Matching Standards of Care

A few stray thoughts on what a romantic partnership means to me

I won’t enter a relationship unless the other party is able to match or slightly exceed the standard of care I already provide for myself. It is not just simply in my favour: I expect the other person to care for themselves, too. Just as I do to me and them, so will they to themselves and me.

Relationship is partnership – it is active, conscious, intentful nurturing. It is witnessing. It is growth. It is awareness and presence in the spaces you occupy with your partner. It is walking through life with hands held. It is sometimes flying away to do your own thing, trusting that they will always be here to welcome you home.

I am not interested in having a boy/girlfriend for the sake of it, to fulfil a societal expectation. Though I sometimes long for it – lifelong spinster that I am – I am not desperate. I am very lucky to be occupied with a fulfilling career, surrounded by good colleagues and many great friends. I am happily sustained by my platonic and familial connections, as well as a strong relationship and commitment to myself: my heart, my mind, and recently, my body. So a relationship to another to me is supposed to be an extension of this relationship to myself: to joyfully, lovingly, wholeheartedly provide that standard of care to another, and to experience receiving that same care in return.

Because of this, I admittedly have high standards. But I cannot be blamed: I have witnessed this level of romantic camaraderie among friends and strangers, especially older ones with decades of ups and downs between them. I have also seen the opposite – of complacency, insecurity, growing dismay and non-participation – and frankly, why settle for crumbs? Life is short, life is a feast, life is hard and capricious; love should make your world bigger and your heart braver.

Since childhood, I spent decades developing sustaining outlets and inlets that feed the wellspring of my soul. This is why I strongly value my personal boundaries, ambitions and personhood. My work is important, arising from and core to my drive. My avenues of expression are essential for functioning. In short, there is a whole ecosystem inside me that I owe my best self from, and I am not going to shut that down.

Being a free-spirited individual, my worst nightmare is to be trapped.

I don’t mean responsibilities and obligations. I don’t mean rising up when the time comes.

I mean extinguishment. Annihilation. A hand closing in on my candle’s flame. Wringing blood and air. The shattering of glass. The descend to fatalism and fatigue. The pointlessness of communication. When you’re drowning so hard in the middle of the ocean, there’s no point keeping your limbs moving. And you sink and let the fishes eat you.

Much like how I think about passion, I think love should be freeing. Passion and love should be transformative: they bring you closer to your best self. Your partner facilitates, compels and witnesses this becoming; vice versa.

What a lovely thing to one day experience such a wonder. To cook and shop and be successful for each other. To be refuge and drive. To live life as conspirators for adventure.

For now I will be this other for myself.

Hello, hello

    • Sem
    • July 29, 2023

    Hailing from India and having reached an age where my parents are beginning to insist that an arranged marriage situation will be on the horizon for me, these words reassured some of my own thoughts that I haven’t been able to articulate well. Thank you!!

Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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