For Bitter Or For Worse
Since I was old enough to date I've been practicing serial monogamy and loving it. The excitement is always high, and I never have to experience the boredom of the old shoe. I'm 32 now, and wondering how long I can realistically keep this up. What's your take on serial monogamy? Have I ruined my chances of ever being happy with just one man forever?
"Being happy with just one man forever" sounds great in concept, but in practice, it often plays out like standing in the one line that doesn't move at Customs.
Yet, going from relationship to relationship--having a ball instead of a ball and chain--is frowned upon... even, a little bit, by you. Perhaps, deep down, you buy into the Puritan Work Ethic approach to relationships: the idea that a "real" adult relationship means spending a lifetime slaving away in the hot fields of couples counseling, and trying everything from tantric yoga to Kama Sutra Pilates to relocate that lost spark. This romantic hardship worship--the assumption that you're a better person if you tough it out--should remind you of lectures you must've gotten as a girl: "You know, young lady, Grandpa crawled on his hands and knees over 10 miles of broken glass to get to school every day!" "Gee, thanks, Gramps, good to know, but there's my bus."
People don't necessarily stay together because they're happy, but maybe because they promised they would or the priest says they should. Or, maybe because breaking up would just kill Great Aunt Mavis, or because it's too embarrassing to admit failure, or, more admirably, because they pumped out a bunch of kids. It's humiliating enough being a teen just starting to date without pulling up in your driveway with some guy you're madly in crush with, and--yikes!--there's your mom making out in the parked car next to you.
But, what will become of you if you don't lock in a man like an interest rate? Who will change the rubber sheet on your bed and put tennis balls on the bottom of your walker? This is an understandable concern, but maybe you could just put a few bucks aside for that, as it seems kind of insulting to get together with somebody now as a means of saving big on eldercare. Beyond the need for good nursing, maybe you fear being all alone in your twilight years (or, worse yet, dying alone and being turned into a Purina substitute by your 26 cats). The truth is, according to studies referenced in Bella DePaulo's terrific book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, women who've never been married have some of the strongest friendships and sense of community in their lives, and are the least likely to feel lonely when they're old bags.
Assuming your friendships aren't as fleeting as your relationships, and serial monogamy isn't an excuse to avoid fixing something in your psychology that's broken, what's the problem? Your current approach actually seems pretty wise--not planning in advance how long your relationships will last but being honest about how long they actually do. Until you start longing for something long-term, why not have the love that works for you instead of the love that's supposed to work for you? Despite all the people who'll ask how long you've been with somebody, not how happy you are, the real tragedy isn't the relationship that ends after a few years, but the relationship that's allowed to drag on like the ballet (forever) or a bad play (about 10 minutes longer than the ballet).
Making The Disconnection
I met a guy, we e-mailed back and forth, and then went out on a date. I really liked him, but, sadly, he doesn't feel the same about me. However, I am still not over him and find myself checking my e-mail too many times to count. What's the best way to move on?
Subject: He's not into you. Subject: He's not into you. Subject: He's not into you. Checking your e-mail a fourth time, or a 40th time, isn't going to change that. You form habits through repetition, and you break them the same way. Every time you resist checking your e-mail, it'll be a little easier to resist checking the next time. Block his e-mail address, delete any of his old e-mails you're still obsessing over, and erase him from your address book. And step away from the computer. It's a big world, filled with men. You might even meet one you like who likes you back--if you aren't sitting home engaging in the online equivalent of hitchhiking in a blood-spattered T-shirt. While carrying a bloody ax. In a nature preserve where they don't allow cars.
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com.
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