If variety is the spice of life, then routine is the local anesthetic.
At first, it dulls the pain of uncertainty. Then it dulls the pleasure of certainty. Routine begets boredom, and nothing -- nothing -- can kill a relationship in quite the way that boredom can.
When my editor and I were talking about this topic (you know my editor
, the remorseless man-eating lounge singer who hates having to drink near babies) we hit on the fact that what keeps people like her and I single is the fear of "being done," the idea that once you do fall into a relationship, you've removed the element of possibility and surprise from your life.
This isn't to say I think all couples are boring and bore each other, nor could I possibly even pretend that I haven't made some
effort to find a relationship. I just don't crave one now the way I used to back in the day.
But I feel like I've romanticized my singledom here, when in reality, it's not that simple.
I'm just so rattled by all the listless relationships I've seen that I think I might be suffering from Pre-Traumatic Boredom Disorder. Spending a goodly percentage of your time alone and drunk and having your neighbor thump her ceiling with a broom because you're playing Billie Holiday way too loud gets old, fast, yet you don't see me trying to correct this problem on Match.com. Because of my PTBD, I do one of two things: I avoid relationships, or I get into relationships with unsuitable, super-dramatic people.
And I know I'm not alone here.
It's time we parsed good drama from bad in our endless quest not to be bored. Hey, ho, let's go.Phase One: You Get Burned by Boredom and Vow "Never Again"
You met someone! There are dates and sex and finding things out about him like how he spent a summer in Crete carving soap. It's all terribly thrilling ... until routine kicks in. (Dinner at one of three possible restaurants, the well of new stories starts to dry out, who could possibly talk about Grecian soap this much?) Now your partner starts to seem less like a person and more like a robot designed to irritate and bore you. Oh, and to top it off, the sex gets dull.
So you swear that
'll never happen again.
Phase Two: You Find Yourself a Dramatic Person
You meet someone who's nothing at all like you and/or dangerous-seeming. You pull out your hair sustaining this thing with the inappropriate person because he brings enough drama to keep you from feeling that post-lunch, near-comatose lethargy that attends most relationships past a year or so. Maybe he's a foot-stomper, a quick-to-anger-er, or a preening jackass.
Here's the problem: This kind of drama is ultimately not interesting.
I've had plenty of friends who are serial daters of lunatics. It's like they aren't happy unless they've got another person's mess to clean up. This kind of endless drama aggravates the routine of long-term relationships. These are the folks who publicly bemoan yet another blow-up by their boyfriend, but you can't shake the sense that they get a perverse satisfaction out of it.
They equate the volatility of their signif with passion and swear up and down that, despite knowing their partner is a monolith of immaturity, the sex is too good to give up. The boyfriend can storm in and out of rooms and generally act like Joseph Stalin with impunity because, hey, at least he's not dull.
This kind of drama can only fuel a relationship for so long.
Phase 3: The Belief That Non-Boring Relationships Only Stem From People Who Are Unstable and Unfit for Relationships
Unlike the above scenario, here you've met someone who is legitimately charming. He's smart, challenging, funny, intriguingly crazy, and you just can't get enough. You date him, and it's largely great. Only he's highly unstable and simply never going to be long-term viable.
Yet he's so charismatic that everyone else pales in comparison. Your family and friends warn you in no uncertain terms that down this road lies ruin and heartbreak, which for a time only fuels your intense desire to stay with him. Nothing can ever feel as good as being bad like this.
Only then he cheats, or disappears for long stretches of time, or generally indulges in his brand of self-destructive behavior past the point of intrigue and straight into Selfish Jerkoff Land. So you do cut it off. And it's really, really hard.
The problem here is that you make the assumption that no one else can be as dynamic and exciting as this person is without also being sort of nuts and unstable and pretty much un-dateable. It's simply not true.
In Sum: Accept a Measure of Routine, But Refuse to Date a Bore
Courting drama is a bad way of getting into a meaningful and fulfilling relationship. Interesting people need not be unstable. Yes, lots of interesting people will have some level of lunacy, but then again, most of us do. The trick is to avoid convincing yourself that the binary is crazy/fun or sane/boring.
We could all stand to be a bit more Buddhist about boredom. There's no way an adult relationship can maintain the chemical, physical and emotional verve of those early months. And that's probably OK. The key is to get with someone who is intellectually on your playing field, someone who will evolve with you, challenge you without needlessly provoking and mistreating you, and will give you some space to just breathe.
All of this is advice I need to heed myself.
What keeps me feeling a measure of optimism about this huge facet of adult life I've so far basically avoided is that one day, if you don't settle and you don't give in to your fear by dating some temporarily-exciting lunatic, you'll meet someone challenging enough to get into huge fights and then have really, really good makeup sex with.
Because makeup sex is the one thing that never
[Redacted] Guy is the resident single guy writer at Lemondrop. He hates drama, unless you count ABC's "Brothers and Sisters." He just can't get enough of that Sally Field! But who can? P.S.: Buy Boniva.
Send him hate mail and love letters here, and follow him on Twitter.
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