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To The Better End

My girlfriends and I spend so much effort trying to find the right man to settle down with, yet marriage seems such a bleak prospect. My grandparents are still married (not happily, I might add), but my parents aren't. And now, I have friends who aren't even 30 and are already divorced. I have had long relationships, but they've always ended. Three years, five years...it seems that's the best I can do. It's humiliating to think that I might be alone forever. Is there any hope for "till death do us part" in this day and age?

--Single Filed


"Till death do us part" works best when one spouse dies long before the other nags them to take out the garbage 35,000 times. Just look at Romeo and Juliet. Imagine if, instead of offing themselves, they had an epic wedding and moved into the Elizabethan equivalent of a three-bedroom house in the suburbs. How long until mythic romance gave way to Juliet slaving over a hot cauldron all day and Romeo staggering home from the tavern at midnight, yet again - only to find all his codpieces scattered across the front lawn?

No, not all relationships play out this way. But for those that do, maybe we're a little rigid about what death, supposedly the only legitimate relationship exit strategy, should entail. For example, does your head really have to fall off or does your liver have to be hanging out? What if you're just dying of boredom or sick to death of being with somebody you've outgrown?

How weird that we celebrate when couples like your grandparents spend 50 miserable years together. "Relationships are hard work!" the taskmasters of Forever sternly intone, as if you're somehow a better person for sticking it out in the marital rock quarry to the bitter and acrimonious end.

Yes, yes...but what about the children? Well, if you eventually have children, about the dumbest thing you can do is convince them that they're part of some indestructible mommy-and-daddy-sphere. I know, everyone thinks divorce only happens to other families. But, just in case it happens to yours, wouldn't you be better off committing to each kid one-on-one; mommy to moppet, daddy to moppet?

While hopeless romantics are usually the first ones in line at divorce court, realistic romantics might have a chance. That's because they're more likely to be honest about the ugly realities of being human; namely, being loud, messy, demanding, and prone to the emission of biohazards. In other words, maybe the best way to stay close is to live next door or across the street -- whichever direction seems to be upwind.

What's with this idea that your life isn't complete if you're unable to get somebody to attach to you like a vacuum hose in perpetuity? What's wrong with a relationship that lasts five years, five months, or five great days? Hmm, maybe, just maybe, you aren't the scourge of humanity if you don't partner up for a lifetime. Or partner up at all. Of course, if you're underfunded, under-selved, and desperate for somebody to "complete" you, well, then you'd better break rocks and call it love. Unfortunately, if you're nothing without a relationship, it's unlikely that you're going to be much of anything with one.

At the moment, your problem isn't so much that you lack lifelong love, but that you're looking for it at every turn. Why not give up on love everlasting and just enjoy your damn dinner? Have some fun, be some fun, and you might someday date a man who'll spew sonnets. In the meantime, consider yourself lucky when you date a man who doesn't spew his food.


Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.