When I was in my twenties and getting married, I believed I could control what was to come.
I thought I could attempt to apply for insurance against loss, geographical or career changes and divorce – by marrying “right.”
What does that even mean? I’ve written about the checklist before, and while the items on the list might vary for each of us based on our backgrounds, religion, culture, and the age (or timing in which) we “fall in love” – we all try to find certain qualities in our mate that we hope can inure us against certain hurdles.
They tend to be the kind of descriptors that show up on a dating profile, such as: “Successful as a muther fucker!! Loves travel! And dogs too! Cinema buff. Dinner parties rule! Will be patient while shopping with you!!”
While these qualities may be attractive on the surface, they have nothing to do with the real person (and by the way, beware of those who lean too long on the exclamation mark key).
I’ve fallen for these qualities before, encouraged by witnessing friends getting married, having children, and seemingly on the path to happiness. Why would anyone not pursue the same?
I’ve had a few conversations lately about this topic with friends who questioned why my recent relationship didn’t work out, although I’m hesitant to call it that, as the relationship was quite brief (and why you all didn’t hear about it). I wonder if it even lasted as long as it did because of the checklist; because of the on-paper qualities this man possessed that papered the flimsy walls of my hopes and expectations, and the expectations of my friends and family.
Although, one very wise person surprised me by posing the opposite: “The most important question to ask yourself is, do you want to be around this personality in five or twenty years?”
Personality = key word.
I wonder if we have to experience these kind of relationships in order to appreciate what matters most: the intangible. The moment to moment interchanges that feed and sustain – chemistry that noone can see from the outside.
I do think it takes time to come around to what you need and want. My ex-boyfriend emerged in my life a year after we broke up, without ultimatums, pressure, or a promise of what might be. He’s the same person he was a year ago, and isn’t pretending to be anyone else. He didn’t show up at my door with a big poster-board itemizing a new checklist of accomplishments. But he is able to say so. He has the capacity to not make false guarantees about the future. If he did, I wouldn’t believe him (as I might once have). Because how could he?
Today, a close friend asked me what is going on with my ex-boyfriend: “What’s going to happen if you ex out the ex part?”
My response: “At this point in my life…and this isn’t cynicism or resignation…I can’t overfocus on the negative checklist, or the potential hurdles, because those things are mutable.” (I probably didn’t say it with those pretentious words, but you get the gist). Point is, a guy can lose his job, his money, or move cities. Falling in love with a checklist, or rejecting someone because of them (and hanging on to them for the same reasons), I believe is foolish, since they have nothing to do with the make-up of that person – the person they are today and will most likely still be in the future.
As I approach the big 40 (to those of you who don’t know me, I’m not admitting how many years more I have), something has changed. Instead of feeling this immense pressure to get it right, whatever that might mean, and tie together some illusory loose ends, instead, for the first time, I feel the relieving absence of that. Maybe it has something to do with the elimination of too many perceived options (like you have when you’re in your twenties) when what you can do or think you should have, overwhelms and paralyzes you. Or propels you into making a decision ie. the wrong relationship, so that you can get some false assurance.
There is also something to be said for being okay without the assurance. For being okay with accepting and embracing where you are. For having faith in what is to come, which is beyond your control. And having faith in how you feel, and what you want.
Because do we really know how we are going to feel, or what is going to happen, two years from now? Or tomorrow?
If you do, please message me.