Neighborhood gossip time!
I have a neighbor, an intriguing figure who is rarely around. My hubby and I talked about her and immediately decided, She’s single on purpose. She’s a professional model, a sweet-natured young single mom. Her kid is nice - our parrot loves her. We sometimes walk dogs together and chat casually.
This is Southern California. Naturally we have neighbors who are personal trainers, former professional athletes, and models. Thank goodness we’re middle-aged and have the good sense not to take this personally.
So we’re all hanging out in the hot tub, and a group of men gets in. A couple of them are senior guys, friendly and interesting but not in our age range. One of them is ludicrously good-looking. I mean, shut up and get out of here, that’s a hologram, right?
They leave after a while, and the gossip goes on.
I mention him and refer to him as “the hot guy.”
“That’s what we call him!” she cries. “The Hot Guy!”
What’s the story here?
Okay, we have two extremely attractive, smart, funny, and kind-hearted single parents. They like each other.
Their kids like each other.
Each kid likes the other adult.
They hang out.
Why aren’t they dating?
“Oh, we’re just friends.”
THIS, this is exactly what keeps happening and why none of the single women I meet are in a happy relationship.
I talked to two single gals, one an old friend and the other her road-trip buddy. How did you do it, they want to know. How can we have a marriage like yours?
You don’t want what I have, I said. Yes we do, they said.
No, you don’t. You both travel around the world for your jobs. How are you going to date someone? Either you’d have to give up traveling to be with him, or you’d have to find him work in the same city as you every time you change contracts, or you would both travel and you’d always be on different continents. BY DEFINITION you don’t want and can’t have what I have.
What all these women have in common is that they’re emotionally hooked on the pursuer/distancer dynamic.
That’s fine, except that it is the relationship style most likely to lead to divorce.
I don’t think people recognize this when they’re in it.
The trouble with the friend-marriage is that it starts by dating someone you see as “just a friend.”
This is not the same as the supposed “friend zone” phenomenon, in which one person is interested exclusively in a sexual relationship and fakes a friendship while waiting for a chance. Built into that model is inherent disrespect. I know you don’t feel that way about me, but. I know what’s best for you and I will change your mind, I’ll wear you down. This “relationship” is goal-oriented and you are my target.
This is not that.
Your romance should be like your other relationships in most respects. If you’re friends with a wide range of people, from your work buddies to your neighbors to your dental hygienist to your high school friend’s mom, then you’ll understand this. You like each other, you enjoy talking to each other, you find each other’s stories interesting, and you make each other laugh.
Why would you want a love match that was any different?
What I told my model friend is to picture yourself on your most boring day. Your default. That’s marriage. Almost all the time, you’re just hanging around, messing with your phones, doing chores and running errands. If your romance doesn’t fit into your ordinary life, then it won’t last.
Your marriage has to be a friendship or it can’t possibly survive, because you’ll annoy each other too much.
For whatever reason, most women and many men seem only to be attracted to the sort of person they can’t be friends with. We want someone sexy, and that means mysterious.
Look, I get it, I’ve done it too. When I was young I dashed my hopes against the rocks many times. Filled my poetry notebook with sad verses about musicians, poets, and boys who dumped me. It wasn’t until I was nearly thirty that I finally figured out why the other party always broke up with me first:
I wanted to extract emotions from the other person, even though he didn’t feel them
I thought of “the relationship” as a separate entity
I assumed the boy wanted the same things that I wanted, or that he would if only I could convince him
I fell for his “potential” - not his behavior today
I read between the lines, convincing myself that even though he said one thing, he really meant something else
I spent a lot of time guessing what he might be thinking or what he might do, incorrectly
I focused on superficial things about him, such as his taste in music, clothing style, or hair
I assumed that if he was into something that bored me, he would stop in favor of hanging out with me, effectively trading his main interests and hobbies for... talking to me
Ditto with friends I thought he would cancel if I didn’t hit it off with them
Finally I quit all of that, and I started vetting my relationships differently. I started to realize that what I needed was someone I liked and respected, someone who was fun to talk to, not some mystery poet. That’s why I decided to give my current husband a chance. I realized that if we could have fun together going to the grocery store and making dinner, then this thing could work.
Thirteen years later, it still seems to be working!
I explained to my friends, including the single mom/model, the difference between the five styles of marriage. I talked about the friendship marriage, which is the most successful, and how it feels. No more of this “wait until I meet some random mysterious stranger” nonsense. Turn to your left, turn to your right, and notice the friend who really gets you and likes you for who you are.
Then I heard that my model friend, the Hot Guy, and their kids are having dinner together, on a weeknight.
The Lone Matchmaker strikes again.
Heh heh heh.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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