#18 Don’t Agree on Anything–Including the State of your Relationship

Once upon a time there was a lovely girl named Selena. Selena had a big heart and a strong character and, of course, like all heroines, smoking hot too. Selena worked at a research lab, trying to help scientists and teachers and occupational therapists better understand autism. I’m not saying she was Ma Theresa. I mean, she worked at a RESEARCH lab, and sometimes very late at night they would–well, that’s not pertinent.

One day Selena was giving a lecture to a group of teachers about the newest discoveries in autism research. At the end of the lecture, a ruggedly handsome and smolderingly vulnerable man approached her. His name was Justin, and though he wasn’t a teacher, he was an architect who had just returned from three years building houses in war torn Uganda, his newborn nephew had autism, and he wanted to be as informed as he could be so as to provide his nephew with the best support he could. Selena’s soft heart was touched, and she offered to meet Justin again for coffee to give him more information.

It did not take long for the relationship to turn romantic. Justin persistently but non-stalkerishly pursued Selena, taking her out to dinner, sending her flowers, texting with sweet excitement about their dates. And when Justin introduced Selena to his sister’s family, and his adorable little nephew, she knew that he was falling in love with her. Also, it was good that he was into that late night stuff too.

OMG, aren't they like, SO super cute?

Selena and Justin delved into a wonderful, lovey-dovey, sickening to their friends relationship. Justin was sweet and attentive and would come over to shovel Selena’s driveway in the winter. Selena was supportive and understanding and was just naughty enough to make Justin feel like he was dating a seductress and not a slut. After two years, they moved in together.

After four more years, Selena had resorted to online auctions to ice the sore spot in her life.

Selena wanted to get married.

Some people don’t want to get married. I have opinions enough of dating and marriage, hooking up and living together, but I also hold, for the most part, that if two people agree on the state of their relationship, there’s no problem. If two people want to live together, raise children, build a home, and never get married, that’s completely their prerogative. The problem sneaks in when the two individuals want DIFFERENT things.

Whenever anyone brought marriage up to Justin, he would grunt. Not in an assenting or even noncommittal way, in a “shut-the-hell-up-no-one-gives-a-baby-panda’s-ass” way. Justin’s family had been through several divorces, and he just couldn’t see the value of marriage in today’s transient culture. And because Selena was level-headed and mostly reasonable, she didn’t push or manipulate. She loved Justin and respected his opinions and only faked a pregnancy once.

She thought he was going to propose that night. He just sang her some dumb song.

But now she was in her late 30s, with a man she loved but who didn’t share her life dreams, and she had to make a choice–stay with Justin, a dreamboat in a fantasy river, or end it and look for a lover who wanted the same life she did.

Ok, so, the story of Selena and Justin may not be exactly accurate, but I do know a couple who has been together for over five years, and the guy has zero interest in proposing–not because he doesn’t have enough money or because he thinks he’s too young or because he has something else he wants to accomplish first. He just has no intention of getting married. And he doesn’t want children. Ever. And my friend is caught–stay with a guy she loves who won’t marry her or move on.

Here’s the problem, and this may seem a little harsh, but I’m just going to say it–Justin is never going to wake up one day and realize he wants to marry Selena. For the most part, people resist change. And if Justin is comfortable–if he LIKES the state of his relationship–he’s not going to spontaneously become interested in matrimony and shared names. So for Selena to hang around, hoping that one day his eyes will be opened to the beauty of legally forever, is stupid.

She has three options–

1. Stay with him. If Selena decides she loves Justin more than her own dreams of marriage and babies. And that is totally cool–if she REALLY decides she wants Justin more than her own family. But Selena does want a family. Really really badly. And usually, when we sacrifice our dreams for another, seeds are planted. Resentment. Frustration. And sadness. If Selena stays with Justin, it’s not a compromise. It’s a complete surrender.

2. Give him an ultimatum. This is dumb. If he proposes, he’s only doing it because she forced him into it, and that just seems… bad. If he doesn’t propose, either they break up or she sticks with him, her bluff called and everyone knowing it.

3. Leave. Just leave. Just tell him, “Hey, I’ve love you, but I know that what you want and what I want are different. And I need a relationship with a guy who wants what I want.” And then it’s over.

Selena compensates for her lack of an engagement ring with other obnoxious jewelry.

Yes, it will suck, but if Justin is going to recognize the value of marriage, it’s going to be because he lost a girl he wanted to be with forever. And I’m not saying that he will. Door #3 is a risk–Justin may never connect the sadness of the breakup with his inability to commit. And it’s very unlikely that if he DOES change, that he’ll pursue Selena again. The most likely best case scenario is that, by Selena dumping Justin, the next time he’s with a girl who he wants to love forever, he’ll let her know. In every way possible. He’ll take the chance with her and risk his love on marriage.

And Selena, the wonderfully chic, awesomely cool girl that she is, will meet an guy of comparative character, who’ll want to give her everything she’s dreamed of.

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#9 Spend All Your Time Waiting

I recently got an internship, and then the holidays came, and I let this blog fall on the wayside.

My bad.

Also, I know this is TMI, but one of my tonsils swelled up and every time I swallow it’s like someone’s stabbing me in the neck with a fork. That just sucks when you’re home for a holiday where the main event is eating. I just wanted someone to feel bad for me, that’s all.

But today, today, I have a bone to pick [do people say that anymore? I’m young, but I’m not really hip]. I’m about to smack down a throw down. It’s time to call a bitch out.

I’ve got serious issues with Fate.

Fate, Destiny, God’s Will, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t fly with me. The combination of Sofia’s reluctance to put any effort into finding a boy and the advice of all my friends about how, when I have peace with being single, a boy will suddenly appear, has created a perfect storm of outrage. And I’m about to take Destiny to task.

There’s a myth that people believe. I’m going to give you the Christian version of the myth because it’s what I’ve been hearing lately, but if you don’t share the faith, this works equally well interchanged with the amorphous Fate, True Love, whatever, and I’ll show that if you promise to hang through.

This is the conversation that frequently pops up–

Me: I’m ok with being single, but on the other hand, I’d like to not be alone anymore.

Well-meaning Friends: Don’t make a relationship an idol. God has perfect timing. Once you are at peace with not having a boyfriend, one has a funny way of turning up. God’s so funny like that!

Ok. One, this is a way convoluted view of God’s grace and goodness, turning it into some rewards-based system. That ain’t going to fly with me, honey. But two, and most importantly, this is not Biblical. People in the Bible didn’t sit around in the desert dust, going, well, I’m ok with being single, I’m 267 and never been kissed, but it’s ok. I’ve reached a state of enlightenment, and now I will be blessed with a spouse.

When Abraham was getting old, he decided it was time for his son Isaac to be a man and get a woman. So he sent his servant to his family’s family to find his son a wife. He didn’t sit Issac down, give him a man-talk about being content with being single, and then watch from the sidelines as his daughter-in-law suddenly sashayed into their lives. Dude, he even knew which TOWN that girl was coming from.

And let’s not forget the first boy and girl ever, celebrity couple Evam. [Adam and Eve need better publicists.] When God saw that Adam was moping under the apple tree, he didn’t say, “It’s ok. Just wait until you’re satisfied with being the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD. Then we’ll talk. I’ve got funny timing.” No way. He said, “That man needs a WOMAN,” and He made it happen. He didn’t wait for Adam to have any inner peace.

I'm not gonna lie. I'm pretty sure Adam and Eve were WAY hotter.

Look, this myth permeates our lives, whatever you believe in, God, Fate, True Love. Some people think that once you’re happy with loving yourself you’ll find someone special to love you too. Some people believe that you have a Soul Mate who will make you feel complete like a brand new puzzle. And while I don’t disagree with some underlying truths in these myths, that you should be happy with yourself, that you shouldn’t look for completion in a relationship, that you can’t let the gloominess of being alone swallow you whole, once you learn these lessons, there is no master switch to flip. It’s not like an eligible man is alerted to your new found zen via Bat Single and comes running down the street to you.

This is not an if-then truth. It’s hardly a truth at all. And it has a lot of women sitting on their hands, trying to figure out what’s wrong with THEM that they don’t have a boyfriend, what part of their personal development have the neglected, what how-to empowerment have they not discovered, what part of their faith are they failing. And that’s not ok with me. We don’t EARN boyfriends through self improvement. Love is not an ethereal myth. It’s hard work, getting out there, meeting people, getting to know them, and that’s all BEFORE the relationship starts.

I love the mystery of love, but I’m grounded. And I would much rather have a date from my new full fledged eHarmony membership than to sit around waiting for Destiny to give me a call.

#8 Limit Your Options

The other day the girls from my church and I were discussing boys–or our lack of [this actual causes a near crisis of faith for young Christian women. A loving God allows poverty, war, crimes against humanity, and singleness? Yeah, it seems petty of us. It is. We’re far from perfect.]

At this point my friend Rachel raises her hand.

“I have a confession,” she says. “I joined eHarmony.”

Rachel and I might soon be having eHarmony coffee dates together, complete with our laptops.

When I so recently decried the difficulty of meeting available boys, when is it time to bite the bullet? Time to succumb to the tear-jerking commercials of people finding their true love and giggling on the beach? Is there a magical age where you give up on meeting any potential man as they all appear to be already married or they disqualify themselves for some reason? A time when finding a boy who’s age appropriate and dateable becomes like a treasure hunt. After I bemoaned the difficulties of even meeting a single Dateable male, the next logical step is moving on to online dating. Welcome to the virtual meat market. I’m sorry, I meant to say village market square.

Listen, maybe the matchmakers of old didn’t have it so wrong. What’s the point in getting yourself all primped up, handshaking and flirting with a half dozen men, giving and taking phone numbers, going on risky dates, JUST to see if someone’s compatible? Especially when someone else can do all the dirty work for you.

When I turned 23 and was still single, I signed up on eHaromny–the free version, just so I could see my free matches. I just wanted to see what it was like. A little experimentation never hurt a girl. But what starts as innocent interest soon spirals into something bigger. Don’t be deceived–they, just like any old matchmaker, are a business selling a product–and it’s a big one. Love. It’s an easy web to get caught in.

So I scan some matches, see some that are intriguing, and then, there are the free communication weekends. Sometimes I get in touch with these guys. Maybe I’ve gone on a date once or twice.

But there is something that makes me hesitate about online dating. Rachel articulated it perfectly. She is also a literature lover, captivated by life stories, and she confessed that she doesn’t want to look at her future children and say, “Well, honey, Daddy saw Mommy’s profile picture, and he thought she was really cute so he sent her an Icebreaker! So she sent him some multiple choice questions back, and before we knew it we were emailing!”

Blech.

And then there’s my friend Sofia, who we tried to cheerlead into signing up on eHarmony, but sat to the side texting the entire time my friend and I tried to engage her on the process. But Sofia has never had a boyfriend and wants one, so it stumps me as to why she’s so cynical a road as of yet untraveled.

Is that person you're texting going to date you? Let's get flexible, Sofia. Life is not a romantic comedy.

And honestly, how is an online website meet-cute story any worse than many other stories? Anne and Tim recently told me excitedly about a guy they had recently met–“He’s tall, a law student, and his name is… Graham? Graham!” I know less about Graham than I do after reading anyone’s profile on eHarmony, and yet I’m just as excited to meet him. Will that be a better story? “Mommy’s best friend knew she was desperate, so she kept thrusting her at any single man she met along the way.” Or how about the guy I stalk at my completely platonic guy friend’s office? “Mommy asked her friend Harvey if he knew any single guys, then she dropped by their office every week for six months until Daddy asked her out.”

Then again, I’m still on the free version of eHarmony. See, for those of us who can’t commit to ordering a subscription to an online dating website, maybe we’re just not ready for a real committed relationship either.