I know what you’re thinking.
That I’m talking about pioneer families traversing the rough and tumble Cumberland Trail in Conestoga wagons who are crying about the difficult nature of their journey.
You might be thinking that I’m referring to members of the struggling Donner Party lamenting about eating their frozen dinner from the night before.
Again, you’d be wrong.
I’m talking about women who intelligently relinquish hopes of ever applying a death grip on that completely non-existent solid brass ring.
These smart, emotionally enterprising women are the ones who’ve lived enough life to understand that very often, a nice, brass plated ring works just as well.
Siggy is a blogging colleague who authors the blog, Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. He recently wrote a post based on Lori Gottlieb’s article from The Atlantic. “La Gottlieb” wrote about turning 40 and her search for love and marriage that have eluded her for 39 of her 40 years on this planet. Siggy’s piece, “Settling For Mr. Good Enough”, is interesting. He counters some of Gottlieb’s precepts about love and offers a few suggestions of his own.
Now, if you believe what he has to say, you’ll love this post. If you have any doubts at all about the current state of your life–in other words, if you are miserable in your relationship or if you’re miserable without one, spare yourself–this post won’t hit home; it will simply just “hit”. After all, Siggy is a man.
What would he know about settling?
I’m sure Siggy knows a thing or two about it. We all do. Sadly.
I really loathe the term. It implies reluctant acceptance of second best or not good enough and frankly, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Well, it isn’t all the time. There are many exceptions.
To me, it’s merely representative of change. It marks an important paradigm shift in your thinking with regard to your relationships and yes, it applies to both genders.
I will be 49 next month. I have never married…never been engaged and have never had a child. There was never a burning, yearning in me to conceive. I am convinced that some women aren’t cut out for motherhood. In my case, my ability to conceive was compromised significantly after a very serious car accident in 1991. In many ways, that made my decision easier.
And more difficult.
I always wanted the option to have a baby or not. To be told that I might not have a choice wasn’t easy to hear. But I had to make emotional adjustments.
Remember that sentence.
OK, that covers motherhood, but why did I never marry?
Well, in all honesty, I made horrific choices in relationships. I was the product of a very difficult divorce and was unwittingly brought in as the third corner to my parents extremely bitter divorce triangle. It had an unbelievable effect on me and in many ways, it still does—almost 30-years later.
But I can’t blame my parent’s divorce on everything. It’s easy and convenient to do so, but I can’t. I made horrible choices because I had a horrible sense of myself.
If I were to dissect every relationship I’ve ever had, they would be perfectly reflective of who and what I was at the time. If I didn’t like myself, I had this ridiculous, destructive pattern–I partnered with horrible men who were self-centered losers.
And what’s really interesting, is that during periods in which I really liked myself, I remained single.
I just went through a period like that. After my last relationship ended, the one which I swear was a match made by Satan himself, I went underground. I spent four years trying to figure out what the hell I had been doing and why. I was in my mid-40’s and like Lori Gottlieb, love—real love—had been elusive. But for the most part, I was the reason why. I had to come to terms with my complicity in my own unhappiness. I failed at every relationship because I had failed me.
After years of of painful introspection, I was able to reconcile this. I forgave myself and made it my life’s ambition to rectify all my mistakes and quell my anger.
The result? Incredible acuity.
I was not only able to see my mistakes, but the mistakes that many of my friends, my family and colleagues had made.
So many friends would call me, literally crying and they’d ask me–of all people–where was their perfect Mr. Man? I would tell them that right man for them is out there. He’s in the library…shopping for cucumbers at Kroger’s….he’s driving down the Interstate….sitting as his computer reading Drudge or Huffington (depending on her politics–I’m delightfully “cadgy” that way) and I’d finish strong by telling them that maybe, just maybe, he was wondering where she was.
And then they’d spoil the moment for both us by asking if I thought Mr. Wonderful “would be cute”.
This infuriated me. I’d get flustered and shake my head, then rub my face with my hands in that patented Brian Kieth move as TV’s Uncle Bill from “Family Affair”.
Help me, Lord.
Looks are grossly overrated.
LOOKS ARE GROSSLY OVERRATED.
The perception of “cute” is also idiosyncratic. One woman’s George Clooney is another woman’s Steve Buscemi. Besides, looks fade.
Perhaps it is as Siggy wrote: all due to Hollywood’s celluloid interpretation of what love is….and isn’t…. that women have this idea of marrying handsome hunky men and men will fall in love with gorgeous, physical specimens of femalia.
On certain occasions, yeah–sure that happens, but most of the time it doesn’t.
We love who we love.
I knew a guy in college who was by definition, gorgeous. He went for gorgeous women. I had no doubt that this man with Hollywood good looks would eventually marry a model…or two…and life would be pretty for them both. We both graduated and he went his way and I went mine and I didn’t hear from him for five years. He called me one evening to tell me that he was finally getting married. He sent me her photo. She was, compared to the women I’d always seen him with in college, quite plain, but he told me that she was the love of his life and the most beautiful women he’d ever known.
I cried when he told me that.
See? He didn’t settle. He celebrated the paradigm shift in his life by marrying the woman who filled as many emotional quadrant requirements as possible. Sure, she might not have been Helen of Troy in the looks department, but she was nice and giving and sweet and loved him to death and learned to love his hobby of fly fishing and made it a point to be kind to strangers and they shared core values and all of that…all of these things made her beautiful to him. And he could never have fallen in love so fully, so authentically without making necessary emotional adjustments in his life.
So, Lori Gottlieb…listen up: quit fretting. Relax. Enjoy the fourth decade of your life. Quit coordinating certain life benchmarks with specific life deadlines. You won’t turn into a yenta just because you’re 40 and not married. And don’t settle; just learn to “love right” for the woman you are; the woman you’ve become. You’re not who you were ten years ago, you aren’t who you’ll become ten years from now. Don’t change what you want in a man, just change the way you view what you want. Just change your perspective. Separate society’s preconceived notions of love and allow your heart to speak for itself. Do this and I assure you, THEE relationship will appear, almost out of thin air and it’ll come when you least expect it and when you really need it.
Make the necessary emotional adjustments.
It’s like this: Look at the pretty Lamborghini and admire it’s sleek lines. Ogle it’s power, imagine it’s performance, but fall in love with the solid, dependability of the Honda Civic. It’s pretty, too–just in a different, more practical way and it takes less to maintain and it always gets you where you need to go. It is a wonderfully comfortable ride.
And if you take care of a car like this, it will take care of you. All it takes is a little effort.
Learn to replace spark plugs yourself. Change the oil, buy a new air filter from time to time and fine tune the engine every six thousand miles to always “keep it humming”; learn to listen to the motor; it’ll let you know when there’s a problem and when there’s a problem, fix it. Plain and simple. But you can eliminate so many future problems with simple maintenance; maintenance that’s routine ONLY if you allow it to be.
And finally…never, ever settle. Get the car you want and the one you really need. Wait for the best deal, if you have to. Waiting is OK. Patience can be a virtue in love and car buying.
Accept anything less, and you can end up with a car you’ll never drive.
And a love you’ll never know.