Monday, February 25, 2008

settling for a good man

In defense of settling

This is a couple of paragraphs from the article linked above. It's a very good article, well written, and worth a read if you have 8-10 minutes to do so.

What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

I don’t mean to say that settling is ideal. I’m simply saying that it might have gotten an undeservedly bad rap. As the only single woman in my son’s mommy-and-me group, I used to listen each week to a litany of unrelenting complaints about people’s husbands and feel pretty good about my decision to hold out for the right guy, only to realize that these women wouldn’t trade places with me for a second, no matter how dull their marriages might be or how desperately they might long for a different husband. They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because they, like me, realize that marriage ultimately isn’t about cosmic connection—it’s about how having a teammate, even if he’s not the love of your life, is better than not having one at all.

It’s not that I’ve become jaded to the point that I don’t believe in, or even crave, romantic connection. It’s that my understanding of it has changed.

And no matter what women decide—settle or don’t settle—there’s a price to be paid, because there’s always going to be regret. Unless you meet the man of your dreams (who, by the way, doesn’t exist, precisely because you dreamed him up), there’s going to be a downside to getting married, but a possibly more profound downside to holding out for someone better.

But then my married friends say things like, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons” or “You’re so lucky, you don’t have anyone putting the kid in front of the TV and you can raise your son the way you want.” I’ll even hear things like, “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to have sex with someone you don’t want to.”

The lists go on, and each time, I say, “OK, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!”

Not one person has taken me up on this offer.

Being 33, single and slightly settled in life (I've bought my own house, have good job, and have been on the lookout for a Good Guy for several years now), this strikes very close to home. To settle with a good guy, who would love me, take care of me, be a good dad, not cheat on me, not drink/gamble/smoke or in a multitude of other ways not harm my life or finances, but maybe doesn't quite Light My Fire? or to wait for the Fire Starter, knowing that those relationships in the past have failed, every time. I've had a couple of Fire Starters. They're fun, but can be emtionally exhausting, and the last one wanted to continue seeing me after he got married...to SOMEONE ELSE. I guess he was settling, too.

On the other hand, a little imagination and a couple of drinks, and my fire really isn't that hard to light.

How long is too long to wait? Until he moves on, deciding that he's tired of waiting for me to make up my mind? Do I just take the plunge? Like diving into a cold swimming pool. It's a shock, but your body adjusts shortly? or wait for the warm water that may already be past?

Lord, show me the way. Amen

1 comment:

molly said...

thanks for your comments on my post today. very heart felt appreciation.

i love your cat pictures.

take care of you

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