We tried to move on, but we had problems. One afternoon Kristen and Phil, two good friends, visited us in our back yard and for the first time they understood the seriousness of what was about to happen.
Soon after, we were invited to Oakland for an outdoor dinner, but “her home” requires explanation. A few years earlier, they started a community of co-owners called Radish, where a dozen people in their twenties and thirties live together. Most have their own one-bedroom apartment, but share the cost of food, cooking responsibilities, and an outdoor area with a hot tub, fire pit, and hammock. These days, they were working from home and using extremely strict coronavirus protocols.
As a romantic relationships researcher, I have always been fascinated by such arrangements. Modern couples expect a romantic partner to meet all of their needs, but that can put the relationship under great pressure. In 2015, a team of psychologists led by Elaine Cheung discovered that depending on different people to meet different needs leads to happier relationships. Eli Finkel, also a psychologist, coined a name for such relationships: RA (alternative relationships).
An AR can be a friend or family member who fulfills a need your partner can’t meet: a triathlon athlete who trains with you because your partner doesn’t, or a brother you call to inquire about you exchange work couple hates corporate policy. This support network is not new, but for many of us it has been lost.
In order for couples to survive and thrive, they need alternative relationships. This is especially true in nightmare years like Scott and me, exacerbated by the pandemic that cut us off from our normal support network.
That night while we were sitting in radishes at a picnic table, one of the residents brought roasted asparagus, a salad with seeds and berries, and a tray of sweet potatoes, a stark contrast to all of the cold pizza and hospital food we had eaten. . As I ate and laughed, I felt happy and relaxed for the first time in months.
As we got in the car to go home, I said to Scott, “We should move here.”
Scott and I are committed professionals in our careers. Life in a church wasn’t exactly our plan in life. On the other hand, none of it had happened. So we adapt. And after months of losses, we finally got a victory: Radish had a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor. We moved three weeks later.
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