Intimate relationship


Anders Zorn-The Widow

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An interesting search term turned up yesterday: how to get a widow to love you. It was interesting only because I have been asked before whether my advice for dating widowers would apply to widows as well.

My answer was “yes” and “no”, which I would guess is only mildly helpful unless one is really good at filling in the gaps between the lines.

Biggest difference between dating a widow versus a widower, off the top of my head, is that women tend to comb through the still smoldering ashes of any relationship once it is over – regardless of why it ended – and they will do this until the ashes cool, go stone cold and even begin to scatter to the wind as often as they feel the need to (or have an audience for it) until they “get over it”.  And by “get over it”, I mean put the experience into a context that they can live with to an extent that allows them to move on.  Men don’t seem to do that as much or as obsessively.

Pick a relationship board on the internet. Any one will do. Just glance over the posts on their feeds and note how endlessly the women recount every detail of the last relationship or marriage. They parse the same events over and over. Even their replies to each other’s questions and experiences will harken back to their own hurts, upsets and frustrations. It’s like watching someone get stuck on a level of Angry Birds. They bang their souls against rock, glass and ugly pigs without resolving anything, and yet, they will tell you that this type of regurgitation is just as productive for their “healing process” as a cat’s hacking up a furball aids their digestion. To women, resolution is policing their new relationships for the vividly recalled flaws of their last Prince Charming and flogging the new one with their insecurities and angst when he proves to have similar or even entirely different flaws of his own.

Actual resolution is acknowledging that, in the end, it really doesn’t matter how or why a relationship or marriage ended. It did. Move along.

Most people who move on in life with any degree of success do so because they accept that what happened can’t be changed by endlessly brooding or sorrow. They make their peace and then make for the next horizon. You can’t change the past by being sad or angry with it. You certainly can’t endlessly talk it into submission. It doesn’t matter if you were wronged or right. The past is.

Men are good at this acceptance thing, which is not to say that you won’t find men who brood or are endlessly bitter about past failures or lost love, but you find far fewer of them than you do of women. I have yet to meet a woman who can’t recall for you, in minute detail, how her first love evolved, blossomed and eventually went up in flames. Minute detail.

You read about first loves reuniting a lot these days thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, but I am willing to bet that the women will spin tales about how they never got over the guy and how their subsequent loves and even about marriages that never held a candle to the first love. Ask a man about his first failed romance. Go ahead. Ask. He might remember the sex, or the lack thereof, but he won’t be holding a lit flame. Nor will he necessarily be compelled to reignite it if he is okay with where he currently lives his life. Men ground themselves in now, which is why a woman’s obsession with past, or future, perplexes and/or irritates them. Most men went on to have love, children and good lives with nary a backward glance at that first love. Sure, they may be pleased to have a second shot later in life with a girl whom they can only recall as a girl, but if they’d never heard from her again – they’d have found someone else to be happy with. Because that’s men. Practical in a cold-blooded way that (most) women aren’t.

A widow in the aftermath is the same as a widower. Grief is grief, and some people are more resilient than others, but it takes center stage for a while. For men, however, a good marriage (or even just an okay one) is eventually acknowledged as such, and they begin to assess the reality of existence sans mate and decide that a) single is okay and can be lived with or b) “I would rather be with a woman again”.

For widows? First the death has to be sorted through and then the relationship itself and throw in kids (widows are far more skittish when kids are involved than men seem to be and, statistically, they have reason to be cautious since males are more likely to be abusers than females) and friends and in-laws, and also let’s never forget that women invariably have “tribes” with whom they consort and poll on every subject imaginable, and you are looking at a much longer “recovery” period.

Don’t forget as well that women are raised in relationship culture and lore that often is bullshit. They are schooled to believe at a young age that they must “find themselves” and “be independent”  even though it runs contrary to the overriding societal command that they must also find love. Love that is “true”, “soulmate-ish” and that “there can be only one”. Depending on a woman’s age and previous experiences when she is widowed, all that Oprah inspired nonsense can still be in play and not in a good way.

If widowers are still men first and foremost then the same is true of widows. They didn’t stop being women when they married nor when they were widowed. And women like tribes. They gain admittance into a new tribe with widowhood where they “learn” to be widows. Men largely escape the indoctrination because they don’t seek out groups and are, perhaps genetically, ill-disposed to self-help in any of its forms or genres. All this makes it harder for women to date, to let go of their labels, to not compare, etc.

The last is the worst thing about women and largely what makes many of  them lousy daters whether they are single, divorced or widowed. The comparing stirs up insecurities and compels them to rely on equally insecure friends to figure things out that they should be discussing with the men they are dating.

Bottom line? If you are dating a widow, she is a woman. Start there. Next, resist the urge to play white knight or to allow yourself to be drawn into the role of grief counselor. Insist on communication and that relationship issues should be brought up with you before she rants to her sister, friends or semi-anonymous friends on the Internet. Don’t let her play the widow card. Expect the same good behaviour from her you would have any other woman in a relationship. Being widowed doesn’t give her special dispensation. And if being a widow first is more important to her than building a new relationship with you – walk. Finally, expect to be loved for yourself and to be first in her life. If she did that for her late husband, she should do the same for you if she really loves you.

Dating is dating. It all comes down to two people willing to be real and lay their cards on the table in the present tense with an eye toward the future and it really is no more difficult than riding a bike.

UPDATE: I forgot to add one thing. Don’t love her potential. Non-widowed have this fantasy idea of what it’s like to be widowed and what the marriages and/or relationship IQ’s of widowed folk are. Just because she was married, and according to her – happily, doesn’t mean that she can replicate that with you or even that she was in a happy successful marriage. The beauty about widowhood is that only one side of the story exists now. The other side is … well … on the other side. Play the ball where it lies. If she is flaky now, she probably was with him. If she was neglectful or selfish, a drama queen or princess, this is who she’s always been. Maybe the dead guy was okay with it, found it endearing and cute or maybe he stuck it out for the kids. She is and you are and that’s all you have to work with. Widows waiting for the right guy to thaw their hearts and souls (or widowers with hearts of gold waiting for the right woman to give them a reason to live again) are Hollywood creations.


The trouble with people reading your blog is that you lose it as an outlet for meaningful thought and feeling processing. It becomes a venue for others as they search for

A couple dating in a cafe.

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information, entertainment and  a place to share their own musings.

And I am not complaining. There was a time when few people even stumbled across this blog let alone came in search of it. Progress has its drawbacks as well as its perks.

Sometimes, however, I still feel the need to mindlessly run thither and yon across the keyboard, qwertying my way back to a more zen place.

Lately, the search terms have tipped decidedly in favor of widower dating queries. They read like lamentations. Desperate pleas for any scrap of insight, inspiration or tool to help the googler make sense of what is more likely fairly obvious but they just aren’t ready to accept.

Sometimes people who’ve been widowed are dating even though they aren’t ready, and sometimes widowed daters are just dating without any intent beyound spending a few hours here and there, sharing good times and possibly swapping bodily fluids.

The problem? Is the dead body in the room. The single and the divorced, who have only their perceptions of dating to work with, mistakenly place too much emphasis on the idea that widowed people are emotionally shell-shocked and that any hesitation, game playing or even hurtful behavior is somehow mitigated by this common grief myth.

The best thing a person dating a widow/er can do is ignore that fact. The widow thing. Just expect the same courteous, interested and emotionally genuine behavior that one expects of everyone they date. Be upfront about how you feel, what you are looking for and where your personal “crap” lines are draw. Remember too that dating is about getting to know someone not fixing them. Falling in love with someone’s potential is stupid regardless. A widowed man may seem like a great catch because he was a terrific husband to someone who is dead and can’t actually attest to the veracity of that anymore, but if he is a crappy boyfriend, odds are he wasn’t all that great of a husband either.

But here’s something I have noticed. Women tend to fill in the gaping holes in a relationship with narratives they will pull from the thin air if needs be but more often are variations on past relationships they have had with other men.

Don’t do that.

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And here’s why. Heartbreak might have common denominators but the most basic fact of being widowed is that someone died on you. Literally died. A person with whom you plighted your troth, shared with more intimately than anyone you’ve ever known so far. You had sex with this now dead person. Possibly made babies with them. They took all your secrets with them when they left. You will not see them again across a room or when you swap children on weekends or inadvertently run into them when they are out to dinner with their new love. They are dead. The dead molder or are scattered to the wind or sit like knick knacks on a mantle.

Relationships end. Painfully. The lingering can be bitter, filled with recriminations, animosity and torturing self-doubt. But relationships, though coupled with people, are not people. You do not go to the morgue to identify a dead relationship any more than you hold its hand while it sucks for its last breaths like a fish on dry dock. It’s heartbeat doesn’t gallop like a herd of frightened horses beneath your fingertips before fluttering to stillness like a butterfly smashed up against the windshield of a car at highway speeds.

The flotsam of a relationship is divided up with each partner taking his/her half. Dead people are not very helpful cleaning out closets, basements or alerting the post office to their change of address.

As much as you might be tempted to overlay your break up experiences onto your widowed boyfriend, it will be an ill fit, resulting in continued misunderstanding and frustration. And it’s the little frustrations that sink budding love and undermine existing love.

Here is what matters:

  • People who love you show you that love consistently through their actions
  • Falling in love with someone’s potential is like having an affair with your own reflection.
  • Being in love with “being in love” leads to disappointment and frustration for both parties.
  • Everyone comes with a past. Fixate on it and be miserable or live in the now and build a future.
  • While you can impress someone with your patience and understanding, they won’t necessarily grow to love you for it.
  • Make sure you are over your own issues before assuming your problems stem from your mate’s “issues”.

Love is actually pretty simple, but it’s the most simple concepts that are the hardest to grasp, or so I learned during the years I spent teaching 7th graders. Abel Keogh recently wrote a piece about trusting your gut. Love is love. It feels right and gets better over time because even the issues that come up as relationships progress become a part of the growth rather than detours or roadblocks that must be continually negotiated . Doubts that become nags are trying to tell you something you need to know. Don’t rationalize them away. Don’t assume that the issues that keep or kept you from moving on after your last relationship can help you understand his or that patience is actually an admirable virtue where romance is concerned.*

He loves you when he shows you day in and out without time-outs.

*I have to admit a certain curiosity about the whole “be patient with me/I need more time” excuse that my gender so willingly accepts and would love to meet the woman who turns it around and says “I could use a bit more patience as I learn to put up with your need to keep your late wife’s toothbrush and a bit more one on one time dating that isn’t a dolled up booty call.” But I am unlikely to ever find her.


Cards

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And you know what I am talking about widowed people. That handy-dandy “get me out of anything” excuse that your late spouse bequeathed you by merely dying young. It’s a temptation that is almost too much for any widowed person to resist, using the aftermath of their spouse’s death to guilt people into … anything really. The widow card has few equals, and even fewer betters, when it comes to manipulating others.

Did I say that? Out loud?

Yes, I did. Pulling the widow card is a blatant form of emotional manipulation*. One that we all have used but is frankly always wrong. Sorry, to rain on you with reality, but no matter what the situation was – applying guilt liberally as a remedy isn’t going to earn you gold stars in any version of the afterlife. People who’ve been played by a widow know full well they are being strong-armed, and even when they go along with it out of misguided sympathy, it probably didn’t keep them from resenting you for it.

But what I really want to discuss are not the times you pulled the card to wiggle out from under a late fee on the Visa or sneak away from work a little early. I want to discuss the completely inexcusable practice of using widowhood to gain the upper hand in an intimate/dating relationship.

We’ve discussed (oh, okay, I’ve discussed at you) the concept of being ready to date again. When? Why? How? And I touched on the real need to be ready to engage with another person equally and honestly about where you are emotionally and what you are really looking for and expect. It does no one any good to go into a dating situation when you are still inclined to use your widowhood as a means to distance yourself emotionally or “hog the remote” where the pace and direction are concerned.

One of the biggest widow card offenses I’ve noticed in my travels here and there in the webosphere of widowed and those who date them is the “I need time”. Or space or a Tardis perhaps. Because intimacy with a new person after you’ve lost the old one to death can stir up some (or a lot) of conflicting emotions.

Know this – if you are really sure that the new person is “the one” and love them for them, conflicts become details to be tackled one at a time and without the need for space. Indeed, taking a “break” is very anti-relationship. You can’t work on a relationship with another person with just yourself. The other person’s input and presence is requirement. Relationships can’t grow if one of you is constantly heading out into the woods for a retreat or to commune with (and by commune, I mean wallow) in grief.

Men, and women, who pull the widow card version of “give me time” and tell you that they will “be in touch” are screwing with you.

And I can hear their screams even as I type this:

NO, we are not using the unfair advantage our grief gives us in the sympathy department to make sure that we have the most say in this relationship because our feelings are the more delicate … and important … and that we feel we should be the only voting members at the table.

But they are.

Society, grief culture and the ever-growing battalion of widowed aids via message boards, websites and organization (not to mention the support groups for people – mostly women – who date widowed – encourage widowed ( and their new partners) to look at their situation as a “condition” that needs to operate outside the standard boundaries of how “normal” people are expected to behave when dating.

If a divorced or single man says, “I need space.” Nine times out of ten he is dumping you. Disingenusously to be sure, but weaseling out nonetheless. Widowers are men. They know the manly ways out of relationships that are past their freshness dates or simply aren’t good fits. And though the nine out of ten may actually be eight out of ten for them, “I need space” that lasts for longer than a week is still “I’m not into you anymore”. Grief might be the excuse he is giving himself to make him feel better about having lead you on, but it’s still a widow card. And it is still manipulative of him to use his dead wife to avoid telling you that things are now “off”.

Widows also use the widow card to keep their dates in line. To train them to expect overbearing and callous behavior of their late wife’s family and friends or not be impatient about the non-parenting they are doing which has led to unmanageable and manipulative children (of all ages). Widowed who like being the only one in the driver’s seat will “card” their significant others into putting up with always being second or third on the VIP list, being okay with shrines to the late spouse, tolerating occasional, or regular, “grief retreats” that require radio silence that can last days or weeks or months. After which the widow card is good for  “get back into your graces as though I haven’t been a complete asshole” use.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it. Grief is no excuse. Despite its handiness and usefulness, it’s wrong to blackmail others emotionally, and the farther out a widowed person is from their spouse’s death – the less okay it becomes**.

Some people have a different take, but some people enjoy (thrive even) in drama and the stew of high school tinged drama. All you have to do is watch reality tv to know the truth of that.

So widowed folk, if you are ready to date – or are dating – it’s time to put away your stash of widow cards, man up and do your date or new SO the same favor you did for your late spouse – play fair. Be emotionally and physically available for participation in this relationship you are creating. It’s foundation will only be as strong as you choose to make it.

To those dating/intimately involved with a widowed guy or gal, hold them to the same standards you would if they didn’t have this tragedy in their past. Their feelings are not existing on some higher plane than your own. If they need time and you are inclined to wait on them, don’t be conned into something open-ended that leaves you hanging. Set some rules. Ask and expect for your feelings to be taken into account. Don’t be a doormat.

*And I did this. Used my widowness to weasel and manipulate. Especially in that first year and I did it because it works. I did not use it while dating – much – but beware that all widowed people know the power of a dead spouse. All.

** And I don’t want to hear about the total bullshit “latent grief” thing. It doesn’t exist. Some people will use old tragedy to avoid dealing with new hurts but that doesn’t give standing to the idea that grief can be buried and resurface like some zombie in B movie.


My own work. Created using "Inkscape"...

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The limit is 500 but I received a dispensation for another 50. So how many words have I written?

843.

A first draft should just flow freely. Even when you know there are word count constraints, the first rule is just get it down and done. Worry about length in the edit.

If I’d had a thousand, the mandate would have been relatively easy.

Explain how you and Rob made your relationship work.

Which begs the question of why our both having been widowed set the odds against us in a way that other relationships aren’t as challenged, but the book is advice based and geared towards women who find themselves dating and/or in serious relationships with widowers.

A widower once showed up in the forum who took issue with the idea that dating him would be more difficult than dating someone with a different set of variables. He argued that divorced or never married men presented women with similar issues. He ranted and raved quite a bit – which left the question of why he would need special handling not all that much in doubt – but he made a good point. One I don’t disagree with really. Dating is dating. Baggage is baggage to be unpacked and then put away in a drawer, donated to a charity or tossed in the trash.

And everyone comes to dating with a unique to him/her set of details for someone else to parse.

So what did we do?

In 550 words or less?

We wanted it enough to do all of the things that the experts tell you are critical in establishing and maintaining a good relationship but that most people are too lazy, caught up in life or simply resist because it wrecks the whole sexy romance aura of it to bother doing.

  • Did you know your partner’s complete medical history before you signed on the dotted line? Or debt obligations? Credit problems? Portfolio? Retirement plans? I did. And Rob had my info too.
  • And did you talk about your fears? Plans for the future? How to raise the kids – discipline and Santa Clause issues alike?
  • When things came up – as they do – did you speak up or stuff it until it exploded in a Technicolor montage of every little thing that drives you crazy, being sure to include all miscues and imagined slights?

There was not a lot of doubt where Rob and I were headed. Even in the very beginning, our emails read like two people mining for a potential relationship. We weren’t youngsters and we don’t come from the school of drifting until something is so obviously a relationship we are forced to make it an action item.* Though Rob thought we could perhaps live together for a bit, the immigration issues, compounded by insurance and employment and child concerns and my rather immovable point of view on the stupidity/just asking for trouble problem with the whole free-form co-habitation thing, made that a less desirable alternative. Rob gallantly refrained from pointing out that we were engaged and planning to be married in September anyway, which was really a sweet thing for him to do.

Both of us did the cohabitating thing with the late spouses. Rob and Shelley at the behest of her grandmother, who believed couples needed at least two years to practice before tying a knot**. I went along with cohabitating with Will but I laid my cards on the table first and put a time limit on it, and he was invited to agree or move along.  He found my conditions completely reasonable and actually proposed well before his time was up – as he had planned to all along I later learned. Living together is a rather pointless exercise for those who’ve decided that marriage is what they want anyway. But it mollified others and provides the illusion of having put time and thought into your decision.

When I share the odd story here and there about our courtship and the early part of our marriage, I leave out the work part. Partly because it’s not romantic and partly because I – incorrectly no doubt – assume that everyone knows that good relationships don’t bubble up from the sea-foam like Aphrodite.

Things came up.

We had three children in varying stages of not being terribly pleased with us. There were in-laws who felt trampled upon and friends who weren’t sure how to react. Our mothers were supportive but not all that secretly worried. My dad was about the only one who wasn’t too concerned.

Logistics. Moving and merging households. Immigration. And the emotional residue from care-taking and grief still wanting central stage from time to time, having been in the spotlight for so long how could it be otherwise?

550 words. I almost need a book.

*For the record – again – I am personally opposed to living together in a mindless manner. Nothing good is the usual result. As an off-shoot, I don’t think it’s wise to know what you want but keep it from the other person because they either a) don’t want the same thing really or b) you think they might meander into line with your way of thinking if you just stay casual about it. To varying degrees, they are all recipes for personal misery times two (or more if you are foolish enough to impose this on children either by dragging them along for the ride or creating one from scratch).

**At least that is what Rob told me she told them. My theory? No one was crazy about the idea of Rob and Shelley marrying. I suspect that Shelley’s grandmother used her considerable influence to simply slow the two of the them down a bit, and they went along because they were incredibly young and marriage  – at least in the days of our teenage yore – seemed pretty permanent. But that’s just my theory.


Laughing couple.

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Left a comment on a post about remarriage that prompted the author to come back – gloating a tiny bit at what she perceived was “striking a nerve” – to “explain” that she really meant no offense and was writing from her own perspective.

What perspective? Longing and need. Not atypical when one is alone again after having been contentedly cocooned in a relationship. But she made the mistake of comparing her missteps with those who venture back in a more relationship oriented mind and who, unsurprisingly, find someone.

I have written it before but it bears repeating  – most people find what they are looking for when they date. The trouble is that most people look for the wrong things.

But the observations that prompted me to comment were directed at folks who remarry. In the author’s opinion, moving into marriage again after a short interval is based on the longing only. There couldn’t be any possible way that real love is the motive.

And in the absence of the one we truly want, I am sure that occasionally the “stand-in” can fall into a small space made where the huge void developed. And maybe that is love. A new love.

Stand-ins. Second wives are “stand-ins”. How could we hope to be more when we are not what is actually wanted?

And one wonders why dating goes wrong or new relationships don’t lead anyway? As if anything good could come from using people? Or thinking of them as second best or pale imitations?

This particular blog is multi-authored, but more than a few have a decidedly poor opinion of the men and women who dare to be second. Surprising given that a couple of the others are in relationships or remarried themselves.

But I’ve observed this elsewhere. At Widower Wednesday, a widow left a comment in the middle of a conversation taking place between mostly non-widowed second wives and girlfriends that upbraided them for their desire to come first in their relationships.

“Seconds should know their place,” and I am paraphrasing except for the “seconds” term. “They cannot expect to supplant the late wife, who by rights earned her spot eternal as first and foremost.”

Heavens to sisterwives! Seriously?

I left a response to the explanation of the blogger who has such a low opinion of the idea that love can be love on the same level as one lost, but it wasn’t approved. Which did not surprise me. I was pointed and called her out for mixing her metaphors. Basically, one can’t fall back on “it’s just based on my experience” when citing an example of that is based on the life of someone you heard about via a friend.

She’d started her post with the tale of a widower who’d remarried in the first year after his wife’s death. She implies that he was simply filling that void. Not that she was judging or anything.

So why bring it up?

There is no corner market on longing and loneliness and the need to be held and make love. It’s not exclusive to any particular relationship aftermath or more keenly felt by widowed as opposed to divorced or someone whose broken up with a boyfriend. Hurt is hurt. Pining is pining. The degree of attachment and the owie it leaves when severed is dependent on the person and will vary.

But no one is a stand-in. No one should be viewed in that light or allow herself to be cast in that role. And if you are prowling for a warm body only have the balls to say so upfront so the object of your carnal desire has the right to choose to be used or not.

Using someone for sex and dating with an eye to a permanent relationship are not the same things at all. Perhaps that post should have been a two part’r.

 

 


"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

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New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.