He Loves Me...
Atlantic.com had a fascinating article this month by Lori Gottlieb entitled Marry Him.
The article is aimed at single, childless women in their 30s and 40s, and puts forward the case to ‘settle’ for someone you get on with, rather than hold out for ‘Mr Right’.
In a post article interview, Lori regrets not having ‘settled’ for a previous boyfriend because she lacked a ‘core connection.’ She reveals that she has moved her position, and would now be happy to ‘settle’ with someone who may not sweep her off her feet, but would be happy to contribute financially; change the nappies; share the child care; and father the donor sperm baby she had six months ago, when she was in her non ‘settling’ phase.
If I sound too critical, I don’t mean to be. There is a great deal of sense in much of what she writes, even if she does lean too heavily on American sit coms such as Friends and Sex And The City to provide her literary analogies.
With divorce rates at staggeringly high levels, leading to a boom of single home ownership, and the taxpayer picking up the bill of dealing with the social consequences of family breakdown, there is good reason to discuss the option to ‘settle’ - if ‘settling’ means the decision to marry has become more seriously thought through, and therefore stands a greater chance of success.
I used to listen each week to a litany of unrelenting complaints about people’s husbands and feel pretty good about my decision to hold out for the right guy, only to realize that these women wouldn’t trade places with me for a second, no matter how dull their marriages might be or how desperately they might long for a different husband. They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because they, like me, realize that marriage ultimately isn’t about cosmic connection—it’s about how having a team-mate, even if he’s not the love of your life, is better than not having one at all.
She is, of course, absolutely bang on the money; but that doesn’t mean one has to abandon the ideal of one day experiencing that all consuming love. Her message is - don’t hold out for the thing that’s going to really rock your world, it’s about a lot more than that.
A 39 year old friend of mine who is looking for a wife is more than happy to ‘settle’. In fact, he just has, and to his great delight and surprise, is now falling in love with the woman he chose to ‘settle’ with. He reckons that at his age, love is a bonus.
The norm of marrying for love and depending upon the emotional frisson to ‘conquer all’ when problems arise in the future, may not be such a good idea if that is all there is to a relationship when embarking upon marriage. The problem is that when in the heady state of being in love, faults and incompatibility of the other half are difficult to spot. Love blinds.
If only couples who marry today realised this. If only some realised that kindness and consideration, security and stability, are far more important than the giddy, dizzy, temporary heights of love.
I sometimes think of my Grandparent’s marriage. It was pretty awful for almost all of my childhood. There were never any rows or sharp words that I heard; it was just that when you went into the house you could have cut the atmosphere with a butter knife.
There was no communication. Granddad wanted to holiday abroad, Nana didn’t. Granddad wanted to go out at weekends, Nana didn’t. Quite often after a visit I left with a knot in my stomach.
As I sat in their garden one hot summer’s day not many years ago, I silently reflected on how much they had changed, and how things had got so much better without my noticing it happen. Granddad put on one of his records and the music drifted out through the French windows.
The track was called Il Mondo, and Granddad walked over to my Nana and gave her such an intimate kiss that it made me blush, and exclaim that they should “get a room”.
It appears that after 40 years of marriage they had learnt, at last, to communicate and live in harmony. This was a consequence of having lived in a time and place when divorce was still frowned upon.
40 years is a high price to pay for happiness, and not one that many people would be prepared to tolerate today.
Love is a little bit like chicken pox; the later in life you catch it, the harder you fall and the more serious the consequences.
Maybe lowering the bar, in terms of expectations, is a way to avoid having to deal with the emotional trauma, which accompanies any relationship built on ‘love’; to ‘settle’ could be a very effective form of self-protection.
The pressures of modern life, and high rates of divorce, have undoubtedly led to the problem of older singles looking for life partners and the new option of ‘settling’. I wouldn’t mind betting it’s amongst the higher paid professionals where it is most prevalent.
After all, does any busy person have the time to deal with the texting, emails, flirting and the traditional ‘courtship’ rituals?
Having lunch the other day with a successful female journalist and TV personality, we concluded that in this modern day, successful men and women have had to adapt how they operate, when looking for a partner.
The entire process has had to ‘speed up’ in order to survive the hectic confusion of daily professional life.
In yesterday's Sunday Times, Natasha Kaplinsky spoke of how she and her husband met and married a year ago.
They had lunch on day one, a peppermint tea on day two, and on the third date booked a holiday to the Maldives, where he proposed.
She is a TV presenter, he is a successful banker. I imagine they are both very busy, but both excellent communicators, with lots to do.
Using my own American sit com analogy, those of us who are Wing nuts may remember the scene with CJ and her Ranger. Within three minutes he had bombarded her with where and how questions. Time dictating that there wasn’t any to procrastinate. They had to commit and by-pass the danger zone of acting, mind games and guessing, moving straight into the comfort zone of re-assured togetherness; to go for it and try and work the rest out.
Natasha admits, he wears the trousers. I've noticed that most of the successful relationships I know are the same. However, we live in an age where men are getting weaker, both emotionally and physically, and women are getting stronger.
Has this reversal of relationship dynamics had an impact on love?
Working with a male colleague the other day over a coffee, he spoke to his girlfriend twice on the phone, once regarding the crucial decision as to who was going to pick up some broccoli on the way home.
He confided that they talked, even if just for a minute at a time, about four times a day.
I asked him why didn’t they text? “Because, during the week, our relationship is sustained by falling into bed last thing at night, and waking up together in the morning. I like to hear the affection in her voice, even for just 30 seconds, that way there are no misunderstandings.”
How right he is. The ability to communicate is the safety net for every other emotion a relationship deploys. Poor and lazy communication skills must be a factor in the demise of so many relationships and marriages today.
Text and emails are the devil in the detail - instead of improving communication they facilitate any manner of misinterpretations and misunderstandings.
Computers Blackberries and iphones probably account for more failed relationships than infidelity. A reliance to talk electronically transforms a relationship into a virtual entity, void of emotion or meaning, which in itself breeds frustration, anger and disappointment; it renders a relationship un-sustainable. A text or email is a very poor substitute for 'hello, it's me'.
Love has more to contend with in the battle of survival in the modern age than ever before.
Love or settle, communication is everything and neither will survive without it.
I do have a word of warning from a settler. One who learnt to play golf on her father’s knee. She has spent her life as a golf groupie, following tournaments around the world, and it was no surprise when she married a professional golfer.
She recently confided that she is about to walk after five years. When she married she knew she found him a tad boring; however, she thought that as they had so much in common she would be able to accommodate her yawns in a golf caddy.
He ticked all the right boxes.
She assumed that a lifestyle of shared interests and a mutual world view would make up for long silences.
She hadn’t accounted for the fact that marriage brings hidden in its pocket complacency, and that during courtship people are at their most exciting; as part of the Peacock ritual of trying to impress, we show off.
Is the phenomena of ‘settling’ a direct result of the hectic stressful pace we all live at in today’s society? The big question of course is that if more people ‘settle’, will the result be fewer divorces and therefore a more harmonious society?
Well, if ‘settling’ means you are able to objectively analyse the pros and cons of embarking upon a life time partnership, and weigh up all the potential pitfalls, then maybe it will.
For the 30 and 40 somethings who have a biological clock ticking away, maybe ‘settling’ is the way to go.
A 40 yr old friend married last year for the second time and has recently had a new baby daughter. He wouldn’t admit he had ‘settled’, but he had. Becoming a dad was far more important to him than love. Finding someone who would provide a stable home, and be a good mother, was right on the top of his list.
He had found himself at a point in his life where he was financially stable. No mortgage, substantial savings in the bank, which he imagined would be spent on nursery and school fees.
Unfortunately his first wife wanted to spend it on holidays to Mauritius and Jimmy Choos.
The first time he had married for love, but second time round, he was marrying for the things he knew sustained a relationship and mattered.
And my take on all of this? Well, if you have given up on love wait for a kind, thoughtful knight in shining Armani to rescue you from the chain mail, which is wrapped around your heart. You never know when he will come charging over the hill.
Love if you must, but remember that talking and kindness, security and respect, thoughtfulness, compassion, stability, openness, honesty and more talking, are the deal breakers.
I wouldn’t ‘settle’ for anything less.
PS As it is recess this is the only blog I will be posting until Monday and congratulations to Andrea, who has just been proposed to by Ian on a beach in Thailand! V definitely a love settle combination.
Thanks to Peter Cuthbertson at conservativehome.com for highlighting the article 'Marry Him' on Centre Right.