You’ve been through a LOT when it comes to love. You’ve dated guys with whom you felt the most incredible connection, only to find out that they weren’t serious about you. You’ve dated guys with whom you didn’t feel much connection at all, and hung on for awhile hoping it would develop. You’ve dated guys who seemed great on paper, but one or both of you just couldn’t find a way to make a commitment. Everything you did, you did for a reason, and I’m not going to second-guess any of those decisions of the past. I am, however, going to share three things I learned this weekend at my 20th High School Reunion – and illustrate how they may apply to you… It’s easy to question your own judgment when dating. You may be insecure that you’re drawn to the wrong men. You may be frustrated that you can’t help who you’re attracted to. You may even look around at friends and wonder what they’ve figured out that you haven’t. Questioning your own judgment is normal. But so is the opposite: It’s easy to NEVER question your own judgment. It’s easy to form a set of beliefs and live your life by them, even if they’re flawed. It’s easy to find evidence to support these flawed beliefs, which is why you never question your own judgment. It’s easy to spend years and years stuck in negative relationship patterns, and never conclude that you’re the common denominator in each situation.
Now, as you well know, being 38 and single is certainly not a crime.
To illustrate these principles, I’ve got 3 interesting anecdotes. Now, to nostalgic people like me, a 20th reunion is a big deal. It’s not like I was super-popular in high school, but I still reflect on my high school years fondly. At the very least, I was genuinely curious about what happened to all these people whom I once considered myself close friends. One friend, in particular, is a lot like me. The only difference I’ve seen is that, as we’ve gotten older, I’ve found a measure of humility and he has not. So while I went into the reunion telling my wife, “Don’t let me talk about myself. Make sure I’m listening and asking questions,” my friend Brian’s impetus to return for the reunion was to show everybody how great he was. And it’s not like he’s wrong – he’s an impressive guy. But what Brian failed to recognize was that he wasn’t “better” than everyone else who get married at 30 and had 2 kids – he was, as I saw it, just less likely to compromise in love. His decision not to compromise meant that he’s been extremely successful in his career, he’s traveled around the world, he’s dated models. It also means he’s 38 and single. Now, as you well know, being 38 and single is certainly not a crime. But it is a choice. And while Brian was looking down on all the married suburbanites who couldn’t hop on a flight to Morocco, I was sort of envying them. Jesse took his kids to Jay, who was his local pediatrician. Barry took his kids to Stacey, who is a speech pathologist. Dan had to get up early the next day to drive his kids to soccer practice. This is, to me, the American dream. And yet all Brian could say was how sad it was that none of our peers had grown because they’re still living where we grew up in Long Island. On the contrary, I thought they had grown tremendously. In fact, all of the happily married people grew to understand how important it was to compromise in love. Sam certainly did. He’d been married for 12 years, and in about 20 minutes of conversation, he made it clear to me that while having the freedom to do whatever he wants can be exciting, his life is ALL about the kids. I thought this was beautiful. Sam is about devotion to one woman and selflessness and building something bigger than himself. (Yes, men like this DO exist.)
If you’ve been looking for your whole life for your prince, it may be time to let go of the image and find a real, live, human being who loves you unconditionally.
So when I compare Brian and Sam, I don’t see one person as better than the other. Brian is a wealthy single guy who raises money for cancer. Sam loves his wife, supports his family and gives every ounce of effort to his children. Neither is superior, but I can tell you, 100%, that I’d rather be like Sam. What about you? Would you rather be the world-beater who has all the luxuries on earth, but looks down on everyone who made compromises? Or would you rather be the woman who makes certain compromises and finds love? The choice is yours. Brian has told himself he needs to be with a liberal Ivy League supermodel to be happy. I used to feel the same way. I learned to compromise. I’m MUCH happier than I was before. You can be too, if you’re open to it: Which brings me to my final story from the reunion, courtesy of a surprising source. Darlene and I were barely even friends in high school – it was more of a first name recognition. But we knew people in common, she knew what I did for a living, and we had a really engaging conversation about the nature of love. And then she said something to me that I’d never heard before. “You have to kiss a lot of princes before you marry the frog.” I was so confused that I asked her to repeat herself. She did, and then some: “You have to kiss a lot of princes before you marry the frog. What I mean is that it’s easy to find a cute guy with money – especially in South Florida. These are the men who SEEM like they’d be princes. My first husband was a prince, and you can see how that worked out. So now that I’m on JDate at age 38, I finally figured out what I was looking for – the guy who treats me the best. The guy who, in the past, I would have thought of as the frog is REALLY the prince.” I think Darlene’s line is instantly quotable and kind of genius. If you’ve been looking for your whole life for your prince – the equivalent of Brian’s liberal, Ivy League supermodel – it’s not that you’re “wrong” for being attracted to that person…But if you’ve been looking in vain for that person for your whole life, it may be time to let go of the image and find a real, live, human being who loves you unconditionally, instead of holding out for the super-impressive man who doesn’t. I honestly thought my 20th high school reunion would be validating for the same reasons that Brian did – because I kept my hair, because I make a good living, because I left home to forge my own path. But the real affirmation I got from the event was that, in marrying my wife, I was positive I was choosing the right path for me. Marriage. Kids. Love. Compromise. I look forward to making sure that your compromise, like mine, FEELS GOOD. Your prince may not look exactly like a prince, but I guarantee he won’t look like a frog either.