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Modern Love. Or, What Happens When You’ve Been Dating For a Really Long Time.

February 28, 2012

Modern love is tricky, yo. You want to find your person. The one who will see the best of you and adore it, and the worst of you and love that too. The one you can’t wait to pick up at the airport because you missed them while they were gone. The one you’d follow across the country if they got a new job, because your home is where they are. The one you want to sit in traffic with, buy bell peppers with, the first person you want to tell when you see a fire hydrant that looks like a drunk leprechaun.

But at some point, you look around and realize you’re 33 and, nope, your person is still nowhere in sight.

So now what?

In constantly beating the one-note bongo drum of Finding My Person, I’ve been missing a lot of awesome things right under my nose.

Maybe it’s okay to enjoy someone and go on adventures with them and love them for a time. Maybe not everything has to be in pursuit of this one, exhausting goal.

1) Wanting to find your person puts a whole lot of pressure on things that are probably just supposed to be fun.

2) Forever is kind of a fucked up concept anyway. You can love the same person until the day you die, but you’re still going to die. Love does not equal immortality unless you’re Bella Swan.

3) For those of us who have had, um, a lot of loves, we start to feel like we’re doing it wrong because our person still eludes us.

Oh, The Sticky Question Of That Dreaded Word

…Soulmate (Blech)

I believe a soulmate is anyone who gets you to a better place. Even if your entire experience with that person was a no good, horrible, very bad day. (And it rarely is, there are always incredible things – otherwise, why are you there?) If you’re better for having been with them, they’re a soulmate.

I have a few people who would be considered massive relationship failures by any standard, much less Disney’s or the wedding industry’s. But I consider them soulmates because, damn, did I grow. Grew in ways that allow me to love better, to show up better, to be better for the next person. No matter how it felt at the time, they made my life more. I’m better for having been with them. That’s amazing stuff, no matter what the happy ending is supposed to look like.

Convenient But Highly Affirming Conclusion:

It’s better to love for awhile than not love at all. Definitely better than sitting around and fretting about white horses and whether or not I really need the unicorn horn. I absolutely want to find my person. And I will. But I’m giving up any illusions of having control of the timeline.

Just because you won’t be with someone forever doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time with them. If you care about them and enjoy them, it’s never wasted time. Sweet baby Buddha on a toast point, no.

In the end, everything is just a choice. I choose to love whoever I have for as long as I have them. Just because we won’t be celebrating our 50-year anniversary together in some far-off park surrounded by dogs and grandchildren doesn’t make it in any way less. You can only ever work from – and love from – where you are. And where I am is transient, work-focused, flawed, and pretty damn great.

He’s coming. In the mean time, I’ll love everyone in my path.

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  • Reply Sarah February 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Ah – the timeline… I do so want to maintain my illusion of control. I met my person when I was 33, that was two years ago. We are not engaged, or living together, or having a baby or any of the societal markers of “moving the relationship forward.” I thought I had ceded control of the timeline back when I was looking for him and dating and dating (for years and years), but that feeling of wanting control keeps coming around and it is frustrating.
    So, I support you in your search. He is out there. But man, that timeline thing is a Bitch.

  • Reply Becca February 29, 2012 at 7:47 am

    So I heard a very interesting segment on NPR the other week discussing the topic of soulmates. They were discussing how the concept of soulmates is something quite new and uniquely American. Mostly how the modern US view on marriage is WAYYYY different than anything that’s existed historically. The conclusion of the segment was that the concept of soulmate isn’t really conducive to finding a longterm relationship, because when something gets bad, you look around and say “nope, this person wasn’t my soulmate” and then give up on the relationship and go out in search of your “actual” soulmate.

    After typing all this out, I don’t know if it’s going to make you feel better or worse. But I thought it was interesting nonetheless. In the meantime, come visit and let’s have adventures and delicious meals and wax poetic about our dream mini pet stegosaurus.

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      Yes! I actually studied this concept in college (lit nerd) and it’s true. Modern love as we imagine it didn’t really exist until very recently. Who’s right? What’s love? Is it even worth pondering? As if pondering will somehow change anything? So sayeth the girl who ponders FUCKING EVERYTHING.

      Relationships are a choice, each and every day. That’s what it comes down to, I think.

  • Reply verybadcat February 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

    i believe i’ve found my person, and he is more certain than i am about it. we met 72 hours after i put myself on a dating hiatus. in many ways, he is nothing like the man i imagined as my person. in the most important ways, he’s more than i dreamt of. i don’t think i would have gotten to know him had i been in person-seeking mode. fwiw. <3

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      YOUR PERSON! Oh, that’s exciting. Congratulations.

  • Reply Sara February 29, 2012 at 9:08 am

    “You can only ever work from – and love from – where you are. And where I am is transient, work-focused, flawed, and pretty damn great.”

    I’m printing this out or writing it on notecards or making sure I always remember it. It’s just the best perspective. (Probably because it’s so honest).

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm


  • Reply merlin513 February 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

    great perspective! wish I could internalize it.
    But, after 30 years with someone (24 married) and then suddenly I find out that I’m in an open marriage!? *what! amazing it was only open on his end* (yes, i’m now divorced). I find myself pushing 50, alone & not interested in putting up with the search for a significant other. I’m afraid that i’m now in the mostly content, sometimes lonely, but that’s what cats are for, stage of existence and really don’t give a damn.

    I’m mostly happy/content with my circle of girl friends, my cats and my immediate family…

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      It took me years and years of work to internalize this and, shoot, who knows. Still needs more real-world testing. Sometimes, yourself + cats + friends is really the best place to be.

  • Reply Kerri Anne February 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I like this a lot. A lot a lot. Which is no surprise, really, being that you wrote it and I like you a lot. (A lot a lot.)

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      I like you a lot, too. A lot a lot.

  • Reply Brandy February 29, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I loved every single word of this. It was exactly what I needed to hear and the timing couldn’t have been better. Thank you for this. You are a gem and your words make such a difference

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      <3 you ridiculous amounts.

  • Reply Lindsey February 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, Amber, I just love your blog and I love this post. Thank you for writing this. It makes me feel so much better about my string of ‘failures’: most of them taught me something and I have grown tremendously and I guess that’s kind of the point – of relationships and life in general.

    I’m 36 and met ‘my person’ about 15 years ago, only I didn’t know it at the time. (And I suspect at that point we weren’t the right people for each other anyway.) So now we’re dating and for a variety of reasons taking things slowly and doing what you suggested: enjoying each other and the relationship for what they are. And on the one hand, it is wonderfully liberating, because Hey! No expectations! But on the other, it is MAKING. ME. CRAZY. because I’m fairly certain he is who I want to be “my person.” But there’s that control thing. I don’t know what’s going to happen or when or how. And I just have to sit in that place and try to enjoy what comes my way without freaking the f**k out. Easier said than done. HA! :)

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Thanks, Lindsey! I think learning how to enjoy things without freaking the fuck out is a lifelong lesson. THANKS, LIFE. (Sounds like you’re doing pretty darn good.)

  • Reply kelly February 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Love this. I’m starting to think that The One is too much pressure. Why not enjoy the people or person we have and not worry about falling into the appropriate timeline? It can be hard to let go of that, but talk about taking a load off when you do. Well said Amber.

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      That was precisely it. The pressure was sucking all the joy out of things. NO MORE SUCKING.

  • Reply Kelly L March 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

    “Just because you won’t be with someone forever doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time with them. If you care about them and enjoy them, it’s never wasted time.”

    This. This is what I have been reminding myself for ages. Each “failure” is just one step closer to something better – and one more learning experience. That’s why I wouldn’t take any of them back, no matter how much it may have sucked or hurt or how long I might have banged my head against a table in frustration.

    Timelines are stupid. And yet I can’t help but feel like I’m supposed to be on one.

    Right now, the person that I’m with? I don’t know if he’s going to be “my person” or not, long-term, but he’s definitely “my person” for right now. And I’m going to do my best to enjoy it and not obsess over the long-term implications even though that’s basically what I’ve been trained to do since I learned that boys, in fact, were not harbingers of cooties.

    • Reply Amber March 1, 2012 at 10:39 pm

      “Boys, in fact, were not harbingers of cooties.” And this is why I love you.

      Having your-person-for-right-now is pretty darn awesome. Whatever happens.

  • Reply terra March 3, 2012 at 6:53 am

    I’m with you all the way on this. I’ve got a pretty open view of what constitutes a soul mate and I’m a believer that soul mates are not always lovers or snuggle buddies. I think soul mates can be friends and family members too. They’re those people who show up in our lives, who we instantly spark with, and who leave us changed and better. Maybe they stay for fifty years, maybe for two weeks, but they’ve got a purpose. Maybe they just show us that brussel sprouts are actually kind of tasty when they’re roasted and drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with herbs, or maybe they show us how big our capacity to love is, or uncover some hidden part of ourselves we didn’t know we had, but whatever is, they make us better.

  • Reply NuclearSister March 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I’m in a very similar boat and this kind of pep talk is so necessary every now and then, especially when you get back to that “Ok, I’ve been patient, now where is he?” point (over and over again).
    I’m a single mother to a boy of one and am gently trying to get back out there on the dating scene. Best advice I’ve heard about dating (which I wish I’d heard before my first few dates) is that the point of a first date is not that the other person loves you, understands you, wants to know everything about you, but that you both have fun. Hopefully so much fun that you want to have a second date. The rest will grow or go another way which is better for you both. This has really helped me, to remember that the point isn’t that you become each other’s everything in one night, but to just have fun. (I repeat to help myself remember!)

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