The Drama-Free Relationship Fantasy
Life is not drama-free and neither are relationships.
Apparently there is a new fantasy in men’s dream relationships – no drama (see Laura Hilgers’ article The Ridiculous Fantasy of a ‘No Drama’ Relationship, NY Times 7/21/2019). In fact, it's not new at all. As became immediately apparent to me (and I’m sure most female readers) and as Ms. Hilgers goes on to point out, “no drama” is just the new code for “low maintenance.” And “low maintenance” is just a euphemistic way of saying “no needs.”
It’s not difficult to see the appeal of such a fantasy – someone who will do for me without any reciprocal expectations. It does sound like a dream. But, other than the fact of the completely unrealistic nature of this expectation (there’s a reason it’s called a fantasy!), is it really what men – or women – want?
Like the idea of running off to a Polynesian island; it may be pleasant for a short while – but then desire for productivity, for meaning, for community and relationships usually sends us back home. A relationship without demands sounds pleasurable but will ultimately leave us feeling empty.
Because, contrary to those fantasies, everyone (yes, even men) wants to give. Everyone wants to be involved in the give and take of what is more appropriately defined as a relationship, not just the take. When we care, we want to give. When we give, we care. Without that, we may be two individuals sharing the same space but we are not in anything that can be remotely considered a relationship.
And not only do many of us have an innate desire to give and certainly to reciprocate but, even if unexpressed or subconscious, I think we also recognize the growth opportunity there, how the giving deepens us as individuals and our connection to others as well.
It’s not just a “ridiculous fantasy” because, to quote Laura Hilgers “Life is full of drama.” Drama, challenges, struggles, opportunities for growth – use whatever language you prefer, no one leads a drama-free life. No one escapes life’s challenges. And, although we don’t welcome them when they arise (and we pray that the Almighty spares us) most of us recognize – after the fact – that we have become deeper people through them.
And the truth is, the foolishness of one man’s request for “No drama given or allowed” is not just because of life’s big struggles (the author of the piece references a painful divorce and dealing with a loved one’s addiction) but there are small daily dramas as well.
Living with another person means coping with their moods, their struggles with their boss, their physical ailments, and even the more trivial arguments over whether to leave the heat on or off, whose turn it is to pick up the dry-cleaners, why was that bag of garbage left sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor…These are the small “dramas” of daily existence, the small yet regular occasions where personalities may clash, where emotions may flair, where the requirement in building a relationship is to focus on the giving not the taking, on the needs of your partner and not your own.
Life is not drama-free and neither are relationships. And, despite the fantasy, we wouldn’t really want it to be since it would ultimately leave us shallow and unfulfilled. Those men on Tinder or Bumble or OKCupid may actually believe what they are writing. But if they don’t recognize the immaturity of the request, marrying an actual human being will soon disabuse them of their fantasy. I just hope they will somehow have the wisdom to recognize that they are better off with this fully realized human being with all her needs and foibles than with some cardboard cut-out fantasy.