why do people have romantic relationships?

Why do people have romantic relationships?

Homework for you to think about why people have romantic relationships and whether we need to have them.

For more general advice on how to do relationships read the Brief Guide to Relationships 

This one is a bit of homework for you. You need to get a piece of paper and a pen (I’m going to use my brand new felt tips)…. Got them?

Your task

Write down all the different reasons for why people might want romantic relationships. You might want to write what you want from a romantic relationship but what also people want generally. Base this on what you’ve heard, seen and been taught.

Do that now and then come back. Once you’ve done that scroll down below.

[no cheating]

[sure you’ve done it?]

What did you write down? Here’s what I wrote (I did it on the train, the person next to me was giving me really weird looks). I bet some of it is similar to what you’ve written on your list, but that doesn’t mean there are any right or wrong answers.


Look at your list. What do you think generally? How many do you have? Are they all about one thing or lots of things?

Next bit

Now for the next bit. Which of the things on your list can only be achieved through having a romantic relationship? Think hard about each one and circle any that can only happen by having a romantic relationship. What did you find? How many circles?

What a lot of people find when I do this activity in real life is that actually, none of these (or very few) can only be achieved from having a romantic relationship. Now have a think about these quite important questions.

  • Do we expect too much from romantic relationships?
  • Is there a pressure to be in a relationship (or not be single)? If so, why?
  • What are some of the advantages to getting so much from one kind of relationship?
  • Now, what are some of the disadvantages to getting so much from one kind of relationship?
  • Where else can be get some of this stuff from?
  • Can we give some of this to ourselves?

There’s more than one kind of love (and more than one kind of relationship)

What’s the point, BISH?

We expect relationships to give us lots of things. It can feel fantastic to have someone so close and connected who can give us everything we feel we need. However just because we can get this from one person doesn’t mean we don’t have to look to our other support networks to get what we want (friends, family, community, faith, work, hobbies, social networks).

Expecting so much from just one person puts a lot of pressure on the relationship and us too.

Thinking that we have to get all of this stuff from one relationship puts pressure on people to get into one too. It’s possible to give yourself a lot of this and still be single. For instance if we count solo sex as sex (which I think we should) then people who are single can have loads and loads of very enjoyable sex indeed whenever they want (just not on the bus).

If we are solely reliant on one kind of relationship at the expense of others it can make us very dull. You know those people who gets so loved up that they totally forget their mates for a bit. But it can also make us very vulnerable.

Read this on why we should think about putting mates before dates sometimes.

Making romantic relationships seem the most important can be dangerous

Some people make someone very reliant on them and stop them from having their own lives. This is abuse.

Some people can use this to their advantage and say ‘you can get all these things from me, why do you need anyone else’. They can say that they get jealous of you spending time with other people (friends, family) or are unhappy with you pursuing your own career/work/school/college.

Also if someone is getting all the things on your sheet of paper from just one other person then it makes them really worried that if the relationship ends then so does much of what is good in their life. Their security, finances, love, sex, safety, home etc. This means that people can be in relationships that are pretty shitty: either abusive ones where they are being deliberately harmed or rubbish ones where they end up being less and less happy.

Read this about abusive relationships and what to do if you are worried about a friend.

Try and be chill about romantic relationships

Remember that all relationships do end eventually. This why it’s important to remember that there is a U in Couple. It can be lovely being together with someone but all relationships need a bit of distance too. Make sure that you keep doing your own thing and think about where else you can get some of the stuff you want or need from a relationship.

So whether you are in a relationship or not, maybe think about what it is that you want and need. Think of all the different ways that we can get these things either by yourself or with the help of others too. How can you invest your time doing your own thing and also how you can put work into all your other relationships too. Think about what kind of relationship you might want and what kind of things you definitely do want to get from a relationship.

Please leave a (nice) comment below if you like or ask me a question here.

© Justin Hancock, 2024 Find out more about me and BISH here.

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

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One thought on “Why do people have romantic relationships?

  1. Reblogged this on The Thinking Asexual and commented:
    This is a very useful, important exercise for romantic people, whether asexual or allosexual, to do, to uncover whether or not you’re expecting too much from romantic relationships or to just understand yourself better. It could also be useful for aromantic or aromantic-questioning people, if you turned it around and asked yourself: “What is available in romantic relationships that I do NOT want or need?” or “Why do I NOT want romantic relationships?” The other questions Bish, the author, includes are also worth contemplating. I especially like the one about “Can I get some of these things I want from other relationships?”

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