“I’m afraid of failing” is what The Suitor had confided in me once upon a time. “And so are you, Stephanie,” he said plainly. It’s called projection. I wasn’t afraid of failing. I was afraid of rejection. But that’s just relationships. No, wait.
Tonight I went to Country with my friend Beth. We decided over Rioja that our bartender Eric looked like a Chaz, so he responded to it the rest of the night. “So Chaz, when you get a moment, two waters, please.”
“You look like a Stephanie, but Beth, you don’t look like a Beth.”
“What do I look like?”
“Like a Monica.”
“Cool,” I added to their conversation, “‘Cause her brother Ross is sitting behind her.” David Schwimmer was sitting at a booth behind us. It’s funny how you completely forget certain people exist until you see them again. By the time Beth and I began to drink our obligatory waters, we got to talking about our other friends, friends we have in common. Which got me to questioning things. When is it too soon to move in together? I know the pat answer, “it’s different with everyone.” Blah.
In the past few months, I’ve received IMs declaring, “we’re moving in together!” But you just met. “Just” being two months of non-stop. Intense relationships sometimes burn out. Been there; failed at that. Others work when the timing is right. We all know how this goes. There should be a rule about this kind of thing. Something to stick on a calendar that pops up when you’re ready for the next step. Six months sounds good. “But it’s just gut instinct,” I hear. The problem, sometimes, with following our gut is that we’re following a pattern, and “gut” feels like comfortable, which is what we know, which is familiar, which sometimes leaves us on the corner of Sobbing and Stupid again. So it’s scary. So there’s Rioja and friendship to guide us through.
“Well, it’s important to him. He’s ready, and I don’t want to insult him by saying no. Maybe I’ve been treating him like the twenty-three year old guys of my past. But he wants to move things forward, not to milk my udders for free.”
Then, in the same week, I’m dealing with another friend who’s tapping her foot, waiting, shaking her udders in his face. “At the one year mark, if he doesn’t ask me to move in, I’m moving out of us.” I hate this. I hate when women are forced into manipulation mode to get their needs met. I guess I really hate when two people aren’t at the same place at the same time, especially when my friend is left wanting more. I get angry for her because I’ve been there. And it feels horrible. She deserves to be with a guy who’s falling over himself to be with her, to hold her hand in public, to kiss her like he means it. I hate that she wants more than he does. I don’t want that for my friend.
When you want to be married, and he doesn’t… doesn’t move the relationship forward, doesn’t mention moving in. When can you just end things without feeling regret? Can you walk away without feeling like a failure after a year of dating? My friends have been going through this. And it makes me a little angry.
Here’s what I’ve learned. I remember IMing with my friend after The Suitor and I had a big fight. “Do you think people would still like me if it were just me?”
“What?! What are you talking about?”
“I mean, would I still be okay, if it were just me again? People kind of expect us, but would I be a failure if it didn’t work?”
It’s amazing how we think of ourselves as failures because something doesn’t work out. Yes, we see it as a learning experience. We see it as “for the best,” but really, deep down, we worry that we’re failing at this. At being with another person. At making it work. Instead of realizing, maybe it just wasn’t the right person. No, screw maybe. You’re not a failure when a relationship ends. The same way you’re not a success when one begins. Too many women are beginning to measure their worth on the merits of their relationship. “But I was the only woman in that room without a ring on my finger, and it just…” NO. Stop that. I’ve been her, too. I’ve been in and out of “us,” the kind of “us” with a ring. It didn’t make me more of anything. And it didn’t make me less once I was alone. You’re failing yourself when you measure you that way. Instead, value yourself on the strength of your female friendships, on the wise old women you can turn to for guidance. On your ability to make people laugh, or think, or know that you’ll always be there for them. Even when they feel like the failure.