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Are we wired to be in a relationship?


dcguy20
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The dating thread in a different section got me thinking, "are we wired (relationship gene) to be in a relationship?" I have been single most of my adult life. I have dated before, been broken up with and vice versa, but when push comes to shove, I realize I like or don't mind being single.

 

I am an introvert (not to be confused with being a loner, which I've been accused of before). I do things with friends, have no problem carrying on a conversation, and enjoy doing things by myself. Hell, the best vacations I've had were by myself (going to Paris twice on my own).

 

The thing that gets me is at times I find myself being envious/intrigued of others' relationships, and wonder if I'm missing the "relationship" gene. I could go into more detail, but I wanted to be as concise as possible. I'm sure I'll add to this as things pop into my head.

 

I'm really curious as to what people here have to say on the subject. Thanks.

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The dating thread in a different section got me thinking, "are we wired (relationship gene) to be in a relationship?" I have been single most of my adult life. I have dated before, been broken up with and vice versa, but when push comes to shove, I realize I like or don't mind being single.

 

I am an introvert (not to be confused with being a loner, which I've been accused of before). I do things with friends, have no problem carrying on a conversation, and enjoy doing things by myself. Hell, the best vacations I've had were by myself (going to Paris twice on my own).

 

The thing that gets me is at times I find myself being envious/intrigued of others' relationships, and wonder if I'm missing the "relationship" gene. I could go into more detail, but I wanted to be as concise as possible. I'm sure I'll add to this as things pop into my head.

 

I'm really curious as to what people here have to say on the subject. Thanks.

 

In my case, a conversation with my first cousin, Elaine, is the best answer I have heard about myself and my brother ( he is not gay). Elaine was concerned about whether her son would ever get married (he did twice). She mentioned the number of men and women on our paternal grandmother's side of the family who never married.

 

Also, her older sister (six years older than me) and Elaine (three years older) interacted more with my grandmother, who died just before I was born. And their mother out lived my dad by almost four decades, so they knew much more family history.

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I think it's a subject that has too many layers. I think it would be really hard to determine whether we are wired genetically or whether it is just a preference, but we all have a setting that works best for ourselves.

 

No doubt we all suffer from societal pressure to comply with the rituals that are seen as normal and desirable. Find the one, marriage, having children, having a career, saving money, being outwardly successful, having a beautiful body, owning real-estate. I think the expectations change greatly depending our culture, but living in a partnership is almost a universal expectation and is perceived as a sign of success by many. I don't think it is.

 

I know as a fact that there are many people who like being alone. Some of these people sometimes feel pressure to partner up and/or wonder whether they are missing out. Some of these people live in partnerships, even against their better judgment.

 

The true is opposite for people who prefer being in a partnership.

 

I think the trick is to know what you like, make peace with it and learn to love it, while at the same time keeping a curious heart in case our preferences change.

 

I, for one, much prefer to live in a partnership. It really works for me, even if I am somewhat of an introvert and really love my time with myself.

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I think the trick is to know what you like, make peace with it and learn to love it, while at the same time keeping a curious heart in case our preferences change

 

I think if we are wired for anything it would be pair bonding because that's how we evolved, but we are more than our genetics and this really is the trick. It's also really helpful if you can discover it early in life. Although preferences can clearly change over a lifetime, it sucks to find out late in life that you would rather be in a relationship. There is an unfortunate inverse relationship between age and the likelihood of finding a good match.

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I think it's also important to consider how society shapes us.The general theme is being alone is the saddest thing possible,no children equals a meaningless life etc.I think folks are finally beginning to realize there are other meaningful alternatives.This is coming from someone who has been in a (mostly monogamous relationship for 38 yrs.

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I think what works for one, doesn't for another. It's one's choice to be in a relationship or not.

 

I think genetically, we aren't. Chimps and Bonobos (primates genetically closest to humans) are far from monogamous. Hell Bonobos have sex (opposite and same sex) to ease fights/tensions, but that's another story. We should be more like Bonobos. :p If I'm remembering correctly only a very small percentage of mammals are truly monogamous. Since we are supposedly more evolved :p we make the choice.

 

I think some feel compelled to being in a relationship partly because of nature (to raise offspring--for example), societal/religious pressure, and/or other (-->place why you want to be in one here<--). Some people like to be the lone wolf and some don't.

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I think what works for one, doesn't for another. It's one's choice to be in a relationship or not.

 

I think genetically, we aren't. Chimps and Bonobos (primates genetically closest to humans) are far from monogamous. Hell Bonobos have sex (opposite and same sex) to ease fights/tensions, but that's another story. We should be more like Bonobos. :p If I'm remembering correctly only a very small percentage of mammals are truly monogamous. Since we are supposedly more evolved :p we make the choice.

 

I think some feel compelled to being in a relationship partly because of nature (to raise offspring--for example), societal/religious pressure, and/or other (-->place why you want to be in one here<--). Some people like to be the lone wolf and some don't.

 

I don't disagree with you, but you seem to be using 'relationship' and 'monogamy' interchangeably. They aren't the same thing for me. There are plenty of variants on relationships that don't equate to monogamy, but they're all different than being single. At least in my book. The Chimps may not be monogamous, but they are far from single.

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I don't disagree with you, but you seem to be using 'relationship' and 'monogamy' interchangeably. They aren't the same thing for me. There are plenty of variants on relationships that don't equate to monogamy, but they're all different than being single. At least in my book. The Chimps may not be monogamous, but they are far from single.

 

Yeah, I see what you're saying. Sometimes so much comes rushing to my brain when I try to get a point across... I have a tendency to put out everything. It leads me to jumble what I mean to say. :)

 

I agree with your point(s).

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I am introverted and shy, implosive combination. However, I've always been an advocate for trying things, and I mean trying more than once, before dismissing them. I've tried several times to be in LTRs, and even living together, and it never worked. My experiments were mostly in my 20 s and 30s, when I was more susceptible to social pressures and expectations and I was not so self aware.

I gave up trying to figure it out whether or not we are wired to be in a relationship many years ago. I don't think we are yet able to solve the controversy nature vs nurture. My background in sociology pushes me towards nurture, but I do not know, and I do not know anybody who has a clear answer.

Furthermore, I stop caring about finding the answer because whatever it is, it would have no consequences in my life.

So I prefer to reword de question to is it possible to be happy being by yourself? I have had moments of happiness being with and without a relationship. My personal satisfaction has never depend on my marital status. So right now and for at least 15 years now my answer is yes, you can be happy and I prefer being by myself.

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I think it's a subject that has too many layers. I think it would be really hard to determine whether we are wired genetically or whether it is just a preference, but we all have a setting that works best for ourselves.

 

Twice in a week I adore you. Stop that!

 

You've given what's really the answer. If you're only OK in a partnership, well, go find one. If you're OK being mostly alone (and sometimes renting companionship), do that.

 

DO NOT try to make yourself be something that someone else says you're supposed to be.

 

You do you.

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Juan, when starting off a relationship, how did you effectively communicate that you needed some alone time, or liked being alone, without the other person taking it as a sign that you weren't interested in them?

 

In all my relationships (even with my clients, which many find to be a contentious issue) I believe that being direct and honest, while being loving and respectful, is the best policy. I openly communicate my need to be alone, but I also openly and profusely communicate my desire to fully enjoy togetherness, so I believe it is always very clear that my wanting to retreat has nothing to do with not enjoying being together.

 

This, of course, provides challenges. If I feel I need time to walk alone in the forest or sit with my book the whole evening, I simply say it. I make sure to be clear as to what the reason is, and if there are questions and or misunderstandings about it, I clarify until it is clear that it is just that I re-charge when I am alone. Obviously I gravitate towards people who are able to listen to this and really listen to what I say without taking it personally. In the end, two people nurturing themselves and missing one another makes for a much better, much healthier relationship.

 

I think if we are wired for anything it would be pair bonding because that's how we evolved.

 

Actually, as Big-n-tall pointed out, many scientist now are starting to realize we are more similar to bonobos than any other primate. Even in modern hunter and gatherer groups of fewer than 150 members, while emotional pair bonding sometimes happens they are definitely not the norm. All members of the tribe have sexual access to the other members of the tribe and paternity is something that is shared since the female most likely mated with many members to conceive. Romantic bonds have the same fluidity, and while sometimes pairings do take place, they are definitely not the norm. The family is not formed by a man and a woman, but many members who share responsibilities and rights.

 

We only started pairing with the advent of agriculture and private ownership. When we subscribed to the idea that we could own stuff and pass it on to our descendants it became important to determine who was my partner and who were my children and even in those times, the pairing was for administrative reasons. The idea that everyone would find a special one with whom one would have a life long romantic idillic relationship is a very, very new idea. Just a few centuries old.

 

We tend to forget that most of our social constructs are very new and are seldom even adequate to who we are as a species. That is why I really believe we have the responsibility to pay attention to what we want and explore it in a healthy, respectful manner.

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The idea that everyone would find a special one with whom one would have a life long romantic idillic relationship is a very, very new idea. Just a few centuries old.

 

Perhaps "pair" bonding was an inadequate word choice. Although the things that I've seen about the remaining Amazonian hunter-gatherer tribes indicated that while monogamy was not critical, they did have primary relationships and it was not a communal sex free for all. ( I don't study anthropology, so perhaps I just saw a different National Geographic episode. )

 

I'm not sure I can buy that primitive man was somehow more noble and the men needed no incentive to provide for their family. Ever since there was property ownership, the vast majority of that property was owned by a few individuals. I suppose the peasant class could have just been mimicking the elites, but bloodlines meant little to people who had nothing to pass on. Property ownership is responsible for the construct of marriage. I don't know if it is accurate to include as a factor into whether we are wired by evolution to pair bond.

 

Whatever your definition of bonding, whether it be a single pair or a communal construct, I maintain that we are wired to be bonded. The concept that you can be happy and alone is even newer than the concept of private property. It is also, by its very nature, an evolutionary dead end. Which makes me wonder if the tendency to be happy alone is a naturally occurring variant just like homosexuality. Which, of course, is also an evolutionary dead end that continues to occur.

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Which, of course, is also an evolutionary dead end that continues to occur.

It's an evolutionary dead end if taken in the context of an individual or a nuclear family. But in the context of a clan group, which pre-agricultural societies were, the survival of any of the children in the group represents the survival of the genes of members of the older generation, whether all the members of that generation reproduce or not. From an evolutionary perspective collective survival would be the imperative, so ensuring that each new generation prospered would be what mattered. If that meant some individuals lived their lives in such a way that they did not reproduce but were able to contribute to the survival of the group, that matters not to evolution. (There are males in some Polynesian societies that live as women and do contribute in such a way.) I would venture to say that the modern desire of individuals to ensure that they personally pass on their genes to a next generation is a conceit of modern societies (or perhaps more accurately of modern western men). I have no children but my brother did, so if I end up leaving them some money, I have had a role in their success (even if they would have done just fine without it).

 

It's not that long ago that maiden aunts were a common feature of families. They were the ones who ended up looking after ageing parents and were a backup if their sisters died in childbirth, which was common.

 

Even in a narrow definition of personal reproductive success, LGBTI people can have their own biological children relatively easily now. Whether we end up solo or in relationships, we contribute to our families and to society. Not partnering up is a valid choice, it is only an issue if you desperately wanted to do so and could not.

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Whether or not there is such a gene I think too that older gay men have had more difficulty finding a lasting relationship because growing up they often didn't get to practice being in a relationship. Homosexual relationships were taboo. As a result their relationships were often just sexual and on the down-low at that. There wasn't any dating per se. I think the younger generations will have a more successful time because of the change in societal norms.

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Even in a narrow definition of personal reproductive success, LGBTI people can have their own biological children relatively easily now. Whether we end up solo or in relationships, we contribute to our families and to society. Not partnering up is a valid choice, it is only an issue if you desperately wanted to do so and could not.

 

No where did I say or imply that I didn't think it was a valid choice. In our modern society it is absolutely a valid choice. However the OP asked if we thought we are wired for relationships. There are obvious survival benefits to forming strong relationships. (Something a whole lot more than a group of friends.) Ancient people with that characteristic would be much more likely to pass on their genes so we would be predisposed to want to form relationships.

 

The only reason I mention homosexuality is because "genetic deniers" have a somewhat valid point that if we were simply born gay we should have died out by now. Yes, some gay people have always had natural children, but we should have declined over history and not stayed a consistent variant. (Recent developments in child creation are kind of irrelevant to this discussion.)

 

My only point was that homosexuality is likely caused by a combination of genetics and hormones making it a natural variant on the human spectrum. It's possible that a desire to be alone could work the same way, but it would be a minority variant just like homosexuality.

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I always feel like an odd man out in these dating/relationship threads. I know I'm not wired for partnership. Even when I was partnered, I sought and furiously defended my time alone and felt somewhat not myself, but I did love my partner. After he died, I felt broken-hearted, but interestingly, I never felt alone or felt like I needed to fill a void.

 

10 years later, I've led a very satisfying single life (based on my own assessment, not society's). My true friends and family totally understand I'm not seeking partnership, and they get really confused when I date guys bc I enjoy the romantic aspect of it, but I don't see dating as a means to an end (partnership). Hence, this is partly why I'm in this hobby today. The sex is great - don't get me wrong, I'm a slut. ;) However, thru this hobby I also get a ton of romance without the expectation of a partnership. I don't have to give up my choice to be happily single or send confusing messages to dating prospects.

 

By the way, I'm not at all bothered by the fact that I will grow old and perhaps discover that I do want a partnership. I think most of us will grow old and regret something. :) If that occurs, I will deal with the pain then, but for now, I'm just gonna enjoy every drop of my present choices. Lord, why do I feel like Isabel Archer all of the sudden? :D

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