Friday, September 28, 2007

The liminal existence between single and married

It's an oft-remarked-upon irony that single people look longingly at the reassurance and certainty of marriage, while married people working within the constraints of connection imagine that single people must be having so much fun with all the potential and choices and freedom.

As the reader may have noticed, I would love to find a promising relationship. And, as I've mentioned elsewhere in these pages, I almost married someone. Nothing dramatic happened: marriage was on the table from the first weeks, we made decisions together always keeping in mind a joint future, talked about what our children would look like. In various ways, we both screwed up and actually going from the hypothetical to the actual didn't seem to fit in the real world, so we ended the relationship a few years ago. He missed me for awhile, but he found a serious relationship before I did. At times I really missed parts of his personality, our rapport, and the plans that we made together, and I regretted having not put more effort. I expected that one day I would get a call informing me of his engagement and it would be final. Meanwhile, I dated.

The other day I had a long bout of regret. I thought about all the compromises that I hadn't wanted to make. Some compromises are the sort that most couples need in order to get along, but there's another layer of compromises due to his job which extend into what would ordinarily be my individual decisions. There's a compensating layer of benefits to his job, although the benefits themselves have disadvantages. That day, I thought that if I knew I could be happy and settled, I would make every single one of them.

The day after, his phone number showed up on my cell phone. His number, but not his name. The break-up was a few years ago. Several months ago, I erased his name from my cell phone, after a pleasant but tearful 4 hour conversation during which we decided we couldn't expend the emotional energy more than once a year, if that.

I debated whether I should pick up. "Right, it's him and he wants to get back together," I said to myself as I picked up anyway.

We chatted for awhile, and then he said that the real reason he was calling is that he had something to tell me.

"Congratulations," I said.

"Oh, no, quite the opposite." So he was calling because he wanted to get back together. We reached no conclusions other than that it would have to occur over a long period. We should talk occasionally and maybe see each other. We spoke for only 45 minutes, a short conversation.

Since that phone call, I've been living a liminal existence.

I feel the total freedom and complete loneliness of singlehood, and wonder if I'm radiate desperation as I try to meet new people.

I remember simultaneously the constraints of connections: on my job search, and on my individual choices. I wonder how I could have ever been willing to compromise so much. When it was not a possibility, I was so willing to accept the constraints, and indeed I had these thoughts of being willing to compromise so many times in the past. Now that it's a possibility, it seems like too much.

Beyond seeming like too much, I sometimes fantasize about escaping it and running off with his exact opposite, "Andy".

It's so much easier to want what I don't have.

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