Ever since I left my parents house in Maryland and went to college, I always had a man. I met my first husband Alan, a law student, at Homecoming Weekend freshman year. We stayed married 5 years, long enough for the birth of my first son Derek. But his family was from Atlanta and into old -time religion. As we battled for control of our relationship, Alan brought me to meet regularly with his pastor who talked a whole lot of yin-yang about Biblical obedience of wives. Both men were dead-ass serious that was why Alan should control me working, cleaning, and sexually. Oh, no, baby. Then I fell for Jeffrey, my secular psychotherapist. He was very attentive to me as his patient. But,, after many years, I found I wasn’t the only patient he was attentive to. Now that I live in the suburbs of Westchester, it has become more urgent than ever that I have a man with me to keep me sane and help raise my 4 boys. So I’m shaking my social network and doing the online dating thing. My girlfriends roll their eyes and say, “Where there’s Ravenna, there’s always drama. one man after the next, one husband after the next.” I say, you can’t win the game, if you don’t play it. How seriously am I gonna take criticism from women – bless their hearts – who haven’t handled the one man they ever got with, who left them besides?
Jennifer and Barry. Since high school, it’s always been Jennifer and Barry. From junior prom through two marriages and divorces with each other and 6 kids between them, it will always be Jennifer and Barry. He cheats on her and she eggs his car and takes him back. They are married and she’s emailing me and her other sorority sisters asking, “Is he the best I can do?” So Barry finds the email and initiates the first divorce. They are separated and she says she is stuck inside the family home with a bad cold. Against her wishes, he lovingly drives over to bring her chicken soup and orange juice. And he catches her getting busy & loud with her personal trainer in the marital bedroom they used to share. Eventually, though Jennifer and Barry get back together “for the sake of the kids.” Then he’s ready to ditch her because, though she has a law degree and the kids are in school, she refuses to work as a lawyer. Or at all. Oh, and whenever they are in the middle of love-making, she falls asleep on him. Yes – literally on him! The thunder storm that is their sick dance of a relationship goes on and on.
Men. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Of course, that’s only true if you believe it. And that cliche can apply to whatever gender you prefer. The extreme nature of romantic conflict might convince some to get out. But to a select few, the fiery drama means the love is real. On the one hand, some women just can’t bear being alone; they need a man to validate their attractiveness, sexuality, social success and womanhood. On the other end of the spectrum are women who can only be satisfied with the vicissitudes and emotional swings of their own personal soap opera.
To each her own. With therapy and self-awareness, these choices to be “addicted to love” are survivable. The endless break-ups that lead to inevitable make-ups. Risky, dangerous, volatile but it’s like electing to defuse bombs for a living. Whatever gets you off. So long as both partners are buying in to it for keeps.
The collateral emotional damage outside the consenting adults is the more problematic area. The kids, the in-laws, the social circle roiled by break-ups and divorce. But there’s no stopping the fact that some people like peace & stability, and some find it inescapably boring.
Perhaps the strangest part of these romantic choices & dynamics is dependent they are on public consumption. It’s not good enough to be undergone privately — there must be an audience to clap, duck and swoon.