Sunday, June 19, 2005

Commitment

A friend recently pointed out that people who date, even for years and years, never really get to know each other until after they get married. That is, there's a level of intimacy and information people won't discover about each other unless they are actually legally married. He also said that people who live together, even for years and years, also never get to know each other at a certain level of intimacy unless they marry.

The second point intrigued me because I thought living together very closely approximated being married. Keep in mind that I never lose sight of my complete ignorance when it come to marriage/living together/being in a committed relationship because I have NO experience with any of it and my stance to any of it is strictly as an outsider trying to figure out the code to a lock that's inside a building that's in another state. But still, I thought you'd find out whether he squeezes the toothpaste from the end or the middle whether you were married or just living together.

It turns out, there's an entire behavior shift that happens when you are married, shackled, chained to another human being, presumably for the rest of your life. Apparently, this behavior shift causes changes in viewpoint, emotional reaction, purchasing decisions, maybe even nutritional choices. When you are married it all changes in a way that it doesn't change when you're not married, even if you live together for the rest of your lives.

Another friend then reminded me that to get married is to make a huge commitment, a bigger commitment than any other imaginable (except, I guess, for parenthood). This friend reminded me of the huge capacity for commitment and responsibility that is required in order to get married. And this reminded me of the way divorced people are seen as better than never-married people like me.

I'll be 39 in a month and I have never been capable of making the huge commitment of getting married. Millions of people much younger than I am make this commitment all the time and my only sibling, my sister, was married by the age of 22. I am almost 40 and have never been capable of it. I apparently lack the commitment, the responsibility, the maturity, etc. No wonder I'm considered a bad dating risk.

I once spoke to a guy on the phone who had contacted me through the Reader Matches website. He was a 43-year-old Latino who had never been married, but he cut our conversation short when he discovered that I'd never been married or lived with anyone. You see, he had lived with a woman for about five years and that demonstrated his ability to open up his life enough to include another person. I had not demonstrated this ability. He said people my age (our age, I guess) who had never lived with someone else tended to have trouble opening up our lives in that way. So we hung up. Yeah.

I'm a bad dating risk, a bad horse to bet on. For whatever reason(s), I have remained stunted in my development towards becoming a mature and responsible adult who is capable of making the commitment to marriage. Why are most people capable of this early in life, while others of us age and bend without ever getting anywhere near it?

By the way, I've all but abandonded my plan to follow Steve's plan for how to get yourself married. Following those rules will land me a guy who wants to marry me, but it won't necessarily get me a guy I like. Also I've realized - with relief AND self-disgust - that I don't have a lot of interest in being married these days. But here's the one way I am still following Steve's advice: I've been dating one guy for weeks, but am delaying the could-he-be-my-boyfriend decision until the end of the summer while I continue to date others. No point in rushing into anything that will just end in another crash and burn.

No comments: