No secret I am married, and for the most part, like the 99% part, I am happily married. The other 1% I either want to smother him with a pillow, get someone to perform surgical procedures that makes him agree with me on everything, or maybe both only in reverse order. I figure if it’s ONLY 1% I am doing pretty well; I know other couples where that part of the equation is much higher and they seem at least as happy and thier relationship as stable. Or maybe I’m just lying to myself and my pillow-smothering percentage is much, much higher? Really, it depends on the day.
And now I have adult children who are engaged and living together and enjoying the benefits of a stable relationship. As they are older and more mature than their father and I were when we married, perhaps their chances of staying married increase? That is certainly my hope. I want all concerned to continue enjoying happy lives and relationships with each other. At my core, I am a simple woman.
Unfortunately I know a fair number of single people who wish they were dating a compatible someone. You know, the someone who makes them feel comfortable and warm and sexy, that makes them laugh frequently and comforts them when they are sad or listens … well, always. I am a friend who listens, and I hear “but you’re happily married” often enough to give it a separate classification as a thing. Maybe I am RIGHT NOW, but there have been a couple of periods in my life when I have been very unhappily married and contemplating divorce, once even following through and doing it. Or way before I was happily involved I have experienced dating someone I liked like that more a lot more than he liked me in general and desperately wishing he would wake up and truly see me as someone for a higher level of relationship. Or worse, dating someone I liked significantly less like that and knowing they really wanted me to see them as a higher level relationship material. I have been lonely and sad about being alone. I have been lonely and depressed about it as well. I have been involved in enough crappy, half-hearted, or toxic romances to appreciate M and our relationship, even when I want to banish him from the house until the work we are
arguing about discussing has been completed to my satisfaction without having to compromise.
I do try not to be smug about my relationship lot in life. There are no big secrets to share, nor do I feel as if I “settled” on M or compromised some value I should hold dear to be and to stay married. In the life and relationship lottery I feel as if I won something big much of the time. If I am feeling down and dwelling in darkness about my life I might venture that I perhaps had more flexible standards about my minimum qualifications for a partner. I honestly have no idea what makes romantic partnerships work. For us it’s a day-to-day give-and-take, juggling priorities and needs and periodically falling flat, being bitchy, being lazy, apologizing and resolving to be better.
There are very few, very rare moments where I feel dramatically old and middle aged and somehow done in life. The times when I wish I could turn back the clock and relive my youth are even rarer than the old/middle aged/done times. But when the topic of relationships, dating, romance comes up, I have to tread very, very warily and start guarding my emotions, my thinking, my eyerolls. I listen mostly, because I have been partnered with the same man for a very long time and there is very little that’s fresh and new and exciting for us as a couple. Truth be told I kind of like that aspect, because I am not that imaginative when it comes to new ways to surprise and delight M short of buying him a flying machine of some sort. If there’s something I want from him I am completely comfortable asking for it, or even demanding it if the situation warrants. Same is true of him. We are both capable and willing to say no, and occasionally the backlash is unpleasant but not marital suicide.
Lately I feel more frequently like I am ridiculously out-of-touch and have little to offer by way of advice or commentary when friends talk to me about dating. I want them to be happy. I want them to meet quality people that make their pulses race and their steps seem lighter. I get hopeful that the newest guy or gal they discuss will stick around and bring that brightness and spark to their eyes for a good long while. Mostly I hope the relationship evolves as they desire.
But I know it is hard. I know I lack current experience with just how hard, but it was really difficult for me when I was single and dating so many years ago. Is that ancient history irrelevant now? Perhaps so.
While I try not to be smug about be married, I also will not tolerate statements my relationship, my marriage, or my long-committed self are boring by comparison to the single and dating life. Good friends get do not get a pass for saying that out loud or implying it in their dating tales, but I call them out on it in a gentle way. I know emotions are running high in one direction or another if such sentiments are stated, but inappropriate is still inappropriate.
It is fun to be on the ground floor to observe the dating of those nearest and dearest to me, to get to hear about the first meetings and observe the behaviors in the early days of getting acquainted. When the energy and magic of the new couple seems so warm and so positive, I always hope they are taking pictures to remind them of what that initial delight with one another looks like. All too frequently that spark diminishes, fades, exhausts completely. Sometimes it’s just the shelf life running out, or was such an imperfect fit it is for the best. And sometimes it’s just sad that one wanted it more than the other.
I remember what it’s like, to have something you desperately want to work falter or fail. Pain is pain; there is no new or upgraded technology that replaces heartbreak when it happens. Even for those of us who are happily paired off right now.
So I’m writing this to remind myself that I am a good, kind, and compassionate friend to many single and dating folks. Please grant me the patience and the grace to be at least this serene the next time one of my friends tells me I cannot or do not understand because I am happily married, not snarkily snarling back with “then why are you at my kitchen table crying about it yet again?” Bitchy is not my best look.