I have spent many years talking to both men and women, reading books and listening to podcasts trying to understand how others define relationships, the values they attach to them, the non expressed expectations they place on their significant others, the physical, sexual and/or emotional loneliness many feel, or the simple lack of “something missing” in their relationships.

In January 2006, I was the maid of honor to my childhood friend Zoraya. I had never given a speech before and honestly I was naively hoping I didn’t have to as I never prepared one for the occasion. I was wrong and when they called my name to say a few words I silently said to myself “oh fuck” while tightening my tummy and simultaneously saying “suck it up butter cup; go get it done.”

I briefly spoke of my love for her, our friendship and I gave them both one piece of unsolicited advice. I said something along the lines of “Do not let the outside world, including but not limited to friends and family, influence you into an idea of what a relationship and your marriage should be, but rather take the time to communicate with each other and the two of you find a way to figure out what works for you both, regardless of how different, unconventional and/or off based it seems to the rest of the world. It’s your life, your relationship, your marriage, only the two of you decide how to make it work. So don’t worry about what everyone else says.”

I was standing in a room filled with people who, although clapped for the words I said, I am not sure they necessarily believed them, as tradition, societal expectations, and rules had defined their life up until that point.

I describe myself as a bit unconventional although I readily admit, I too, have fallen prey at some point or another of the expectations of the world around me. I do not follow the ideas, standards, and even moral values placed on me by society, friends, family and the world. I make up my life as I go. I have the ability to change my mind and I get to decide how I want my relationships to be. I would be lying if the thought of what is deemed right vs wrong does not cross my mind every now and then, however I suspect that Catholic part of me will always remain, yet it does not take over me anymore. It is simply a reminder of a life I once lived.

Throughout my self discovery I have come to define what is truly important to me in a romantic relationship. I have learned that I can not possibly place so many expectations onto one person nor can I simply expect one person to satisfy all my needs, whatever those may be. Stability, happiness, financial security, emotional affection, sexual satisfaction and so many others are oftentimes impossible expectations to place on just one human. Although I truly believe the right couple can in fact make it possible.

Communication as I see it, is defined by being honest, vulnerable, and open about my expectations, what I want, what I don’t want, what I am comfortable doing, and what under no circumstances I am willing to entertain and by leaving the door ajar to what I have yet to discover or encounter. At times being honest can also be painful to me or the other person involved.

Intimacy is not just about fucking. I have always said, the biggest factor that separates a friendship and a romantic relationship for me is sexual intimacy. I am not talking about the ability to just sleep with someone and move on, but rather be able to have open and honest communication on what we want and need in that area of our lives at that precise moment in time while being aware it can simply all change overnight.

Learning to let go has been one of the hardest yet most powerful lessons I have learned in my life. There are times that no matter how much love there is between two souls we simply have to find the strength, courage, and the ability to just walk away, not necessarily for us but for them. To allow others to walk the path they have chosen and to know that loving someone is more than just holding on to them, but that at times is greatly defined by the ability to let them go.

Faithfulness can be tricky to define in an era of non stop interaction with others, blended families, dead end relationships, co-parenting, and simply all the unknown that currently exists in the world. We can’t possibly label every situation before we enter the relationship, but rather it is defined as situations arise. This is maybe where unicorns or as a friend and I recently called it Pegasus comes in. It is ultimately my desire to not want to share my body with anyone else that matters in this case.

Promises tend to be spoken words that lead to disappointment, pain, and regret. I can’t possibly make a promise about tomorrow today not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Things change and couples fall into this never ending cycle of promises that continue to be broken over time leading to resentment. It is in these moments when I have learned to take things one minute, one hour, one day at a time without making promises but continuing to be open and honest in my communication.

All around us the songs have been written and the movies have been made of the lives lived, the lovers lost, the second chances given. None are more important than the ability for us to define our relationships exactly how we want them and how they would work best for us. By challenging the world around us we become aware of what we truly want, need and desire in our lives and we start living and loving exactly how and who we want.

“Today I am a woman torn between the terror that everything might change and the equal terror that everything might carry on exactly the same for the rest of my days. — Paulo Coelho