Settling. Or not.

After writing about the mancation I'm indefinitely taking, I got to thinking about settling. Why is it that I've been so unwilling to accept the reality of everyone I've ever been romantically interested in and instead crafted fantasies about these people? Is it desperation that leads people to need to see everyone that strikes their fancy as their romantic salvation? Or maybe its strong social programming that causes me to always be in search of someone to "complete me" and build a nuclear family with. That's it, I'll blame society and the media, and while we're at it, my parents.

The silly thing is, I'm not even that hot to get married and procreate. Someday, sure, but not immediately. It totally gets in the way of my current plan, which involves no responsibility or ties and no planning. More than anything else, I think the idea of marriage and babies is comfortable- something I could do to slip back on to some kind of a normal, grandma-approved life plan. But even that is a cop-out. My grandma is progressive when it comes to women's roles and loves me although I've yet to offer hope of great grandchildren. She would be happier, I think, if I went to church more regularly, but I digress... Why am I so willing to jump on board with someone who I am not at all on the same page with, who sometimes doesn't respect me and is occasionally deeply disappointing?

The optimist in me says that I'm simply being too optimistic and naive about these men. I see the best in them  and censor out all those handy red flags until they are too glaringly obvious to ignore. I want them to be someone I can be happy with and to heck with the reality. I'm like one of those sobbing, big haired women who falls in love writing to serial killers in jail, screaming into the news camera, "I can CHANGE HIM!" Insert southern accent.

But, again, why put myself through the inevitable heartbreak that follows dating someone who doesn't really exist? It's like having a real imaginary friend who can actually hurt your feelings. Of course, if I give up the fantasy then I can't enjoy the squishy, delicious rush that comes when we meet someone new. Oooh, ahhh, the unadulterated possibility of greatness! We see what we want to. Because it's easier. Because if we dig too deep the shadowy stuff comes up and this perfect new person ceases to be perfect. Because we may figure out that they have drastically different values and plans that they will not change for us. So we think, "Oh well, she says she doesn't want to have kids, but I'm sure she'll change her mind!" "He says he doesn't want to be in a relationship but I'm sure he's just scared. He'll come around when he gets to know me." And sometimes people do change their minds. But I'd venture to guess that more often than not, these optimistically and/or stubbornly ignored early warning signs wind up in a lot of frustration further down the line.

Or worse. We decide that what was once important to us (going to medical school, getting a dog, traveling to Antarctica) is no longer important. And sometimes we might genuinely have a shift in priorities and values. But once again I'd venture to guess that most of the time this ends in people squashing a dream in the name of niceness compromising...which is just a nice way of saying "settling." Do you not deserve to get a dog if your heart is truly set on that? Do you not deserve to chase penguins around in a parka? How do we decide what dreams or values or priorities are okay to part with? When is it really okay to settle?

This is going to sound cold, but here goes: I really don't care what you do. So long as you aren't hurting anyone else, go for it! I'd like for you to enjoy life as much as I do, but I'm in no position to decide what's best for you and certainly not in any position to judge. Coming from the "everything is a gift and an opportunity" camp, I don't believe in accidents or mistakes. However, I am beginning to understand how important it is to have values and dreams, and that it's okay to be rigid about the ones that are really important to me. For instance, I have some baby names in mind, but I can be flexible about that. And I now know that I am only interested in sharing intimacy with people who I am exclusively committed to, and it's okay if I meet someone who doesn't want this. They should keep doing what feels right for them, and I will date someone else. Simple.

The tricky thing is being willing to commit to living in reality. Reality can be just as uncomfortable as it is blissful, and while it's all a blessing, some moments are simply more fun than others. It's disappointing to realize that this perfect other we are crushing on is a terrible match for us. So sometimes, in the name of maintaining the lovebuzz, we lie to ourselves to continue to see this person as we want them to be. I think that our brains start to function in starvation economy mode and we forget that there really are other fish in the sea. The whole single soulmate thing probably isn't real. You can relax. It's going to be okay.

The key, I suppose, is to approach meeting people with more neutrality. To not get overly excited, nor be pessimistic. To approach every possible connection as just is an opportunity to connect with another human being and maybe learn something new. And maaaybe fall in love and all that. This takes pressure off the meeting ("Husband? Husband?!?"..scary) and gives us the clarity to see this person as they really are- not to judge or be critical...just to observe and see if their bottom line values and priorities match ours. You should not have to sacrifice something important to you (particularly your self-respect or safety) in order to be with someone. When it comes down to that, it is much better to be alone. There's this Canadian poet, Andrea Dorfman, who wrote a really beautiful poem 'How To Be Alone' that someone made into a brilliant and inspiring youtube video you should watch the next time you are lonely (

Until you meet that special someone, you are a wonderful person to be with. Enjoy your own presence and be careful what you settle for. If you sell yourself out, you will not able to trust yourself and then it's impossible to love yourself. And a life without self-love is, in my humble opinion, hardly worth living. You deserve to be in love with yourself and to heck with the fantasies.


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