Whither Thou Goest…

Although I started this blog with a particular purpose about the challenges of simplifying my life after a lifetime, I have been sidetracked. My friend Lisa says it’s time to start writing my blog again, so here goes. My life on my sleeve.

My post-marriage 8-year relationship was diagnosed as terminal last September. Once again out of work, Ken couldn’t find a local job in his field, and we both knew that if he had to leave, I wasn’t going with him, essentially ending our engagement. My children are here, my job is here, my parents are within a reasonable driving distance ( a crucial fact), and I have been in my home for 25 years. So when he was offered a job in Santa Rosa (450 miles away) in March, we both knew it was just a matter of weeks and not years that we had remaining together. Sometimes, love is not enough.

Ironically, I have always hoped that I would eventually move to Northern California. As I have alluded to in previous posts, I’m pretty sure that they (whoever “they” are) are my people. I considered going for about a day, but looking at my newly-planted garden and my newly-graduated daughter and the newly-hatched chicks in the hanging planter on my porch, I knew I was going to stay. Not that these things are inherently important in themselves, but what they represent is important–the essential things and the life I have built in Southern California. It will mean a new future. But as scary as that is, isn’t it what we were looking for anyway? Even if we didn’t plan for it to happen in this particular way…

“But wait!” I hear you say. “What about following your beloved to the ends of the earth (or wine country)? What about whither thou goest… (overlooking that this was never a romantic sentiment)? How can you just let him go like that? Can’t you meet halfway on weekends? Can’t you just keep connected via Skype?” And those are, indeed, all excellent questions.

Which leads me to soulmates and deal breakers. I want so badly to believe in that one true love (which maybe I found once, but the timing didn’t work out, and that’s another story), but my own experiences so far have taught me otherwise. I spent 19 years with one person, but knew walking down the aisle that it was probably a mistake, so that’s definitely on me. I wanted to believe that he was The One. We had so much in common. There was so much promise. But at the end of the day—at the end of the marriage—what made us great friends (and we should have just stayed that way) wasn’t enough to overcome all that was seriously lacking as life partners.

And now, after 8 1/2 years (with a dramatic pause in 2011), I find myself at the end of another relationship with someone who may not have been The One, but who could have been “the one who is good enough.” If that, in fact, is good enough.

An aside: One of the more memorable dates I went on during the aforementioned pause was with a man named Steven (and he gave me permission to talk about him here). We connected either on Jdate or OKCupid; I’m not sure. We had a tremendous amount in common, but we didn’t pursue it; I don’t remember why. Perhaps because the geography was too difficult (South County!) or we just didn’t click or he had a cat–a deal breaker for me, unfortunately. He also inspired me to look into Mensa, which I did briefly but also didn’t pursue (maybe I will now that I’m going to have some time on my hands). Anyway, for some reason, we stayed friends on Facebook, and I enjoy his posts. And his friends’ posts. He gives me faith that there are still smart, menschy men out there.

All that was a lead-in to talk about an excellent review Steven wrote of a book called Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating. There was so much in the review (read it yourself), but one of the primary takeaways for me was: “…for all practical purposes, it’s impossible to find your soulmate, you’ll have to settle for the best you can do, which is to find the best one available…The key is knowing when to stop, when you’ve found ‘the one who is good enough.’” Steven goes on to quote the author: “you’ll know you’ve found the one who is good enough when you can say, ‘My partner is truly wonderful. If I kept looking, I could probably do better. But I have to earn a living, make dinner, practice the piano, and do a bunch of other stuff. So I’m going to settle for this person and move on with life. It could certainly be a lot worse.’” After reading the review, I found myself thinking a lot about the reality of the one who is good enough.

There are many subtleties to the one who is good enough…  The one who is good enough to dance with, and share most meals with, but not to share living space with. The one who is good enough to watch John Oliver with, and share political discussions with, but not to spend every night with. The one who is good enough, but do I really have to spend Passover with his family? Ken is as close as I have gotten to the one who is good enough for most things. And he feels the same way about me. But does that remain true if we live 450 miles apart? Does he then become “the one who is good enough to keep me off internet dating sites and instill in me a strong sense of commitment, but who I won’t follow to Sonoma County?” Can you love someone and not want to follow them to a new destiny? And now that we are faced with this new destiny, maybe we don’t want to stay with someone who is only “good enough”?

So back to soulmates and deal breakers and the above excellent questions, to which I add one of my own: what happens when you’ve met the one who is good enough, overlooked the things that had potential to be deal breakers because everything else was pretty close (and he has overlooked your shortcomings as well), and then he breaks the deal? What happens then? Is that a different kind of deal breaker? Or do you just have to deal with the fact that the deal has been broken?

What if he suddenly started smoking, or got a cat, or truly believed that Trump was the best candidate? I would never start a relationship with someone in Northern California, and neither would he, so is it unreasonable that I don’t want to stay in a relationship with someone who has chosen to move (albeit unwillingly) and doesn’t plan to come back? Are we crazy to call things off? Or are we crazier to stay together when we both might now find The One?

And I do still believe in The One. My parents have been married for 55 years. My ex-in-laws were married for 65 years. And although I won’t have that history, I still have irrational faith that “he” is out there.

Another blog piece Steven wrote is called Exhausted; it’s about internet dating, and dating in the 21st century in general, and what happens when you’ve exhausted all the matches. It moved me for a number of reasons, and not just because I was one of the women that he was talking about. I thought about it in terms of my daughter, who at 23 is considering online dating, and I thought about it for myself at 53 as I ponder whether I’ll have the energy to go back into the fray. Because even the thought of dating again truly is exhausting.

But I am not bitter. I am resigned. I wish Ken much happiness as he transitions into his new life. I will miss him. I am also deeply sad for what we are giving up, and I mourn the loss of my “good enough” relationship as it moves to the Great Beyond on Sunday. May it rest in peace.

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