Being a couple, in a relationship, is the ultimate goal; the piece de resistance. The idea that coupledom is the holy grail is peddled everywhere: in books, movies, media, and by well-meaning friends. Some of my girlfriends treat finding “the one” as a full-time job. They sign up for on-line dating and make it a goal to have two or three dates a week. It’s a numbers game, they say. The more dates they have, the likelier they are to find “him”—the man who is going to make their lives complete. My experience has been just the opposite: men don’t complete me; they undo me.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: well look at the man you were with. He lived with another woman, he had no job, and to have him exclusively you’d have to support him; not to mention all the manipulative bullshit he constantly was pulling on you to keep you in the relationship. All true. Mack did have his good points. But at the moment, I shall avoid conjuring them up. No sense in waxing nostalgic over a man I can ill afford to be with. The point is, being with Mack threw me off balance. Things were coming apart at the seams. I wasn’t getting enough exercise, I was gaining weight, I was drinking too much, I was moody and irritable and getting depressed. I was having dreams in which I was dead (yes, I caught the symbolism), and one in which I screamed insults at him: “You’re a loser!” I awoke from that one deeply shaken. I looked over at him sleeping next to me and knew it had to stop.
Even so, I kept asking myself: Wasn’t Mack better than nothing?
Historically, I have not bought into the better-than-nothing mentality. But I know there is a type of woman who likes having a man around all the time, regardless of whether he is worth having around. I have some very dear friends who jump from man to mediocre man with nary a moment of reflection in between because they simply cannot stand being alone. Admittedly, I bought into the better-than-nothing way of thinking somewhat, which kept me putting up with Mack’s bullshit way longer than I should have. Truth be told, if I hadn’t been thinking I’d been on my own long enough and it was high time I found myself a new boyfriend, the minute Mack told me he lived with Corinne, I would have sped away from the grungy-ass bar where he had me meet him and never looked back.
While it took the better part of a year, eventually I did come around to acknowledging what I’d already learned many times: a better-than-nothing man is not better than nothing. I’ve seen some spectacularly bad life decisions made because of the better-than-nothing mentality. Often we won’t admit our rationalization until it’s too late. We’ve married him, and now all we can do is tell our single friends: “Marriage is hard!” Or, “If something happens to Jim, I will not get married again.” Or, “Why did I think I needed to get married?” Oddly, at the same time, these women are encouraging me to “get back on the horse” and not waste time finding a new boyfriend. Misery loves company, perhaps? At any rate, I find this incredibly annoying and I tell them so. Still, they’re utterly perplexed when I say I’m far happier on my own, and that I’m pretty sure the only available men out there are of the better-than-nothing ilk. “No, you’ll find him. You just need to get yourself out there.” I’ve got a better idea: how about I just live my life and enjoy all the benefits of being single?
Lest you think I’m weighted down with post-Mack bitterness, know I understand also that it’s not necessarily better to be alone. But once again I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never meet a man who enhances, rather than detracts from the quality of my life. Particularly since my life is pretty fucking spectacular.