Part One: I’m in a relationship—maybe

An xoJane.com author wrote about why she won’t be Facebook friends with her significant other, blowing the raspberry at research that indicates that couples that both “friend” and interact with each other on social networking sites are more committed and tend to stay together.

I’m not big on the interaction bit (because I’m lazy). But most commenters, including myself, thought that not “friending” your significant other or spouse on Facebook and changing your relationship status is shady The arguments for pretending to be unattached not interacting on social media with one’s other were thin:

“I don’t want my crazy ex stalking my profile and contacting my new squeeze.

Why can your “crazy ex” see your Facebook profile anyway? Aren’t there privacy settings for that? Most importantly, just how badly did you crap all over your ex?

“I don’t want my family to know I have someone in my life.”

Then they probably haven’t met your partner in real life either. Big. Red. Flag, oh, non-friended couple.

“It’s nobody’s business if I’m in a relationship/married!”

Not even your circle of closest friends? The bestie you called right after you lost your virginity? Who you’re friends with on Facebook—?

“I’m seeing someone, but we don’t know if it’ll turn into anything anything serious yet.”

Okay. I’ll buy that.

I suppose it amazes me that people will share their inner thoughts and ideas, achievements, Rumi quotes, and food photos with their family, BFFs, work colleagues, and hair stylist before they’ll acknowledge there’s someone special in their life. Couples don’t have to blast every minute detail of their relationship on Facebook. But to not acknowledge a relationship at all, to my mind, is lazy at the least and disrespectful at the most. If someone does this (and I know it), I’ll get the distinct impression this person already knows it’s going down in flames.

My thinking is borne out of Ocham’s razor common sense “it is what it is”: the be-coupled person on Facebook who doesn’t befriend their partner or change their relationship status is hiding that person and that relationship. Perhaps one of them is secretly ashamed of the other, thinks they can do “better” in the eyes of their friends and family social network. Fuck those people. Really, fuck them.

Perhaps one (or both) is married or divorcing. I bumped up against that. I stayed married for the same reasons most couples that can’t tolerate each other do—tax breaks, health insurance, and to give everyone an illusion of hope. However, because I hadn’t seen my estranged in six years, I got involved with others. Few people would be honest about their relationship status under those circumstances. I was, but I’m me.

Let's make this real.
Let’s make this real.

Then there’s Ocham for you. True story: a compelling gentleman once contacted me on Facebook, out of the blue, and asked me out. I saw no relationship status on his profile. I had a funny feeling about this guy, so I searched through miles of pictures of tacos and beer until I noticed that one of his buddies had mentioned the man’s wife in a comment. God bless Westlaw: wannabe suitor was married. Not estranged married. Living-under-the-same-roof married.

Really, now. If you want to keep it no one’s business ever! (but especially people you want to assume you’re available), you can’t get sloppy.

I think that all most of us agree that couples sharing a Facebook profile or personal email account—especially an email account; yikes!—smacks of trust issues. Does one flip out when the other gets work-related accounts? There are exceptions, sure. If my dad were living, he and my mother would have had joint accounts. That’s because they’re elderly and, therefore, technology challenged. It would have taken both of them to figure it out.

For everyone else, that you’re in a relationship should be celebrated. Social networking is like a cozy, virtual dinner party where everyone’s on a first-name basis. Certainly you’d take your significant other along, wouldn’t you?

By the way, there’s still a place in social networking land for attached and married people to (ambiguously) hold themselves out as single and available with total impunity.

It’s called LinkedIn.

True nature

This is a follow-up to my xoJane.com article, Marriage Shouldn’t Be an Endurance Sport.

Having been divorced, I can tell you this: there was a time when I never thought I’d get divorced. One thrilling, happy, effervescent day on June 10, I gladly pushed my commitment level to its limits. Had I even had an inkling that things would transpire as they did, I would have never said “I do”.

If I could have seen into the future, I wouldn’t have broken up with my then-husband (at least not right away); I just wouldn’t have married him. We would have enjoyed some noncommittal fun, and when things reached a certain level of bad, I would have known we both should call it a day.

That utter certainty about someone is the flawed mindset of marriage. I knew that the ritual bit was hokey, especially some of the spoken vows a throwback—we had that “to obey” part nixed, needless to say. Everything else, I believed in at the time. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Being so sure of him turned out to be my undoing.

I audited a college course many years ago. The professor told the class that a person’s true nature doesn’t show itself until a time of deep crisis. That’s when you see who assumes command and who drops out. That always stuck with me, because he seemed like a wise man. It makes sense, when you think about it.

CharacterHaven’t you known—or at least heard of— a situation where one half of a long-married couple gets cancer, and his or her insignificant other summarily bails? If you knew the absconder, you might think something along the lines of, “I can’t believe it; he seemed like he really loved her.” (My apologies for gender biasing, but in the stories I’ve heard, it’s always been the men.)

Similarly, I’ve read news articles about couples that were just dating or living together that tied the knot after going through a similar crisis together. A crisis either brings you closer together—like it did my own parents—or it splinters you.

I think that most couples marry never having gone through that deep crisis together, and this absence of trial-by-fire is what keeps them in a suspended state of delusion, sometimes for years. Oh, they might think they know their spouse inside and out, and see all of his or her little flaws, but what they see isn’t a continent; it’s the tip of the iceberg.

We are at our deepest—and most real—when we are severely tested.

Most people who have just fallen in love and/or toy with the M-word are in the same boat. Barring being tested, we can’t answer questions like, “How brave are you?”, “Do you have the stomach for this?” and “How much will you sacrifice?” I often think we read too much into small acts of valor that don’t take much effort. They show up when they’re supposed to. They rescue us when we run out of gas on the side of the highway. Of course they can endure the harder stuff may be the logic that is our undoing.

Some people are easy reads, or they repeatedly tip their hands. I was in a relationship with a hand tipper, and it became heartbreakingly obvious after a point that he couldn’t have weathered a genuine crisis with me, or with anyone. Not even a minor one. My intuition was right. I could write a whole other blog about this. There’s only one thing to look for.

I know what it’s like to go through that crisis—to really see who I’d married for the very first time, and to feel the pain of that loss so intensely it was like experiencing his death. It sounds totally cliché, but turns out I didn’t really know him at all. So I have great compassion for those of us who gave and hazarded all, only to get little or nothing in return.

Any legal document can keep two people together, but it can’t guard against crises, and it can’t keep true nature hidden. It can’t make you care about someone in the way we all some of us deserve to be cared about. Unfortunately, nothing can, other than pure, dumb luck.

I’m no fan of divorce. But I also think that it’s worth noting that we only have this one, precious life. Happiness isn’t optional, my friends, and often, to hope is to dream.

It’s a great time to not be married

Is anyone else tired of hearing about the Ashley Madison kerfuffle? Like, bored? So bored it took them ten minutes to hammer out a blog about it intuitively, with little forethought?

It intrigued me for a couple of days because the savvy of the hackers and the sheer volume and sensitivity of the breach was unlike anything I had ever seen make headlines. It made me wish I worked PR for the government official that cried in front of the cameras. On my watch, he would have looked the press right in the eye and said, “Yeah, I was on Ashley Madison. You can all shove off now.” Full stop.

Instead, there are millions of men out there, begging Internet Security professional Troy Hunt to make their names disappear.

They literally want to get kicked off the Internet!

Everyone has an opinion, and these opinions tend to fall in one of two camps: 1) The cheaters were scum and deserved it. Hail the Impact Group! — or — 2) Damned puritanical hackers had no business exposing what goes on in anyone’s private life!

Then there are the outlying opinions, like mine, which are 3) This is black comedy at its finest, an unscripted reality show unfolding in real time; and 4) Not my monkeys, not my circus.

I should be biased. I’ve had the hurtin’ kind. Being cheated on sucked, but no one died. Obviously, there were either big problems in my relationship/marriage that could never be rectified or I chose the kind of person so imbued with entitlement that he … could never be rectified. There’s this remedy called “See ya”, and it’s perfectly legal in all 50 states.

I have no strong opinions. So what are my underlying feelings about this whole debacle and the people who made “The List”?

Damn, I’m happy. I’m happy I’m not married right now, in August 2015. Oh Em Gee, this is the best time ever. I’m extra-glad I’m not married to someone who’s having an affair or even toying with the notion. And I’m super-duper-really-splendiferously happy I’m not married to one of the privacy challenged putzs that got Uber-doxxed on Pastebin.

I really hate to pack.

I’m relieved I’m not one of the cheaters or betrayed still skulking around on Tor—if they even know how to use it without infecting their computers with malware* and crashing the whole she-bang**—scouring lines of names, email addresses and physical addresses. Tip to skulkers: if your spouse is of average intelligence or above, he/she probably joined a singles’ dating site and put up a picture of a headless torso, like normal unhappily married people do. Finding hidden profiles on these things is child’s play. Ask me, if you like. I have more time than Troy.

Otherwise, the Ashley Madison debacle is so blissfully out of the orbit of my concern, it’s like I’m seeing it unfold on earth from the International Space Station.

I think I’ll have another freeze-dried ice cream. They really don’t taste that bad.

There are actually people in this world who feel sorry for those of us who aren’t hitched. To them, I say: oh, please don’t. Really, there’s no need. That’s sort of like telling us, “It’s a pity cancer doesn’t run in your family.” Apply that pity where it’s needed, to lonely elders, abandoned kittens, and technologically challenged, suspicious spouses that try to access the “dark web” by turning off all the houselights

If we single people have learned one thing from this, it’s that there are far worse things that not being married. There’s being married to someone with an account on Ashley Madison.

Because everything else is an understatement.
Because everything else is an understatement.

*Some dipshit on Reddit did this, and now he has to explain that to his wife.

**He was running Windows, duh.

It’s okay to fall out of love

Today, I read an article in GMP that made me sad. The author described how his wife of 15 years had fallen out of love with him. Moreover, she didn’t want to be in love with him.

The article itself didn’t make me sad; the comments did, though. Readers shared stories of spouses or partners that had fallen out of love with them; even though they had tried to “make it work”, it hadn’t worked.

I have fallen out of love before. I know exactly why. I didn’t nit-pick, and I didn’t wake up one day and notice that the “spark” was gone. No, I had very legitimate reasons. There’s still nothing more painful than telling someone, “I don’t love you the way I should.” And there’s nothing more painful than hearing it from someone you’re in love with but who has fallen out of love with you.

An old college pal was relegated to the guest room by his now-ex for ten years before he called it. I felt a little guilty when he told me this. I had given someone that short shrift before. I was curious to discover why I hung around long after I stopped feelin’ it, so I read Sacred Cows, by Drs. Danielle and Astro Teller. In this book, the authors outline social narratives that keep couples together after they’ve fallen out of love. Almost all of the narratives involve serious guilt tripping.

Sacred Cows gave me a better understanding of my past behavior. I’ve recommended this book to friends who are in the process of uncoupling, because it does a good job of explaining why we feel so conflicted. The Tellers also have their own TED Talk:

Like they point out, we live much longer compared to our ancestors. People do change through various phases of life, and unless your partner goes through similar changes, the chances of falling out of love are pretty good. Growing apart? It’s real.

In this life, we have to commit to many things we’d rather not show up for—thankless jobs, car inspections, root canals. Showing up for a partner shouldn’t be one of them. If you no longer look forward to seeing your Other at the end of almost every day—if being with them regularly evokes anxiety, resentment, loneliness, guilt, or “oh, it’s you again”—it’s time to call it a day.

I don’t mean to imply that love is effortless. It’s not. I believe in making an honest effort to make sure that it’s a done deal, for real. Without making the effort, you end up that flake who jumps from one person to the next, with little to show for it in the end except strings of memories starring exes you no longer speak to.

But I absolutely do not believe that marriage/relationships should be arduous, tenacious “work”, with one or both parties to it clinging on for years, out of inertia, stubbornness or fear.

I operate with a grave sense of fairness. I have always made the effort, serious efforts. But I don’t hammer square pegs into round holes anymore. If I’m not physically attracted to my partner, have little interest in his problems, and don’t enjoy his company—to wit, if he mainly serves a utilitarian purpose (e.g., helps gets the bills paid)—that’s usury. I’m not comfortable using people.

It’s okay to love someone but fall out of love with them. Most couples go through this. The key to finding absolution is accepting that the person who was so very right at an earlier stage of life cannot fulfill you in the next one. Ah, what to do, what to do?

Unless anyone has a better idea, I think … thank them for the good times, honestly and generously, and graciously move on. Life’s too short to do anything else.

It was the small (silly) things

I’m typing this on my computer, which sits on a lovely secretary desk. Walnut, if I remember correctly. I remember the afternoon when the man I adored assembled this desk. It wasn’t that many years ago. He was so careful and meticulous; he wanted to get it just right. Did I thank him for his time and effort? I don’t know.

Nor do I remember if I thanked him for the time he put my Texas Exes license plate frame on my car (he never understood my alumni pride), put together countless pieces of IKEA furniture (have you seen those instructions?), helped my pick out my MINI Cooper, or brought around a portable air pump because my tires were always going flat. Some of it was rather silly and off hand, like when he bought me a strange decorative tile that I couldn’t identify (Coaster? Kitchen art?) or this goofy-looking sabre toothed tiger plushie, simply because I’d admired one in the store. Yeah, it’s pretty goofy …

I even named it. "Caramel"
I even named it. “Caramel”

My memory touches on one kind gesture, and it has a domino effect in my mind, and suddenly, memories of all of the others tumble into each other and overlap, and I’m awash in gratefulness and saudade.

I might have felt grateful each and every time, but something tells me that I never thanked this man. You know how it is after you’ve known someone for a while. You assume that the person you care about sees the “Gosh, you’re really swell!” bubble floating over your head. There’s no need for a spontaneous hug, a smile, or simple words of gratitude.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” is attributed to the Greek storyteller Aesop. Without them, my rooms would be empty. I couldn’t have driven to work on that cold morning when my tire had gone flat.

As for that silly plush tiger … it was a huge comfort when I got news of a terrible loss, and I held onto it tightly that night (big girls cry).

There often comes a time when you can’t thank someone for the small things. Or if you do, the words ring insincere. Think about the meaning someone brought to your life, in subtle ways that you didn’t realize. How many times have you taken the little things for granted, only to find that you really did miss them once they were no longer there?

The man who assembled my desk and I sabotaged each other in unique and terrible ways. Today, we are estranged, and I am powerless to change this. It’s funny. I don’t think about the grander gestures. Not the vacations we took, the more expensive gifts he gave me, or the smart restaurants we went to. Throw down the riches, and everybody shows up for grabs. I’ve had all that before.

But all the little things? The things I could have done for myself that he did for me? They were the pieces of the puzzle that formed the unique picture I have of him. They set him apart. They made me appreciate him every day, every day, and made me want to stick around.

My heart remembers the little things, and despite the fall of trust, the tears, and the time, I say, Thank you. I will remember this.