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By April 14, 2011

Relationships of Convenience

A woman calls a man once or twice a week. He’s always happy to hear from her and likes being around her. But he notices that every time she asks him to take her someplace, which means it always costs him money to enjoy her company.

A guy calls a woman intermittently. She really likes him and is hopeful that something will come of the infrequent time they spend together. Every time he calls he asks for something dinner, sex, to stay at her place a few days, and even cash "loans."

Think of the Married Person with “Someone on the Side.”

The “Someone on the Side” naively believes a divorce is imminent and hangs on to their elusive partner. Meanwhile, the Married Person has a loving family and support at home, and an adoring, deluded lover on the side to fill in whatever sexual blanks are left in the primary relationship.

What all these relationships have in common is that the partner was selected for convenience. The dictionary defines convenience as “something that increases one’s personal comfort or that provides one with a material advantage.” Therefore, a convenient relationship is one that is suited for or favorable to one’s comfort, purpose or needs.

A convenient situation might be described as any relationship where someone is not pulling their fair weight, or where someone is benefiting to the other’s detriment, or where someone is getting a great deal more from the situation than they are giving. They are benefiting and you are not.

Sometimes we make choices to enter into relationships based upon purely selfish reasons – reasons that have nothing to do with love, commitment to growth and development, or with sharing our life. People may say they are with their partner because of love, but often when you dig a little deeper, you’ll hear statements like:

  • I wanted to start a family
  • I was lonely… tired of being by myself all the time
  • I needed emotional support
  • I needed two incomes
  • I wanted to feel like I had somebody in my corner
  • I was sprung on the sex and couldn’t give it up
  • I wanted a real mother for my children
  • Love is a mixture of many things: intimacy, commitment, and sexual passion seem to be three key components. People get together and attach to one another for one or more of these components, and we all select our mates to satisfy whatever needs we feel are the most important.

Sometimes the need is socially acceptable and a good basis upon which to build a wholesome, healthy relationship. Then there are others of you that knew you were setting the other person up for emotional pain, but you didn’t care as long as YOUR needs were getting met.

But if a relationship was entered into for convenience, does that automatically mean the relationship won’t be successful? Are relationships of convenience entered into for ease and comfort, or because people are really afraid of truly intimate relationships?

I say the reasons we enter into and stay in relationships of convenience vary from case to case. However, I have selected eight common reasons that we select these types of relationships:

Sex. Sex games are one of the most common reasons for relationships of convenience. The partner calls at infrequent intervals, usually late at night, knowing its okay to come on over to get served. You are rarely if ever escorted out in public, or introduced to family, friends or coworkers. Communication with you is maintained strictly to continue the sexual relationship.

Companionship. It’s common for older couples to base relationships on companionship. As a matter of fact, I was told “the first time you marry, it’s for love; the second time for security; the third time for companionship.” The sexual attraction and sparks that younger people seek in a romantic partner is of much less importance than being able to have fun, talk to, and share the rest of their life with someone that can be admired and respected.

Gotta Have Somebody. Many women believe they are nothing without a man. Dependent (or lazy), they may marry believing that gaining the title of Mrs. and a husband will make life easier and happier. In spite of their careers, education and economic success, these women often believe that without a man they are a complete failure.

Desperate Fear. Fear of AIDS, of herpes, of being alone forever. The thought of having sex with an attractive partner and dying the following year is frightening. Many people are entering committed relationships and/or marrying with the hopes that they can remove themselves from the scariness of the singles scene and avoid this drama.

Others acknowledge that the years are passing with nothing much to show for them. Looking to the future, they see themselves elderly and alone. In fact, men that were formerly major-league playas have expressed to me their interest in settling down and finding that special woman; they have no shame in admitting their fears of being single, without roots and alone.

Belief in Traditions. Yes, there are large numbers of single parent households. However, most of us still believe in the traditional family unit and setting. The single Mom wants her children to have a good male role model and father figure; the single Dad wants a woman to teach his daughters about “girly stuff.” Neither wants to set an example of wild and sinful single living for their children, so they get married. Sometimes a man or woman will get into a relationship or marry with a strong desire to “save and protect” the children of their partner from a life without a male and female parent in the home and from suffering the associated economic and emotional hardships.

Economic Gain. Hey, two incomes are better than one! Women often enter into relationships of this sort because they still want a man to take care of them. Sometimes men play the game by moving in on a woman with financial clout to use her very nice car, credit cards, and eat up all her food without spending a dime of his money. Young women without economic resources see this as a way to acquire the financial stability they cannot get alone.

Men often see that marriage is important to long-term career goals. In our society, married men are viewed as more stable, and often get bigger raises and more frequent promotions than bachelors. Other couples pool their money to acquire property or other goods, or move in together to save rent money, especially if the women is a single parent receiving subsidized low-rent housing.

Influence of Friends, Family or Society. These relationships are entered into often because of pressure from family to get married and provide grandchildren “because you’re not getting any younger you know!” Others have the attitude that marriage is a rite of passage you go to school, then college, get a job, get married, have kids, then get divorced! Others do it out of boredom: “Everyone else is doing it. Let’s try this out and see if it works.”

Perverted Reasons. Addicts and alcoholics looking for someone to be responsible for them and their lives so that they can be freely irresponsible. Co-dependent personalities are often attracted to irresponsible individuals as they get to play parent and need to be needed.

Also included in this category are child molesters which pretend to love you to get free, uninhibited access to your children after gaining your trust. “ One guy I’d dated for only two weeks after my divorce couldn’t wait that long. He showed a lot of interest in her from the beginning. He followed up by offering to babysit my then 19-month-old daughter so that I could go out with my friends! Huh? I thought WE were trying to get something going. He hadn’t spent that many hours alone with ME yet!”

Desperation and low self-esteem often play a role when we work hard to maintain relationships of convenience. If you notice that your relationships have a pattern of being convenient for your partners and unsatisfying for you, or you don’t feel good about the balance of giving in your relationship, talk to your partner about your concerns. It’s unhealthy to remain in a relationship where you are concerned about consistently meeting your partners needs, and he or she is not the least bit interested in meeting yours.

Relationships of convenience are often manipulative games, hurtful and unhealthy for the partner unaware of what is going on. However, when mindful adults are each getting what they want or expect to get out of a relationship, then the “relationship of convenience” can be happy and very satisfying to both partners.

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