I like the Modern Love column in the NYT, but like any opinion column sourced from individual experiences, it is, in the end, merely that, and we all have to make our own choices about whether to take the advice. Today’s piece is a pre-Valentine’s pep-talk for settling, which I’m sort of neutral about– except for one part that could use some contrast the editor to the column does not bring about (because that’s not the point of the column)–
“the appreciatively resigned rise each morning not dwelling on their marital shortfalls but counting their mutual blessings, whatever they may be: a shared sense of humor, an exchange of kind gestures, the enthusiastic pursuit of a mutual interest. Somehow they have managed to grow together rather than apart.”
The column presumes mutuality. Well, yeah, of course it does, it’s about love. Love’s mutual. (Yeah, you’d think so.)
But the definition of mutuality, the finding of shared common ground, the willingness to figure out what would be a kind gesture, and then go and make it– those are all things that presuppose that both spouses are making the effort. If they can’t, or if they won’t– or worse, if they’re baffled as if you’re speaking Greek when you talk about what would be a kind gesture that they could make, just for the sake of its making– then there isn’t much there that’s shared, and the togetherness is a romantic illusion it’s time to walk away from. There’s nothing there to appreciate, and that resignation is defeat– and that, that I don’t accept.
Wendy Cope said it terribly in one of her poems, and it’s terribly true:
Two Cures for Love
- Don’t see him. Don’t phone or write a letter.
- The easy way: get to know him better.
Sometimes it takes years, but that “better” in the poem, as bad as it feels because it’s not easy at all, this “cure” for love, it leaves you no room for settling. And that’s better than good enough. Because you’re better than that.