The New York Times Modern Love column is consistently good. But since I can’t post it every Thursday, I only share ones that hit me hard. This piece, “What is a Man For?” by Karen Rinaldi, does just that.
In it, she recounts her consistently bad decision making when it comes to men. Her first husband was gay and died of AIDS. Here’s what Rinaldi says about what happened next.
“I married my second husband after only one date. I had been so wrong about my first, I wondered: What would happen if I married someone I didn’t know?
I was testing the universe.
He was handsome, strong, accomplished and funny. But after a few years of dating backward (we married without knowing each other and spent the next three years becoming familiar and intimate), I realized I couldn’t live with him. He was possessive, and my need for freedom didn’t make for a secure marriage. He referred to me as “my wife” even when speaking to my own father.
Besides the two marriages, I cohabitated with two other men and dated others. A serial monogamist, I found that at every turn I was constrained by issues of, well, maleness. There was a kind of inherent dominance that tipped the balance of power away from me, and I often felt I was playing a role.
Money was often a factor in these early relationships, and eventually I came to believe in these unassailable truths:
1. If the man made more money, then you were doing things his way.
2. If he was broke, he resented your ability to support him.
3. If there was economic parity, he made sure you knew who was really the boss.”
Sounds a lot like the kind of experiences (and thinking) that we see so often in the questions and comments here. Women choose selfish alpha males who are inconsiderate of their needs, and insecure beta males who feel impotent and emasculated, and come to the conclusion that this is the way all relationships work.
From her own failed relationships (and her parents uninspiring 60-year-marriage) Rinaldi came to the obvious conclusion that the only answer was to be alone.
Even if you’ve made dozens of bad relationship choices in the past, you always have a new chance to rewrite your future.
“I was already supporting myself. I figured I would manage as well with a child, so the idea of being provided for was moot. Besides, I preferred having my own money and therefore my own agency.”
Rinaldi decided to get some sperm and become a single mom. As she wrote, ““What’s a man for, really? If not to provide, protect or procreate, why do we need them?”
Then she fell in love with a married man…who left his wife and married Rinaldi.
Says the author, “I don’t need him, but I want him in my life. He doesn’t protect me from others, only from my worst instincts. And as far as procreating, well, we did it the old-fashioned way and that will never get old.
He is comfortable in his masculinity and doesn’t need to remind me of who is boss, because in our relationship there isn’t one. Our lives are shared at every level and I realize now what a man is for.
He is a true partner. He is a lover and a friend. He is the father of my children and the only one in the world who cares about the minutiae of their lives like I do.”
And that, my friends, is why you keep dating. Even if you’ve made dozens of bad relationship choices in the past, you always have a new chance to rewrite your future.
Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.