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Miranda and Steve, from Sex and The City, are cuddling on my TV screen. Steve wants to cuddle, anyway. Miranda has a look of deep discomfort on her face. Miranda asks him, “So how long are we going to do this?” She’s uncomfortable. She’s got things to do, floors to sweep, legal briefs to write…important stuff. Steve wants to know, “What, you want a timeframe for cuddling?”

It makes me wonder. How do people come to agreement or compromise when their wants and needs in a relationship are so different?

I don’t have a lot of relationship experience. Seriously. Twenty-nine years old, I’ve been in three “I Love You” relationships – a cumulative six-point-three years of experience. The rest have been like, two people spending a short time together before something explodes, detonates, or otherwise blows up, fizzles out, or just kind of fades away.

This does not give me a whole lot of experience with making things work. I’m still learning to communicate. I’m still learning how to disagree effectively. I’m still learning to trust that just because I don’t agree with something, we get in an argument, or hurt each other’s feelings, that it doesn’t mean that the relationship is over. I’m still figuring out how to be confident in a relationship and accept the loss of control that occurs when you agree to commit yourself to someone other than…yourself.

So how does that happen? How do people balance their needs with what the other person can give? How do two seemingly disparate people get drawn together in the first place? How do you draw the line that says, “Up to this point, I can deal, but anything after that is beyond my limit.” I don’t mean things like, “I won’t tolerate abuse” or “I don’t want you to cheat on me.”

I mean things like, where one person likes physical affection and the other could take it or leave it. Or one person is a fast food junkie and the other is a health nut. Or one person is a neat freak and the other does dishes once a week. On a good week. One person might be a sex freak and the other happy with sex once a month. Everyone Loves Raymond says that couples pick on each other and argue all the time, but they stick together. They have different needs and wants, but still make it work. I know nothing is like it is on TV, but it makes me wonder.

How do couples reconcile those differences? And when does it become, “We are so different that this is no longer worth it”?

I am continually drawn to people that are my almost polar opposite. It’s almost like in some respects, I’m preventing myself from having to make things work because I’m leaving myself the option of calling it off when it gets uncomfortable – “We’re too different.”

But by the same token, I enjoy the contrast that happens with people that are not like me. I like people that make me think things that are different than things I could think of on my own. I like getting new perspectives, new viewpoints, new experiences. I like to teach things that I know, I like to learn things that I don’t know.

In trying to develop new relationships, I am trying to determine where to draw the “difference line”. How much difference is a good difference, and how much means that it will just create problems and difficulties for the duration of the relationship? Does the fact that, for example, I might want to cuddle and he can’t stand it, mean that we’re destined to failure? Because I don’t cook, and he likes to, does it mean that we won’t make it? Is it okay for us to be different? If I disagree or voice my needs, will he leave me? Does it mean that eventually we’ll wake up and find we have no connection because we have nothing in common? What’s going to happen?

This also brings up the question in my mind, of what is settling? How do you say to yourself, these are the things that I want, and need, and what things am I willing to give up? What am I getting in return? Am I ever going to get what I need from this relationship?

I think about stuff like this, and all I can think of is, it all comes down to that certain…something. That spark. That little flutter that happens when I see his name on my caller ID. That thrill I feel when I hear his voice say my name, that shiver that happens when he touches my face with his fingertips. For me, it all comes down to that. I could have everything in the world with someone, but if I don’t have that, I have nothing.

I guess it just means that there’s a lot of things I’d love to have in a relationship. But there’s only one thing I truly need. I don’t know how to define it other than to call it the “spark”, or chemistry, or whathaveyou. I can’t manufacture it. I can always try to come to terms with differences, but I can’t come to terms with not having the spark.

Did I answer my own question? I don’t know. It helped to blog it out though. Thanks for listening.

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