One thing that fascinates me, is a theme I like to explore in fiction: how people sabotage themselves in their relationships and their careers. Many people are their own worst enemies and as I get older, I see the habit crop up in all sorts of different ways.
For example, one friend of mine is nearing middle age and is forever single. He keeps saying he doesn’t want to be, that he’d like to settle down and have kids. He’s certainly eligible enough. His profession pays reasonably well, he’s a decent-looking man who dresses fairly stylishly, owns his own house, never married, keeps active … and yet, he always does things to screw up his chances to settle down.
First, he doesn’t really search that hard. He’s well past the age where being too shy is a reasonable excuse. He knows how to talk to women without being a creep, but is reluctant to chat with anyone he’s not been formally introduced to. Nor does he scope the room when he’s out somewhere. Even when everyone he’s with is engaged in conversation with others, it’s as though he’d rather stare at the walls than glance around to see if anyone’s possibly checking him out.
When he has had a girlfriend, he’s generally decided fairly early in the relationship that she wouldn’t be a suitable long term partner. I won’t reveal any personal details, but with one of the more compatible ones, she was adamant she didn’t want kids. And for him, it was a deal-breaker. Which is perfectly alright, but if something is that important, it’s not fair to string someone else along for a year or two in the meantime. In at least two instances, he stayed for years in relationships he knew weren’t going to go anywhere.
He’s not the only one. A female friend of mine, who’s a little younger and also perennially single, has a similar problem. She goes every week for her ‘girl’s night out’ at the exact same bar. Trying to get her to venture from her scene is nearly impossible. Oh, and she loves her gay boyfriends. Several years ago, a friend of mine had invited her to a party that would have lots of single men, including one named ‘Jason’. She didn’t bother showing up and a couple of years later, she got to meet Jason at a wedding. Jason thought she was cute and she raved that he was absolutely gorgeous. However, he was no longer single.
Now, these are just anecdotes, but each of these friends (along with several more I know and love) follow the same pattern: they can’t stand leaving their comfort zone. They find safety in routine. Ironically, that same personality trait is what helps make a marriage work. In most other parts of their lives, they’re very stable, reliable people. But somewhere along the way, they got stuck. They say they want this part of their life to change, and yet they are unwilling to take action to make it change.
Now, I know from experience what that’s like, because that was me in my twenties. I went a long stretch were I was constantly single and didn’t want to be. At least, that’s what I’d tell my friends. It’s what I thought I wanted …
… to be continued …