Today my friend Jonas and I discussed our desires for better jobs and compared our dating war wounds. Jonas was a witness to my most shining hour in Love Is Helping Drunk People. He's been teasing me about singing my heart out while tipsy ever since. Jonas called his most recent flame a "bitch" for not phoning him when she returned from vacation. He said he withheld affection because he was concerned that he had been too affectionate in the past and that caused women to walk all over him. He said he counted every handhold, every caress and every kiss. We didn't do this in our twenties. Are we bitter?
Our late teens and early twenties were a time of great hope and optimism. We could change the world then. It was before we were disappointed in our jobs, financial portfolios, marriages, friends and children or lack thereof. We can't seem to connect with people in the way that we hoped--like we did in our teens and early twenties. Then we thought love should last forever. Today we can't seem to find those who are willing to bend into a relationship. And it's all of us? Have we been hurt too many times? Have we given our hearts too many times? Have we slept with too many people or not enough? Are there rules, magic tricks, tips or potions that might help? Special prayers? Incantations? Positive thinking? Have we tried it all and still come up with nothing? Are once tender hearts too hard? How is it that we fail to love and be loved?
We may be too harsh with ourselves. Authors 100 years ago wrote of unhappy, unfulfilling marriages. Just have a read of almost any Edith Wharton novel. I also recently read The Pastor's Wife where a woman unwisely marries a man she hardly knows--a pastor in East Prussia. She becomes ill from 6 pregnancies. Back then there was no birth control and she was ignored. She was tempted to run away with an artist who seemed to want to love her in the way she had hoped. Instead, she returned to a man who hardly missed her. Sounds miserable.
I also recently read Thuderstruck--a novelized true incident which served as the basis for Hitchcock's Rear Window. A quiet Englishman and his loud spend-thrift actress wife finally ended things. He poisoned her, deboned her and hid her skin in the cellar. They never found a single bone. He said she had moved away to America. He moved his secretary/mistress into the house and paraded around town with her. They would have gotten away to America with her disguised as a boy had it not been for Marconi's obsession with perfecting cross-Atlantic wireless communication. They were recognized. She was proven innocent, he was sooooo guilty in a time when divorce would have been an equally great scandal. All this before the Titanic sank.
People once complained about bad marriages, now we refuse to settle for them. Are we now commitmentphobic ? Are we bitter finding ourselves single again after ending bad marriages? Anger and rage seem commonplace. I was slowing to turn into a parking lot today and was cursed at by a man driving a truck for a uniform delivery service. I followed to where his delivery was and called the company to report him. Do we not realize how difficult we truly are? Sure, we live in high-pressure times with bank forclosures threatening to hail in yet another Great Depression, but is that any excuse?
I wonder, though, if most marriages were good enough. We all have our quirks, maybe we just need to learn how to live with each other's quirks. Sometimes it seems like everyone is just about the same but the outside changes. Blond, brunette, brown, bald, silver...Our real saving grace is to take a hard look before we leap. Make sure the person we want to trust with our hearts is truly capable of taking care of it. Take it slowly, but not too slowly. Do things you both enjoy. Look for signs of emotional health and willingness to communicate. Honestly, that's been a key issue in my situations. I've been willing to give things a shot but the other person wasn't. And some have thought me foolish for some of the situations I tried to make work. Maybe a little... Some guys became critical and abusive when they didn't get their way. Some became disrespectful when I shared something that was important to me. (table manners and personal hygiene issues. Sorry, dirty fingernails and slurping food is really not sexy, nor is becoming angry when asked to be aware or pressuring me to have sex before I am ready.) Some were immature and incapable of a relationship. I know I'm not commitment-phobic.
Commitment-phobia is running away from a good thing. Self-preservation is running from a bad thing--someone who shows signs of anger, disrespect, instability or immaturity (relative to their age) or some other character flaw. Wisdom is also walking away from a situation which will bring you unhappiness in the future--don't enter into a relationship with someone who "warns" you that they don't believe in marriage or don't want children and you do. Sticking with someone who doesn't seem to like you that much in hopes of bringing them around is unwise. Hoping someone will change this about themselves is a sure path to bitterness.
Bitterness can be avoided. Of course, if you give in to it, there are some helpful guides out there:
The Bitter Man's Guide to Dating or
The Bitter Woman's Guide to Dating
I read up on him...he seems to be a nice guy who plays with jazz bands. I sing jazz. Maybe there will be two less bitter people in the world. Who knows!! I'll friend him on myspace. ;)