What exactly does it take for someone to say that they are ‘in a relationship’? The women of the world can probably attest to the fact that The Spear isn’t the best person in the world to ask on this one, but if Seinfeld can be taken as any guide, it depends on many factors.
The first thing that comes to the mind of The Spear (and probably most men) is that there is a certain degree of solidity imparted to the formation of a relationship via what one hopes are mutual, exclusive sexual rights over one’s partner - at least so far as prototypical monogamous relationships are concerned. Two partners sleeping with each other and nobody else – right?
This voluntarily closed circle of physical intimacy helps to build another key aspect of any healthy relationship; trust. Men can trust that the children they look after are their own, and women can trust that their partners are focused on the welfare of their children, rather than that of some other bastard children down the road. This would seem to be a key biological, evolutionary-driven level of trust, at work subconsciously even on members of childless couples. Don’t mess with the genes!
More broadly speaking, you would want to form a relationship with somebody who you feel you could trust with day to day matters - such as money and assets, physical safety, favours, grooming and domestic chores, etc. You may enjoy sleeping with somebody, but would you really want to be in a relationship with them if they were stealing from you, threatening you, playing nasty tricks on you or treating you like a servant? Probably not, unless you happen to have a proclivity for the type of sadomasochism typically confined to the filthy pages of a certain Fifty Shades of Grey.
Someone who you could trust on so many levels and to such a degree would indubitably be classified as your ‘friend’ – perhaps even as your ‘best friend’. BFF! This of course gives rise to the terms ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’; their singular forms consequent from the aforementioned monogamy. Girls may have many ‘boy friends’, and boys might have many ‘girl friends’, but when it comes down to it, it is only the ‘boyfriend’ or the ‘girlfriend’ who has both the trust AND the sexual rights, which on their own constitute no more than a ‘friend’ or a ‘good root’ respectively (The Spear realises he may be being a tad optimistic in this respect, but for the sake of the argument let him dare to take the liberty).
Now if two people are best friends who also happen to get into each other’s pants with regular frequency, it should be no surprise that they would also want to spend lots of time together - so much so that each would consider the other their default partner of choice for almost any non-gender-specific activity. Meals, movies, travel, relaxation, shopping, hanging out; each person would look to the other, primarily and near-automatically, to be their ‘partner’ in crime. Indeed, where practicable, the default partnering mechanism even extends so far as the world of business, with many husband-wife based companies in existence in countries with advanced women’s rights. The Spear has worked for one such company and was today a client of one.
Especially relating to matters of money and business - but not limited to them in the slightest - are the benefits of a relationship which derive from the simple fact that two people in a sexy BFF situation, taken together, have more scope for redundancy than does a single person.
Partners in any type of meaningful relationship should have each other’s backs, so that the pain can be lessened by sharing, and the benefits of synergies exploited. Sharing a residence, providing for the other when out of luck, caring for each other in ill-health, re-filling the car when out of petrol, etc. The existence of a relationship should imply the willingness of its constituent partners to do these types of acts, and by doing so break the bottle of champagne on what could be considered a third super-being (the relation-ship); separate and distinct from the two individuals, and superior to either.
Marriage is clearly the formalisation of this kind of relationship; literally putting it in writing and declaring to do as much publically. Marriage can however be a sham, and so by itself cannot be said to be the best type of relationship, or even to constitute a real relationship. It is merely the formalisation of a particular kind of relationship, which may or may not exist in reality, but which is nonetheless the societal ideal due to the seeming evolutionary superiority of the family unit - the strength of which it promotes.
And with that in mind, The Spear will finish off his can of baked beans, curl up in his single bed and cry himself to sleep while listening to Celine Dion’s My Heat Will Go On.