The Luv Doc: Settling

Who do you want? Mr. Wrong or Mr. Reliable?


Dear Luv Doc,

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt that true love and companionship were in my future. I’ve worked hard to foster my independence, to become the best version of myself and have resigned to never settle. Ive dated a lot of people, have experienced deep love, and know what I want. Respectfully, I bring a lot to the table and am content to dine alone until I meet the right person. But as I’ve aged into my mid-thirties, people have made me feel insecure, almost ashamed of my singledom. The consensus seems to be that I should have been willing to work through Mr. Wrong’s issues or settled for Mr. Reliable But Has Never Made Me Laugh. Is everyone secretly just marrying the person they meet at 35 and hoping for the best? Or should I wait for the person who feels like coming home?  – Table for One

One thing that’s more reliable than Mr. Reliable But Has Never Made You Laugh is that what people want for you is usually more about what they want for themselves. Most people really fear being alone ... or not being married ... or not having children ... or being seen as insufficient in some way that prevents them from achieving any of the preceding, but guess what? If it was so hard to find someone to pair off with and pop out a litter of replicants, there probably wouldn’t be 8 billion people on Earth or so many tourist families slow-walking five abreast down the sidewalk on South Congress on a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon with their mouths agape like it’s some sort of botanical garden. That’s not a ghost orchid, it’s a fucking Hermès and it’s a douche magnet, so shake a goddamned leg. I’m trying to get to the Continental for Earl Poole.

Long-term relationships have always been hard even the ones that seem easy. That’s what makes them so scary. They’re like tattoos. They all look good on day one, but give them 30 years.

So yes, like this advice column, people are wrong in so many infuriating ways, even if their hearts might be in the right place. That’s probably why it feels like oddswise at least a lot of people might be settling for Mr. Wrong or Mr. Reliable. I think the more likely reality is that a lot of those people don’t feel like they’re settling, they just make the best decision they can at the time with the information they have available. If divorce statistics are any indication, it turns out they’re wrong about half the time. I know that sounds pretty bad, but I think a lot of people are applying an antiquated standards to modern relationships. People weren’t “more sure” back when the divorce rate was in single digits, they were just scared of going to hell, losing all means of financial support, losing their property, or being ostracized by hypocrites too terrified to take a similar risk. Long-term relationships have always been hard even the ones that seem easy. That’s what makes them so scary. They’re like tattoos. They all look good on day one, but give them 30 years.

The quality of a relationship ebbs and flows over time ... sort of like the quality of this column. Is that so surprising? People have ups and downs, so why shouldn’t relationships? That’s why there are plenty of people who stand firmly by the belief that when times get really tough, you should try and stick it out. They’re right. They’re speaking from experience, and we can assume that experience has been rewarding, but after a while people tend to forget how absolutely right they felt they were at the beginning of a relationship. They’ll say stupid shit like, “I knew Bill wasn’t perfect when we met, but I could tell he had a good heart and it turns out I was right.” TRANSLATION: Bill used to be a fucking Adonis when we first met so I completely overlooked his gambling addiction/binge drinking/philandering/vaping/penchant for homebrewing and now he absolutely disgusts me so I just lock him in the basement with the kids and drink wine until I fall asleep.” OK, it isn’t all that bad ... well, except for the vaping, but my point is that if you are going to hang in there and stick it out, it really helps to genuinely like the person you’re sticking it out for. In short, he damn well better make you laugh along with a long list of other things. He better be the person who feels like coming home ... or at least comes home when he doesn’t feel like it. That’s your guy. He’s probably out there somewhere ... and if he isn’t? You’re good.

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