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What is a 'real' relationship?

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Couples are increasingly able to live out their relationship in a range of ways – traditional marriage and children; live together but never get married; live separately in a committed relationship (often referred to as Living Apart Together – LAT), a sexually open relationship etc. And while we have greater freedom than ever to create our relationships in ways that suit us, there can still be judgment from others who would make different choices.


Why are some relationships still considered more ‘real’ than others?


This is a question that has come up in my own life because I have been in a long-distance relationship with my partner for more than seven years – due to work commitments he now lives in Europe and I live in Australia. Throughout this time, I have been asked a number of times, ‘When will we end this unsustainable situation; when will we finally have a proper relationship?’


So, what is a proper relationship? In my mind, it is a relationship that meets our fundamental needs and desires. In my case, this would include: connection; feeling supported during challenging times; experiencing fun, laughter and joy in life; being challenged to grow as a person. Thinking about what these essential elements are for you can be a great starting point in crafting a relationship that is right for both of you because this information can act like your compass, guiding you through the twists and turns of life.


However, it is also important to remember that your needs and desires are likely to change as you move through life, which means that your relationship may also need to adjust. What suited you when you were 20 years old is unlikely to remain the same at the age of 40. Crafting a long-term relationship involves an ongoing conversation and exploration with your partner, without judging the other’s needs and aspirations, which may be different to yours. Instead, why not get curious about how you can learn a new dance together that meets both your emerging needs and desires?


If you are interested in exploring this topic more, have a look at this article I wrote for Wellbeing magazine about my own reflections of being in an unconventional long-distance relationship with my life partner, Mark.



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