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When I'm in a relationship, I drop the rest of my life. Should I stop looking for crazy love?
BY SARAH JAFFE
Have a question for Miss Information? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions may be edited.
Dear Miss Information,
I’m a twenty-five year-old lady with one long, very serious relationship and a whole bunch of messing around under my belt. Lately I’ve been thinking that what I’m really looking for in a partner is a great guy who I like enough to spend time with, but am not crazy in love with.
Let me explain: my long serious relationship was with an amazing, incredible man with whom I was most definitely crazy in love. Those few years were wonderful, and I loved being with him, except that that level of love and commitment made me feel like I wasn’t properly focused on the rest of my life. I work in a very demanding field, and when I was with my ex, I always felt like I should have been devoting more time and energy outside the office to my work, instead of to my love life. Not to mention the toll my relationship took on my friendships and family time. I notice this with my girlfriends too: they start dating someone they’re head over heels for, and they totally fall off the map. That’s not a pattern I feel is healthy for me anymore.
That said, I definitely crave the companionship and intimacy and, frankly, the consistent physical connection of having a boyfriend/partner. So what it seems like I should be looking for in a long-term life partner is someone I can have a reasonably good time with and physically click with well enough, but not someone so perfect that they consume the majority of my time and energy. What do you think?
—Psyched to Settle
Dear Psyched to Settle,
First of all, I’m flattered that you’re running this plan by me! Secondly, I think this is a huge cop-out. When people ask for advice, they often do so knowing exactly what the answer will be, but hoping that the advice dispenser (look for a Miss Info Pez dispenser at an olde-tyme sweetshop near you! Comes in three flavors: Bossy, Wrong, and Preach It, Sister) will either tell them what they want to hear and let them off the hook, or make the hard decision for them. So I’m guessing you think this is a cop-out, too, and you were super-hoping I’d tell you it’s not. Sorry.
Now, if what you’d said were that you want to date and sleep with people you’re pleasantly lukewarm about, I’d be on board. Why not, right? But you specifically said that’s what you’d maybe prefer in a long-term partner, and I’m not signing off on that.
The problem in your past relationship and in some of the relationships your friends are having isn’t that you like the guy too much: it’s that you need to work on your priorities. It’s not unhealthy to be so smitten that you feel like Beyonce or to want to spend time with your man-candy, but it is unhealthy to feel like your life completely revolves around your boyfriend. These aren’t the same thing.
I’m gonna challenge you to think really hard about the kinds of choices you make when you’re in a relationship. Do you say no to plans with your girlfriends and then call your boy to see what he’s up to? Do you consistently bow out of family events or procrastinate necessary work to go get your snuggly freak on? Do you catch yourself blowing other people off in ways you wouldn’t if you were single?
If you feel like you’re too wrapped up in the boy to be able to tear yourself away from him to do other things, it’s not because you’re too well-matched. It’s because there might be something going on that makes you feel like romantic/sexual relationships are more important than other things. It might be because you feel like when you’re in love, you don’t really have to keep being you, or keep making the decisions that make your own independent life tick. And if that’s the case, you have to unpack that, and work on that, and fix it. Because you have to stay you (just like your boyfriend has to stay himself). Otherwise, after a while, your romance will go from a sweet togetherness to a gaping black hole of narcissism that will wipe out the outside world that shaped each of you into the people you each fell in love with. There are plenty of partnered people out there who manage to lead an independent life rich with friendships and personal successes, and to assume that they must not really be in love is insulting to them, and unfair to you. After all, why would you want to be with anyone long term with whom you’re NOT crazy in love?
Total adoration is what makes the bullshit of long, grueling partnerships manageable. Are you really trying to tell me (and yourself) that you want to deal with a clogged toilet, interminable family Thanksgivings, a sick pet, a long bout of unemployment or illness and maybe even a couple of screaming kids with somebody you feel just okay about? Girl, please. What you (and what we all) deserve is somebody with whom you can wade through the great swamp of bullshit; someone with whom at the end of the day, or in the ashes of the knock-down, drag-out argument, you can still lock eyes with and collapse into a fit of giggles; someone you want to stay up all night talking to, or want to make out with ferociously when all the situation calls for is a chaste peck.
And deciding that settling for something less is better than having to do the hard work of prioritizing and still being you, even when you’re in a relationship? That’s a total cop-out, and we both know you can do better than that. Go forth, young grasshopper, on your inner spirit quest. Then seek thyself some glorious, satisfying, real, crazy-ass love.