Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons. Sometimes they come easily, like when you were a kid and your mom caught you stealing a candy bar and made you take it back to the grocery store and admit your wrongs. That was a long car ride. But it was a lesson that I’ve never forgotten.
Other times the lessons are harder to come by.
I have a friend who for the past 10 years has dated the same girl. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she’s brunette. Sometimes she’s a model, other times she’s a makeup artist. One time she was a dancer. The women all looked different, or they had different jobs, but they were always the same girl on the inside. There have been probably five women that he was sure he was going to marry. “This is the one,” he’d say with enthusiasm and excitement. I’d sit back and just wait. You don’t want to burst that bubble of joy that people have when they say they are in love, but you can see that it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.
The hard part of seeing your friends make these decisions is not being able to speak up. It’s a hard call. They invariably ask, “What do you think of her?” Do you tell him that you think she’s just like all the others, and that he’s going to end up in court with a restraining order against her, and he’ll be paying the rent on the house they rented together even though she’ll have kicked him out? No. You can’t do that.
You smile, you say, “She’s great! I love her laugh.” It’s that non-obligatory positive comment we make to reassure our friends that they need, because deep down, somewhere in the bottom of their soul, they know it will not work out, but they are hoping it will anyway, and are looking to us for support. For me, it’s a difficult place to be. I want to be honest with my friends, but when that question comes, I feel like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” My heart is screaming, “You can’t handle the truth,” so my lips say some true but innocuous statement like, “I think she’s really beautiful.” But I’m just waiting for the phone call that will eventually come: “Dude, I don’t know what happened. Can I sleep on your couch?”
I guess this is why relationships are so hard. So few people want to hear the truth, and even fewer want to speak it. I deal with the fallout of failed relationships all the time. My title is attorney and counselor at law. I’m supposed to counsel people on the law, but some days it seems I do more relationship counseling than lawyering.
We all want to be in that romantic bubble of love, we’d love for it to be permanent, but the reality is that it wont last. When we let it blind us to the realities of the people we are dating, we will inevitably repeat the mistakes of the past.
It’s hard because a lot of money is made by companies that sell us the idea of the perfect relationship, with 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and eternal bliss. I think it is very sad how many ruined lives there are, because we keep trying to buy a figment of some marketer’s imagination.
The Valentine’s Day onslaught has begun. Yes it’s six weeks away. Yes, it’s a day of sugary sweetness and false ideals. I’d like to tell people to take the day off, but the restaurants, the florists and the retailers will just keep pushing.
As the new year has begun, and as we move forward into a new decade, let’s try a new way of looking at things. Something that is perhaps a bit more forgiving of where we are, and with a more realistic view of how we fit into the world.
I want to quote the “Everybody’s Free” song, “Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you wont, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you wont, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary … whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either — your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.”
Go easy on yourself, go slower, and remember that the “race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969.