The Unexpected Benefits Of Premature Destruction
I’m fond of saying, “I don’t have one-night stands, I have three-day relationships.” I’m also fond of saying, “I have slept with over a hundred women. This sounds good until you realize that it means over a hundred women have decided I was too much trouble.” When I was single, I’d burn through seven or eight girlfriends in a year.
And I do burn through relationships quickly, due to a bizarre combination of absolute self-worth and total utter confidence. I’ve never thought much of myself, but I come from a family that was big on therapy, big on talking everything out, big on exposing your feelings. So the moment I have any twinges about anything, I go straight to my lover and say, “This is bothering me.”
Note the lack of an intermediary step: is this worth bothering her for?
So I’d fall in love, and things would be decent, and I’d carp and create fights because this wasn’t a big problem now, but it would be in a few months, and it was better to hash this out now before it came to a head. Except I was continually anticipating problems that might have worked themselves out, given time, and I was asking for large behavioral changes that may have been premature (after all, I was always willing to be mutable, and so must the rest of the world), and as such I’d be lucky if I lasted two months with anyone. I’d fall deeply in love, then grind it to shreds.
And I always thought this was a failing. I did, yes, eventually find True Love with my wife, but even that involved a two-year adjustment period that should by all rights have ended in a hostile divorce. I should shut up more, be less protective of my own rights.
A friend of mine is having me rethink that.
My friend is recently quote-unquote single after having been kicked unceremoniously out on his ear by his ex. He’d never discussed her problems much with her – all that emotional talk gives him hives – and so, month by month, over the course of a decade, his ex got increasingly sick of his shit until one day he woke up and found himself being ejected from her life. He thought things were fine.
Why wouldn’t he? Nobody had said anything.
Watching him date now, he’s re-committed quickly, and is now dating someone he dislikes. We’re hanging out, and he goes, “Oh, fuck, that’s right, I have a date with her.” When asked why he’s so reluctant, well, she doesn’t really like the same movies that he does, and they don’t have much to talk about so they have to go to movies or else there’s awkward silence, and they don’t have the same life’s plans. Also, he’s pretty sure they’re both rebound-dating, though they’ve never discussed it.
They have a lot of sex, apparently. At least there’s that. And maybe my friend leaves all the bitching to me, and has more enjoyment than he lets on; I always allow for that possibility.
Yet when I ask why they don’t talk about it, well, turns out that he hates emotional discussions so much that once again, he’s hooked up with someone who also hates to have emotional discussions. He keeps saying, “Yeah, this one’s doomed,” and talking (to me, not her) about how they have nothing in common, and expressing the concept that, since he’s busy, this is better than being single again.
This has been going on for, oh, three months. I have a feeling that unless the new girlfriend does anything – which is doubtful, since she also appears to be of the “Wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouthful” persuasion – this could drag on for another six months, maybe a year. And yes, there’s regular sex – always the consolation prize in your Relationship Despair Crackerjacks – but on the other hand, when this sputters to the inevitable conclusion, I don’t think there will be a lot of Lessons Learned. The next relationship, I think, will be a lot like the past two relationships, because when questioning What’s Happening becomes anathema, you can’t really examine the wreckage to figure out what wrong.
I had wreckage. Junkyards of wreckage. But I did sift through them, trying to figure out why this plane had crashed.
I dunno. Maybe my relentless conversations have been a boon to me, in the long run. Yeah, I got caught in the quagmire a couple of times – but usually, if we were at all incompatible, we’d discover this quickly, chew our arms off in fights, and move on. It was over in six, eight weeks tops, and I could find someone else I liked. I thought of my relentless number of relationships as a bug, but perhaps on balance it’s more of a feature – things don’t drag on with me, usually, they often just crash. Which enabled me to a) learn a lesson, if I could, and b) eventually find the great loves who I’m currently involved with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my path is ideal; there’s a balance to be had, in terms of learning when to keep my mouth shut, and I’m always evolving with that. But for years, all I saw was the down side of a rapidly fluctuating love life. There was a subtle benefit of all those breakups, one I overlooked.
You shouldn’t choose either of these paths, obviously. But I think, if you have to have one, hopefully you luck out and take the path of destruction. Maybe.