When is it Time to Give Up on Men and Love Forever?


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.

It’s not.

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.

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  1. 21

    You actually can’t fall in love with someone outside of your marriage without spending time flirting and talking inappropriately. It’s impossible – it doesn’t just happen. It is a CONSCIOUS decision to fuck up your marriage from the VERY first instance of coffee or whatever the hell starts affairs off. It is a deliberate turning away from your marriage and if kids are involved, a deliberate decision to spend spare time with someone other than them fucking like characterless charlatans. If you are unhappy either piss or get off the pot. Work on it, discuss or get out. It really isn’t simpler than that. Affairs also cost money – what things are your kids missing out on while your spending money on dinners, hotels etc.?   What are they doing while your texting in the toilet? sitting in front of the TV while you ignore them? Cheaters are selfish arseholes. They make a deliberate decision to take time, money and energy away from their family for their genitals.

  2. 22

    I think it might be best to de-couple the idea that love has to come from outside of yourself. I’ve known people that were very loved, but who never felt it. I’ve known people that were not loved, and still became loving themselves. I really, really think it is much more about what each of us has within, and far less to do with our circumstances.

    I know that when I feel good about myself, am loving myself, it is very easy to be loving with others. The opposite is true as well – if I’m not happy with me, the behavior of others is far less of a variable than my own beliefs and feelings. Wasn’t it Carol Allen that said, ‘if you want love, get a pet’? Which makes sense to me. Pets give unconditional love, and provide an opportunity for each of us to be a loving, giving pet parent. If we are used to being loving & giving, people notice. I once had a guy who kept asking me for dates. I was quite overweight and puzzled as to why he wanted to date me. When I asked, he replied “Because I want to be treated, the way I see you treat your dogs”. He had a point – my dogs have a very good life *smile*.

    So I’d say, if you never give up on yourself, you will never give up on men, or love. Love, trust and accept yourself, and you will be a person who feels they have something to offer a partner (and the opposite sex will sense it).

    1. 22.1

      Well said. I agree.   Love comes from within. If someone shows affection and you can’t see it or you don’t believe it, then there is frequently some type of self esteem issue. I will add that a dog will give you unconditional love but the pet doesn’t really have a choice.   The human is in complete control.   When looking for love from a another person, there is much more uncertainty.   If you can’t accept the “lack of control”, forming a connection is very difficult.     Unrequited love is a risk you have to live with.

  3. 23

    I feel like everyone commenting would change their tune if it were them in this scenario. We often tend to side with the victim – although judging by the elections, this isn’t always the case – but even so,  this is a rare exception where the married man left his wife for the woman. How  many stories have I heard where the man is all talk and no action..?

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