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For Bitter Or For Worse
I just posted another Advice Goddess column, with a letter from a reader who worries that her affinity for serial monogamy is going to get her into trouble. "Have I ruined my chances of ever being happy with just one man forever?" she asks.

My response:

“Being happy with just one man forever” sounds great in concept, but in practice, it often plays out like standing in the one line that doesn’t move at Customs.

Yet, going from relationship to relationship -- having a ball instead of a ball and chain -- is frowned upon…even, a little bit, by you. Perhaps, deep down, you buy into the Puritan Work Ethic approach to relationships: the idea that a “real” adult relationship means spending a lifetime slaving away in the hot fields of couples counseling, and trying everything from tantric yoga to Kama Sutra Pilates to relocate that lost spark. This romantic hardship worship --- the assumption that you’re a better person if you tough it out -- should remind you of lectures you must’ve gotten as a girl: “You know, young lady, Grandpa crawled on his hands and knees over 10 miles of broken glass to get to school every day!” “Gee, thanks, Gramps, good to know, but there’s my bus.”

People don’t necessarily stay together because they’re happy, but maybe because they promised they would or the priest says they should. Or, maybe because breaking up would just kill Great Aunt Mavis, or because it’s too embarrassing to admit failure, or, more admirably, because they pumped out a bunch of kids. It’s humiliating enough being a teen just starting to date without pulling up in your driveway with some guy you’re madly in crush with, and -- yikes! -- there’s your mom making out in the parked car next to you.

But, what will become of you if you don’t lock in a man like an interest rate? Who will change the rubber sheet on your bed and put tennis balls on the bottom of your walker? This is an understandable concern, but maybe you could just put a few bucks aside for that, as it seems kind of insulting to get together with somebody now as a means of saving big on elder-care. Beyond the need for good nursing, maybe you fear being all alone in your twilight years (or, worse yet, dying alone and being turned into a Purina substitute by your 26 cats). The truth is, according to studies referenced in Bella DePaulo’s terrific book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, women who’ve never been married have some of the strongest friendships and sense of community in their lives, and are the least likely to feel lonely when they’re old bags.

Assuming your friendships aren’t as fleeting as your relationships, and serial monogamy isn’t an excuse to avoid fixing something in your psychology that’s broken, what’s the problem? Your current approach actually seems pretty wise -- not planning in advance how long your relationships will last but being honest about how long they actually do. Until you start longing for something longterm, why not have the love that works for you instead of the love that’s supposed to work for you? Despite all the people who’ll ask how long you’ve been with somebody, not how happy you are, the real tragedy isn’t the relationship that ends after a few years, but the relationship that’s allowed to drag on like the ballet (forever) or a bad play (about 10 minutes longer than the ballet).

The entire Q&A is a pile of comments.

Posted by aalkon at June 21, 2007 9:55 AM


"Only those whose lives are brief can believe that love is eternal." - Lorien, for JM Straczynski, in Babylon 5.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 22, 2007 3:29 AM

"With wisdom gleaned from their careers as single, globe-trotting flight attendants, first-time authors Susan Johnston and Kimberly Webb have crafted a modern-day book that celebrates singleness...."

Er, thanks all the same. Think I'll glean my wisdom elsewhere!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 22, 2007 5:43 AM

'“True happiness,” the book reveals, “is found by loving God,'

What's with the God thing?

Posted by: Chrissy at June 22, 2007 9:16 AM

What's with the God thing?

Maybe He helps pilot the planes for the wise, plucky globe-trotting flight attendants, Chrissy:)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 22, 2007 9:30 AM

What kind of scumbag posts ads on my site for their products?

I'm going to erase their ad. Here's the e-mail I sent them:

SUBJECT: hey, scumbags, posting free ads on - I'm going to sue if you don't pay

BODY OF E-MAIL: Guess what? It's not free. See entry below:

You owe me $4995. Payable immediately.

Pigs. You don't post free ads for your book on a site I pay for. Well, you do, and then you pay.

How were you raised? What makes you think this is appropriate behavior?

You'd better contact me immediately to see if I'll be willing to settle for a little less. Otherwise, if you're in Atlanta, I'll see about getting a lawyer there to take the case. The law, FYI, is "tresspass to chattels." -Amy Alkon

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 22, 2007 9:39 AM

FYI, some of these comments now seem a little perplexing, thanks to some scumbag who posted an ad on the site I pay to maintain. It was the first comment here, and the name it was posted under was "Susan Johnston." It's been erased.

If you want to advertise on my site, you go to Pajamas Media, which handles advertising for my site, and fork over some bucks. Posting ads without paying and junking up my comments with crap I don't support is unacceptable, and a form of theft, and I'll sue your ass if I can. Pigs.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 22, 2007 9:47 AM

Sic em, Amy! I didn't like the smug religious overtones of their middle of the road book.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 22, 2007 1:10 PM

I'm an atheist, and I would never post an ad for a product of mine on somebody's site without paying for it. To me, that's vandalism and theft.

See - you don't need religion to be moral.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 22, 2007 1:21 PM

I looked at the site, and found it tacky. They have to advertise. Nobody would look for their, umm, offerings.

You know, faith - small "f" - actually has a use, as does Faith with the big "F". But lying about what you are doing with each is what will put you in the toilet talking to me.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 22, 2007 11:28 PM

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