In a relationship? It's complicated

BY JOY STRUTHERS

Us at Mumford and Sons

I don’t know what I think about relationships anymore. They used to be so important to me.

When I was growing up, I spent so much time thinking about love and romance. I wanted the fairy tale. A best friend, lover and partner. A man I could marry and have children with. Grow old with.

Now I just don’t know. I have love in my life and I have loved before, but I don’t want to define it. I can’t.

How do people define relationships now? Is it all relationship status posts and memes about love? Instagram shots of dinners out and Halloween costumes?

What happened to dating? Engagements? Marriages?

Social media asks us to write on our profiles whether we are single, in a relationship, or married. On Facebook you select an option from a drop down list so friends or followers can see your romantic connections. You can even tag another party so it will show up on their profile if they wish.

This seems strange to me, and I don’t think it is necessary. I am not on social media to meet people. I am not available, so why should it matter if I am in a relationship or not? It is also hard to fit what I have into one of the options given.

If you know me, then you should know already that I am in a relationship and have been on and off since I left my ex, the father of my first two children. I have another child with my partner/lover/friend that I can’t and won’t define.

I live alone in my own place with my three children. I am a single mom, but that doesn’t mean I am single. It doesn’t mean I am available. I don’t think relationships need to be defined at all, and I don’t want to be judged by mine.

Studies show that traditional families are declining in Canada. There are also more single-person households than ever before. In the 2011 census, Statistics Canada says parents with children made up just 39.2 per cent of households, and a rising number of those parents were not officially married. The number of common-law couples went up almost 14 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

Families and relationships are changing rapidly. There are mixed families with children from different marriages or relationships. There are two-father and two-mother families, or even multiple people in relationships with each other. Should they have to post this publicly? Do these relationships define the people in them?

I don’t think so. I don’t believe that traditional relationships and marriages are needed at all.

If you want them, and want to publicize them or shout from the rooftops that is fine with me. I don’t care if you tag your partner in every post and photo, or write countless status updates for every anniversary, birthday and holiday.

For me that doesn’t work.

I have my own reasons. Mainly I am uneasy defining things. I don’t know if I deserve to be married or want to be. There are a lot of other problems that seem insurmountable.

Social media contributed to my trust issues in the past, and I am not sure if I can get over that. The problem with instant access to so many friends and acquaintances is exactly that. The intimacy you can share with so many people. The connections you can maintain.

I have taken my youngest son’s father off my Facebook friend-list maybe 12 times. I have blocked and unblocked him, gone into his account and even unfriended his ex-girlfriends. I have sent messages to other women that he talks to and questioned the appropriateness of their conversations. I’m not proud of it, but I am the kind of woman who won’t put up with that sort of stuff.

I decided it was too painful for me to have my son’s father on my social media accounts at all. I don’t want to see what people post on his wall. I don’t want to wonder who he is talking to.

I also don’t have to be defined by my marital status. I can just be Joy Struthers, mother, photographer and journalist. I can stand by the causes I believe in and be myself. I can be independent.

I don’t have to be someone’s wife or girlfriend, and I don’t have to tell people whether I am available or not. I should be respected enough that people won’t care. I shouldn’t feel forced to put up a status so that men won’t hit on me or harass me. They should learn that unless someone says they are looking for a connection, they probably don’t want to be asked.

Just me, and a tree. (Photo by Shafaq Parwez)

Credits:

First photo by Joy Struthers, second photo by Shafaq Parwez.

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