html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Lunchtime update.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lunchtime update.

After nine months on his brother’s couch, he realized he’s made the mistake of his life. He’s begging his wife to take him back. She is “making him squirm”, but probably will.

In the last round of comments, the split was between people who thought he was leaving an unhappy marriage and the intern was a symptom, and people who thought he’d thrown away a good marriage for a fantasy of him and the intern. I thought that either way, with the intern out of the picture, he was in for a stretch of being single. I thought he had no idea what that would be like when he chose to leave his wife.

The last time this guy had been single was when he was nineteen. I have a theory that your dating age stops when you get into long-term relationships. So this guy’s dating age was about college. He probably thought there were smart beautiful women everywhere, and you hung out with them in dorm rooms, in hopeful agony until you are suddenly shocked and delighted to be making out. He probably thought that when you weren’t yearning for exciting co-eds, you were hanging out with your buds, doing goofy things. He probably thought that was what he was missing by being with his wife. Last he was single, that was the alternative to her.

Men who are considering leaving your marriages in your thirties, that is not what being single is like now. You may like being single. It may be far better than a painfully broken marriage. But I have seen a number of you, paired since you were young, and I want to warn you that it could be very rough. I do not think you have the skills to be single.

Being single requires work, work you likely never had to do before. You may not have had to do this work because when you were last single, fun people were everywhere. You may not have had to do this work because you and your wife were sufficient unto yourselves, content in each other’s company. You may not have had to do this work because your wife did it; socializing often falls to the woman in a couple. But if you want a full and pleasant single life, work is coming your way and you do not know how to do it.

When you are single, it is up to you to develop your social networks. You must tend the friends you already have, calling them to propose things to do, sending notes when they are in need (and being alert to that need in the first place), meeting them when you want to and also when they want to but maybe you don’t. You must help them in big and little ways and accept help. If you want them to keep calling, you must show up for things and be a good guest. It is up to you now to call to see if there is anything you can bring to dinner. Your wife probably did most of that before, but now you must learn.

Worse, you will need to make new friends. Longtime friends move, get busy, fall out of rotation. If you want your single life to be full of people, you must develop new friends now, so they’ll be close friends later. Yep. You must meet strangers. And talk to them. And suggest getting beers. You must be where people are and make conversation and see them again. Good luck with that, newly single man. It can be very pleasant, but it is work.

The other thing you will have to do to enjoy your single life is to anticipate and manage your own moods. It is possible you like solitude, lots of people do. But if you’ve been with someone your entire adult life, my guess is that you have no idea how to handle it. You will have to learn to enjoy solitude. You also have to anticipate when solitude will become miserable bored loneliness. Will it bum you out to have no one to watch fireworks with on Fourth of July? You must anticipate that in June and solve it in advance. Have people over, hint until you’re invited to something, go camping. You must address this, so you aren’t disgusted with yourself for drinking alone in front of the tv and falling asleep on your couch. Can you feel that you’re getting sad this afternoon and dreading an evening of nothing and porn in an ugly apartment? Can’t think of anyone to call? You must realize this and run a couple extra miles this evening. The endorphins will carry you through. There is no one else to solve it. You must manage yourself. You may well know how to manage the combination of you and your (ex?) wife, but you will have to learn to manage just you.

Men who may be leaving your wives, you will have to do this new work. It will be hard. I’m going to leave out dating, which is sometimes energizing and fascinating, and sometimes just makes for good stories, and is often drudgery and rejection. But developing friendships and managing yourself are the keys to the pleasant single life you envision. The alternative is numbing yourself in front of a screen with some additional depressant. You should take this new work into account when you make your decision about your marriage.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting.

Long ago, you and I had a conversation about being single after a significant relationship. I believe that the premise was that you needed to understand being single and enjoy it before you could be in a healthy relationship. If you feared or hated singleness then you'd feel trapped with no alternative if you got stuck in a suboptimal relationship.

One of the messages to men in relationships in this post that stood out for me was "you should fear singleness because it's a harsh alternative to being in a relationship." I do understand that singleness in much less fun at 30-something than it was at 19. However fear of that shouldn't be the reason that a relationship stays together.

If your relationship isn't better than the fantasy of 19-year-old-sigleness, should you stay in it simply because it is better than the reality of 30-something-singleness? I suppose that depends on your situation and your options. Maybe you should settle. However, if you have options and believe that there is something better out there, then maybe you should get out and see what happens.

Maybe you're chasing a fantasy, but what you do on the path is what matters. If this guy simply slept on his brother's couch and was miserable, well, maybe he's as much of a looser as he appears.

Indeed you are correct about the skills that one needs to be happy and single. And you're correct about the effort and pain which comes with acquiring those skills in a crash course in one's mid-30's. However, the benefits of having those skills as you move forward and the benefits of moving out of a relationship that was bad for you may well more than even the scales.

Cheers,
Tim.

PS. Please take as a given that you don't walk out on a relationship without trying to repair or salvage it. Leaving it is a last resort if you can't retrieve or improve it.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

A problem that many newly single people (both men and women) face is the loss of friendships. People whom you socialized with when you were part of a couple, even those who seemed like "your" friends rather than your former partner's, often won't be much interested in you any more. This of course makes the adjusting-to-singlehood process that much more difficult.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yeah. I was leaving out the part about how EVERYONE needs these skills, and having them will make it possible to freely choose your relationship.

Fear of 30-ish singledom isn't a good reason to stay in a bad relationship. But where the relationship could be salvaged through a daunting amount of work, I would like people to be making accurate assessments of the amount of work involved in being single.

Also, I suspect that many men don't notice this work is going on all the time. To the extent that their partners have been doing this (and this is a sexist generalization - I know that men may be the more social partner), they may think that other couples just magically invite them over for dinner or appear at dinner parties. That goes away when the partner who picked up the phone goes away.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Brilliant. Love it. All true, every word.

... I believe that the premise was that you needed to understand being single and enjoy it before you could be in a healthy relationship.

I don't believe that comment, though. You could be like me, and just luck out.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Trieu said...

The other thing you will have to do to enjoy your single life is to anticipate and manage your own moods.

Wow. So, you've been studying my life. That's a little creepy. You really should tell a person when you know so much about them. It's only polite.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Trieu, I know so much about you.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous bill said...

This may be your best post ever. I realize that's a limited space-time continuum.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous justus said...

How can you have nothing AND porn?

If you have porn, don't you have everything? Did I miss the review of your prize porn?

9:45 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Sounds like a royal pain.

If my wife happens to kick the bucket somewhere down the road (and let's hope she outlives me!) will you coach me?

11:46 PM  
Blogger Noel said...

Being single sounds a lot like moving to a new area. Which is good for those experienced in the former and undertaking the later.

1:24 AM  
Blogger fasolamatt said...

When my marriage ended (after a substantial albeit one-sided campaign on my part to save it) my first thought was "great, let's see how many different women I can date and get to know and play the field". Ninety days after the divorce was final (because I waited to start until the paperwork was done) I met the woman who is now my wife. That ninety days was HARD, in spite of a wonderful network of friends who included me in everything, a supportive family, and a great boss. Looking back, I should thank my lucky stars it was only ninety days.

The turning point was a trip to SF to see an old friend. She listened to me for three days as we walked around the Stanford campus, and in the car on the way to the airport, informed me that if I didn't have a date with someone I didn't know well within 30 days, I must join match.com. I waited two days, joined, and met the woman who is now my wife for brunch three weeks later.

I guess the moral of the story is that when you are confronted with this sort of change, you need to reach out to AND LISTEN TO your family and friends, for they have perspective that you don't. And the other moral of the story is that finding a partner is a Poisson process... you only need to win once, but it's good to increase your "k".

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Jon said...

Best
Post
Ever


Even better than "the sky's so high"...

And this is so, b/c it's more important for those left behind than those leaving....

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

My company has sent me overseas for 6-8 weeks a couple times. It was during those times that I realized food doesn't magically appear at dinner time, but takes some preparation, and that the substantiality of the food is in direct proportion to the amount of effort put into making it. I lost a lot of weight on those overseas trips. On the other hand, for a newly single guy in his mid-30s, losing weight may be something he should do anyway.

Good point about answering the phone, too. Since I am not in control of the calendar, I have little to add to phone conversations with people in our social circle, and am just wasting everybody's time by picking up the receiver. I literally don't answer the phone at home anymore unless it's one of my parents or siblings.

7:16 AM  
Anonymous bryn said...

You could write a book just with a collection of these poems.

One point that stood out for me as being important for people to listen to is the note about hanging out with friends even when you don't wanna. If that happens too much (even if it's not a wanna just a out-of-town issue) friends slow down their rate of calling, and eventually stop.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I will never be able to predict what posts you guys will like. You like these preachy, not-funny posts? I can't help writing them, but I always figure y'all are here for:

1. short and funny making fun of someone
2. dating pathos
3. water dorkiness

9:39 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Whoah - major insight here.

This made me realize, at least partly, what is going on with my own dating pathos. I went from being in college, to being in the navy (major issues, but dating wasn't one of them) to being in grad school. In those situations, I was surrounded by smart, funny and usually hot men (yes, even in the navy.) Now I'm surrounded by smart, funny, incredibly dedicated women and we're all single and mostly date-free. I've completely been expecting dating to work just like it used to - and it just ain't. I know there are still great guys out there somewhere, but I am having a hell of a time meeting them. Plus, I generally like being single and relish my solitude, which removes much of the motivation to suffer through more blind dates via personal ads and chatting up strangers in bars.

Great post, Megan. You always give me something to think about.
(yes, I like this kind of post - along with the short/funny, dating pathos and water dorkiness).

10:42 AM  
Anonymous jon said...

Megan

We ARE here for short and funny - for dating adventures and misdventures - for flaming tubs and pulsating speakers and discing and lectures on water resources and TSA hatred....

And posts like these which speak with clarity and wisdom and insight and manage to crystallize amorphous thoughts lurking deep within...

Plus, you're hot - ooops. That was a compliment. Bad me.

Um....Nicole? Where exactly do you work and where is this hideout of smart, funny, dedicated, single and date free women? Is it located near the super secret hideout of engineering types with beards and twinkly eyes?

11:53 AM  
Anonymous bryn said...

At first I thought "water dorkiness" what the hell is that? picturing people playing with squirt guns. Only later did I connect water policy dorkiness.

I can sort of see how you might think your posts are preachy, but I think that the collective body of work from a macro level informs your readers of how intelligent you are and how considered your thoughts are (even when they are dashed off in a flurry of emotion), and the specific details that ring true to your readers bias them further towards the quality of work (if one agrees with something one typically rates its intelligence higher). So out of context preachy maybe. In context, it's part stream of consciousness/emotion part well considered pieces on varied topics.

So, even if you can't predict, just let us pick which posts to put in your book. By the way, I don't know if you've noticed but it's really rare to develop a avid readership for a blog of people you don't know especially given the range of topics that would probably preclude any one person with agreeing with every viewpoint you have. That alone should be indicative that you aren't preachy.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Bryn and A828 on the other post:

PERILOUSLY close to complimentary. Don't make me delete that shit, 'k? I'll do it if I have to...

12:43 PM  
Anonymous ptm said...

1. short and funny making fun of someone
2. dating pathos
3. water dorkiness


I'll admit it, I'm just here for 2 and 3.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You're using me!

1:57 PM  
Blogger bryn said...

Complimentary my ass.
Doesn't intent have anything to do with this? I was merely providing analysis. Do I have to throw in some non logical "this sux0rs, you l@m3r" to balance out any analysis/commentary that could be interpreted as complimentary?
:)

I was merely following the thread of discussion regarding blogging and the out of context comments on the TSA stuff. I feel it's my duty to

If analytical comments are deleted in pursuit of modesty or elimination of boring complimentariness
"I would want them to make noisy withdrawals, explaining why they are shunning a site and then truly shun that site. No even-handed links for bad people. Let them wither in proportion to their MODESTY. Or become concentrated and isolated."
quote altered for sarcastic parody purposes, not to belittle the serious topic of Kathy Sierra's situation.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous ptm said...

Man, timing.

I just finished chatting with a ex. She's maintained a varying relationship with a college boyfriend for the last decade, and is now considering marrying him. The major reason is that she wants kids and doesn't see any other way. There are a host of reasons that she hasn't married him before.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Jon -
the secret hideout of smart, funny, dedicated women is in South Jersey. If there's a cache of bearded, twinkly-eyed engineers nearby, they're even better hidden than we are. If I find them, I promise to share.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Zubon said...

I have a theory that your dating age stops when you get into long-term relationships.

I was 17. 17. I am so screwed if I am ever tossed back into the dating world.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Spungen said...

I agree with your analysis. I was single past 30, so I have no such illusions about the dating world or single life. It would really annoy me when people who'd been in long-term relationships since they were young would be so damned smug about how they thought everything worked out for the best, people got what they deserved, etc. I'm with Dubin in recognizing the huge factor of luck.

I guess the flip side is recognizing that relationships aren't all that, either, even good ones, and you can only expect them to do so much for you.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was single for the first time in my late 40s. From age 18 had always had a live-in lover or husband. I had no idea how to be a single adult. Still don't for that matter.

I also moved to a new city around the same time. Great recipe for depression.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Aw hon. You're going to have to be brave. You'll have to do more than you're used to, but you can. They are only skills, and you can learn them.

There are nice parts too.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Megan.

2:27 AM  

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