I answer a lot of relationship questions in different places. One is on my Facebook Page “My Mother’s Rules.” I also answer questions on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Eastern live on Divorce Court’s Facebook Page.
Sometimes I find that I get the same kind of question over and over again. The details are different, but the underlying issue is the same. These days the one I get most often goes something like this:
“I am 22 years old. I have been dating this guy for a year. I think he’s cheating on me. He doesn’t respect me and he causes me a lot of heartache. But I really love him and I want this to work out. What should I do?”
Before I answer questions like these I usually warn people about my biases and history. To do otherwise would be misleading.
When I was single, boyfriends didn’t have Angst Clearance. In other words, they were not valuable enough, especially in the early going, to warrant agonizing over them. In my 20’s I was all about my education and destination. If a guy wanted to be with me he had to act right because I had other things to do. Whether or not he hung around while I was doing them depended on whether or not he clogged up my mind or my time with negativity.
When I was in my early 20’s I had boyfriends because they were fun. Once they weren’t, they got fired. Or just as often, I’d get booted because they found me less than accommodating or just a pain in the ass. Such was life.
Around 26 or so I’m not going to lie, I did want to settle down. That’s when Boyfriendhood became a probationary period. Is he good for me or no? If the answer was no, I moved on. The important thing is I did not feel that the time I spent discovering that was wasted. It had value. In the interim, I enjoyed his company and had some fun. I didn’t lose anything because I had not altered my life for him; I had merely let him join me for a small part of mine. And that part was fun because once it got ugly I cut him loose.
I never asked myself, “How do I handle it?” or “Should I try to wade through it?” I always thought, “Wow, dodged that bullet.”
Now, I’m not going to lie. I may have taken the whole thing a little too far. My date and run attitude left me ill-prepared for marriage. Once married, I couldn’t just leave. I had to learn to deal with problems and I didn’t have much experience with that. So there were a few rough years as a result.
I think, however, there is some middle ground you can aim for. Having a boyfriend with whom you have a few issues is not a bad thing. Life is lumpy and there are always going to be problems.
But once it becomes a story of unrelenting unhappiness you have to know it’s okay to let go.
One young lady told me she wasn’t into all that “starting over mess.” She wanted me to tell her how to handle the misery she was in because she wanted to stay with the guy that made her miserable.
In fact, I’ve had a number of young ladies (21, 22 or 23 years old) tell me they want to make a bad relationship work because they didn’t want to feel like they wasted the year or two they’ve put into it.
My response? Any time you’ve spent learning something, enjoying yourself or progressing as an individual wasn’t wasted. So you dated someone for two years and it didn’t work out. Did you have fun? Did you enjoy your time with him? Did you learn anything from him? Did you have any new and interesting experiences with him? ALL OF THAT HAS VALUE.
Once it becomes a truly negative experience, though, it’s simply time to move on. Yes, you will feel bad but you will get over it. To be without a man is not a failure. To feel like you wasted your time just because that relationship didn’t end in marriage or a permanent relationship of some sort is, however, a mistake.
There is one very important caveat to this entire line of thought. You have to take care of your business in a way that does not make you vulnerable. If you don’t control your fertility you cannot control your life. Don’t make major moves to please him that hamper your ability to make decisions that allow you to move on. Got that part? It’s important.
That said, feeling that you’ve wasted your time in a relationship if it doesn’t end in forever is like reading the end of a good mystery book before you’ve read the book itself. The journey, the red herrings, the false turns, the snappy dialogue, the words themselves have value.
I get it. We women want to settle down and have a permanent relationship. What concerns me is women who settle for misery in order to achieve that permanence. Please don’t.
What’s worse than not having a man?
Being stuck with one that makes you miserable.
Enjoy the book, ladies.
Make the most of everyday.
Don’t worry so much about whether you can tie down
your tomorrow that you miss today.
You early years are not about locking down a guy.
They are for loading up your life.