Is there something wrong with me thinking forever doesn’t exist? Or is there something wrong with you for thinking it does?
Too often, I’ve been told that I may want to “examine” my belief in the fact that “forever” doesn’t exist. Luckily, I’ve never been told this by my therapist (a wise and progressive woman) – thank god – but people have insinuated there may be something wrong with me for my staunch belief only in the “now” and not the “forever” – mostly about romance, but also about other significant areas of life.
It’s common to hear that people want to work on “commitment issues” or “childhood trauma” (like our parents’ often dysfunctional relationships) in order to “move forward” with our own relationships. And normally, we don’t bat an eye at this information from our friends or family members – it’s natural, we think, to want to “get past” any “limiting beliefs” we might have that are “holding us back” from long-term, monogamous, “happily ever after”-type relationships.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve started to resent the automatic assumption that I’m the one that needs to work on my beliefs in order to “grow.” In fact, with how I feel about monogamy (i.e. I think it’s stupid), I hear so often from people that I’ll “change my mind when I find the one” that I’ve started to feel like no one is even listening to me when I speak. And I was married, so clearly, I’ve had time to process and revise my own beliefs.
Although the numbers on marriages failing may be diminishing, the reality is, people still get divorced. A lot. And if people don’t get divorced, they sometimes cheat. And if people don’t cheat, they sometimes stay in unhappy relationships for far too long.
Now, I’m not saying that a happy “ending” – whatever that word may mean to you – isn’t possible. In fact, those divorces? Many of them may have been happy endings. I think many people currently hold too-narrow views about what makes a relationship successful. To me, if the time that I spent with a person was happy and good, the relationship was successful, even if it ended.
The problem is that many of us ascribe “success” only to long-term, monogamous relationships that last. And as far as those relationships lasting – well, I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem to be the norm. So, when given all of the information, I notice a trend – that of long-term, monogamous relationships ending generally out-of-sync with people’s expectations of how they should end (i.e. unhappily) – logic leads me to believe that any relationship I may venture into that I try to fit into a long-term, monogamous box may more than likely end unhappily, as well.
It makes sense, logically. But then, why do so many people think they need to “fix” me for this logical thinking? I know I’m not the only person in the world that doesn’t believe long-term, monogamous relationships work. Yet, if you don’t want a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship, people treat you like you’re broken.
If I’ve examined the evidence I see before me and come to the conclusion that long-term monogamous relationships don’t work, isn’t that just a rational assessment of the situation for myself? Don’t we also laud science – which relies on the compilation and analysis of evidence in order to test a hypothesis? The hypothesis for me is that long-term monogamous relationships simply don’t work. The empirical evidence? Observation, in lieu of relationship experimentation.
If I drove a Ford truck, and for weeks, everywhere in the news there were stories of Ford trucks exploding when the key was turned, and then I told you, “Oh but MINE will be different, when I turn the key, it won’t explode” – you wouldn’t think I was a romantic, you’d think I was a fucking idiot. But people see data around them their whole lives of long-term, monogamous relationships not working…and then do it anyway. And we think that’s lovely – not idiotic.
The assumption we’re broken – those of us who don’t want or believe in long-term monogamous relationships, that is – isn’t just irritating, it’s harmful. It’s emotional gaslighting of an entire group – a group that very likely has spent a significant amount of time careful analyzing and crafting their views around relationships.
Don’t assume something is wrong with us because we don’t believe in forever. Maybe something is wrong with you because you do.
After all, those “romantics” left in the world that do strongly believe in forever – those that marry in the face of divorce on both sides of their family, those that change their lives around the will of their spouse, those that tell themselves “we’ll make it work, even though no one else has” – clearly haven’t considered the evidence and come to a logical conclusion. They’ve actually chosen to ignore the evidence. Perhaps for love. Or perhaps because for too long, society has told them they should.
Of course, some of us “fall in love when we least expect it.” But far more of us – especially those that hate commitment – are actively trying to change our beliefs around committed relationships because we think it’s normal to do so.
And far too many of us try to push our relationships into a “happily ever after” default. The idea that we may enjoy a relationship while it’s good and leave it when it’s not is frowned upon as “failing” or being “scared of commitment” or worse, “running away.” Examining most long-term monogamous relationships in our everyday lives, however, it’s easy to see that idea is none of these things: it’s just logical.
There are, of course, those anecdotal stories of the little old couple that has stayed happily married year after year until one day, they’re celebrating their 60th or 70th anniversary. And I, like many people, find those stories to be beautiful, charming and full of love.
I also find them to be the outlier, rather than the norm. And I’m sick of people treating me like there’s something wrong with me because of that.