment – marriage or otherwise – four years later half of them dissolve under very unhappy circumstances. Not a very good track record for something our society still pretends it’s built upon.

We get bigger, but don’t grow up – and our romantic relationships fail as a result.

What if you could wakeup in a different time and in a different place? Could you wake up a different person? Would you want to wake up a grown up?