I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
Under the El tracks in Chicago, I once met a woman for sex in the front seat of a car. That was our introduction. For as superficial and hedonistic as it was, it motivated me to write a story about something she said afterward in the glow of overhead dome lights and drying sweat.
She said, “You know, I could never date a guy like you.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because men like you are only as faithful as their options.”
I have always maintained that there is validity in every relationship we form. Friendship, teammate, co-worker, boyfriend, girlfriend, one night stand, husband or wife. Regardless of length everyone leaves us with something. We just have to be present enough to find out what it is.
This woman whose name I don’t remember, and I wonder if I ever did – left me with one line that resonates years later. “Because men like you are only as faithful as their options.” I can’t tell you just how many nights this has kept me awake wondering just how right she was. Like a heavy curse, I wanted her accusations to be misguided and presumptuous but for years, night after night, relationships after relationship, her words rung true.
And maybe we all are. Maybe so many of us are cursed with options. Internet dating makes it so easy to swipe left away anyone we find even remotely displeasing. Where once we would have worked through issues and problems, we know that with a few taps on our phone we now have access to thousands, even millions, of options. Whenever I would begin to feel bummed out that someone wasn’t texting me back or agreeing to meet up for a second date, I would immediately log back into my dating accounts and feel so much better. Dozens of new emails eager to sit down and get to know me. Instantaneous relief for rejection. I would spend a couple hours clicking around and cutting and pasting messages and just like that, the next day I would have a few new dates lined up. Unfortunately, it was that easy.
Faithful doesn’t simply refer to the ability to maintain a monogamous relationship. It refers to always having one foot out of the door. That we would, and could, be willing to walk away the minute a relationship becomes even slightly difficult. Instead of working on our problem solving skills and ability to compromise, so many of us throw our hands up in the air and say the most overused phrase on internet dating profiles, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, don’t deserve me at my best.” Well-intentioned, but something I feel many people like to use to justify insensitive behavior within relationships. More of a “deal with it or I’m leaving” than anything.
Maybe she knew more about me than I knew about myself. Maybe she had encountered people like me so often that she could accurately point out the unfaithful. Or maybe she was so jaded by men that left her for shinier and prettier that she wanted to project a little of that resentment on to a stranger in a car. I will never know. But what I do know is that no relationship is perfect no matter how many people we swipe right. And maybe I am only as faithful as my options. And maybe that is my curse, to constantly be searching for a better fit. Someone who won’t argue or challenge my thoughts and lifestyle. Maybe that’s what so many of us are looking for – easy. The same television shows, the same taste in music and food and entertainment. And why wouldn’t we? It is in our nature to take the path of least resistance. But those paths demand minimal effort and the lack of struggle provides little room for growth.
There will always be someone funnier, more attractive, and more secure. We can continue to swipe right over and over again, but to what end? No matter who we choose a newer model will eventually appear for you to swipe left or right. So sure, maybe I am only as faithful as my options. But the key is to find someone who makes you see that they are the right option. So they become the only option.