Wednesday 31 May 2017

More Dubious Than Desperate

I was savouring Laura Kipnis’s snarky book review until I read this:

"Over dinner recently, an acquaintance (single and approaching a certain age) returned repeatedly to the theme of not wanting to be coupled. She wondered why people kept insisting she get coupled, and proleptically bemoaned how much narrower her life would be were she coupled. What I heard was someone desperate to couple.”

Oh shit, are my musings about whether I really want to be in a relationship a sign that I am secretly yearning for one?  Doth this lady protest too much?

After confronting that possibility and considering it from various angles, I think not.  Questioning the merit of another LTR is genuine, based on my particular life experiences.  And I mean my experiences since birth, not just my own LTRs:  Our expectations for relationships are formed by observing our parents.  Looking at my parents and grandparents, I don’t have good models.  Amongst my contemporaries, few of my friends are happily coupled.  From my personal experience, the two LTRs in my adult life were object lessons in disappointment, exercises in lowering expectations, adjusting to the miserable reality that was forged by our individual shortcomings.  In entering the dating scene again, looking for a potential third LTR, I would have to be singularly unintrospective not to question whether I wanted another LTR and, if so, why and what for.

I have been earnest in considering whether I value certain features of relationships, like love and intimacy, that are taken for granted as desirable.  My motivation has been the distasteful undertaking of goal-oriented online dating.  Because I must stay focused on finding someone with money, who wants kids right away, I know I will have to compromise in other areas.  That naturally leads to consideration of what my deal-breakers are and what I'd be looking for if money and the biological clock weren’t overriding concerns.  Would I be looking for anyone at all or are practical needs my only motivation for dating?  It would have been myopic not to wonder and I think one is allowed a certain amount of navel-gazing after the demise of two LTRs that together comprise most of my adult life.

Most alarming to me is that it was my partner in both cases who ended the relationship despite the fact that I was miserable in both LTRs once it became undeniable that my partners were too fucked up to engage in any type of adult relationship at all.  I was prepared to grit my teeth and stick it out each time.  That’s disturbing.  In both cases, I should have left years earlier.  In fact, I should have heeded warning signs from the beginning and never let them become such serious long-term entanglements.  What the hell does that say about me?  Nothing good, that’s for sure.  I need to be careful not to do that again.  Yet how to avoid it if my main motivation is financial stability?  So you see, I have to give this relationship business some honest thought.  Neither partner was capable of intimacy and I was evidently prepared to live without that.  So, can I honestly claim that intimacy is something that I need from my next relationship?  Can I even state unequivocally that it is something I am capable of myself?

Likewise love: I never loved City Boy, which made me sad at the time (it’s not something you can force - believe me, I tried) but it was also a safeguard, a protection from future pain.  (I have taken to heart the scene in one of my favourite movies when the protagonist announces her engagement and her mother asks if she loves him.  When she replies in the negative, her mother says “good”.  When City Boy left, my mother scoffed that she'd never been in love nor depended on any man and it served me right for being stupid enough to depend, emotionally or financially, on a male.  She was right.)  Yet, not loving him didn’t stop me from going through hell when he left.  (In the same film, when the fiancĂ©-she-doesn’t-love breaks their engagement, he says, “In time you will see that this is the best thing,” which is true, but her reply is priceless: "In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress.”)

In contrast, I was smitten with Country Boy yet I later realised that I was in love with the person I wanted him to be, not who he was.  So, was that really love?  That question has perturbed me ever since.  Add to this a third variable:  I later loved someone who was unsuitable for a relationship for several insurmountable reasons.  Feelings don't make things work out in the real world, despite what the songs say.  (“The storybooks are bullshit!”  Ok, ok, I’ll stop now but that is the greatest speech.)

Solving for that equation, what do we learn about the importance of love in a LTR?  I didn’t love my partner in my longest relationship and was prepared to stay in it forever anyway.  And it didn’t save me from pain at the demise of the relationship.  I didn’t love the person my prior partner turned out to be, although I figured I'd made my choice and would just live with it anyway.  And love alone doesn’t make someone a suitable partner; practical considerations must always trump feelings in real life.  Add up emotions, subtract misconceptions, divide by reality, and solving for X tells me that love is not a necessary ingredient in a LTR.

It seems heretical to say that intimacy and love aren't required, just money and willing sperm.  Temperamentally, I'm the last woman on earth who is a suitable candidate to be a trophy wife, and I'm reaching the outer limits of fuckability agewise, so the whole enterprise just seems absurd and humiliating.  I'm a realist—I'm never going to earn enough money to buy my own horse farm or have a child on my own—but I am also a feminist who has never had a penny of support from a man.  My OCD would be a challenge for someone to live with and I'm also introverted to the point of needing to spend most of my time alone.  My motto is "I'd rather be right than liked", which has never gone over well in the in-law dept.  I'm hornier than my partners can keep up with, which, snickering aside, is a more significant issue than you might imagine.  Not to mention that I deeply resented, in both LTRs, doing all of the housework, shopping, cooking, etc., despite paying over half the expenses. 

Given all that, it would be odd, as I vet candidates, if I didn't query the value of relationships.  I don’t see how I could reenter the dating market without asking these kinds of questions.  I suppose one could bumble along brightly with a “third time’s the charm” optimism but I seem to be more Wednesday Addams than Pollyanna.

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