“Relationship Material”


What is “relationship material”? I’ve been thinking about this ever since writing my second post on slut-shaming, where I mention that someone warned me that a guy I was interested in was not “relationship material”.

“Relationship material” usually, I think, refers to someone’s viability as a romantic partner. The problem is that everybody has different needs from a romantic partner. This is most visible in dating sites, where individuals (or a quiz) can identify who is “relationship material” for them. All kinds of needs can be set out: “Someone independent with a job and a car,” “Someone who values traditional gender roles,” “Someone who likes the idea of moving every couple years,” “Someone who is okay with the fact that I’m married,” etc.

I think online dating sites often highlight the issues with having a third party decide who is “relationship material” for another person. They make it obvious that individuals have individual relationship needs, and then try their best to design algorithms to identify these needs and find “matches.” Members can often identify what they are looking for, with options such as “hang out,” “friendship,” “long-term relationship,” “no strings attached,” “marriage,” etc., and often, I see written on these profiles, “Let’s just see what happens.”

“Let’s just see what happens,” leaves, literally, infinite possibilities open, from good conversation partner, to one-night stand, to friend, to best friend, to friend with benefits, to life partner, to this-person-wants-to-have-bikini-oil-wrestling-at-their-wedding-and-I-do-too!, to any of the other infinite points on the spectrum of possibility you can fathom. This attitude, I believe, is more reflective of the real-life dating world. You get out there, you present yourself to the world, and you see what happens. Maybe a fun conversation at the bar, maybe a one-night romp in the sheets, maybe a wedding down the road.

All of these things are types of relationships. They are all wonderful possibilities. We can learn something from all of them. Wouldn’t you hate to miss out on a great experience and new person in your life because someone (or some website) thought they were not “relationship material” for you based on what they read in an online profile? (I am reminded of the “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Ted’s friends look up his date online, and find out she’s a total BAMF, and he freaks out thinking he’s not good enough.)

And try to think of some “universal qualities” that we all want out of any relationship. Think you’ve got some? I’d like to hear them, because with all of the kinks and cultures out there, there’s always someone, somewhere, who doesn’t want exactly the thing you’d think is universal.

So, when someone says someone else isn’t “relationship material”, I can’t help but laugh inside. How could they possibly know?  The person in question may have qualities that the speaker finds unattractive or undesirable in a relationship, but that’s just their own perspective. Love and friendship often blossom from the unlikeliest of places, so what authority do they have to make that call?

I love many people in my life. I love family, friends, lovers, lover-friends…most defy all effort to accurately label. I do not have anyone in my life that I call a “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend,” but all of the people in my life who are there for me when I am in need, and vice versa, no matter what that particular “need” is at the moment, are people that are “relationship material” to me in some way. I have so many varied and even conflicting needs, that I wouldn’t dare ask one person to meet them all, because it would be impossible. But the various and very different people in my life, when combined together, do meet them all. I guess my “relationship needs” include, “be a part of the team.”

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  1. Love this! You put online dating sites under the correct microscope. In the end, they are all a profit-making-business; they want money for your perceived void. The mainstream sites (eHarmony, ChristianMingle, etc.) play off an age-old fairy-tale of a Soul Mate, when the reality is exactly what you’ve listed as “relationship material” in a plethora of ways. Popular American culture is more without than within. Specifically, many search outside (externally) for fulfillment at the expense of internal fulfillment given by self. At the very least the 2 should be in flexible balance. How can ANY one person meet another person’s evolving desires, wants, needs (including mental, spiritual, emotional & sexual) every single day for the remainder of their lives? That fairy-tale is quite unrealistic. For anyone to think that one person can be that demi-god, well, is no less than egocentric truthfully.

    Opponents of open/swinger, polyamory, ethical-sluttery etc, typically criticize even degrade ‘perpetual expanding love’ as wrong or hell-bound sinful. They fail to realize they’ve fallen into the turn-style trap of projecting mistakes or perceived failures onto a lifestyle rather than taking ownership for poor management by the people. Again, the external/without emphasis. The successful functioning mechanism in alternative lifestyles is proactive honorable integrity. Oddly enough, that could or should be in any walk of life, right?

    Excellent blog Shannon!

    • Thank you. 🙂

      I honestly respect people who have found happiness with lifelong monogamy, for those who truly have found it. I would even consider it a “victory” for people to acknowledge that serial monogamy throughout one’s life is an acceptable and fulfilling romantic lifestyle. As we grow and change, so do our needs, and so do our partners’, so accepting that you may part ways for happier pairings down the line is a healthy train of thought, I think.


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