September 24, 2013

Being Marshall

For a very long time I knew there was more good in humanity than bad. Bad things didn't happen to those I knew, bad things happened to people far away from me, or at least far enough away from me. Plus, they were sporadic, random, and not normal. But for the last few years it's been a struggle to continue believing that. Lately, especially.

I want to believe (need to believe?) that it's not just possible for two people to make a relationship last, but for two people to want to be with just each other for the majority of their lives. That they aren't just staying for the sake of commitment, or for the kids, or because their religion forbids divorce, or because the woman is financially trapped. But because they're in love enough, or attracted to each other enough, or respect each other enough, or just like each other enough to want to stay together.

I've felt like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, the only character who has always believes in true love and the goodness of others, and his beliefs often prevail at the end of the episode. I haven't always believed in true love, but I have always believed in the goodness of others. But I'm a lot more quiet about it, and I'm starting to think it's because I'm so frequently disappointed.

There comes a point where I need to be OK trusting myself. I need to be OK with knowing what it is I want, what I need to do to get it, what kind of person I am and what my priorities are. And I am. Those values get challenged, a lot, but I always arrive at the same place. 

It still sucks when people you know break up, though. A while back I wrote about being surprised that my generation was divorcing, as if we were smart enough to learn from other's mistakes. I've spent most of my life with the understanding that people stay together in unhappy marriages or divorce and end up bitter and angry (for at least a little while). But we also know that certain relationships won't end - until they do. Family members, friends, and acquaintances have believed with every inch of their skin that they were in relationships that would last forever. I never felt that. I was told, and then I assumed, and once I kind of hoped because it would be cute, but I never believed. 

It's terrifying to believe.

After watching relationship after relationship fall apart how can I believe I can be different? I can hope and wish all I want but the happy, wonderful marriages I know are distant acquaintances - I have no idea how their real lives are; they could break up tomorrow and I would only be able to say how happy they seemed on Instagram (except for one - but I don't see them that often). 

Believing your relationship is secure enough to last is a risk - it's dumb to think otherwise. But at the end of the day you just have to trust yourself and hope your partner is in the same boat. 

I think this is a little bit harder to do as a woman. If we say we're going to marry the person we're dating it gets assumed all we really want is to get married, not that this person is that special; we sound less certain than men saying the same words because he's not romantic or marriage-hungry or whatever it is women are.

I made myself a promise after watching my parents divorce that I wouldn't marry if I wasn't absolutely positive beyond a doubt that I would never go through what they did. But the best I can do is believe that I'm making the best decision I can make and be OK enough to take a risk. I've worried for a long time about being naive in thinking marriage is still a good idea when so many end up broken or unhappy, but the belief that it's possible is valuable to me. I would rather take a risk and believe that I know what I'm doing than be afraid I'm just being naive and not pursue something that has the potential to make me happy.

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