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Chemistry Settling

I’m a 29-year-old woman who approaches relationships like a guy; meaning, not with the mentality that a relationship is the be-all and end-all. What about being fine with yourself WITHOUT a man? (Oh, what a crazy thought!) For five months, I’ve been seeing a guy who’s loyal, funny, kind, and in love with me -- basically, everything a woman would want. I care for him, but something’s missing -- that really great connection part. If the relationship ended tomorrow, I’d probably miss him, but I wouldn't really care. That sounds awful, I know. Maybe I’m being unrealistic (people tell me that), but I don’t want to settle. I know all relationships are work, and perhaps I’m not working at mine as I should. Still, there ARE couples who seem so effortlessly in love and happy together. Am I just not long-term relationship material? Do I have some deep-seated fear of commitment? Or, could it be I’m just too picky?

--Odd Duck

Like many people, you apply the Puritan work ethic to relationships: “All relationships are work.” Maybe so, but some relationships are McJobs. Imagine putting an ad in the paper for your current low-benefit, no-advancement situation: “More fun than snuggling up with ‘Accounting Made Simple.’” Or, maybe “Going nowhere with him beats going to the hospital with E. coli.” (Oh, to be young and in apathy!)

Unbridled passion does have its downsides; for example, couples consumed by it are always so busy ripping their clothes off and shoving china from the dining room table that they never get to count the number of little white bumps on the bedroom ceiling. Also, if you do have a spark, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually be sitting around with your girlfriends complaining you’ve lost it, and that Nirvana is starting to look a lot like a run-down section of Bakersfield.

Even so, you’d walk away from everything you have for a chance at a spark. Who do you think you are, missy, that “good on paper” isn’t good enough for you? Well, for starters, you’re a girl whose sense of self isn’t modeled after a sinkhole. Oddly, you’re still influenced by the relationship version of the “starving children in India” argument. In reality, you can hoover up every green bean in the Western Hemisphere, and it will not cause Happy Meals to rain down on Calcutta. Likewise, while there are legions of love-starved women across North America, your being grateful for what you have -- zero connection, but with the perfect man -- won’t lead these women to unlist their numbers so as not to be annoyed at all hours by random marriage proposals.

I once got “fired” by a shrink after one session for an attitude like yours. I was in my early 30s, and having a hard time finding a boyfriend. The shrink listened, then made her pronouncement: “You have high standards, you accept the consequences, that’s very healthy, I really have nothing else to say to you, don’t come back.” Okay, maybe you do fear commitment, maybe you’re too picky -- or maybe you shouldn’t expect to find a guy who’s right for you while you’re tied up with a guy who’s wrong. If you aren’t unhappy holding out for more, why worry that you aren’t unhappy? Just go back to being without a man and being fine with it, but keep looking. While you’re at it, keep in mind that the couples who seem so effortlessly in love are those who held out for chemistry -- having the physical, mental, and emotional hots for each other -- as opposed to what you’ve had for the past five months: indifference with aspirations. (But, hey, whatever sinks your boat!)

Posted by aalkon at October 29, 2006 2:24 AM

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Right on! I'm exactly the same way with relationships, pragmatic, and looking for the right guy. Perfectly happy to be alone. My last (2.5 year) relationship was fine, but it wasn't great, and I'm so glad I ended it.

It's exactly a year later and I just moved in with someone I am 100X more passionate about. Great Advice! (as always) DON"T SETTLE!!!!

Posted by: Shinobi at October 30, 2006 1:35 PM

Right on. I am in the exact same situation. Don't force it if it isn't there. I know the argument is that it could grow with time but that mentality is from a time when there wasn't as much readily accesible eye- candy. If you don't end this one the right way and then start off the new one on a fresh note that karma will follow you around.

Posted by: popcorn at January 9, 2007 9:35 AM

They say the best way to become pregnant,if you're having difficulty, is to adopt.

I'd say the best way to find the "spark" is to stop looking for it, relax, and just have fun with someone else. After years of trying I decided to give it up and just enjoy myself. It turns out that the roommate of a friends's fiance had made the same decision at about the same time. We met at a party, were married six months later, and after 37 years the passion is still there.

And if you don't find the "spark", at least you'll have had fun.

Posted by: highlander at June 10, 2007 3:51 PM

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