After a very bad breakup a few years back, I settled into a determined singlehood. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find anyone; I simply wasn’t looking, except occasionally in a half-hearted way. It didn’t help that PCOS was wreaking havoc with my hormones and killing my sex drive.
During that time I got a lot of advice from friends on how to find someone, up to and including lowering my standards (usually after I’d rejected someone who just didn’t click). At the time if anyone asked me what I wanted in a partner, I could tell them I wanted a man who was intelligent, literary, spontaneous, witty, spiritually compatible and either taller or stronger than I am. Geekiness and love of camping/hiking were perks. I still don’t think those standards are high, except for maybe the taller/stronger issue. That comes from a lifetime of being a six-foot-two chick with the sturdy frame of a viking peasant farmer, and is an issue entirely in my own head.
Anyway, my point is that there is an expectation that people (especially women) need to be in a relationship to be fulfilled, and consequently that “settling” for an unfulfilling relationship is somehow more desirable than being single. I’m here to say that’s utter and complete bullshit. I wasn’t (and still aren’t) willing to settle for less than what I need to make me happy in a relationship. I also wasn’t so unhappy as a very active single woman that I was impatient to find a relationship at any cost. I didn’t want the purpose of my life to be finding someone else, because if I made that the purpose of my life it would invalidate who I am and what I am capable of accomplishing on my own.
This was definitely NOT a consistent headspace throughout this time. I spent a lot of time struggling with the question of what I deserved, or whether it was more “realistic” to settle for what I could “catch”, because of what I looked like. When someone I didn’t know approached me, I struggled to shut up the voice in my head that said, “He’s attracted to me? what’s wrong with him?” and the more insidious suspicion that HE was settling for ME because he didn’t think he could do any better. The periods of ups and downs in that phase of emotional transition so resembled rapid-cycling that I even became convinced that I was bipolar.
Last October my highly empathetic and intuitive best friend staged a sort of intervention to help me along. Three of us sat down, and the rule was that we had to go around in turn and admit something that we’d never shared, and would make us cry. We talked about expectations of ourselves, perceived expections of those we care about, uncertainties as to our goals or deservedness of happiness. It turns out that we shared a lot of these in common.
At the end of the ritual I cut a length of my hair as sacrifice (and you’d have to know me to know how much that hurt) and asked my ancestors and the universe to, when I was ready to accept it, to send me the partner who would make me happy. I even went so far as to give the “list” of standards, leaving it up to them whether any of those standards were unrealistic.
Less than a month later I found out that despite all the mental and emotional progress I’d made in FA, I still didn’t believe that mutual attraction or love at first sight could apply to fat chicks. I found out by being proved wrong.
Part of the reason for the long break in blogging has been the introduction of a very distracting man into my life who, by the way, fits every single one of my standards for a partner, including the perks and a few things I didn’t know to ask for (like empathy). Sure there are things about us that the other has to adapt to, but the things that are really important (wit, intelligence, empathy, reason, humor, strength) are all there and accounted for. It’s a damn good thing I didn’t “settle” for less than I wanted, or I might have missed out on the awesomeness that is the real thing.
Now he’s moved in with me, and we’ve finally worked out possible ways to fit two enormous collections of books into one tiny, tiny house. (There’s no reason for us both to have copies of all the Jane Austen novels on the shelves, or duplicate Shakespeare. I’ll see his Dumas and raise him Isak Dinesen, and it may still all come down to paper-rock-scissors and cruising garage sales for new bookcases, possibly building an addition to have walls to put them on.)
We’ve already bought matching hiking boots, although my friends will do the fake-retching-that’s-sickeningly-sweet thing. We really only bought the same kind because they were 75% off and we’re both cheap bastards, but after two years my friends can put up with a little cuteness and STFU. :-)
Maybe some people can compromise on some or all of what they want in a partner and be completely satisfied. I know that finding the right person is almost entirely luck (plus a big chunk of self-awareness) and those who are more “people person” than I am may actually need to be in a relationship to be happy. Just make sure that no matter how much you want a warm body next to you at night that you don’t compromise on the core essentials that will make you happy. Having no partner really isn’t as bad as having a partner who doesn’t make you happy, trust me on this! Never settle for a partner who isn’t crazy about you (ALL of you) and vice-versa.
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