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Over a million Finns live alone, and one in every ten Finns never moves in with their partner or gets married. One of the reasons why being single and living alone has become more common is the abandoning of traditional relationship norms. This makes it easier to choose your way of life, as some people don’t even want a relationship. Being free and being able to decide things by yourself are seen as benefits of living alone.

However, not all of those living alone are happy with their situation but long for a partner to share their daily life with, or at least for a safe relationship that would fill their emotional and physical needs. Finding a partner (or partners in the case of polyamorous and open relationships) and building a relationship and committing to it involve challenges. The partners in a relationship need to be ready to face these challenges to preserve their independence but at the same time to become close enough to accept the other person in their life.

Falling in love

Falling in love and admitting it to yourself and your partner usually involves joy, happiness and optimism about the future but also risks and fear of losing the other person. Do I really want to commit right now and to this relationship? What if I choose the wrong person? What if my partner feels I’m the wrong person and leaves me? How do I know I won’t find someone who’s even better? How many relationships should I have before committing to someone? If I don’t commit now, will I remain alone for the rest of my life? A lot of questions to which you can find an answer only by listening to your mind and to your emotions and thoughts about the other person and by trusting them. If your emotions are positive and there are no feelings of insecurity or fear in the relationship, why not try to commit rather than give up beforehand? If you hold the other person on a “trial period” and keep checking to see if they are good enough or if you date several people, it can make it difficult to start a good relationship and you may end up being alone involuntarily.

Committing to someone

Committing to your partner both at the beginning of the relationship and during it requires finding a balance between the need for intimacy and the need for your own space and independence. Both of you need to find time for what you consider important and to do things your own way so that you can express and fulfil your basic needs and influence decisions that concern you both.

Building intimacy and sexuality takes time in a relationship, and it doesn’t really begin until the most intense phase of falling in love – with its “hormone storms” – has somewhat subsided. In terms of sexuality too, it is important to preserve your independence but at the same time to treat your partner openly and approvingly at a mental and physical level. Both of you should be able to receive and give without feelings of submission.

Building relationships and committing to them is quite similar between straight couples and gay/lesbian couples – and so are the associated difficulties. As regards other sexual and gender minorities, research and other literature is limited. However, based on practical experience gained through consultations, differences only tend to concern external factors, such as bigger challenges in finding a partner.

What makes a good relationship?

What are happy couples like? They show their affection through words, gestures and/or acts. They also express their negative emotions more openly and try to consciously maintain and strengthen their interaction even about difficult issues. They tell each other about small happy moments in daily life but also about their hopes, needs, joys and annoyances (also when it comes to sex). They remain loyal to each other, and other people know they’ll stick together even during difficult times. They spend enough time together but also let each other be alone or together with friends. They’re there for each other when help and support are needed most: even if words are sometimes hard to find, being close and having a shoulder to cry on helps. Happy couples apologize when they need to and are able to forgive – without being too submissive. They also share the daily responsibilities of housework and other routine tasks. They accept that their partner is different and independent, and they’re flexible or try to change their behaviour when it clearly puts too much strain on the relationship. You cannot have a perfect relationship but you need to be present in the relationship. Even if there are occasional disappointments, you should never be afraid in your relationship. Happy couples treat each other in a way that leaves a warm feeling for a long time.

Information sources: FINSEX 2015