Amy Alkon is a 46 year old never married woman who writes a blog titled Advice Goddess (H/T Thag). Her recent post Settle Sore has a familiar question to which she whispers familiar advice. Letter Writer (LW) asks:
I’m a 23-year-old law student with a boyfriend who attends grad school 16 hours away. We’re both swamped at school, so we visit once a month. I’ve only been with one other guy, but I hate the dating scene. Still, maybe I need to date around to make sure he’s the right person. Then again, since you date to find someone you love, why would you leave someone you love so you can date? I’m pretty sure he’ll propose when we both graduate, and he’s theoretically everything I want, but it frustrates me that he has grand plans and never follows through. Also, he’s willing to move thousands of miles to be with me; I can’t say I’d do the same. I do love him, but I once read that once you doubt the love, you’ve stopped loving that person forever.
Advice Goddess opens her reply with:
Doubt gets a bad rap. Doubting love doesn’t mean you’ve stopped loving, but that you’ve started thinking. Sheep doubt nothing. Chances are you’ll get further in life by questioning things than by living like something that ends up dinner and a sweater.
Following some further words of wisdom, she then gets to:
Dating to find somebody you love is what you do after you’ve dated enough to get a handle on all the stuff you hate. Falling in love is easy; staying in love takes some doing
Really? Falling in love is easy for women? Then why do we read about so many women being forced to marry a man they didn’t love? Are they falling in love with Brad and then deciding to marry John who they didn’t fall in love with? I’m not sure that is the case, but if it is doesn’t that in itself prove that falling in love with a man isn’t something a woman should take lightly since she will likely struggle to fall in love again?
I do agree that staying in love is the trick, and that does take work (or more accurately not being a dumbass). But this comes back to the original folk wisdom that a life plagued by constant doubt is a sign of high intelligence and the path to ultimate happiness.
The Goddess continues:
At this point, a wiser approach would be a more Amish one — and no, I don’t mean tossing all your lightbulbs, donning a bonnet and churning butter. They have this practice called “Rumspringa” — a “running around” period for Amish teens to dabble in modern culture: smoke, drink, date, and wear zippers. Experiencing what’s out there helps them make an informed decision — whether to stay modern or go back and live Amish. You, likewise, might propose a period of time where you both date around so you can get a better sense of whether you’re with him because you’ve been with him or whether you’re actually choosing him over a bunch of others.
Pretty boiler plate stuff, although the Amish rationalization was a nice touch. She finishes by advising her to string the guy along if she doesn’t want to take the initial advice:
If you keep seeing him, avoid pledging to be together forever until you’re reasonably sure you’ll still want to be together at 27 — tempting as it is to respond to “Will you marry me?” with something a little more romantic than “Um, uhhh…look! A UFO!”
As I said in the beginning, a familiar case with familiar advice. And as before, it is a case of the right answer for the wrong reason. I do agree that LW should break the relationship off. Not because she hasn’t learned to be sufficiently fickle, but because:
- She is asking for advice on finding a husband from a 46 year old never married woman. If she wants to know what brand of clothes to dress her chihuahua in, Advice Goddess would be the right source. LW lacks the basic sense to enter into any sort of binding agreement. But I hear tramping around builds wisdom, so there is always hope.
- She isn’t really interested in the guy. She says right out that she wouldn’t move to be with him. Her time is better spent finding the right guy instead of using this one as a security blanket.
I’m not sure which reason is the more important one. But I don’t know how to make frivolous people not frivolous, so I’ll address item 2. Finding the right person is not easy. I’m constantly reading in the comments section how hard women find it to find quality men. Not only are quality men rare, but it is even rarer still for them to find themselves attracted to them. Of course attraction to a nice guy also isn’t enough, he needs to be the right guy and she needs to fall head over heels in love with him.
Meanwhile her ability to attract the best men is slowly declining, and her ability to keep her virginity in tact or at least her partner count low is also at risk. Put off marriage for too long and chastity starts to seem less realistic and therefore less relevant.
Not all young women want to marry. For those who do, finding the right man is a huge challenge. Those who tell women you have all the time in the world are doing them a huge disservice. This is serious work, unless you are a frivolous person who feels that if they choose unwisely they can leave a trail of wreckage in their wake. For a woman who feels that divorce is a remedy to her failure to take her husband search seriously, I would reinforce the suggestion to take your time; wait until at least 45 to start looking for a husband.
For those who take marriage seriously, time’s a wastin.