I pride myself on a sense that I should know a lot about relationships.
I have, after all, been dating for just over a decade. You may think that nothing ‘counts’ until, say, the ‘fondling’ years of the mid-teens; yet, to put this in context, a schoolfriend of mine has been with the same chap since she was 12, so I would argue this tender young age at least holds some potential. This means that I have sufficient scope to talk about this romance business, or at least to regale friends with some interesting anecdotes.
Nowadays, I’m fortunate enough to be in a relationship with a lovely man- my longest yet, so perhaps I’m learning something at least. But the more I investigate my own experiences, and equally those of others, I realise that love is not the static ‘happy ever after’ solution that Disney portrayed it to be. It occurs to me that- arguably in the same strain as an intellectual study- doors lead on to new doors and questions lead to more questions, a point that Carrie Bradshaw and friends confirmed only too well during six season of Sex and the City.
So here are all the questions that, like Carrie, I haven’t found the answer to:
1) I don’t know if opposites attract in a ‘complementary’ sense, or if people’s characters are endowed with certain, inalienable objections, like naff regional accents, bad grammar or Physics students.
2) I don’t know if common interests are the way forward, in the case of my friend who was ‘matched’ with his long-term girlfriend on a television dating show, or if such similarity is a disastrous way of stepping on each other’s toes, since an unimaginative ‘literary’ boyfriend broke up with me using a bad paraphrase from a Martin Amis novel which- unfortunately- I was all too familiar with.
3) I don’t know if loneliness is a universally undesirable state of being until you find ‘the One’, or merely a negative-but-conquerable side effect of simply being alone.
4) I don’t know if I think lifelong commitment is a sacred rite which modern society errs in abusing, or indeed if the security of marriage should be sacrificed in favour of the ‘moment’ of love (‘they had their time’, a shrugging friend of mine said of his parents’ divorce, expressing the newfangled detachment of our generation to these issues).
5) Following on from that, I don’t know if the binding power of marriage is a financial, social trap, that prevents unhappy couples from breaking up, or if it is a necessary bond that helps couples overcome relationship hurdles and stay together with a bit of help from Ann Summers.
6) I don’t know if jealousy is a natural emotion which you feel when you love someone and don’t want to let them go, or a sign that there is something fundamentally mistrustful about your relationship, or indeed your own character, in order to feel it in the first place.
7) I don’t know if honesty is, after all, the best policy, or if we should all indulge in a few of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘sweet little lies’.
8) I don’t know if you should aim to be with someone that you can’t live without, or if you should aim to be with someone dispensable so that you don’t set yourself for a fall, most likely a fall into a vat of Ben&Jerry’s.
9) I don’t know if ‘love at first sight’ is a valid form of experience which reassures you past all romantic scepticism, or if it is merely a form of overwhelming lust which should make you sceptical of your romance in the first place.
10) I don’t know if you should be looking for someone who completes the imperfect you (as Dylan puts it in The Big Lebowski soundtrack, ‘takes a woman like your kind/To find the man in me’), or someone that makes you a better, more independent version of you.