A quite radical act, but one that is available to all of us in this modern world of supposed freedom, would be to change completely the rules governing our relationships. For thousands of years, most of us have unthinkingly allowed our relationships to fall into the realm of the public sphere. But what if we were to take back our power over our own relationships? What if we were to re-conceive and make personal the very notion of what a relationship is? How drastically different might our relationships look, and how might that change our lives for the better?
Far too many of us essentially hand over control over one of the most sacred aspects of our lives. We allow social norms to determine what can and can't be said in a situation, we date people and then discard them as soon as we can find a serious enough flaw, we hand our most sacred romantic love relationship over to the State and Church through the institution of marriage, and we allow conventional parental norms to come between us and our children.
Why do we trust social and institutional norms over our own intuition, or own personal needs and desires? Why do we feel it is perfectly acceptable, when we are single, to discard a lover completely just because we can't imagine marrying the person? Why do we run from friendship as soon as we experience any disagreement or conflict? Why do we so easily and routinely end perfectly wonderful marriages because of infidelity? Why do we accept flawed notions of possession in love when it is actually something else we desire for ourselves? If we are doing everything right, following socially-acceptable guidelines, why do we feel so isolated and lonely? What are we lacking?
Of course we all have to be aware of social norms so that we can behave in appropriate ways when that is what is required. When relationships are defined as boss / employee, colleagues, buyer / seller, business partners, teacher / student...when relationships are defined in this way, then obviously the purpose is for two people to come together in order to carry out a function. It is, in fact, important to respect these dynamics and even to realize that, for the most part, relationships that are formed by these terms will not transcend into other, deeper realms. In fact, the vast majority of our human relationships are defined purely by need and function. Most relationships start when two people can identify and address a mutually-beneficial need.
But there is something else within us that begs for something more, something deeper. We don't want to be seen merely as a function, as a commodity, as a part in some equation. We want to be accepted for who we are and perceived as unique individuals. We want to be seen! We want to be appreciated! We want to be valued for not just what we do, but for who we are.
While this deep, sometimes unspoken need is probably present within each of us, it is also true that few of us understand exactly what is required from us in order to realize this need. In fact, as long as we conceive relationships as "conditional" (I accept this person as long as she/he does X or doesn't do Y), we cannot expect to receive this kind of complete and unconditional acceptance. Likewise, we cannot expect unconditional loyalty from others unless we are first prepared to offer it to others. We cannot expect to be seen, accepted, and loved unconditionally by a mate unless we are first willing to completely stop judging.
But when we are able to act on our freedom to toss aside all the trappings of formal relationships, social norms, customs, and conventions...then we can experience the indescribable bliss that can only come with an unconditional love, acceptance, and loyalty that goes both ways. What one finds, when he has achieved this kind of relationship, is that it is suddenly possible to share all of yourself with that person, without fear and without negative consequence. It is precisely this which is impossible when we allow our relationships to be conditional (I will date you as long as I don't see any major flaws, I will stay married to you as long as you respect my rules, I will stay friends with you as long as it doesn't get too complicated, etc.).
It would be truly unfortunate to go through life without experiencing all that this kind of relationship has to offer. But in fact, the state of unconditional love, acceptance, and true loyalty is not something that any of us can expect unless we are first willing to give it. Even then, we will continue to be rejected by those who are not ready to accept this gift. But when it works, nothing in life is more worth it.