How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘casual relationships’

Being Single Can Be Boring

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.
—Robert Louis Stevenson

When we think of the life of the modern unmarried woman, we see her as having many more options for excitement than would have been her lot in earlier generations. She doesn’t have to live at home if she doesn’t want to. She’s most likely free to go to college or to get a job, and there’s a wide range of courses that she can take or occupations she can choose. From the outside, it can seem quite interesting, and so it is for many women. It’s also true, however, that even relative emancipation doesn’t prevent quiet desperation and doesn’t cure ennui.

There are many things that she can theoretically do, but in actuality, the daily round may be quite repetitive. Going to college sounds like fun until you remember that even with a college degree, very few women who work are international CEOs or fashion buyers just off to Paris to see the spring collections. Most of them, in fact, are confined to cubicles or small offices working as midlevel managers, executive assistants, or accountants committed to routine and repetitive tasks day after day. Computers may be fascinating, but writing software code or conducting systems analysis offers limited intellectual creativity or emotional appeal.

English: A bored person

A bored person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you cannot change the circumstances of your life or are not yet willing to try to do so, then one aspect of your life, which is open to change, is your love life. You can consider a new lover. If as a history major you must spend all of Tuesday morning listening to someone recount the development of the Civil War between the States, then you can at least spend Tuesday afternoon in bed with an aspiring physicist who promises not to breathe a word about reconstructionism or carpetbaggers.

Being an unmarried woman with a career of some sort, or at least a job, may make it less likely that you’ll be bored than if you’re a housewife; but it’s no guarantee that you won’t. You may still have to work forty hours a week at a boring job that provides few emotional rewards. With the right lover, you can at least look forward to an exciting Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Married Women Will Seek Lovers Too

There is a proverb, “As you have made your bed, so you must lie in it,” which is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortably, please God. I will make it again.
—G. K. Chesterton

What is it that motivates a wife to take a lover? Those acts, which in retrospect come to be recognized as decisions, have a multiplicity of roots. Some wives are pushed toward an affair by an unsatisfactory marriage. The really unlucky ones are those who were unhappy with their husbands from the start, either because they picked a man with whom they could never be compatible or because they discovered too late that they were not really the marrying kind.

Marriage Day

Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)

Other wives have had a period of marital happiness, but later find their marriages stultifying and unrewarding. Sometimes, the women have changed; sometimes, their husbands have. A girl who married very young may have found exactly the kind of husband she wanted, only to later change her mind. She may have selected exactly the kind of nice boy who seemed ideal when she was seventeen and then found at twenty-seven that nice boys are boring. Alternatively, the man may have himself changed with time.

In Fear of Flying, Erica Jong has her heroine lament, “I longed for him as he was when I first met him. The man he had become was disappointing.” In conventional wedlock, the emphasis was on the “lock.” Once a husband had won his wife, she was, in effect, his chattel and she had, virtually, no other options but to remain his wife. He could rest on his laurels until they rusted and still be assured of her presence.

In modern marriage, the relationship is more one of a voluntary partnership. Neither husband nor wife is obligated to stay married—and so neither can become totally secure and complacent that once a mate has been won, that individual will remain his or her possession for life. A husband or wife must not only convince a mate to want to marry but must also continually convince him or her to want to stay married.

Waiting for a husband to change and for a deteriorated relationship to rehabilitate itself is indeed an exercise of faith. In many cases, it is a lot like Waiting for Godot who, in the Samuel Beckett play, never shows up even though the watchful and undeterred Valdimir and Estragon wait and wait and wait for him to come.

In pharmacology, there is a category of drugs called palliatives. They do not cure what is wrong with you, but they mitigate some of the symptoms and make you feel better. They are anodynes which relieve distress or pain and soothe the mind and feelings.

In a marriage, there may come a point where a wife has accumulated a whole bale of last straws. Taking a lover may be a desperate palliative before chucking the whole unfulfilling enterprise.

Unpresentable Lovers

A poet may praise many whom he would be afraid to marry.
—Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets

When you select a husband or when you select a lover with whom you intend to live openly and closely, you are selecting someone who will share many aspects of your life. Even if you are not going to be financially dependent upon him, you do have to take into account how he will or will not fit into your social milieu. On the other hand, when you pick a lover with whom you have no intention of living with either openly or closely, you need not pick someone who is acceptable to your mother or presentable to your friends: he need only be acceptable and presentable to you.

If you move in academic circles where almost everyone in the room has a PhD, your lover with a grade-eleven education might seem unsuitable. However, you don’t need to have him vetted by the faculty. If you move in moneyed circles where almost everyone in the room makes three  hundred grand a year, your lover who is a schoolteacher might seem less interesting. If you move in artistic circles where everyone in the room is some kind of performer, your lover who is a lifeguard might seem uncultured. All such problems would be very serious for a husband or a husband-like lover who will have to share your whole lifestyle: however they are not necessarily problems for a lover who will share only your bed and a portion of your time.


Courtship (Photo credit: E_TAVARES)

In the old days, when a young man came a-courting, a girl’s father might legitimately inquire whether or not his intentions were honorable. Was the young man honestly considering his daughter as a prospective wife, or was he just wasting her time? If the man and maid got carried away in their courting, was the young man then prepared to make an honest woman of her?

In entering into a mésalliance, your intentions usually are not honorable in the sense that you do not intend to make an honest man of your lover by marrying him. (Sometimes, of course, an exotic affair eventually does result in an exotic marriage, but that is another story.) Both men and women can live with the situation of love without any intention of marrying, and can do so without too much pain, as long as everyone understands it from the beginning.

When the sexy, handsome, unemployed, and unemployable basketball player asks you to go for coffee, it is hard to say, “OK, but I’ll never marry you.” Nevertheless,  it is important to convey that message unambiguously as early in the relationship as possible.

Marry Me A Little (musical)

Marry Me A Little (Photo: Wikipedia)

A love affair with a man who is not the kind of man you would marry can be quite wonderful in its own right. It lets you appreciate otherwise inappropriate men who, by some standards, might seem to be beyond the pale as suitors because of their a dubious background or because they are too rich, too poor, too close, or too far away.

To those who may actually be following these posts, I am traveling next week but will have a couple follow-up posts on the pros and cons of some unconventional liaisons after I return.

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