Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why I'm not worried about A**

I began to write this as a response to VirginiaGal's comment on my last post, but then I saw that I was going to ramble, so I figured I should turn it into a post.

From age 20 to 24, my brother dated a young woman we'll call A**. She was a sweet girl, not unlike other girls he'd dated before or since; two years his junior. She was really in love with him and he with her for a while. But my brother has always intended on getting married at some point in his life. And several months before they broke up, he took stock of their relationship and his feelings toward her. "No matter how hard I tried, Molly, I just couldn't picture myself married to her," he'd tell me. And even if he later decided to never marry, he felt it unfair to drag her along. Better to cut loose while they're both still young and can find other happiness than to drag it out into something that will eventually make both of them unhappy. (Side note: the brother of a friend of mine, in his early 30s, recently broke up with his girlfriend of a decade. He'd never wanted to marry; she did. He eventually pulled the plug about a year ago. Basically, he wasted 10 years of her time for something that only one of them wanted.)

Though I'm sorry she had her heart broken - and I know Bro was very sad himself for a while - I ultimately don't feel sorry for A**. Firstly, she's moved on to another boyfriend with whom she seems happy. Plus she and Bro have remained (amazingly) decent friends. Would it have been better if Bro had stayed with A**? She was a nice girl and he loved her, but it's possible to love someone and know they're not "the one," for dreadful lack of a better noun. You have to love someone fully. The person you marry should excite you mentally and spiritually as well as sexually. You have to spend the REST OF YOUR LIFE with this person. Is it fair to someone to partner with him/her when you know ultimately that you're not delivering the goods he/she needs or that you're not getting from him/her what you need? She didn't challenge him and didn't inspire him to be the best him he could be. With the current girlfriend, I see Bro becoming a more mature young man. He's developing new interests and returning to old interests. He's happier. It makes me happy. I don't know if A** has found her lifetime mate, but if and/or when she does, that person should inspire her to be the best A** she can be. Anything less would be a rip-off to both partners.

When I was in college, I remember seeing a video from a "relationship specialist" who claimed that the partner you spend the rest of your life with should inspire admiration in you, and you in the partner. I can't remember anything else in the video, but who the hell cares? He was right in that. It's possible to love other people, but I think mutual admiration is one of the key ingredients to that love that sustains couples through the slings and arrows of life. I loved some prior paramours, but lacked that mutual admiration. The same is probably true of Honey.

And it has to be symmetrical admiration. How many girls did I see in high school and college who were just over the moon about their boyfriends and their boyfriends just took them for granted? (Or vice-versa?) Should those boys have proposed to the girls because the girls loved them? Fast forward 20 years: who is happy in that relationship? I've seen these people in airports. The woman is very clearly miserable and the man is just engrossed in his crossword or sudoku (he turned off years ago) and nary a friendly glance is exchanged between them. And it's not just airport layover misery. You can smell marital disdain. Bro may have inspired A** to be a great person, but she didn't inspire him. And hopefully A** has found - or will find - the person who will inspire her to be not just great, but the best A** she can be.

My only hope for Bro is that his current girlfriend is as inspired by him as he is by her. I think she is.

From what I've experienced in my marriage, and from what I've witnessed in other relationships, choosing a mate isn't just about finding someone you love and you'd like to have children with. It's about who you want to not have children with as well. (Not every relationship produces offspring, whether by choice or chance. And even when they do, kids leave the nest, eventually. Who do you think you're gonna have to stare at for the remainder of the time?) It's about choosing a partner to weather the illnesses of your family members with, to weather your own illnesses with, to weather shitty jobs with, to weather personal depressions and downfalls with and even to weather periods of "why the hell did I get married" with? Hard times can bring resentment of one's partner even in the happiest of relationships. People can love each other, but if they don't love each other fully, or have that mutual admiration, then the resentment that arises from the hard times can turn into disdain, which can be outright poisonous. And of course, sadly, sometimes even the most stable and happy relationships crumble under the weight of outside sadness. But why stay with someone when you can smell the toxicity from down the road?

I really am sorry Bro broke A**'s heart a few years ago. Life is hard and only gets harder as we age. Staying with her would have caused her much, much more pain in the long run and would've made him sadder in the long run, too.

1 comment:

Darla D said...

I loved the truths in this post, Molly. I'm not sorry for A** either, although I sure do feel for her. And your brother, too. I ended one of those relationships once, and it was one of the hardest, most awful things I ever did. I mean, if you're not getting along, if someone's unfaithful or disdainful, etc., it's a no-brainer. But when it's not quite right, something you know you need just isn't there, but you still do care very much for the person, ending it is not easy. I never doubt I did the right thing, but as Dumbledore says, sometimes you need to choose between the easy thing and the right thing. Easy it most definitely was not. Thanks for this post.