I had kind of an interesting conversation with my mom last night that veered off course when she said “I can’t believe she found someone and you didn’t.”
Part of me felt really loved and supported in that moment— she almost always has an answer for what I’m doing wrong to keep myself single. But this time it wasn’t about not smiling enough or not putting myself out there— she was saying she thinks I’m great and doesn’t see how someone else hasn’t seen it too. And that is a terribly reassuring thing to hear, when you’ve been as single as I have been. (On a podcast over my lunch hour, I heard someone describe themselves as “aggressively single,” and it was a laugh of recognition I gave.)
But part of me felt like it missed some important points. First, and this was a long time coming, so I want full credit for it: I don’t feel defensive about my singleness. I’ve fallen in love, and been loved in return. Not as well or as long as I’ve had in mind, but still. People have seen great things in me and I’m sometimes the one who has politely declined to pursue relationships with them. It’s not that nobody’s wanted me, it’s that I haven’t found the thing that would go the distance. And I have very few regrets about those decisions. And, fwiw, I think there’s every reason to believe that it’s only a matter of time until I find it. I could be deluding myself, about that, but honestly, if I am, I prefer it to the alternative— an unhappy resignation to a life that I’m disappointed by. I’d rather be the optimist, searching for the pony in the dung heap than believe that the dung heap is all I deserve.
The other thing that it missed was that I am not jealous of what my friend has. I have respect for what she has, but I admitted to my mom that if I had been in my friend’s shoes, I wouldn’t have recognized the same qualities in the man who is now her husband. I’d have screened him out for incompatibilities in the life we wanted, for incompatibilities in values, for all kinds of reasons. In retrospect, I’m glad my friend never asked me what I thought of him, because I never would have predicted all the ways they’re good for each other— I could only see the things that made me concerned for her. And after that, I could only see the things I would do differently. I’m not threatened by her happiness at all. I’m impressed at and inspired by all the obstacles they have navigated to come to the truly awesome place at which they appear to have arrived. They truly have a beautiful marriage, and I love my friend too much to be anything but joyful about that.
But it did get me to wondering about my screening process— if I’d have hit the eject button as often as I think I would have, in my friend’s place, I’d have missed the wonderful thing she and her husband have built. And more than that, she found a pretty amazing guy, and I couldn’t see how amazing even after she told me. I can see it now, which is good, but in my own life, I wonder if there are amazing guys I couldn’t see clearly, also. I think what they’ve built is specific to them, but it does make me wonder if I’m not looking for a relationship that fits like a glove when we’ve all got to submit to a little alteration to fit. I don’t mean that in a “I’ll change him” way, but there’s who you are as an individual and there’s the relationship you build together, and what you build together involves a little compromise and some growing together. I think that’s easier to see in couples who get together young, but among my friends and relations who’ve entered their relationships a little later, they grow together too, in ways that you might have to look harder to see, because we treat “grown-up” as if it’s a discrete point, instead of a life-long process.
If you have thoughts about this, I’d love to hear them. I’m a little too inside my head these days, so a fresh perspective is more than welcome.