Perhaps you've been in a relationship that you thought might be The One. Yet here you are, still single, still scanning the horizon for her. Two possibilities exist: one, that you'll spot her across a crowded room this weekend and know in a flash that she's your destiny. Problem solved. The other possibility is that you broke up with her two years ago because she wasn't . . . or you didn't . . . or she couldn't . . . or for any of a thousand overthought reasons.
My 28 years of marriage tell me that you may be in the thrall of some common myths about partner selection. Check inside your head for the following canards, and don't let them stand between you and the durable, sustaining love that marriage can be.
MYTH 1: LOVE MEANS YOU'RE SMITTEN
We all want to believe that our hearts will go boom when she crosses the room, and that we'll know for sure she's the one. But that happens way more often to un I-age kids than it does to grown men with some mileage on them. In fact, the more self-reliant you are, the less likely you are to go all wobbly the instant "she" wanders into the frame. Don't forget, Romeo was a teenager when Juliet drove him insane. The absence of besotted feelings may say nothing about your girlfriend's shortcomings as a love object and much about your maturity. Sure, lightning-bolt love happens now and then, but don't wait around for it. Because first, it's no guarantee of anything. And second, lots of women who don't leave you breathless at the outset can inspire you plenty a few years in. That head-over-heels stuff is for kids. A man wants a partner, not someone to make him whole.
MYTH 2: MARRIAGE IS SURRENDER
Some see that wedding service as more of a castration than a celebration. When a man marries, so the thinking goes, he surrenders his stallion prerogatives and agrees to be well behaved and monogamous. Of course, there is some sense in this line of thinking. After all, studies show that a surprising number of wives don't like it when their husbands have sex with other women.
Keep this in mind: the belief that monogamy diminishes a man derives from a narrow, sexual idea of manliness. Yes, not being monogamous is our favourite idea of manliness, and yes, it's certainly the most fun idea of manliness. But it's just one version. Once you become a husband, all kinds of other Y-chromosome opportunities to excel present themselves. A husband is a caretaker, a plumber, a subduer of intruders and, with some luck, a father. And all of those roles call forth masculine energies that invite a man forward towards the fullness of everything he might become. Not buying it? Okay, how about this: husbands actually have more sex than single guys.
Study after study shows that, on average, married guys go in to bat more often than their unattached buds. Granted, the sex is all with the same woman, and those studies say nothing about the actual quality of the sex. But hey, more is more, and the heat in the huddle is really up to the two of you, isn't it?
Sure, there are a few truly blessed single men who have it all; men who have a lot of sex with a lot of different women. But honestly, my friend, do you think you're one of them? Really? And even if you are, will you still be one of them in 10 years? Twenty? No, if optimum sex is truly the goal, the smart money is on marriage.
MYTH 3: YOU NEED A LOT IN COMMON
Fight the notion that the two of you need plenty of shared interests or even shared values. The single best thing about being married is having another pair of eyes and ears through which to savour the show. So it's a bad bet to hold out for your "type". All you need in common with her is a species. Okay, maybe you need some common ground on the big-ticket questions, like having kids. But even if you're a physicist who likes the facts and she's a free spirit who claims that absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, there's no reason you two can't find happiness together. In fact, your chances are better than two kids who hear the same song. If you and your beloved are too much alike, sometimes there's not enough oxygen in the room.
MYTH 4: SHE HAS TO HAVE IT ALL
Many a man balks at pulling the marriage trigger because he appraises a woman the way he'd size up a car or a TV and then decides she just doesn't have all the features he's looking for. Well, here are the answers to those questions tumbling around in your head. Yes, she's pretty enough. Yes, she's smart enough. Yes, she's funny enough. Moreover, all those questions are irrelevant. It's like asking if a car floats. Most often, your anxieties are less about her than about how others may view your choice of a partner. A woman doesn't need great beauty or brains or wit to be a fabulous partner and a person very much worth loving throughout your life. Think of it this way. If she's less than perfect, well, that's just something else the two of you have in common. Everything that's beautiful is cracked, Leonard Cohen wrote, and that's how the light gets in.
In the end, there's only one appraisal that truly matters. Will she dig in with you when trouble comes? When money's tight or test results are bad, will she hunker down with you to weather the storm? If she's a stalwart and appears to like you and enjoy sex and doesn't look like an English bulldog, grab her and make a life with her. Remember this boardroom mantra: more opportunities are lost to indecision than to bad decisions.
And finally, consider the idea, often expressed by therapists, that men who can't commit may not feel entitled to love. That may be psycho-doublespeak, but check yourself to be sure. Make sure you know that you're worthy of the best life has to offer.Happily ever after? 2048 women tell us what they would (or do) miss about single life