This originally ran on January 8, 2008 over on LiveJournal, but I find that it’s still true and could bear repeating.
I’m sprouting gray hairs, which means that I get to start self-righteously preaching to people about various views on life. Not that a lack of gray hair ever stopped me before.
Today’s thesis statement: there’s no such thing as soulmates. Sorry, kids, that bubbly bullshit that you feel when you meet someone is not the hand of the universe guiding you toward the one person who was meant for you. It’s hormones. It’s the glee of having a new toy. It’s the rush of chemicals designed to make you still want to pursue someone, despite your brain knowing that relationships are fucking scary. Nature gave you those bubbles to keep the species going. The Universe doesn’t particularly give a rat’s ass who you marry.
Yes, there are some people that you like more than others. There are people with whom you have an easier time being in a relationship. The thing that separates the bullshit from the love is one simple decision: deciding to love the other person. The tricky part is getting TWO people to make the same simple decision at once. This doesn’t mean “I really, really like you until the fun wears off.” It doesn’t mean “I totally want to have sex with you.” It doesn’t even mean “I want to move in with you, share a bank account, and maybe spawn.”
It means that you’re there for that other person, that you have their back no matter what, til the end of the Earth. You see now why it’s hard to get the L word out of me. I put a lot of weight on it. It’s not something you say because it’s time, not something you say because it’s fucking Valentine’s Day, and not something you say just to see if the other person says it. It’s a promise. “I love you” is just shorthand for “I have your back forever, period.”
But, in the immortal words of Prince, “forever is a mighty long time.” The other person in question may decide that they no longer want to get up every day and decide to love you. Whether or not you continue to love them is up to you and the shrink you will end up needing to hire, but know this: you should not stay with a person who doesn’t want to stay with you. It’s a pointless waste of time.
My parents have been married for 39 years. Did they wake up every morning and see puppies and rainbows in each others’ eyes? Uh, probably not. Did they both wake up each morning and decide that they wanted to be there? Apparently so. That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that some cosmic force aligned, pushing the two of them together. It means that, every day, they both wanted to make it work. All day. To the end of the Earth.
I say this to underline something that I learned some time around age 26. Up until then, I was pretty much half-assing all of my relationships. I just didn’t know it. I shouldn’t have even allowed to be in the dating pool, but there wasn’t a lifeguard around, so hey. Some people seem to grasp the non-half-ass concept before others (I suspect Nat was born understanding the relationship dynamic), but it took me a long period of singleness to realize that I wasn’t really trying. This is probably directly related to the fact that I’ve never been in love.*
Learn from me, kids, and don’t leave a trail of bodies in your wake. Oh, if I could apologize to every dude I dated back then. Luckily, most of the ones I still talk to have been forgiving, figuring that we were both young and stupid. Don’t half-ass it. You’re just fucking it up for everybody else.
*Results of post-half-assing dating have been discouraging and minimal. I was much more popular with dudes when I was emotionally unavailable. And 23.