PS Picks: The Endless Complexity of r/relationships

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This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive early access to feature stories, an ad-free version of PSmag.com, and other benefits.

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The Endless Complexity of r/relationships: Relationship advice. Not necessarily for yourself or your loved ones—just reading about other people getting advice on their relationships. I was first introduced to one of the better Reddit forums, r/relationships, through Twitter summaries of the craziest threads, but I found myself returning often, even when there were only mundane questions about infidelity or how to convince a friend she's making a poor choice. This impulse was mildly surprising to me, though I've never been one for reality television or even romantic dramas. In hindsight, it shouldn't have shocked me (I started reading the local paper at age 12 to get the day's newest Dear Abby).

Why? Well, the threads on r/relationships are just fun, obviously. Often, they're absurd, especially posters who refuse to listen to the sensible advice they're given over and over again. They're morality plays on a grand scheme, with clear heroes and villains, even if sometimes the heroes are the advice-givers and the villains are everyone described in the scenario. But they can be illuminating and even instructive: even though the posts are obviously slanted, casting everyone as black-and-white versions of themselves instead of fully realized humans with nuances, they also speak to the endless complexity of love and relationships. I might close one tab cackling, then feel a thrill of recognition in my chest while reading the next. They help me to not feel so alone—just like the original posters who come to the forum for advice. We are social creatures. We all just want to be seen and to be loved.

Most importantly, browsing r/relationships is a great tool for reminding yourself three things: First, you deserve to be treated well by the people you allow in your life, no matter how you're related (or not) to them. Second, no matter how badly things are going or how terribly you mess up in a relationship, someone out there probably has it worse. Finally, life goes on. Most mistakes can be forgiven with honesty of time, and even if you do lose a relationship you care about deeply, you can learn from it and find someone new to love. The act of writing to a stranger for help with an emotional problem doesn't appeal to me, but, every day, I am so glad people do.

This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive early access to feature stories, an ad-free version of PSmag.com, and other benefits.

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