Friday, February 24, 2017

against 'good enough'

I've been thinking a lot about the different ways people settle in relationships. It seems like hardly anyone is dating/married to the person they originally wanted to be dating/married to, but that they've made so many compromises and adjustments just to be with SOMEONE that they've contented themselves with settling. 

I was kind of halfheartedly doing some research and discovered an article by Lori Gottlieb in the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic called "Marry Him!: the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough." Essentially Gottlieb is like, "Bleh! You women are too fussy! It's too hard to find someone you really want to be with! JUST SETTLE FOR SOMEONE WHO SEEMS OKAY." This line of thinking makes me want to die one million times. Maybe I'm a little snobby about the whole idea of settling because Not Settling Ever has worked for me every time. I can think of every guy who tried to date me who I dumped and I still feel really confident about all of my choices. I have good instincts about who I like and who makes me happy and who I want to spend time with -- and I think everyone has these same good instincts -- so trying to force myself into situations with people who fall short of my standards never really works; I'm always left bored or annoyed or apathetic and ultimately unhappy

Gottlieb says, "My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)" Like, sorry? I think Gottlieb is underestimating every single woman by assuming that women are incapable of recognizing when someone is or isn't actually making them happy. 

I've been noticing, like, an onslaught of settling recently. I have friends who are dating guys because "it's better to have someone to go cuddle than nobody" and friends who are dating guys because of family pressure. I know someone who is dating a guy to get over another guy. Moreover, I'd definitely include jumping into serious relationships too quickly as settling, because it's 100% settling for the Honeymoon Phase or settling for not-bothering-to-get-to-really-know-somebody. It's settling for a fantasy rather than reality. 
Someone I love is getting engaged after two and a half months of knowing her boyfriend -- as in, less than ninety days; as in, less than a semester -- because "she just knows." I see fear and desperation and loneliness, but I don't see any self-care or confidence or self-love. Everybody deserves to be in a relationship that is both exciting and sustainable, a relationship that they actually want to be in that doesn't feel like an afterthought or self-preservation against a lonely future. 

I'd also like to point out that the opposite of settling isn't just finding the hottest boyfriend with rock-solid abs and a billion dollars and a Mazarati.
Another friend of mine is supposed to get married in March and recently texted me that she's having major doubts. She isn't happy. Her fiance has "all the right things": a temple recommend, a high GPA, a future in some money-making field, a Herschel backpack, a fixed-gear bike, a bunch of nice friends, a big welcoming family, a Tumblr blog. But despite everything that my friend isn't settling for, her fiance has never been interesting enough or smart enough or strong enough or brave enough. Just because a person looks right for the part doesn't mean that you're compatible on a really basic, primitive level. You can settle for all the minutia of a personality that doesn't impress you mentally/emotionally, and that's still heartbreaking and unfair and serious.
Another thing I've been feeling baffled by is Twitter re: relationships. Provo Twitter is a weirdly bleak and desolate place for a lot of single/dating/engaged people because the pressure for young Mormons to find literally anyone to get married to is amplified by the echo-chamber of similarly frustrated and/or lonely voices. I love Twitter and all the friends I've made there, but some of the relationships I've seen form between "mutual followers" are alarming and, like, super super super embarrassing. I'm not really an insider in the local community of Instagram or Snapchat or whatever, but I kind of imagine that it's vaguely the same situation. The problem is that a lot of these relationships are forming on a base of nothing -- mostly just one lonely voice calling out *into the void* or whatever and a similar lonely voice answering -- so these relationships become toxic and flimsy because they're ungrounded and phony and insubstantial. I truly believe that a relationship cannot be founded simply on mutual loneliness, or mutual wanting-a-significant-other-very-badly-because-all-their-friends-and-all-their-siblings-are-married-and-their-bishop-has-been-pressuring-them-and-it-sucks-to-sit-at-the-kids-table-with-the-rest-of-the-unmarried-cousins-and-their-ex-started-dating-again-and-it-would-be-a-lot-easier-if-they-could-just-settle-down-with-someone. It's settling. It's settling for a relationship that isn't rooted in truth or reality.

I guess this is kind of an unfair thing to post about so critically because I'm the kind of person who would rather not be dating anyone at all than be dating someone who has an annoying Twitter presence or talks about football too much or doesn't read or whatever -- especially because my dating track record is kind of this barren landscape of romantic casualties: I'm famous for not giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, for being "picky," for having impossible standards,
for being brutal, for being unimpressable and undateable. Maybe I'm not the right authority to be like, "Everyone Is Settling!!" because I'm unusually hard on guys and might be the outlier here. Maybe everyone is having a good time settling and I'm just being a crabby goblin about it. Maybe my crazy high standards are just that: CRAZY, and maybe everyone else would be unhappy being as fastidious and particular about the people they spend time with as I am.

But then again, my pickiness and bonkers high standards led to Hunter Phillips: the smartest, silliest, most interesting boy of all the boys. Loving Hunter has never been settling because I wanted smart and he's the smartest. I wanted kind and he's the kindest. I wanted funny and he's the funniest. I wanted weird and he's the weirdest. I wanted talented and he's the most talented. I never had to go through some weird phase where I thought he was kind of gross or cheesy or dumb or narrow-minded. I never had to come around to the idea of loving him. I never had to teach myself how to love him. Hunter is easy, even obvious, to love. Everybody is in love with Hunter.

I don't want this blog post to seem gloat-y or smug or like I'm against compromise. I don't want it to seem like I'm not aware that "perfect" doesn't really exist and that finding someone who is really, really, really good is HARD. Even your ~soul mate~ or whatever is going to have some weird habits and annoying opinions, blah blah blah blah. I don't want to have to baby everyone by doing some big dumb disclaimer about something we all technically understand about how relationships work. The bottomline is this: you don't have to settle for someone who has flaws, opinions, habits, etc. that you don't want to settle for. 

Everybody is allowed to be super, super, super in love and not to feel distantly sad about it, like maybe you're better than this. Like maybe you could be happier with someone else. Like maybe you're settling after all.

-Avery Jalaine