The value of a relationship can only be defined by those parties who live in it. The best we can do is observe what we perceive to be a healthy, positive looking relationship from a safe distance. Regardless of how close we are to another human, we will never know exactly what happens on the inside walls of their mind, nor is there a method of becoming intimately entwined in the space between two hearts.
Each individual has unique ideals and desires and places varying emphasis on love, security, intimacy and connectedness. Something that may seem too abstract to measure, but remains important is the holistic fit of your relationship based on how it makes you feel. Does my relationship make me want to be a better person? In every facet of development that I see relevant? To help evaluate we’re often met with the question of categorisation; and that is what I've classified here by the terms: ‘To Reach’ or ‘To Settle.’
In the search for a potential partner, just like in life, we choose to reach or settle. To Settle means ultimately that you want to be with someone who makes you feel comfortable. They may fall into the category of being ‘average’, or ‘just good enough’ i.e not exactly what you had hoped for. More critically it becomes glaringly obvious that many elements of their personality or persona need improvement. You may be overwhelmed by a niggling sense of ‘but…’ Everything is okay, but it’s not amazing. A large facet of settling comes down to comfort. What may be perceived happily as comfort to begin with, may evolve into boredom, and if you’re self aware enough, doubt.
The reasons that we lean towards either reaching or settling are pervasively psychological and often subconscious. Often the motivation to settle comes from a fear of winding up alone or running out of time. To settle in a relationship doesn’t mean that it will be a bad one or you’ll be unhappy. You may be perfectly sated and never wish for anything more, which is your definition of happiness, but, if you settle and find yourself wanting more, even just a tiny bit, then the discontent becomes paramount to the displacing of satisfaction, ipso facto you are truly settling.
On the flip side of the coin, ‘to reach’ means that you choose to be with a partner that inspires you to be a better person. A reacher is constantly striving towards improving their lives and growing as a person. They have an inherent desire to learn, explore and evolve.
A relationship with a reacher can either form a wonderful exchange of passion and support and grow into an elicit rollercoaster of disparate emotions, both despairing and blissful, or, it can be quite contentious and just never really work. It may be filled with euphoric highs and miserable lows, but it’ll never be dull. The determining point is often the balance between effort made for the relationship vs. effort made for (personal) reaching, or it tips nicely at the acknowledgement of compromise.
If the foundation of settle is comfort then at the crux of reach is disrupt. A relationship in this context exists on a parallel plane to a simply content relationship, and that’s because it can regularly feel uncomfortable. A reacher will consciously acknowledge their goals and strive to achieve them, sometimes a little obsessively. This can be difficult to comprehend for anybody who doesn’t share the same passion (for something), or to the same degree.
Committing to a reacher is likely to bring about frequent moments of anxiousness as it encourages us to be scrupulous of our own behaviour. It becomes tricky if you feel overwhelmed by this person’s successes, if it tips your insecurities too much or if the competition becomes more fierce than friendly. Being a lover to a reacher also assumes that you will consistently bare the intangible gift of support. With that comes a necessity to understand that ambitions will often take priority, that a reacher’s emotions can be subject to the nature of their success or failure and they have a distinct inability to do nothing. Glamour takes a back seat to work, romance to progress and leisure to application.
The same way that a relationship is reflected by the two parts that make it up, you can never really detach this sense of chasing success from the effect that it has on a relationship. In an ideal world we would all live as individuals and then come together, to live in perfect harmony as we pursued our passions and loved, authentically, madly and endlessly. But just like anything else in life, it’s a trade off that we struggle to balance. Importantly the struggle exists not because it’s all meaningless, but because it matters so much. If love is the project then how do we balance it with the pursuit of our other passions and projects? Although it can be scary, it's a robust, stimulating experience and constantly presents the challenge to chase fulfilment, making the biggest risk not taking it at all.